‘Are all Chocolate Labradors untrainable?’

Nearly every caller enquiring about a chocolate puppy drops, at some point, into the conversation, that a guy down the pub/that trains with them/that works in their office/they met at a bus-stop in 1973 told them catagorically that chocolates are anything from ‘more hectic than black and yellow labradors’ to downright ‘loopy and untrainable’.

This is such a commonly held stereotype I had to write about it, partly to give a realistic answer, and partly to reassure!

In answer to ‘where did the negative rumours start about chocolates’ take a seat….

Chocolate was NOT a desireable colour until fairly recent times. It was almost considered a mismark and many many chocolates born in litters in the first half of the 1900’s were culled in some manner as fast as possible after birth. They were utterly undesireable. The story behind that is purely based on the fact that the labrador was considered and recognised as Black and Yellow (indeed it took some time before yellow was recognised and encouarged infact), therefore chocolates were ‘freaks’ and about as welcome as a pup born with three legs in most quarters.

Time went on, and that pesky chocolate recessive gene just WOULD NOT die! It came back to haunt breeders time and time again until a few took their lives in their hands and decided to let a few live and, indeed (gasp!) exhibit them! They did reasonably well and so, a very small gene pool started to develop for the colour. Mostly from quality lines who just *happened* to carry chocolate in there and it was VERY small I might add.

But, like any ‘novelty’ in the last 25 years, what has happened is that puppy farms and commercial breeders have latched onto the fact that there are (or WERE) few chocolates out there and started breeding them for all they are worth for pound note reasons only. Breeding ONLY for coat colour and absolutely no other reason. therefore producing labradors way inferior to the quality of the other two colours because this gene pool developed only through the want for money.

In the same period, a small handful of quality breeders decided that ‘so be it’ and whilst not BREEDING for chocolate specifically, recognised it equally and many arrived in their black litters through actually not mating to AVOID it as had been done in the past.

So, two gene pools exists, and still do, the absolutely damn awful puppy farm originating genepool and the quality gene pool. The problem is one is way larger than the other.

In addition, because of the ‘newness’ of the colour, and because few chocolate labradors have, as yet, proved themselves in the working competition arena, therefore there are very few genuine working lines with the colour in them so therefore most who decide to work chocolate labradors, do so from either the show genepool or the pet/puppy farm genepool.

Therefore their working reputation is regarded with deep suspicion by some groups of people, and generally rightly so because of the poor quality chocolates who in the past have dipped toes into working.

ANY Dog bred ONLY for colour will have untypical labrador traits and lack many of the breed charcteristics that a labrador should have: biddability, game finding, desire to please, etc etc and therefore that is often where the ‘chocolates are noisy, hard headed and are poor workers’ rumour came from.

The overall negative impression also can come from the fact that whilst there are thousands of chocolates out there there are tens, no hundreds of thousands of blacks and yellows. Therefore, you see one chocolate behaving badly out, and you remember it. You see one black from 10 you saw on a walk and the other well behaved 9 stay in your mind.

So as you can see, basically the vast majority of the chocolate gene pool are poorly bred pet dogs with money only in mind when mating. THIS IS VASTLY IMPROVING.

This all said there are MANY caring, quality breeders in the last 15 years or so taking the colour all the way in terms of working ability, temperament, health and conformation….. its just those chocolates are STILL a minority in what is already a minority gene pool. Although thanks to the commercial breeders, who have almost marketed the ‘chocolate labrador’ as a breed all of its own, not just one small colour in the Labrador Retriever gene pool, the numbers are on the up. This does not mean quality is however sadly in many cases.

There are badly bred blacks, yellows and chocolates out there. Its finding quality parents to buy a good puppy from that counts towards your end result! Chocolate labradors are not any less trainable or biddable than any other colour. Its just poorly bred labradors of ANY colour are, and there are many poorly bred chocolates!

Diana Stevens -:  Oct 2008

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