A Lesson in Labrador Coat Color Inheritance

In May 23, 2015

As we know (and is accepted as AKC standard), Labradors come in three colors: yellow, black, and chocolate.  Yes I know there are those now breeding “silver” labradors, but the AKC does not recognize it as a registered color, and the origins of silver labs are still in controversy.  There are also “red fox” or “white” labs… these are still just variant shades of yellow, and are registered as such.

three pups- Endless Mt. Labradors


Now comes the big question…

How do you know what colors the puppies will be?

Remember when you did those Punnett Squares in Science class? (Ok, Maybe some of you don’t…) They are used to predict genetic traits in offspring.  For example, the likelihood of a blue-eyed child from two brown-eyed parents, etc. When it comes to coat color in Labradors, black is the dominant gene, and yellow and chocolate are the recessive genes.  As we’ve discussed before, coat color has no correlation with temperament (just like eye color in people), and we do not breed yellow to chocolates, as you will dilute the dark pigmentation that we desire around the eyes and nose, and the color of the chocolate coat.

So let’s look at an example…

Let’s say we breed our Manny to Mina.  Both carry the recessive gene for yellow, so the genotype for both of these dogs is “By”.

Manny- Endless Mountain Labradors                                                                                 Mina- Endless Mt. Labradors








The prediction for their offspring would be…

By to By Punnett Square

or…  😉

Black and yellow Mina pups- Endless Mt. Labradors


Now just like in having children, that’s not to say that will always be the exact percentage… they may have three yellow pups, and 2 black.  But as you can see in the square, there is NO chance for any chocolate offspring, since neither parent carries the gene for chocolate.

Let’s look at another example!

Let’s breed Sicily (Black, carrying chocolate) to Spencer (pure for chocolate).

Sicily- Endless Mt. LabradorsSpencer- Endless Mt. Labradors


The prediction for their offspring will be…

Bc to cc Punnett Square



Black and chocolate Hattie pups- Endless Mt. Labradors

Once again, the numbers could vary, but we do know this pairing can only produce black or chocolate.  No chance for any yellows…

Now let’s say we try breeding Spencer to Mina. While we wouldn’t breed a chocolate to a yellow, breeding a (pure) chocolate to a black that carries yellow is not unheard of, though not the most desirable as it does start to cross over some colors and make things more complicated.

At this point, we cannot see any chocolate or yellow puppies produced, because those genes (being recessive), have to be carried on both sides.  They will actually only produce black puppies.  All of those black puppies will carry the gene for chocolate, and some will also carry yellow because of the yellow background on their mother’s side.

Once we get into this too much, it’s start to get much more messy and more advanced genetics.  It then becomes much less easier to predict what will be produced, and you will have to have coat color tests done on your dogs to be sure you know what they carry.  And again, once we start getting the chocolate and yellow genes too close for too many generations, we see inferior pigmentation.

To look through endless coat color combinations, you can check out the coat color inheritance chart on BlueKnight Labradors’ website!

To read more about the Labrador Retriever, check out our “About Labradors” page! Or explore our Blog!


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