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Labrador Retriever coats come in various colors, but is there more behind coat color differences to be aware of? What should you know before deciding which one is better between a black or cream Labrador?
Neither a black nor cream Labrador is a better option as traits between the two breeds are practically identical. Only slight differences tend to exist related to health issues. The better question to ask is whether to raise an American or English Labrador, as these two variants differ in temperament and training.
If you can’t decide between a black or cream Labrador, there are some things to consider as it relates to the environment that may help with the decision. I will cover those in this article, and discuss other things you may want to consider instead of coat color.
Black Labradors: A Basic Overview
Black Labradors are the first-known breed of Labrador Retrievers. Their ancestors are Newfoundlands and St. John’s dogs, common European hunting dogs. While their ancestry is rooted in hunting, black Labradors are known as friendly, fun-loving companions today.
Pros of Black Labradors
Here are some of the pros of owning a black Labrador:
- Fantastic rescue dogs: Black Labs have a renowned reputation as public service dogs. One of the most famous black Labs is Jake, the American Black Labrador who assisted in search and rescue operations during 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
- Preferred hunting dogs: Black Labradors come from a lineage of hunting dogs. Today, the American Black Labrador is still a preferred hunting breed. This preference is likely due to their dark, inconspicuous coats and their driven and focused nature.
- Very friendly: Labradors, as a breed, are well-known for being the perfect family friend. They love being around people and other dogs.
- Low maintenance grooming: Black Labradors have coats that take care of themselves. Therefore, grooming them is relatively simple. The only thing you should look out for is when they shed.
- Very intelligent: Historically, black Lab breeders prioritized attentiveness and teachability. On the other hand, yellow Lab breeders traditionally focused on coat shade and sociability. For this reason, black Labs are pretty intelligent.
Cons of Black Labradors
Here are some of the cons of owning a black Labrador:
Unfortunately, black Labs have specific health problems that owners must address, especially as they age.
- Hip and elbow dysplasia: Being a large breed, black Labs are prone to joint issues, such as hip and elbow dysplasia. A balanced diet of adult dog food (NOT puppy food) in the first two years can help manage Labrador growth and ease these problems later in life.
- Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA): PRA is a disorder that can cause your Lab to go blind. To avoid this issue, you should check the Lab’s family lineage with the breeder. Your puppy will need two clear parents or one clear and one carrier parent to avoid inheriting the gene.
Black Labs are very enthusiastic and active. However, that also makes them clumsy. If you have a toddler roaming around the house or delicate furniture you want to stay intact, you should consider this drawback. Raising a black Lab and a toddler simultaneously is possible, but the task will require an extra level of caution and care.
Require Physically Active Training
All Labradors love to move. Furthermore, an American Black Lab yearns for physical activity. If you find yourself leading a sedentary lifestyle, you may have trouble keeping up. Still, those up to the challenge of raising an American Black Lab should look into gun dog-style activities like retrieving. Conversely, regularly walking, running, or playing with an English Black Lab does the trick.
Cream Labradors: A Basic Overview
Cream Labradors aren’t considered a separate breed by the American Kennel Club. On the contrary, this shade of Labrador falls under Yellow Labradors, which can come in many other shades besides cream. Examples are fox-red, tan, golden, and more.
Unfortunately, yellow Labs weren’t always as highly regarded as they’re now. For instance, in the early years of Labrador breeding, yellow Labs were often euthanized upon birth. Thankfully, they’ve become highly favorable in recent years!
Pros of Cream Labradors
Here are some of the pros of owning a cream Labrador:
- One of the easiest breeds to train: All Labradors are simple to train as long as you’re willing to keep up with their activity levels. However, a study published in Applied Animal Behaviour Science in 2014 found that yellow Labs are the easiest to train.
- Great guide dogs: All shades of Labrador make wonderful guide dogs. It just so happens that yellow Labs are commonly associated with the trade. However, like their black counterparts, cream Labs are task-oriented and can help others in many services.
- Hair is less noticeable when shed: Shedding is an issue with all Labradors. Luckily, a cream-colored Lab’s hair doesn’t stand out much. Therefore, if you feel the need to skip a brush occasionally, you may be able to get away with it.
- Just as fun and friendly as black Labs: Yellow Labs, including cream Labs, have a similar personality to black Labs. Furthermore, if you take in an English Cream Lab instead of an American, expect lots of love and affection.
Cons of Cream Labradors
Here are some of the cons of owning a cream Labrador:
Their Coat Color May Change
When it comes to cream Labradors, what you see isn’t always what you get. Their coats change over time, becoming more or less pale. Therefore, I recommend focusing on your Lab’s health first and foremost, and check with your breeder regarding your dog’s lineage. Any reputable breeder would be willing to disclose this information, and it’ll help you anticipate any possible health problems in the future.
Albino Labs Come With Many Special Needs
Cream or white Labrador coats can occur by two different means. The more common occurrence stems from genetics and breeding. Unfortunately, another reason for pale hair may be albinism. As a result, Albino Labradors are highly vulnerable to sunburn, eye damage, tumors, and cancer.
Yellow Labradors also come with a fair share of health problems. Some issues overlap with black Labradors. However, others are more prominent in yellow Labs.
- Ear ailments: Yellow Labradors, cream included, have adorable floppy ears. Unfortunately, this ear shape is more susceptible to ear infections.
- Joint issues: Like black Labs, yellow labradors are prone to joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia.
- Weight management: All Labradors have an insatiable appetite. This trait is especially relevant to the yellow Lab. Therefore, you’ll need to dedicate time and consideration to managing your Lab’s diet. Otherwise, your cream Lab may become obese, leading to more health problems.
Similar Training Requirements As Black Labs
Yellow Labs are just as active as black Labs. They’re easy to train if you’re willing to lead a physically active lifestyle with them. Furthermore, you should note whether the Labrador is American or English. This variant will affect training requirements much more than the shade of a Labrador’s coat.
Black or Cream Labrador: Which One Should You Choose?
The differences between black and cream Labradors aren’t very pronounced. Both breeds are loyal, friendly, and task-oriented dogs. Their main differences come down to health.
While black Labradors are susceptible to eye problems, cream Labs are more likely to develop ear afflictions. Furthermore, seeking a cream-shaded Lab leads to the possibility of bringing home an albino Lab if you’re not careful.
In this case, it would be best to make your decision based on which ailments you feel better equipped to handle.
However, if your concerns apply to temperament and training, it’s better to research whether the Labrador is American or English.
American Labradors have a calmer, focused attitude but require specialized gun-dog training.
English Labradors can thrive with less regimented training as long as they’re active. However, being rather friendly, they need more behavioral training around people.
Dealing with shedding
If you hate vacuuming, your Labrador’s shedding may be a problem since they’re more prone to this than other breeds. Keep this in mind when making your color selection.
If you have lighter colored flooring and furniture in your home, a black Lab’s shedded hair will stand out more on the carpet. For darker colored interiors, a cream Lab’s shedding will give you fits!
Luckily, there’s many things you can do to lessen the impact of shedding.
Outside of cosmetic features, black and cream Labradors are very much the same. Yet, there are minor differences. For instance, if you don’t have the time to constantly clean up black dog hair, you may prefer the pale hair of a cream Lab. However, if you want to avoid the risk of albinism, which is relatively low to begin with, a black Lab may prove more favorable.
Otherwise, Labradors are loyal best friends, no matter the shade.
- ScienceDirect: Applied Animal Behaviour Science: Volume 156: Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs
- University of Pennsylvania: Ensuring Healthy Guide Dogs for The Seeing Eye by Nancy West
- USA Today: Westminster Dog Show: Best In Show hasn’t been won by retrievers. Why?
- American Kennel Club: All Heart: Lab Wins 5th Westminster Masters Obedience Championship
- Scribd: Labrador Retrievers For Dummies by Joel Walton and Eve Adamson: Chapter 5: Taking Care of Your Lab: It’s a Dog-Eat-Food World