The Black Lab is largely used as a sporting dog and is extremely popular in the hunting community, due to the belief that they are talented gun dogs.
Perhaps it is because their dark coat can blend in better with their surroundings, or because they look much cooler when hunting.
Regardless, they have earned their spot as a favorite and in this article, we will explore the phenomenon of Black Labs.
Where did the Black Labradors originate?
All Labradors come from the Lesser Newfoundlands or St. John’s water dogs. This dog breed was first discovered in Newfoundland, Canada somewhere in the 1500s.
Yes, the Lab shares an ancestor with the intimidating Newfoundlands.
As Labs gained popularity, they were further developed in England and America. These dogs have very sharp hunting instincts and are skilled swimmers.
Why Black Labrador Retrievers for hunting?
In the early days, other colors were not desirable and often culled at birth. It wasn’t until the 1900s when other colors such as Chocolate and Yellow became acceptable.
Today, you can find Fox Red Labradors and Silver Labradors, as well as the iconic Yellow Lab.
One of the reasons why black has become synonymous with a great hunter could be because St. John’s water dog was mostly black and breeders have tried hard to retain that quality.
Another explanation would be because Black Labs have been specially bred for hunting, whereas other colors are more often bred as a show dog.
However, their strong working genes cannot be ignored and the belief that black dogs make better hunters is a myth.
Labs of all colors make excellent hunting dogs. Both Yellow and Chocolate Labs have competed against Black Labs in the field, proving that they are the Black Lab’s match in every way.
What does a Black Lab (Black Labrador Retriever) look like?
While other colored Labs are permitted to have white on their chest, the AKC states that Black Labs should be wholly black.
However, this doesn’t mean that a Black Lab pup with a white blaze on its chest isn’t purebred.
It’s possible for purebred Black Labs to have white, but it will eliminate them from the show ring. This isn’t a big problem because they are largely bred as field dogs.
The American Kennel Club defines a Black Lab as a well-built and athletic dog which isn’t overly large. Its water-resistant coat is one of its notable qualities, as well as its strong otter tail and webbed toes.
This well-balanced dog should do well under any circumstances. It can be an exemplary family dog, service dog, and show dog. Its build and appearance should complement its well-roundedness.
American Black Labs vs English Black Labs
Working Labs are often referred to as American Labs, whereas those bred for conformation have been nicknamed English Labs. They are one and the same breed, just different types.
American Labs are mostly Black or Red because they aren’t bred for show. English Labs tend to be a Yellow or Chocolate Labrador, sometimes even bordering on White.
This doesn’t mean you cannot find an English Black Lab, they are just slightly uncommon.
While all Labs have high energy, the American or working dog has slightly more. They will require a more active lifestyle. In terms of cosmetic differences, the field dog has a lithe figure and less pronounced features.
English Labs often have shorter legs and can be quite buff. They also have a very distinct stop between their skulls and muzzles.
To read more about their differences, check out our English vs American Lab article here.
If long hours playing and working your dog isn’t what you’re looking for, perhaps you’d prefer the calmer English Lab. They also require plenty of exercises but will be less high strung than a field dog.
How big do Black Labs usually get?
According to the breed standard, the Labrador breed should be between 22.5 to 24.5 inches (57 – 62 cm) for males and 21.5 to 23.5 inches (54 – 60 cm) for females.
As for weight, females are generally lighter at 55 to 70 lbs (25 – 32 kg) whereas males can be 65 to 80 lbs (27 – 36 kg).
It’s not uncommon for show dogs to be heavier and field dogs look thinner, but if you want to make sure your Labrador Retriever dog is healthy, please check out our Lab Growth Chart.
At the end of the day, it depends largely on its parents and pedigree. It’s a question that only your breeder will be able to accurately answer.
What kind of coat does a Black Lab have?
Glossy and water-resistant top coat, paired with a dense and soft undercoat. The undercoat can be a tad lighter than the top coat, but the Lab’s double coat means that it is a notorious shedder.
If you have a white aesthetic or wardrobe, a Yellow Labrador’s fur would less likely show up as much.
However, you can keep shedding to a minimum with a deshedding tool during shedding season.
Labradors are relatively low maintenance and normally only need to be brushed once or twice a week. Also, since their coat basically repels dirt, you don’t have to bathe them unless they are really stinky.
While you might think that black is black, the Black Lab actually comes in two variations: Black, and Charcoal.
We don’t get into the specifics here, but if you’re interested, you can take a look at our Labrador Retriever Colors article.
A Charcoal pup is a Black Lab with a recessive gene, which makes them look very interesting indeed. They often have a pearly sheen to their coat and have been compared to the Weimaraner breed.
Labradors of all colors are capable of inheriting this gene. Yellow Labs with the dilute gene is called a Champagne Lab, Chocolate Labs are famously known as Silver Labs.
Do Black Labs bark a lot?
Each Labrador color seems to come with its own set of stereotypes, but there is no evidence to support any of it. Just like any Labrador Retriever, Black Labs are friendly to all, easy to train, and a people pleaser.
Since Labradors are an active breed, you will need to spend time on training, socializing, and most importantly, exercising.
Without proper stimulation, any dog has the potential to become destructive, much like how mistreated dogs could become aggressive or have undesirable behaviors.
Not only do well-trained Labs get along with children, they also can be best friends with other pets. These incredibly friendly pooches can also be good watch dogs as well.
They have a loud and intimidating bark which can ward off strangers, as long as they don’t get too close, or else your Lab will likely try to be friends with them.
Labradors can get a bit lonely if left alone for long periods of time so it’s a good idea to get him a buddy if you have to work for a better part of the day.
Take a look at Nike and what he does when he’s left home alone for the very first time without his pals:
How to take care of your Black Labrador
Labradors were bred for the freezing cold waters of Newfoundland. While they do have well-insulated double coats, it’s a good idea to protect them from temperatures lower than 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius).
Young and healthy Labs would be able to tolerate the cold much more efficiently, as would Labs with significant levels of fat. Puppies and older dogs should be protected from the cold.
It is possible for Labradors to overheat as well. Temperatures over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius) can be uncomfortable for your Lab.
If you are experiencing hot summers, make sure they have shade and ample water. Better yet, provide them indoor access.
You should never, under any circumstances, leave your dog in the car, especially on hot sunny days. It might sound silly but just as black absorbs more heat, so does a black dog.
Exercising your Black Labs
Labradors have relatively high energy levels and will require at least an hour of exercise daily. If you have an American Lab, you might want to give him a little more time at the dog park.
Aside from exercise, it’s important to train your dogs. Labradors are brilliant at all kinds of field work, including guide dogs, hunting companions, or search and rescue dogs.
This gives you an idea of what they are capable of, and you should strive to stimulate their intelligence.
If you’re a first-time dog owner and not confident in training your pooch, enroll him in a puppy class or go for obedience and agility.
You will burn off their excess energy in no time, and pick up some training skills at the same time.
These large dogs are fun-loving and will have no trouble keeping up with active owners. Although, you might want to keep an eye on any health problems which are hereditary.
Try to avoid exercising them too much in the first two years of their lives as their bones are still developing.
Black Labs, like any other Labrador Retrievers, shed a lot, especially during blowout season.
When the seasons change, they have to change their undercoats and this can get pretty messy, especially when they have a dark coat color.
You might even want to consider changing your furniture to black! But hang in there, because you keep the shedding to a minimum by brushing them daily when they are shedding.
Use a pin brush and give him a thorough brush before starting at the base of his tail. You can begin by going against the direction of the fur growth and make sure you get into his undercoat as well.
Don’t use too much force, you want your Lab to feel like he’s getting a massage. If there are any mats or tangles, gently tease them out.
Once you’re done combing his entire body, use a soft bristle brush to smooth down his coat. This will redistribute the oils and keep his black fur as shiny as a polished shoe.
Unlike their fluffy cousins, the Golden Retriever, Labradors are very low maintenance. When they aren’t blowing out their coat, they only need a quick brush once or twice a week.
They also don’t need to be trimmed, although you might want to shave the pads of their feet just so it doesn’t trap any dirt.
You also want to check his nails, eyes, and ears regularly. If you can hear his nails clack on a hard surface, it’s much too long and needs a trim.
Grooming should begin as soon as you bring home your Labrador Retriever puppy. Keep handling him, even when he doesn’t need to be groomed.
Touch his paws and hold him in a way that he would be held when he’s being groomed. This will desensitize him to the process and make it much easier when he’s all grown up.
How much food should my Black Lab eat?
Diets should all reflect the activity level of a dog. If your pup spends more of his day chasing down ducks, he will need more food than a family pet.
For an idea of how much a Lab can eat, it averages around 2 – 4 cups spread over two meals a day.
Like all medium to large breeds, you should feed your new family member a high-quality kibble that is formulated for large breed puppies.
This can help prevent joint problems such as hip dysplasia from developing as it will have the proper nutrients your growing puppy needs.
When your dog is ready to move on to adult food at around 12 to 24 months, they should also maintain a large breed kibble.
This gives them enough calories and nutrients to stay healthy, and will most likely include a joint and heart supplement.
If you need additional help choosing what to feed your Lab, you can find the best dog food for Labs in our article here.
Black Labrador health issues
Labradors are a lot healthier than most breeds, like Bulldogs or Daschunds. What you need to watch out for are ear infections.
This water-loving pooch paired with its droopy ears is a breeding ground for bacteria. Make sure you dry them off every time they go for a swim or get their ears wet.
Other frequent issues with Labradors are eye problems such as cataracts, retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy.
It’s important to screen your breeder’s dogs for any of these problems, as well as hip and elbow dysplasia.
For bigger breeds with a broad chest, they can sometimes be prone to bloat. This is a condition that can be fatal as the stomach becomes twisted.
If you see your dog trying to burp or stay in the prayer pose for extended periods of time, you should bring him to the vet immediately.
Other issues that Labs suffer from are hereditary myopathy, epilepsy, circulatory system issues, pulmonic stenosis, tricuspid valve dysplasia, endocrine diseases, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.
Some of these can be prevented by choosing a reputable breeder, as they will not breed any dogs with health issues. Sadly, the most common causes of death in Labradors is cancer or musculoskeletal disorders.
A healthy Lab should live 10 – 12 years, but there have been instances of Labradors living past their life expectancy.
Regular health screening and proper care is key to a long and happy life. If you want to read more, we have an article dedicated to the Lab’s lifespan.
How much are Black Lab Puppies?
Funnily enough, even though Black Labs are the most popular option, they are also the cheapest. One puppy should set you back around $500 – $1,000 depending on its lineage and breeder.
You can look for a Labrador breeder from your local breed club or find your new buddy at the nearest shelter.
Regardless of which option you choose, make sure you do your research before bringing him home so you can give him the home he deserves, filled with devotion and love!
Black Lab Breeders
Reputable breeders are much more invested in the breed than profit, so if you come across a breeder that seems to be all about the Benjamins, you might want to reconsider.
Another red flag is if the breeder has puppies all year round.
A good breeder will try to get to know you and answer all the questions you might have. Aside from that, they should be able to easily show you their health certifications for their breeding pairs.
To be absolutely certain you found a good breeder, you can check to see if they are listed on the AKC marketplace or look at their reviews. Here are a few that we’ve found:
- Blue Cypress Kennels (Okeechobee, FL)
- Tru-Heart Labradors (Jacksonville, FL)
- Love’s Labradors (Heppner, OR)
Black Lab Rescue
Being one of the popular dog breeds, it won’t be hard to locate a specialized shelter for them.
Black Labs might be favored by hunters, but they aren’t as in-demand at shelters. It’s gotten so bad that certain shelters don’t even accept Black Labs.
When a black dog is abandoned, its chances of getting adopted are comparatively low to other dogs. Firstly, they don’t photograph well. Secondly, black dogs are believed to be bad luck or are fiercer.
This is unfortunate because black or not, Labs are a wonderful addition to any family. You can check to see if they have any available at the following rescues:
- Lucky Lab Rescue (Lewisville, IN)
- Independent Labrador Retriever Rescue (Valley Glen, CA)
- Labs4Rescue (Killingworth, CT)
Who should get a Black Lab dog?
Anyone who wants a fun and devoted companion! Labs are much more suited to younger couples or families living on landed properties. They will make a great playmate for little ones.
This sleek and handsome dog will make a great addition to any household.
However, an older owner might want to look for a less exuberant breed as Labradors can be slightly overwhelming, especially when they are younger.