Labrador Retriever Color and Intelligence Level

by Shannon Steffen on April 5, 2006

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There is a common misconception that the color of a Labrador Retriever denotes the level of intelligence in the dog. Although genes have a great deal of importance in determining how smart any living creature is and genes also play a dominate role in determining the color of a Lab, there is no link between the two genes that control these variations in pups.

In order to gain a better understanding of how the color gene does not play a role in the intelligence of a Lab, take, for instance, human siblings. Often, identical twins come into a family seeming identical in every way. As the children begin to grow, subtle differences will start to form and the identical twins are no longer so identical in looks, personality, and/or intelligence. Having identical twins does not guarantee that both children will have the same intelligence level, just as having two people of different colors does not denote how smart or stupid the person will be in life.

Therefore, when taking into account whether what color Labrador Retriever to bring into a family, it will have no bearing on the intelligence level of the animal. A prime example comes from my own home with two chocolate Lab females from the same blood line but different litters. Granted, they both have the habit of pulling the fuzz off any tennis ball in site as they seem to have inherited this “skill” from the dame. However, Dakota can easily tell us what she wants by scratching on a particular surface in our home. We would like to take the credit for this and say it was due to perfect training but, it was something that Dakota had learned on her own. If she wants water, she will scratch on the dishwater near her bowl. If she wants her footballs, she will scratch on the cabinet where they are stored. If she wants food, she will scratch on the oven (even though the dog food is kept on the other side of the kitchen) and so on. Cheyenne has no clue about these things and could care less. If she wants water, she will walk around the house, panting, with her tongue hanging down to the floor until someone notices. As you can see, Cheyenne is not as smart as Dakota in these areas but we would love to see any dog try to out-stalk our Cheyenne when she is hunting.

Two Labrador Retrievers of the same color and distinguishable differences in intelligence levels. It is the personality behind the dog and the training they are given that really creates an intelligence behind the dog – not the color.

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  • Rob

    There is a somewhat rude dog owner at our local dog park who made an open comment as we were all were sitting around enjoying the nice day. A young couple had their 4 month old chocolate lab puppy mixing with all of the other (adult) dogs…he was beautiful!!…so the guy says to us all that the intelligence level of chocolate labs is inferior to the other 2 colors (yellow and black)…and that they are really dumb. I would like to smack him over the head with an education concerning this!

    • Kai

      There have been some studies indicating that the chocolate coat colour gene is linked to an inferior intelligence gene. Gene linkage means that when one gene is inherited, the other is also inherited. Therefore, chocolate coat colour is most often associated with lesser intelligence genetically. This guy who walked by may actually have been studying genetics at the time. It’s not the most pleasant thing to hear about your dog, but it is where science is pointing right now.

      • http://exciramedia.com/ Shannon Steffen

        I respectfully disagree because my 2 chocolate Labs are more intelligent than most other Labs I meet. They are trained to obey commands in sign language, they walk off-lead, and they do a number of other actions that puts them well above the norm.

        Can you provide a link to the study data online, Kai?

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