Designer Dogs

Silver Labs

The Issue of the Silver Labrador

Frances O Smith, DVM, PhD Chair, Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Genetics Committee

It is the opinion of the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., the AKC parent club for the breed, that a silver Labrador is not a purebred Labrador retriever. The pet owning public is being duped into believing that animals with this dilute coat color are desirable, purebred and rare and, therefore, warrant special notoriety or a premium purchase price.

Over the past few years a limited number of breeders have advertised and sold dogs they represent to be purebred Labrador Retrievers with a dilute or gray coat color—hence the term “silver labs.” The AKC has accepted some of these “silver labs” for registration. Apparently, the rationale for this decision is that the silver coat color is a shade of chocolate.  Interestingly, the original breeders of “silver” Labradors were also involved in the Weimaraner breed.

Although we cannot conclusively prove that the silver Labrador is a product of crossbreeding the Weimaraner to a Labrador, there is good evidence in scientific literature indicating that the Labrador has never been identified as carrying the dilute gene dd.  The Weimaraner is the only known breed in which the universality of dd is a characteristic.

From the website for Vetgen:

The D locus is the primary locus associated with diluted pigment, which results in coats that would otherwise be black or brown instead showing up as gray or blue, in the case of black, and pale brown in the case of brown. The melanophilin gene has recently been shown to be responsible, but not all of the dilute causing mutations have been identified yet.

Recognized coat colors for purebred Labradors are black, yellow and chocolate. No shadings of coat color are recognized for black or chocolate Labradors in either the Labrador Standard or the current research into genetic coat colors. The shadings recognized in yellow Labrador Retrievers do not depend on the presence of the dilute gene dd, but are modifiers acting on the ee gene. The identified coat color genes in the Labrador include:

A B C D E g in s i
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The omission of “d,” and thus the impossibility of a dd dilute gene resulting from a pure Labrador breeding, is certainly persuasive evidence that the silver Labrador is not a purebred.

It’s a bit of a problem when it comes to breeding because recessive traits, such as [recessives] and dilution, can remain hidden in lines for many generations, then suddenly crop up when a dog carrying the trait is bred to another with it (if the gene is very rare in the breed then it can be a long time until this happens, if it ever does). This is why breedings sometimes throw complete surprises, like silver (blue) Labrador puppies in a breed, which, to all intents and purposes, contains no silver at all. That one lone recessive silver gene (d, on the D locus) has been passed down from generation to generation, completely unknown to the breeders, until finally it’s met another one. It might have come from a cross-breeding with another breed many years ago, which doesn’t show up on the pedigrees and no longer has any effect on the look of the dog (so all the dogs in the line look exactly like normal Labradors, not a crossbred), but they still carry one gene left over from the cross-breeding). Such rare recessive traits can be impossible to eradicate from a breed, simply because you can’t tell which dogs carry them.  However, in recent years, genetic testing has helped to identify the carriers.

Pointing Labrador Retrievers

The clear and unarguable fact is that the Labrador Retriever is a retriever, not a pointing dog. There may be a residual instinct to point in certain Labrador Retrievers. That does not make the Labrador Retriever a pointing breed. It was bred for use as a retriever of game and in this country particularly, as a waterfowl retriever. There are any numbers of sporting breeds that excel at pointing upland game as well as flushing such game. The Labrador Retriever is not one of those breeds and should not be bred or sold to the public as a pointing breed.

Minature Labradors

Puppies advertised as Miniature Labradors are probably bred from undersized parents and there is no guarantee that said puppies would grow to meet the size described in the Standard for the breed. The ethics of a breeder that purposefully breeds for incorrect size must be questioned. 

English vs. American Labrador Retrievers

There is only one breed of dog known as the Labrador Retriever, described by the Official Standard for the Labrador Retriever. Within Labrador Retriever breed type there are variations in body style, which have evolved to suit the use of the dog, as well as the preferences of individual breeders and owners. In the United States the general public has begun to label these variations as “English or “American” style. Perhaps a better description for variations in style is “show/conformation” or “working/field” styles.

The working/field or “American” style of dog is the label often attached to a Labrador possessing lighter bone structure and exhibiting more length of leg, a less dense coat and a narrower head with more length of muzzle.

The conformation/show or “English” style Labrador is generally thought of as a stockier dog, heavier of bone, denser in coat and having a head often incorrectly described as “square or blocky.” However, working/field variations occur in England as well, so this description is not necessarily suitable.

These general images portray the extremes of both styles and do not help to identify the temperament, trainability or health of the dog. In fact, the vast majority of Labrador Retrievers, whether of conformation/show breeding or working/field breeding, possess moderate body styles much closer to the written Standard of the breed. It is possible that within a single litter, whether that litter has been bred for show/conformation or working/field, individual pups can mature to be representatives of the range, though rarely producing the extremes, of the two styles. We recommend that you discuss the issue of size and style, as well as temperament, trainability and health, with any breeder you contact. However, please remember that there is only one Labrador Retriever breed, one that meets the requirements as set forth in the Official Standard for the Labrador Retriever.


The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. is dedicated to the health and welfare of the Labrador Retriever breed while conserving the original breed function – that of a “working retriever.” A purebred dog offers to his owner the likelihood that he will be specific size, shape, color and temperament. The predictability of a breed comes from selection for traits that are desirable and away from traits that are undesirable. When a breed standard or type is set, the animals within that breed have less heterozygosity than do animals in a random population.

A Labradoodle is nothing more than an expensive crossbred. Because the genetic makeup is diverse from the Poodle genes and the Labrador genes, the resultant first generation (F1) offspring is a complete genetic gamble. The dog may be any size, color, coat texture and temperament. Indeed, Labradoodles do shed. Their coat may be wiry or silky and may mat. Body shape varies with parentage but tends to be lanky and narrow. Behavior varies with the dog and within a litter with some puppies poodle-like in attitude and others somewhat like the Labrador Retriever.

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. is opposed to cross-breeding of dogs and is particularly opposed to the deliberate crossing of Labrador Retrievers with any other breed. These crossbreds are a deliberate attempt to mislead the public with the idea that there is an advantage to these designer dogs. The crossbred dogs are prone to all of the genetic disease of both breeds and offer none of the advantages that owning a purebred dog has to offer.

Frances O. Smith, PhD.
LRC, Inc. Board of Directors
Diplomate American College of Theriogenology
June 20, 2005

(For more on Labradoodles read the article from The Poodle Club of America) And if you still want one of these so-called designer dogs (Labradoodle, Cockapoos, Poo-shihts), read this article from NBC News:

Want a designer dog? Check the pound.
Puggles, maltipoos are pricey – and essentially mixed-breed mutts