Expert tips and behind-the-scenes looks at the service dog industry.

Updated: Oct 30, 2021

When it comes to coat color of Labrador puppies, there are three colors recognized by the American Kennel Club. Black Labs, yellow Labs, and brown Labs (often called chocolate Labs) are the three main varieties of Labrador retriever, however these puppies often exhibit different shades of black, yellow, and brown fur.

So with so much variation, what causes a difference in color?

Genetic information for Labrador puppies is autosomal, meaning all labs receive this information from parents in a way that’s unrelated to the sex of the puppy. Where it begins to get tricky is when we discuss the genetics of black labs and chocolate labs when compared to yellow lab.

Puppy Genes and Alleles

Before we go any further, let’s rewind to high school biology with a few key definitions:

  • Gene: The basic unit of heredity that occupies a specific location on a chromosome.

  • Allele: One of two or more versions of a gene.

When it comes to the coats of Labrador puppies, fur color is determined by one of two different genes, as well as a variety of alleles.

How Do We Get Black and Chocolate Labs?

When it comes to black lab puppies and chocolate lab puppies, both varieties inherit their fur color from a single gene, known as "Tyrosinase-related protein 1.” (TYRP1, as it’s commonly known.) This gene can present with one of four alleles, one dominate allele coding for black fur we’ll refer to it as “B”) and three recessive alleles coding for chocolate fur (which we’ll refer to as “b”).

To better understand, let’s take a look at the following scenarios:

  • BB. Here we have two dominant genes for black fur, obviously resulting in a black lab puppy.

  • Bb. In a situation in which either parent passes on the dominant allele and the other passes on the recessive, the lab puppy will still have a black coat.

  • bb. When both parents pass on the recessive allele, only then do we see a chocolate lab puppy.


Related Article:

The Science of Service Dogs: How Trained Service Dogs Help Veterans with PTSD


So, Where Does Yellow Come from?

Yellow Labrador puppies get their hair color from a gene entirely different from the gene that determines black or brown fur. But, that doesn’t mean yellow lab puppies don’t have the TYRP1 gene we talked about above—there’s a different gene that can override alleles at TYRP1 coding for black or chocolate puppies.

Melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is the gene responsible for yellow lab puppies, but can still result in fur coats of black and brown. The three most common alleles at the MC1R gene are “E” (which still produces black and brown fur) and “e” (which produces yellow fur).

As you may have deduced, the allele for yellow lab puppies is recessive. To further explain, let’s look at a couple of scenarios.

  • EE. Both parents pass on dominant alleles for black or chocolate fur, resulting in a black or chocolate puppy.

  • Ee. One parent passes on a dominant allele for black/chocolate, while the other passes on the recessive allele for yellow fur.

  • ee. Only in a situation in which both parents pass on alleles coding for yellow fur is the TYRP1 gene overridden and yellow lab puppies are produced.

What is also interesting about the creation of yellow lab puppies is the fact that while their fur coat is without black or brown pigment, their skin will still exhibit the same color pigment as that of black or chocolate lab puppies.


Related article:

Understanding the Signs and Symptoms of Combat Trauma and PTSD


Where Does Project 2 Heal Come In?

At Project 2 Heal, we breed Labrador Retriever puppies for the purpose of donating these animals at 8 to 12 weeks of age to one of our partner organizations. From there, our puppies are trained extensively in service dog work and matched with an individual in need.

Our process begins with Early Neurological Stimulation, which are exercises conducted during the first two weeks of life—beginning at only 48 hours after birth!—that slightly stress the puppy's nervous system and allow them to become less reactive to novel stimuli as adults. This process includes the following:

  • Tactile stimulation: Stimulating puppy paws through touch our tickling.

  • Holding the head of the puppy erect.

  • Holding the head of the puppy pointed downward.

  • Supine position: Resting the puppy on its back in the palm of hands.

  • Thermal Stimulation: Placing feet of puppy on top of a cool, damp towel and allowing the puppy to move about.

Service Dog Scent Training:

Also occurring during the first 14 days, service dog training includes a process called early scent introduction. This training exposes dogs to smells it will encounter during working life. During this process, trainers pay close attention to the way puppies react to various smells. This helps identify which puppies may not be suited to work as a service dog.

Service Dog Clicker Training:

Championed by Karen Prior Academy, clicker training service dogs is a method that teaches puppies about associations. Puppies learn commands through a combination of rewards and clicking sounds. During service dog training, high-level tasks are broken into smaller tasks, after which puppies are rewarded with food and stimulated with sound from a handheld clicker.

Eventually food and clicking sounds are phased out so that puppies are able to execute tasks upon command.


Our mission is to reduce the cost and time necessary to place a service dog with a veteran, child with Autism, or adult with disabilities.


How Can You Help Further Our Mission?

When you donate only $5 per month, your contribution covers important expenses, including:

  • First vet visit for entire litter

  • 50 pounds of high-quality dog

  • 1 puppy eye exam

  • 6 bags of high-value reward training treats

  • 1 puppy-in-training service dog vest

As you can see, there are a number of ways that $5 monthly donations can make a real impact at Project 2 Heal. With an average cost of $5,000 to raise and train a puppy litter of puppies through the first 8 weeks of life, we'd love for you to join us on our mission.

Click below to become a donor at any level that works for you. We need your help to raise puppies and change lives.


$5 Monthly Donors

Our bread and butter (or should we say, "kibble?"), these donors cover items listed above, including first vet visits!

I Want to Cover Vet Visits!

$10 Monthly Donors

Each of our $10 monthly donors feeds an entire litter from birth to donation. (That's a lot of puppy food!)

I Want to Cover Vet Visits!

$25 Monthly Donors

$25 a month prevents fleas and ticks for a pup. With 30+ puppies expected in 2021, these donors mean the world!

Fleas and Ticks? Eww!

Updated: Oct 31, 2021

If you’re reading this article you’ve likely been wondering, “What exactly is PTSD?” Let’s start with a specific definition. American Psychiatric Association defines post traumatic stress disorder as, “a psychiatric disorder that may occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event.”

When it comes to combat veterans, these traumatic events are often experiences in war. As a result, veterans suffering from PTSD may find certain aspects of everyday life to be a triggering reminder of unpleasant memories.

What are Common Symptoms of PTSD?

Signs that you or a loved one are experiencing PTSD can be complex and range across a symptoms, but here are some of the most common signs of PTSD in veterans:

Flashbacks and Intrusive Thinking

Combat veterans with PTSD can often experience intrusive thoughts and memories that mentally transport them back to a traumatic event without them wanting to relive the memory.

  • PTSD flashbacks can occur during waking life

  • Symptoms can take the form of painful dreams or night tremors

  • Veterans can experiences physical reactions like heightened levels the stress hormone cortisol

Depression and Changes in Mood

Combat veterans with PTSD may experience a general sense of detachment in civilian life. While relationships with family and friends were once a familiar part of life, traumatic war experiences often keep them absorbed in negative thinking.

  • Loss of interest in activities and relationships

  • Feeling hopeless even after returning from combat

  • Sadness and feeling numb

  • Inability to enjoy the present

  • Difficulty relating to family and friends


Related Article:

Why Breeding Matters: Why Do Labrador Retrievers Make Perfect Service Dogs?


How Can You Help Someone with PTSD?

When it comes to helping someone in your life manage symptoms of PTSD, there are a few guiding principles to keep in mind.

Be patient. Sometimes behavior brought on by trauma can be hard to understand from an outside perspective. Even in regard to memories, experiences, and triggers you don't immediately understand, it's important to remain a supportive presence.

Learn to manage triggers. Anything that brings on a PTSD symptom is considered a trigger. For different combat veterans, triggers can take many forms—certain places, items, situations, or people. Learning what triggers the veteran in your life will help navigate situations in which these factors are present.

Provide a support system. Social situations can be difficult for veterans with PTSD to navigate, since one of the most prominent symptoms of trauma is difficulty engaging in relationships. Even relationships that were once very familiar for an individual may seem foreign after experiencing the trauma of combat. In these situations, it is important to show compassion to those experiencing PTSD, rather than force them into unwanted social interaction. Encouraging a social situation when a trauma survivor does not wish to engage may trigger anxiety or unpleasant thoughts, so it is important to be compassionate and understanding.

Updated: Sep 9, 2021

Whether you’re interested in puppy training or looking for adult dog training tips, there are a few techniques that work well for dogs of all ages. No matter the dog breed you’re training, here are a few general rules of thumb that will have your pup “sitting pretty” in no time.

Before we get started, let’s look at a few reasons why obedience training your dog is so helpful.

Dogs Learn Well by Association.

Dogs learn best when rewarded for good behavior. Rewarding dogs with foods, favorite toys, or attention is a great way to create positive associations in the mind of your dog between good behavior and a pleasant experience.

Clicker training is another great way to harness the power of associations and is often used in service dog training.

Clicker training combines a unique clicking sound with a dog treat provided, each used to stimulate a dog after successfully executing a behavior. The clicker sound and treat create an association within the dog’s mind between these stimuli and the command spoken by the trainer.

Eventually the clicker sound and treat are phased out, so the dog simply executes the behavior after only hearing the command.

General Rules of Thumb. (Or Paw.)

  • Be patient with your pup. Dog training must, by it's intended purpose, be a long process that builds on a solid foundation. By solid foundation I mean the genetics behind a dog and the training it received during that The goal of all training is to allow a but even old dogs can learn new tricks when taught correctly. Give your dog time and plenty of love as it learns new commands.

  • Keep distractions to a minimum. When using a technique like clicker training, you want the clicking sound and reward given to be your dog’s main focus. Keep other stimuli to a minimum to maximize your time spent training.

  • Use Bite-Sized Training Sessions. Just like the treats you give a dog, bite-sized training sessions are perfect for teaching commands. Keep your training sessions short and sweet in order to keep your dog’s attention focused on the tasks at hand. Just be sure that training is repeated regularly to compound learning and associations.


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