Black Lab – Your Guide To The Black Labrador Retriever

Four gorgeous Black LabsAre you looking to find out more about your wonderful black Lab?

Do you want to know where black Labs came from? What makes them so special?

Do you have training or behavioral questions about your black Labrador?  Then this article will help you find out what you need to know.

Where do black Labs come from?

You’d think that a dog named ‘Labrador’ might come from Labrador wouldn’t you? But as you may have heard, black Labs are descended from the St John’s dog of Newfoundland

You may have heard that Labradors were discovered in Newfoundland, working alongside hardy fishermen, and taken to England in the 1800s where they were developed into the breed we know today .

In fact their story goes back even further than the hardy Newfoundland fishermen’s friend.  It’s now pretty clear that the black Labs ancestors were taken to Newfoundland by British fishermen in the first place.  Probably in the 1700’s.

You can read more about this fascinating history in our article: Where Do Labradors Come From

The black Labs that worked in the icy northern waters were not quite like the dogs we know today.  Some had longer coats and even more upright ears.

Many St Johns dogs had white markings on their black coats, from the odd white sock, to large patches of white.

Even today, it isn’t uncommon to find a tiny white spot tucked away low down on the chest or under the paw of a purebred black Lab

Beautiful English black Lab puppyIn those days, there was no variety in color – no yellow, and no chocolate. The genes that give us yellow and chocolate Labs today, were there in some individuals, but rarely expressed and almost all the early Labs were black.

When yellow or chocolate puppies were born, they were unwanted and often disposed of.  They certainly were not allowed to breed.

Why is black the most common Labrador color?

Black Labradors are the most commonly found color in this popular breed of dog, but this is not just down to the Labrador owners’ color preference.

Genetics dictate that far larger quantities of black Labradors are born than yellow or chocolate Labradors.

Beautiful black lab waiting for his masterThis is because the gene for the black coat color in Labradors, and many other dog breeds, is dominant. Whereas the genes for a brown or yellow coat are not.

A Labrador will only have a chocolate coat color if he doesn’t have the black gene. And he can only have both the black and the brown coloration ‘switched off’ in the presence of two yellow genes.

Sound complicated? Take a look at our color inheritance article for an easy way to understand coat genetics in Labradors. We even give you some handy charts to help you work out the likelihood of Labrador puppies having black coats given different coloured parental combinations.

Black Lab temperament

Just like his yellow and chocolate friends, the average black Lab has an outstanding temperament.

He is loving and lovable, brimming with enthusiasm, and will never tire of your company.  He’ll go anywhere, and do anything, so long as you are with him.

Loving and lovable, the black lab is always ready for a game!If he has any flaws it is that his bouncy exuberance as a youngster, can sometimes cause problems for those that are not too steady on their feet.

So an adolescent black Lab will need to be very well supervised around a toddler just learning to walk, or an elderly  person who is unsteady on their feet.

American black Labs versus English black Labradors

The black labrador has long been the darling of the hunting and shooting community.

These beautiful dogs in their handsome shiny ‘wash and go’ coats can be found busily retrieving duck and pheasants, rabbits and geese in many parts of the world.

black labs are loving dogs, and make great hunting companionsMany of the black Labs you see working as hunting companions are specifically bred for fieldwork – these dogs are often referred to as American Labs.  And American black Labs are very popular

But not all black Labradors are from working lines, plenty of show bred Labradors are black as well.  You may hear these referred to as English black Labs.  Though in fact the difference between them is one of role and purpose, rather than country of origin.

Black Labs from Work or Show lines will have very different statures, with show or English black Labs having broader heads and wider chests.

They will also have differing temperaments in general, with dogs bred for show or as pets tending to be slower to mature, more playful, and less likely to run off after the wildlife!

You can read more about the difference between English and American Labs in our article: English Lab – Your Guide To The English Labrador Retriever

Famous black Labs

We all know of course, that black labs are reknowned as skilled and courageous service dogs.

Working as search and rescue dogs, assisting our soldiers in the army, and helping to catch drug dealers crossing our borders.

Dogs like Jake, pictured right, with his handler Mary.

Jake burrowed through the terrible smoking debris after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2011

And came to the rescue once more in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Some black Labs are famous for having famous owners!

black Lab Konni belonging to president Putin of RussiaHere is president Putin of Russia with his black Lab Konni

She was originally trained as a search and rescue dog and her puppies have been presented as gifts to foreign dignitaries.

There is even a children’s book about her adventures.

Should I buy a black Labrador puppy?

When you decide to take on a puppy, the most important thing is to choose one which will grow into a happy, healthy and well tempered adult.

Because black Labradors often come from working lines, you need to consider which type of Labrador is best suited to your family before purchasing a black lab puppy.

American black Labs may need more exercise and mental stimulation than English black Labs, and will benefit from gun dog style training involving retrieving exercises.

Black puppies can be overlooked because the color is deemed too normal, but remember that your puppy’s coat is just a colour and black Labradors are just as wonderful as their yellow and chocolate counterparts.

Finding a black labrador puppy

Black Labs are so popular that you won’t have any difficulty finding a puppy. Many perfect and adorable black Lab pups like this one, are born each year.

Finding your perfect black lab puppy isn't hard, but there are things you need to know!It is even possible for a litter bred from a yellow dog and chocolate bitch to produce at least some black puppies, due to the dominant black Lab coat gene.

But  not all puppies are born healthy, or destined to have the classic, perfect, Labrador temperament.  So, you do need to choose your puppy with care.

And if you are looking for a black Labrador puppy you should go about it in the same way as you would if you had no color preference.

Your main priorities should be to find a breeder who is scrupulous in their health testing, and make sure your potential puppy’s parents’ temperaments are both excellent.

You might find it helpful to  check out our article on Labrador breeders before  you start searching for a pup.

You might also want to read Choosing the right dog.  These articles will help you avoid some of the common mistakes people make when looking for their new best friend.

Black Lab dog rescue

Alternatively,  you may be willing to consider adopting a black labrador from a rescue or animal shelter.

There are a number of breed rescues that specialise in Labs, and there are always black labs in them, waiting for homes.

One way to find your black Lab dog is via an animal rescue shelter. Find out more in this articleSometimes people worry that an older dog will have problems but this isn’t necessarily the case.

Some black Labradors find themselves homeless because their owners have fallen on bad times, or as a result of divorce or death of their owners.

Rescuing such a dog can be very rewarding.  We hope you will  find our article  Should you adopt a Labrador   helpful and you can view a list of rehoming societies on  our rescue page.

Why are black Labs more likely to end up in rescue centers?

There are several theories about why black Labradors are more likely to end up in rescue centres, and why black dogs can get overlooked when people come to choose their new friend.

If you have more black dogs in a population overall, you are going to have more end up in rescue centres than their differently coloured counterparts. Once they are there, they become subject to what is known as ‘black dog syndrome’.

This simply refers to the fact that black dogs are common and therefore less likely to catch the attention of potential new owners.

There is no evidence to suggest that black Labs have less adoptable personalities, or cause more problems behaviorally that make them more likely to be rehomed.

Some rescues specialise in helping black dogs find new homes, to assist them in overcoming this unfair bias against them.

Remember, if you want to rescue a Labrador then your decision as to which dog to bring home should not be based on the dog’s color or looks, but upon their personality.

Matching an adult dog to an owner is not straight forward and requires lots of thought and planning.  A responsible, caring rescue society or shelter will help you with this.

How do you train a black Labrador?

Basic obedience training for your Labrador should not differ depending upon his coat color, and at The Labrador Site we recommend that you use the most recent information on dog training methods to decide which you would like to use.

You will find it helpful to follow Pippa’s Five Stages of Dog Training, to give your black Labrador the best chance of succeeding.

Black Labs are slightly more likely to come from working backgrounds, and if your black Lab is an American Lab, you might want to consider giving him the opportunity to do plenty of retrieving.

His breeding may influence how far you can go with advanced training if you are thinking of moving on later to agility or gundog work.

Other than that, his coat color should not affect how you train him.

Regardless of whether you want to work with your dog, gundog training can help your black Labrador to stay happy and healthy, as well as becoming a better mannered member of the family.

Black Lab Exercise

All Labradors need regular exercise and entertainment, and your black Lab is no exception.

Although American Black Labs tend to be more driven to retrieve, English Black Labradors are still lively and fun loving dogs. They all need a good workout each day to keep them fit and healthy, and to help them relax at home.

You can exercise your black Labrador with a traditional walk, by going for a run together or through play. Retrieving games are a great way to give your Lab a lot of exercise without you having to travel quite such a long distance yourself.

If you have a fairly large back yard, you can even give him a good workout without having to leave your own property.

Find out more about how to exercise your Labrador Retriever here.

As intelligent dogs, black Labs will get a lot of out of working with their minds as well as their bodies.

You can find some great ideas for games you and your Labrador can play together in this article.

And you can find some simple ways that you can help entertain him even when the weather is bad here.  

Your Elderly Black Lab

Some black Labs can start to look old from quite a young age. With white or grey hairs forming around their muzzle, giving them a bearded or grizzled look.

Old Black LabThis pale hair is nothing to worry about, and happens to most black Labs sooner or later in their lives.

As your black Lab reaches old age, you might find that he slows down a bit. Being less energetic and more inclined to spend the day in bed than bouncing up and down by your side.

Some medical problems may also appear, such as arthritis and a decline in vision and hearing.

Although many changes like this as simply as a result of old age, it’s still worth taking him for a quick checkup at the vets if you notice any differences in his behavior or feel that he might be in discomfort.

There are lots of ways you can help your ageing black Lab to stay comfortable too. You can find out all about giving him the best support you can in this article on Caring For Your Older Labrador.


The black Labrador is one of the most common dogs in the UK and the USA, but this does not mean he is in any way boring or dull.  On the contrary, his joyful enthusiasm for life and kindly, intelligent personality are what has made him one of the most popular dogs on earth.

black labrador puppyThe Labrador owner’s devotion the this wonderful breed is a reflection of what a great dog he is.

We love our black Labs and we hope that you do too.

Do you have a black Labrador? Why not tell us all about him in the comments section below!

More information on puppies

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.



  1. i have a black lab hes called bear, he follows me everywhere and as hes not allowed upstairs he sits by the gate and waits, he has a friend that we meet out on our walk every day hes called archie hes a golden lab 2 years old, they have the best fun ever i think they would be happy to spend the whole day together if they could. aprt from the amout of fur i clean up every day bear is a very special boy to me, hes my best friend he cuddles up next to me on the sofa every evening he follows me round when gardening he nicks all my strawberries of the plants but i wouldnt change it. i love him.

  2. I’ve have 3 dogs, one of whom is a 4 year old black lab named Raider. He is honestly an wonderful friend. He LOVES to play fetch with me throwing a tennis ball until he is all tuckered out. Once he’s had his play he really mellows out and likes to lay on the cool tile floor panting to cool off. He gets very antsy when he hasn’t had his fetch yet so I try to play outside two to three times a day. He is such a kind gentle dog that likes to lick a lot haha. When he wants something, like to play fetch or out to go potty, he’ll walk up and lick your elbow or whatever skin you leave exposed which is so funny to me. Raider is so good of a dog I recommend black labs to anyone with a heart for animals.

  3. My 14 week old black lab, Loki, is amazing and fun and a teacher of patience. Lol
    For the past 3 weeks he has developed white spots on his fur. He is also constantly scratching himself. How can I ease his situation.
    I know that the dry air in the house must be playing a huge part.

    • Could be a possible allergy to his food? Lots of info on line about dogs being allergic to grains in kibble etc
      Do you give him treats? Check out the ingredient list if you do. So many nasties in the most popular brands….
      Or allergy to flea or tick treatment you may have given him? They are full of poison, once again check out online.
      I have been a dog owner for over 20 years and am still learning. In fact I have recently started making my own treats and have changed my dogs’ food too. Good luck

  4. We have a black lab named Harley. She’s 15 months old and we had her from 8 weeks. She’s our first dog and we couldn’t be more happier with her. She is so loveing and friendly with everyone she meets and is a joy to have around. My husband has never really been a dog lover but gave in and bought her for my birthday. I really couldn’t be without her, she follows me everywhere. She’s like my shadow and I love her so much.

  5. My black female lab is a guide dog. I never pictured myself with a Labrador. Originally when applying for guide dog schools the first school I apply to only get home training with shepherds. I am more of an introvert. But the waiting list was too long and I had a decision between continue waiting or go to school in Germany and study music education. So I chose to go to school in Germany then required an international school. I’m from the United States. Anyway so I applied to a school that does give dogs to people who are moving to other countries and this school does 95% labradors and 5% Shepherd’s. At that point I just wanted to experience working with as well as the companionship of a dog and did not care what it was. It was also fun to think that since the school does the matching it was the possibility of either receiving a black or a yellow Labrador. I’ve had my girl since 2011. Absolutely love her to death! Sure having a disability is seen as something negative by the general public, I would just say it’s frustrating and inconvenience but the plus is being able to have a service dog. So she comes everywhere with me and of course at home she just gets to act like a regular dog and play and from time to time she plays with my sister-in-law’s golden retriever. When that future scary moment comes, yes retiring her will be scary but I will be keeping her. I was also someone who thought of that all black labradors had that course rough hair. Anytime I want to different organizations are camps and there were people talking about guide dogs when I pet a lot of the black labradors they all had that rough hair. She has a very soft hair. Apparently her mother who is black has the soft hair and a few years later since I keep in contact with her puppy raiser, the puppy raiser told me that she has a younger Half sister that she’s currently keeping at her house and I got to visit them and meet that dog. Also a black lab it was very soft furr.

  6. we have a black lab/ blue tick hound mix, he’s 19 months old, and he’s losing hair on his ears. is this norm, or is something wrong? is there something we can do to help grow his hair back?

  7. Hi, when Max came into our lives i was 62. My wife’s brother saved him. He was 1 pup out of 4 different litters. To many pup’s to take care of. He came to us with a crooked nose, full of fleas and one step closers to euthanasia. We already had a 3 year old beagle and a 16 year old kitty. But brother knew he had brought him to the right house. His grandfather was a full newfoundland and bred with labs and rotwilers. So this guy wasn’t eating well, not tough enough. He is now 2 and a half and one of the smartest most lovable pup’s I’ve ever had. Our kitty is gone now but his brother Charlie the beagle is his buddy. They protect each other and talk to each other and sleep together (in their own beds though). I couldn’t have asked for a better companion for Charlie. We love this little 90 pound boy of ours.

  8. Hi, when Max came into our lives in was 62. My wife’s brother saved him. He was 1 pup out of 4 different litters. To many pup’s to take care of. He came to us with a crooked nose, full of fleas and one step closers to euthanasia. We already had a 3 year old beagle and a 16 year old kitty. But brother knew he had brought him to the right house. His grandfather was a full newfoundland and bred with labs and rotwilers. So this guy wasn’t eating well, not tough enough. He is now 2 and a half and one of the smartest most lovable pup’s I’ve ever had. Our kitty is gone now but his brother Charlie the beagle is his buddy. They protect each other and talk to each other and sleep together (in their own beds though). I couldn’t have asked for a better companion for Charlie.

  9. I am 67 year old male and my daughter brought over a 9 week old black Labrador to show me him. That puppy came to me and would not leave me he curled up on me and that was that.
    I am handicap and my daughter noticed that this pup was attached at first sight.
    My daughter felt bad leaving that day with the pup as it cried when leaving.
    Two days later my daughter came over and gave me the pup. I was very excited but concerned that maybe I can’t take care of him properly.
    After 3 weeks I have found my best friend and I named him Jerry Lee and he has not left my side in over a year. I take him everywhere and he gets his exercise when I visit my grandchildren homes plus he goes to work with me 5 hours a day. I love him so much and I thank my daughter every time I see her. He has never had an accident in the house and never barks and loves children and especially me

  10. We now have our fourth Labrador after our yellow Labrador died. The best way I find to get over the death of a family friend like a Labrador is to get another Labrador. So we got a Black Labrador aged eight weeks from the same bloodline as all our other dogs. We love him already. For the first time we are using clicker training in his training. This has been a revelation and I would recommend anyone who wants to train their dog to find a book on this non coercive training. Our puppy is responding and is a lively, friendly dog.

  11. my friend used to leave some cool water in the bath and her staffie would jump in and stay calm. The vet recommended it to her. Fortunately my dogs have never flinched at any noise.

  12. Have a black lab bitch Murphy, she was rehomed by me at 11 months and took some patience. I’m not young and she pulled me over everyday after other dogs, rabbits and any other human. She’s now 2 and a lovely friend, she still loves people and dogs and still chases the odd rabbit but we get along just great. My dilemma is have not taken out insurance yet and don’t know which one to choose. Never insured any of my dogs 20 years ago but then vets fees were a lot cheaper then. Any advice is welcome.

  13. I have two black labs, sisters. They are almost 7. One is like a hyperactive child while the other is calm and laid back. They are both extremely protective over me and follow me wherever I go. They are very lovable dogs and wouldn’t trade them for the world.

  14. We just lost our black lab she was 13 nalla was her name my other three labs are having as much of a hard time as we are. She had kidney failure and we kept praying for a miracle. She was just a joy and so loved till the end and how do you get thru it. There all one year apart and there my precious gifts. Having cancer twice in 9 years and them telling me I was sick. Makes loosing any of them so much harder. My husbands says how much do they mean to you when you cry over loosing them and have no tears when you lose a parent. Our girls all have a special meaning to us how they came to be here. I want a new puppy now so it helps my other girls cheer up. There lonely even though the sleep with us and I love them a lot What do you do.

  15. I had a black lab who sadly passed away last year at the ripe age of 19! He had a beautiful temperament. I grew up with him (from age 5) and pretty much felt at a complete loss without him. The thought of getting another black lab puppy crossed my mind a few times, with a plan on going to look for the perfect puppy for my family in the next week or so. To my amazement I had a phone call about a 6 year old black lab (the grand daughter of mine who passed) was needing to be adopted as her owner passed and would I like to meet her! Which without hesitation I did. She’s a beautiful dog with exactly the same looks and very similar in every way. I can’t wait to bring her to her new home next week and be a lab owner yet again!

  16. i have found two black labrador 1 male 1 female on my pourch on 12/11/2015 i need help finding the owner they have no tags.

    • Hi Pat, You might find this website helpful: They have a section for notifying people who are looking for their pets. You could also try contacting local animal rescues or your dog warden, to see if they have been reported missing by anyone locally. Your vet may also be able to scan them to see if they are microchipped. All the best, Lucy

  17. I have a black lab age 6. His name is Alvin and he’s absolutely crazy! He has given us lots of laughs along the way and although he is nuts I wouldn’t change him for the world. He is defiantly Marley from the film Marley and me!

  18. I have a 9 year old black lab called BArney ……he was rescued from the rspca when he was 8 months old ……I have never had a dog and we got BArn for our son who was 10 …… I thought it was a cliche that a dog could change your life until BArn came into our lives…. He is amazing , beautiful and a bit of a character ….. eVeryone locally know him and love him ..he is so laid back, social and I cannot imagine life without him. I love that little face waiting for me as I come home …. He is currently sleeping under my bed snoring gently …….precious ?♥️

  19. I have a ten year old black female lab who is severely overweight and has hip displeasure. She was hit by a car when she was 10 mos old and even though she had surgery and made a 99% recovery it is catching up to her now that she is getting up there in years. We have had labs for many years, and my Roxie is the best behaved and smart dog I have ever owned. The thought of having to put her down in the next year or two is heart wrenching. Does anyone have any suggestions for improving quality of life for older, obese labs who have hip displaisure?. She is still very happy emotionally. One other thing I wanted to mention to others, as much as these labs love to eat, and table scraps for them are like heaven, this is the precise reason why my dog is so obese. The vet used to tell me I was being selfish by continuing to give her “treats” from the table, but the “puppy dog” eyes always suckered me into sneaking her a “bite” Needless to say she is 104 lbs now, and having a terrible time getting around. I dont know what is in a Labs “DNA” but they are the most loyal and lovable dogs; they will change your life forever.!

  20. I have a beautiful black labrador. He is 13 months old. We had him from 9 weeks.
    He is very strong. He chases leaves when its windy. Luckily we exercise him on fields. When its windy with leaves everywhere I have to let go of him otherwise he would pull me over. He has pulled me over twice. How can I stop him doing it without breaking his playfulness? He chases rabbits too

  21. I recently rescued a black lab pup who had been dumped out in the country. He is about a month or so old and very playful. My only concern is with his biting. He is constantly biting my hands and when he gets to licking my face, he tries nibbling on my face and neck. I understand he is a puppy and has a lot of learning to do, but I am wondering how can I break his habit? Thanks!!

    • Puppies that age need to chew, and would greatly benefit from some chew toys. I found with my pup when he was young that a face cloth, tied in knots then frozen did the trick. It soothed his gums and have him something that was ok for him to chew. When offered something that’s ok to chew, they will stop chewing what is prohibited of them.

    • My black lab is lovely, but when left in kitchen he chews doors, opens cupboards, completely destroyed kitchen table and chairs, has lots of toys, bones and chews. He is one year old, please help. He is good with the children, loves his walks and fussing from the neighbours when in the garden, also likes to dig !!

  22. dear ,
    i m adnan from Pakistan i have black Labrador 3 months old female plz tel me that how i know that my dog is original.

  23. Hi I have some questions regarding my black lab
    Well i have a two year old black lab and she has had some tummy problems and I dont know what to do I really need help please respond
    thank you Shelby

    • Hi, I have a female black labrador who is almost 14 months old, recently (the past few months) she has started barking and growling at everything that moves outside the house, eg out the windows, people going past, people at the top of the street etc. she also sits at the gate and does the same thing, sometimes when there is literally nothing there. She’s not an aggressive dog but her hackles do go up when she does this. Can anyone tell me if this is normal behaviour? Thanks 🙂

  24. Hi, thanks for that. Yeah, am probably still a bit nervous regarding feeding raw, however am going to give it a bash just with the raw chicken though. 🙂

    Just finished reading Rachael’s journey, thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Thanks again


    • Glad you enjoyed Rachael’s Journey 🙂 I probably should add that if you decide to carry on with raw you will need to feed quite a variety of meats as described in the article. Pippa

  25. Hi there, we have a 14 month old black lab, twice she has been bothered with folliculitis and has needed noroclav antibiotics. I’m wondering if this could be caused by something we are doing?

    Thanks for your help


    • Hi Carol, it is probably not anything you have done, your best bet is to talk to your vet about any concerns you may have. Hope your dog is better soon. Pippa

      • Thanks for getting back to me. She is our first family pet and was a rescue at 5 months. Food wise, she is on csj complete tripe. Do you have a preference regarding dog food.


        • Hi Carol, I feed all my dogs on a completely raw meat and bone diet with no carbs at all. I can’t really comment on commercial dog foods except to note that they all contain a significant proportion of carbohydrates which I prefer not to feed to dogs. I have written a couple of articles on feeding raw here and here but I appreciate that it is not for everyone 🙂