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Lab Coat Color: Don't believe the hype

Sometimes things that make me crazy can force me to be productive. This is one of those times. I just read a thread and wanted to beat my head against the wall. Sadly asking an opinion on Facebook is not a great way to educate yourself unless it’s a group of professionals, and even then unfortunately anyone can call themselves a professional so it can be hard to know who to trust.

So what was the post that made me feel this way?


For those who have owned and lived with different colors of labs, are there any characteristics that are similar to the other.

Hoping this might help those fur parents looking into getting a new furry family member.”

Let’s throw some actual facts and education out instead of old wives tails and crazy town. Crazy town is what we in fact were getting in the thread on this post. Answers were all over the board saying things like yellows always have allergies. Black labs are lazy and overweight. Soooo much misinformation. My head was ready to explode, so I needed to blog! As a Labrador Breeder, judge, and someone in vet med, let’s break it down with science instead of opinion. We will simplify.

Let’s start with color genetics.

Black is dominant, and you will find that chocolate and black are on the same gene pairing on the B locus. In fact all labs are either a black lab or a chocolate lab. Let me repeat that. All labs are either black or chocolate. Now you think I am a nut, because what about yellow? Yellow is a thing yes, but as far as color, it is slightly different. Yellow is on the E locus and is a masking gene. Masking gene means it covers up the existing color with yellow. The dog is either masking a black lab or masking a chocolate lab. How can you tell? Does the yellow lab have black pigment around the eyes and on the nose or is the pigment chocolate, or as lab breeders call it “liver?” Sometimes the slang term used is Dudley, but that is a completely different conversation.

So Labs are either black or chocolate and can be masked by the yellow gene.

What comes next?

Color inheritance.

Chocolate and yellow gene traits are double recessive so to produce chocolate or yellow it must be carried by both parents, and the offspring must get a copy from each parent to express the color, meaning that you can see it with exception to black. Black is dominant and the default basically. Only takes one copy to produce black, not two.

Here is why all the stuff above is silly.

Let’s say the Sire/Dad is black, but he carries chocolate and carries one copy of yellow. He can produce all three colors. Let’s say the Dam/Mom is chocolate and carries yellow. They have ten puppies. Same mom and dad, same genetics, same gene pool. Because of their color genetics this litter could produce black, chocolate, and yellow. All three colors. Are you telling me each color is going to have different traits because of their color? No. It doesn’t work that way. It’s just an uneducated opinion. The puppies will get similar traits to mom and dad and other dogs in their pedigree no matter the color. Hereditary traits like activity level, temperament, and ability are passed down no matter what color. Same with most health issues and allergies. Color doesn’t matter, unless you are adding dilutes in and then again there are a couple of additional factors.

That being said there are a few things you should know. Yes, chocolates have a shorter lifespan. They don’t know why, but they do think it has something to do with chocolate being a double recessive gene trait. On average, they live almost 2 years less than their black and yellow counterparts.

Why do people say chocolates are crazy? Well, that one’s not so much of a wives tale or opinion. Unfortunately, back in the 1960s after the first chocolate started winning in the show, chocolate became very popular. With their popularity, the demand became very high and every chocolate lab out there whether good bad or ugly, was being bred whether they should have been or not. This did create some high drive and unintelligent dogs. Unfortunately, this had nothing to do with color and everything to do with a boom in bed Breeding and backyard Breeding. That has changed to some extent but there are still breeders just breeding for color.

Let’s talk shedding. That depends on how correct the coat is and if they are on a good food. Show lines tend to have a more even coat with better under coat. This can mean more hair. Yellow shows up a bit more. Again, it’s not coat color as much as coat traits although I will tell you that yellow hair is more of a problem in our house than any other coat color.

Hope this helps.

1 Comment

Melissa Kooyman
Melissa Kooyman
10 hours ago

You know your stuff. Thank you, I learned something!....Hope you posted this on that facebook post.

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