Adopting a new dog can be a daunting task. One of the reasons for this, is that many dog breeds have temperaments that can be difficult to deal with, or they can develop serious health problems later in life. Dog owners worldwide have agreed – the Labrador Retriever is the easiest and most agreeable breed of dog to care for. According to the AKC (American Kennel Club), the Labrador Retriever has been the most popular breed of dog registered for the past eighteen years. Because of their ideal temperament, and lack of serious health problems encountered by other purebred dogs, the Labrador has been used extensively in hospital therapy, as well as being a reliable hunting dog.
The Chocolate Labrador is a variation of the Labrador breed, identical in all aspects except for having a recessive gene for “chocolate” brown fur coloration. The dominant color gene for most Labrador Retrievers is black, while the recessive colors include Yellow, Chocolate, and a very rare “Silver” or Gray. The color variations of Chocolate Labradors can be anywhere from a deep, amber brown, to a lighter, softer shade of brown. Chocolate Labradors are a dog of medium build, with two distinct layers of fur. There is a soft “under-layer”, which provides insulation, as well as an oily, water-resistant outer layer, which acts as a protective barrier against weather and other environmental variations.
The Chocolate Labrador has a very active, loving temperament, which are characteristics shared by all variations of the Labrador breed. They make wonderful companions, with unsurpassed loyalty towards their owners. True to their name, Chocolate Labradors are excellent retrievers, always looking for something to fill their breed-based oral fixation. However, they also have amazing control over their jaw muscles, being able to carry delicate objects without damaging them. It’s important to give a Chocolate Labrador plenty of chew toys to occupy their playtime, so that household items (such as shoes!) aren’t the object of their attention.
Chocolate Labradors are very intelligent, easily able to learn both simple and complicated commands. They make very skilled service dogs for the disabled, as well as a reliable rescue dog. Because of their unsurpassed sense of smell, they have been used by many law enforcement agencies for detecting explosives, illegal drugs, and other dangerous substances.
Chocolate Labradors are of average size compared to other breeds, being well suited for living in any size home environment. However, they are very active, so may require significant outdoor space to get adequate exercise. The general height of a Chocolate Labrador ranges from 21 to 24 inches, depending on the gender and breed characteristics. The average weight is from 55-75 pounds, though some dogs have been on record at 100 pounds or more.
Similar to most purebred dogs, Chocolate Labradors do have several inherited health problems. Perhaps because of their active nature, the most common problems in Chocolate Labradors involve the hip, knee and elbow joints. These areas are affected by a condition called “dysplasia”, which causes degeneration and immobility in the cartilage connecting specific joints. Dysplasia can also refer to developmental abnormalities which usually become apparent when a Chocolate Labrador reaches 3-4 years of age. Labrador Retrievers can also develop some serious eye conditions, which include cataracts, retinal dysplasia (a non progressive disease that affects the retina), and progressive retinal atrophy (gradual loss of eyesight).
Because Chocolate Labradors are a very active breed, they do require an adequate amount of space for play and exercise. Also, because of their social nature, they need constant human interaction. Playtime is of special importance for Chocolate Labradors, and should be encouraged on a daily basis. Ideally, a Chocolate Labrador should have a designated outdoor space for playtime.
Exercise is very important for Chocolate Labradors, also because they can over-indulge themselves in treats and food. Since they’re very energetic, it’s essential that a Labrador receives exercise on a daily basis. An example of a good exercise routine would be approximately 20-30 minutes of brisk walking, accompanied by about 5 minutes of jogging.
A Chocolate Labrador has an average lifespan of 12-13 years, depending on environmental and health factors. However, it is possible for a Labrador to live much longer, with good lifestyle habits and attentive medical care. The “average” lifespan of any dog breed is also called the “median age”, which is the age by which half of the dogs of a specific breed have died, while half remain alive. Chocolate Labradors live much longer than some other breeds (Bloodhounds only have a median age of 6-7 years). This is because their breed-specific health problems are not as serious as those of other purebred dogs.
The Chocolate Labrador’s fur consists of two layers, a soft under-layer, and a coarse, protective outer layer. The outer layer is slightly oily, which makes it water resistant. A Chocolate Labrador should only be hand-bathed on very rare occasions, because this can strip the natural oils from their fur. If a Chocolate Labrador is groomed at least once per week, shedding can be kept to a minimum. The paws should have occasional attention as well, because the nails often need manual trimming (especially in indoor dogs). In general, frequently grooming a Chocolate Labrador can also promote positive relationship building between owner and pet.
The breed of Labrador Retrievers that we know today actually originated in Newfoundland, when Newfoundland dogs were cross-bred with small water dogs that lived on the coast. The Labrador Retriever was eventually brought to England in the 1800’s. In that time, Labradors were actually known as “St. John’s Waterdog”, and the name “Labrador” eventually displaced this as how this breed was identified. It is said that in England, the dogs would frequently retrieve fish that had fallen off of the hooks of fishermen, as well as help with dragging nets from fishing boats to the shore (hence the reason why they were first referred to as “Waterdogs”, since their usefulness was first seen as a fishing dog).
Labrador Retrievers were also very skilled at hunting, and were eventually brought to America for this purpose. The first “official” registration of a Labrador Retriever in America was in 1917. Their special skills in game retrieval for hunters greatly assisted their ascent in popularity, as they began to out-rank the previously popular hunting dogs; the Springer Spaniel and the Chesapeake Retriever. Eventually, when most of the negative temperament characteristics were bred out, we find ourselves with the loving, attentive Labrador Retriever that is extremely popular in homes worldwide.