Chocolate Labrador Training


What could possibly be different about training a chocolate labrador!

How can the colour of a dog have any impact on the methods, or techniques used to get him or her trained?

After years of training black and yellow labradors,  I took on my first Chocolate lab ‘Rachael’ in 2012.

It is proving to be an interesting experience.

For an indepth looking at the chocolate Labrador in general, why not check out The Chocolate Labrador Retriever – Myths, Facts & Fun!

Whilst the differences I am observing are not ’caused’ by the colour of Rachael’s coat, there is actually a link of sorts between coat colour and temperament,  due to recent breeding practices.


For many generations,   the liver colour,  or chocolate as we like to call it nowadays,  was considered quite undesirable in a Labrador.

Chocolate Labrador TrainingMany chocolate Labradors were culled.

And it seems hard to believe, but people did not want to buy chocolate coloured puppies.

Perhaps our change in heart has something to do with the change in name.   Maybe chocolate is more appealing than liver…

Who knows…

Whatever the reason,  the colour chocolate became desirable in the latter part of the last century and people started breeding chocolate Labradors,  largely for the pet dog market.   And to some extent for the show ring.

Ne’er the twain shall meet

At the same time,  working Labradors and show ring Labradors were becoming ever more separate.  Matings between the two types became fewer and further apart,  and the ‘dual purpose’  labradors of the 40s and 50s,  began to decline and all but disappear.


The chocolate colour became ‘stranded’ on the show side of this division,  and so was subjected to many years of being bred for certain characteristics.

These characteristics did not include those favoured by the field trial community,  supreme trainability/biddability, speed and nose.  But rather included the conformation favoured by show enthusiasts and a robust, easy going, temperament.

Check out Labrador characteristics for more information.

This does not really mean that Chocolate Labradors are stupid, though this has become a bit of a cliché   But, if you are used to working type Labradors as I am,  then there are aspects of the temperaments of some chocolate Labradors that may require a slightly different approach.

With my own puppy Rachael I have found her to be more sociable, and more playful,but a little less persistent and more ‘distractible’  than my other labs.

A more sociable dog

Rachael is hugely enthusiastic about meeting people (and dogs) and prone to be over-friendly.  Whilst we certainly don’t want an aggressive or unfriendly working gundog,  this extra-friendliness makes the dog more prone to distraction by humans and other dogs.

I have therefore had to spend a bit more time ‘proofing’ basic obedience than I would with one of my yellow or black working bred labs.   And I have to make a special effort to ensure that she is not allowed to interact with visitors until she is sitting calmly.

On the plus side,  I have had to spend less time socialising Rachael than I would with a field bred lab.  As she takes everything in her stride.

Less persistent

Rachael is an interesting dog to train.  She is actually very ‘biddable’ and quite sensitive to my tone of voice.  But she is inclined to give up very easily,  and this means I have to take things more slowly.

If I withhold a reward in order to get her to try something new,  she may try once more, then sit back on her haunches,  throwing me a solemn look,  as if to say ‘you have to help me now’  whereas my other dogs seem more persistent, more likely to keep trying.

Rachael’s Journey

As we progress in our training I am sure that more differences and similarities will come to light.  Of course it is not reasonable assume that Rachael is a typical chocolate Labrador,  in fact she probably is not, because she does have some working genes.

We cannot say for certain which, if any,  of the characteristics of any dog are colour linked,  and which are not, but it is fun to speculate.

If you are interested in finding out more about Rachael and my chocolate Labrador training adventure,  you can follow her story: Rachael’s Journey  on my gundog site.

Training your chocolate labrador

Essentially, training a chocolate labrador is no different from training a labrador of any other colour.

You need to set aside a certain amount of side on a daily basis, at least four times a week, and work through the stages in training for each skill you want to teach your dog.  You’ll find lots of information on training in the Training section of this website.

If your chocolate Labrador is more interested in playing with other dogs and people than listening to you,  a common problem in many friendly pet dogs,  you might find it helpful to read our articles on proofing

More information

Check out our Labrador Training section for more help and advice on managing your chocolate Labrador Retriever.

If you’d like all this information together in one place, don’t miss my new book, available from September 2015

The Labrador Handbook looks at all aspects of your chocolate Labradors life, through daily care and training at each stage of their life.

Click hereto pre-order now from Amazon UK, with Amazon’s pre-order price guarantee


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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.


  1. Hi Pippa…I felt like I was reading a description of our Chocolate Labrador, Lottie. She too has some field breeding and the characteristics you described are a perfect match. Lottie is also overly social, far more so than any other dog I have owned and much more so than my brothers Labs, 2 black and a fox red. She adores everyone and everything, very similar too with training, she will just sit back and give me the “look”. Oh well onwards and upwards and she is just far too special and means to much to our family :)

  2. Dearest Pippa, thank you so much for this article! It explained so much regarding my 7 month old chocolate…
    I am, however, starting to experience some issues with his. For example, in the morning he is starting to be obnoxious. He is jumping on me, biting me (without growling, of course and in non-aggressive way) and wouldn’t let go. taking him into the pen used to work but now I can’t get him there without pulling him which I really don’t want to do. Since I am the one that feeds him, walks him, goes to school with him and does all the training, I am starting to think that he’s gotten on his mind to take over my Alpha position in our pack.
    My other suspicion is that he’s in heat even though he’s still young…

    • Hi Nina
      The latest research suggests that few dogs are motivated by ‘status’ so your Alpha theory is unlikely. Chances are he doesn’t know quite what’s expected of him. Seven months is a boisterous age and you need to set some rules.
      It is a good idea to train your dog to go to his bed on command, and to use this command when you need some space from him.


      • I just saw your reply and thank you. I found out what all fuss is about. He actually tries to lure me into a play since this is how he plays with my husband. The difference is, I spend the whole day with Perun and I can’t be playing with him whenever he feels like it.

  3. Hi Pippa
    When I was reading you words it was like a duplicate report of my Coco Velvet, she was also quite stoppy and biting me (as Nina’s dog) until she new that I was the boss and not her, although she did test me on a daily basis, this did continue until she was 14 months old. Coco is now 18 months old and is excellent she does follow instructions when given my me and most of the family. I did continue with the basic training and bronze training and still do training on a daily basis and immediately after each episode of disobedience. My Coco is excellent at picking up on illness and and sadness and brings love and hope to us all. Hope this helps and gives you something to look forward to.


  4. My late chocolate labrador Coco took a continuous 18months of cues after initial training to keep her on track with normal expectations of daily life. I included the kids in some of this which helped. Once into her 2nd year, commands (using claps and clicks and hand gestures) really worked well and reduced the distraction from others (people & animals). We lost her to heart failure at 5 1/2yrs old, she fought to the very end.
    We have mourned and a year later have a choc and black lab to train :-) separately of course.

  5. I have a male choc. lab named malachi ,he is now 12 weeks.have had him since he was 7 weeks.He also loves everyone and he and my 19 yr. old son have a great bond and he listens very well to my son.Me who is with him all day ,he gets streaks of aggression ,nipping ,biting at my feet and pants or legs.I have tried everything you could think of to stop this.I adore this puppy but it is making me crazy that I really can not enjoy him at this point.What do you recom.??

  6. My current Chocolate Lab is the smartest most intelligent animal I have ever owned. She is so smart that sometimes it is eerie. I have owned German Shepherds, Chocolate Labs and Black Labs in the past, all with superior intellect but nothing like my current girl Bailey. She is not one of the “blockhead show dogs” she is the sleeker hunting sports type with an intelligent point that is obvious when she holds her very large indestructable ball. She is, however, addicted to balls, lol.
    I truly do not know her lineage because I adopted her at a year from folks who were not prepared for a lively lab (they only had her for a little over a month, adopting her from a college age boy who thought he could keep her in his dorm room) but still she appeared to be well trained. She is a thinking dog. Truly it bothers me when I read or hear that Chocolates are not as intelligent or easy to train, but I forgive them, they just had never met Bailey or Kahlua (RIP).

  7. We’ve just gotten our 6 month old choccy lab, Ernie. I grew up with black labs, and owned an Australian Kelpie and an AmStaff, so I thought I knew what to expect. Big surprise. He’s a very chilled out boy – ½ hour walk is enough for him. Very people focused and adores all of humanity. Is he thick? Not sure. He was the breeders choice, but then they needed to give him up. Not sure how much people/training time he had – I’m beginning to think they focused on necessary ‘showing’ skills (like walking well on a leash) rather than obedience. He seems to be taking a long time to learn ‘sit’ but on the other hand will wait before going through a door and won’t jump. Perhaps it’s his age? Perhaps it’s his temperament? Perhaps he IS a bit dim. Nonetheless, his lovely temperament makes up for his learning difficulties!
    Love this site – reading about Rachael was one of the reasons I went back to getting a lab for a pet.

  8. Thank you Pippa for this article. We have a chocolate lab called Max and he is our first dog. I can relate to all that has been said. Max just loves people and thinks that everyone wants to play with him. He also loves other dogs irrespective of their age and size and likewise just wants to play. Max is now 9 months and we train him every day with positive reinforement and he is slowing getting the hang of things. He is very affectionate and we love him to bits but his exuberance has been challenging!

  9. Hi Pippa
    I was wondering if you have any articles with tips for training a new puppy along with a two yr old lab. My choc lab who is two is pretty well trained. He sits, stays, recalls, etc. can I train my black lab puppy in the same room or should they be completely seperated for training.

  10. Great Article! having just acquired a chocolate after owning yellow and black labs, we will see if there is a distinctive difference in the training and raising of the lab is significantly different than that of the others. As a stroke of luck, some of our near and dear friends Bred their Chocolate with the son of a chocolate named Barracuda Blue. I recommend anyone considering Chocolates for something more than just a pet to search Barracuda Blue and see what levels a Chocolate can obtain. What is not known in my little bit of research is how Barracuda Blue’s training may have been any different from the other dogs that were part of the family. That is yet to be seen in our own family. Our new Chocolate, named Zeus, does seem to be a little more sensitive from what we have observed at the young age of 10 weeks. He does seem to be incredibly smart and we have already began the training process…and it is working.

  11. We had not had dogs for a number of years and my wife wanted a Weimaraner myself well back to Labradors was my preferred option. Well we got both. Our Labrador is a Chocolate lady which we travelled hundreds of miles to get from the North of England. Effectively her back catalogue is farm dogs. This sort of throwback in time means we have a 1960’s type lab. She is strong, powerful and by far the most intelligent Labrador we have ever had and by some measure ( That is said with all respect to our previous family friends).Training was minimal in effort and time as she came pre programmed as it were. It is therefore always a surprise to me to read that they are considered dumb. Incidentally the Weimaraner thinks she is in charge most of the time but the reality is the Lab is as the occasional stare down every 3 to 4 weeks restores the household balance, no growls , threats or aggression just a 30 second stare.