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What Are Silver Labradors?

If you ask most people what colors Labs come in they will say yellow, black, and chocolate. This is absolutely true but sometimes you hear about silver Labradors being advertised. Where do these dogs come from? Are they Labs?

The Genetics Behind Silver Labradors

The silver Labs are actually chocolate labs in which the dilution gene is active by the presence of two recessive (dd) genes. This is the same gene that creates the grey color in Weimaraners. It does occur in blacks and yellows too although the results are less dramatic. A chocolate Lab that carries only one copy of the dilution gene (Dd) will still be chocolate but bred to another chocolate that carries the dilution gene could produce a silver Lab. In black Labs, dogs that carry two dilution genes are charcoal in color. Yellow dogs that carry two dilution genes are often termed champagne.

The History of the Color

The gene is relatively rare and not widespread within the Labrador Retriever gene pool. Further, all of the silver Labradors can be traced back to two related kennels from the early 20th century. This has caused much consternation within the breed and among breeders. There is no proof that the gene’s presence within the breed is the result of accidental breedings to another breed with the dilution gene. There is also no proof that the gene hasn’t been present in the gene pool all along. There are no definitive studies and no way to truly differentiate between genes from one breed versus another. The AKC’s DNA testing only establishes the parentage of a particular dog and it only goes back one generation. If the gene was introduced early in the 20th century, there is no way to go back far enough to prove how it came to be as there was no DNA testing at that time.

The Views of the National Club

There is no national Labrador Retriever club in any country that is recognized by its countries registration body that acknowledges the color of silver as an acceptable color for a Labrador Retriever. This is a pretty strong statement as to how these clubs feel that the gene came to be in the gene pool. The breeders of silver Labs claim it has always been present and that the other breeders are simply trying to shut them down and bar them from competition in the show ring.

Things You Need to Consider

If you like the color, that’s fine. It’s just a color and if you are looking for a pet then the color is not important. If you want to show your dog, that is a different story. There is no registry that allows silver Labradors to compete in the show ring. They can compete in American Kennel Club (AKC) field events but are AKC registered as chocolates. Because they are evaluated strictly on field ability in field trials, dogs that may not be eligible to compete in the show ring because they do not meet the breed standard. For those not familiar with breed standards, they are like a blueprint for what makes a dog a Labrador as opposed to another breed. It defines features like size, coat, bone, angulation, color, and general appearance.

Regardless of how you feel about the color silver, you should always take into account things like health testing, written sales agreement and health guarantees. Regardless of what color the puppy is, his parents should have been tested for things like hip and elbow dysplasia, heart problems, eye issues, and exercise induced collapse (EIC). The breeder should be able to show you certifications proving that they have done the testing and their dogs passed these tests. They should also have enough faith and pride in the dogs they produce to back it up with a written health guarantee that lasts at least two years.

Photo credit: Winfried/Flickr