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9 Facts About Silver Labrador Retrievers

Adrienne is a dog trainer and former veterinary assistant. She has taken several specialized courses on hospice care for dogs.

the-truth-about-silver-labrador-retrievers

So What are Silver Labrador Retrievers?

These silver Labrador retriever facts are important to unveil, especially if you have been looking for a Labrador puppy for some time and at some point you have stumbled on some flashy ads portraying silver Labrador retriever puppies.

But what on earth are silver Labrador retriever puppies? From reading the ad you may deduce that one thing is for sure: silver Labrador retrievers are expensive!

You therefore assume that most likely there's a good reason for the higher price tag, perhaps it's because silver Labrador retrievers must be rare. After all, when is the last time you saw one? Most likely, never!

Perhaps silver Labs are a rare line of Labradors reminiscent of ancient times, or maybe, just maybe, they are just quite difficult to produce.

Perhaps, the birth of a silver Labrador retriever only happens once in a blue moon, hence the justification for the sticker shock due to the hefty price tag.

Intrigued? It sure must feel empowering walking a rare type of dog that has heads turning and people asking things like:

"What breed is your dog?"

"Oh, what a lovely color! Your dog's coat is so shiny!"

"Where did you get this dog from?"

These dogs can surely make some conversion starters!

So next thing you know, you want to know more about them. Are they for real? Are they a true rarity, or are these dogs just another scam plotted by some astute dog breeders eager to make some extra money over the holidays?

The good news is that knowledge is power. All perspective dog owners willing to research the type of dog they are interested in are off to a great start.

If you are here reading, you deserve a big pat on the back. If more and more dog owners like you would thoroughly research dog breeds before committing, they could save themselves and their dogs from lots of unnecessary heartaches!

Fact 1: Labradors Are Black, Yellow and Chocolate Says the Breed Standard

Silver Labrador retrievers are flashy looking dogs, but what are they really? Do silver Labradors really exist? After all, last thing we knew, Labrador retrievers came in three different colors.

Just as they do for every pedigree dog, the Kennel Club publishes a ‘breed standard’ for the Labrador Retriever, as a guide to exactly how an adult Labrador should be structured, and what his temperament should be. The Kennel Club describes a kindly, intelligent dog, around 56 centimetres (22 inches) high at the shoulder, and with no trace of aggression – an adaptable and devoted companion. Undoubtedly, these important characteristics are what we expect from the breed and, for the most part, that is what we get.

If we look at the Kennel Clubs of the UK and the American Kennel Club standard for the Labrador retriever breed we can see that coat colors listed are exclusively black, yellow and chocolate (brown). Any other color or combination of colors are considered a disqualification!

Black Labradors must be entirely black, no brindle markings or tan markings are permitted. The only thing allowable is a small white spot on the chest, but even this is not desired.

Yellow Labradors may encompass coat colors ranging from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts.

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Chocolate Labradors have coats ranging from light to dark chocolate. As in the black Labrador standard, brindle or tan markings are means for disqualification.

So how can there be breeders selling silver Labradors if the main kennel clubs don't recognize them?

Let's take a closer look into what silver Labradors truly are and some important facts to be aware of.

Labrador Retriever Coat Colors

Fact 2: Some Experts Claim Labradors Are Not Known for Carrying a "Silver" Gene

Some experts have been assuming that silver Labradors are not purebred Labs, but rather must be some type of overly glorified mutt, possibly obtained from crossing a Labrador with a Weimaraner, a dog breed known for its distinctive silver/gray coat color which warrants his nickname "the ghost dog.

Sandra Bolan in the book " The Labrador Retriever" clearly explains that silver Labradors are not purebred Labradors and that neither the American Kennel Club nor the Labrador Retriever Club officially recognize such color.

The main reason why silver Labs are unlikely to be purebred Labradors is because purebred Labs do not carry the gene for a silver bluish or gray coat color, so how are silver Labradors produced?

Well, it appears that the creation of this coat color is under dispute and subject to lots of controversy.

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.

— Labrador Retriever Club

Fact 3: Crosses Between Labs and Weims Lead to Diluted Coat Colors

As mentioned, there is suspicion that silver Labradors may be obtained by crossing between a Weimaraner (a dog breed known for carrying dilute gene dd) and a Labrador, more precisely, a chocolate Labrador.

According to the book "Advances in Veterinary Dermatology, Volume 7" this is a possibility, considering that when Weimaraners are crossed with chocolate Labs, a mixed puppy with a diluted coat color may be obtained.

Further proof of this derives from a statement of David Goode, chairman of the Labrador Retriever Club. Mr. Goode states that the silver color started appearing in the 1980s when US breeders crossed Weimaraner and Labradors.

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.

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

the-truth-about-silver-labrador-retrievers

Fact 4: One Theory Assumes Silver May be a Rare Recessive Trait

Another possibility is that, within the Labrador dog breed, the silver coat color may have appeared spontaneously as a result of silver modifier genes.

In other words, according to the Guild of Labrador Improvement Breeders, the silver color must have occurred naturally somehow in the breed's past through various dogs that were outcrossed prior to when the stud books were closed.

In black Labs these modifier genes may produce a charcoal coat color, in yellow Labs a champagne coat color and in chocolate Labs a silver coat color. The substantial increase in the number of chocolate Labs nowadays, has led to the increase in silver Labs.

These modifier genes therefore simply dilute the concentration of the coat pigment, producing various shades within each of the allowed Labrador colors (yellow, black and chocolate).

It is not unusual at times for recessive traits, such as dilution, to stay hidden in blood lines for many generations and then it suddenly plays a wild card when a dog carrying this trait is crossed with another dog with it, resulting in a rare silver Labrador puppy.

As mentioned, this can happen as a result of some ancient cross. Labs are known for being originally the product of crosses involving Newfoundland dogs and the production of gray Newfoundland pups is not unheard of.

Does the presence of this mutation due to modifier genes though make a silver Labrador purebred or worth more money because it's an unusual color? Or is it worth less considering that this dog is substandard, basically a sign of impurity of the bloodline and therefore unsuitable for showing or breeding for the show ring?

These are good questions that are worth pondering.

The Labrador Retriever Club holds its ground and emphasizes that the only acceptable Labrador coat colors include Black, Chocolate and Yellow.

The organizations considers a silver Labrador as not being a purebred Labrador retriever and warns buyers from falling into the trap and paying premium prices for a dog that is not purebred nor rare.

Fact 5: A Professional Breeder is Credited for the Silver Lab

To further prove the above theory is Dean Crist of Crist Culo Kennels. Although there is some evidence showing that several silver Labs were popping up here and there, on occasion, there is not much solid proof due to the fact that breeders back in time used to cull (euthanize) any Labs of unusual colors in fear of accusations of mismating (accidental breedings with unintended dogs) Dean Christ is credited for starting to professionally breed silver Labs.

According to Dean Christ's statements, his first silver Lab was produced by crossing two chocolate Labradors. Subsequent matings of the two chocolate Labs produced a ratio of ¼ silver pups, ½ chocolate pups, and ¼ yellow pups.

Although Dean Christ is not the first to obtain silver Labradors, it can be said that he was the first to stand up for the coat color and his background in biology and genetics adds a good level of credibility.

Fact 6: Silver Labradors are Being Registered as Chocolates

Despite not adhering to the breed standard, which clearly states that Labs should only come in yellow, black and chocolate coat colors, breeders are registering silver Labs by AKC as chocolates since they assume the coat color may be a result of color dilution.

Since the AKC states that "chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate" breeders assume that silver may be just be considered a lighter shade of chocolate.

However, they ignore the fact that AKC clearly states that "any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow or chocolate is a disqualification."

Fact 7: Silver Labs are Prone to Color Dilution Alopecia

Regardless of how silver Labs are obtained, something perspective buyers must be warned about when considering purchasing a silver Labrador are health issues.

When dogs are purposely bred with coat color in mind, it is easy to forget about other vital factors such as behavior and health.

One issue common in certain dog breeds with diluted coat colors is a condition known as color dilution alopecia (CDA).

This condition has a genetic basis and is commonly found in blue Great Danes, blue Yorkshire Terriers and blue Doberman Pinschers. Silver Labrador retrievers are now added to the list.

Also known as blue balding syndrome, color dilution alopecia is a skin condition known for causing hair loss. Indeed, alopecia is a medical term for hair loss. This condition arises because of a hereditary structural defect causing an abnormal distribution of melatonin in the dog's hair shafts.

Affected dogs develop hair loss over the diluted colored areas often starting at the topline and then spreading to the back. The coat may appear as dry and scaly and there may be several pustules.

Puppies are not born with this condition, in other words, they are born with a normal haircoat. Therefore, they may not show signs right away; however, signs may show up later on once the puppies have left the breeder's home and are settling in their new homes with their new families.

Generally, this condition is noticed between 6 months and 3 years of age.

This skin condition does not typically cause any itching, but occasionally, opportunistic secondary pyoderma may set in and cause itching if widespread, explains veterinary dermatologist Dr. Michele Rosenbaum.

On top of skin problems, the National Labrador Retriever Breed Council of Australia warns about silver Labs and discusses high risks for inherited structural and heath defects including neurological disorders, thyroid problems and joint problems deriving from the practice of breeders in failing to test their breeding stock.

In some dogs the coat color dilution is sometimes accompanied by hair loss and recurrent skin inflammation, the so called color dilution alopecia (CDA) or black hair follicular dysplasia (BHFD).

— Philipp U et al. BMC Genet. 2005 Jun

Fact 8: Silver Labradors are Over Priced

According to the Puget Sound Labrador Retriever Association, the only correct colors for Labrador retrievers are black, chocolate and yellow. Buyers should be therefore wary of breeders selling specimens of certain coat colors as "rare" and asking exorbitant prices.

The practice of selling "silver" Labradors at high prices is considered a scam because these dogs are either "mutts" derived from crosses with Weimaraners or they are simply "Labs" with a diluted chocolate coat which is not allowed per standard.

In this latter case, these dogs may be treated as "mismarked dogs" (purebred dogs with some kind of mismarking such as coloring that is either undesirable or disqualifying which prevents them from appearing in the breed ring).

In either case, silver Labradors do not deserve a higher price tag. The only Labradors that should require a premium price are 100 percent purebred specimens with a champion blood line.

Of course, if you fell in love a silver Lab puppy, nobody in this world can tell you not to buy one, but it's always important to conduct some research and know what you're dealing with before paying that premium price.

Fact 9: Silver Labs Remain a Subject of Controversy

As one can imagine, the topic of silver Labradors remains a subject of strong controversy. There are several theories and beliefs and you may hear different opinions based on who you ask.

Breeders of silver Labs will deny any crossings between Labradors and Weimaraners, claiming that their silver Labs are the result of a dilute coat color.

Breed clubs claim that there is evidence indicating that Labradors have never been carrying the dilute gene “dd" something that is characteristic of the Weimaraner.

Frances O Smith, veterinarian and PhD Chair, Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Genetics Committee warns buyers about the selling of silver Labs being a fraud and that reputable breeders don't breed for 'fad coat colors."

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., which is the American Kennel Club's Parent Club for the Labrador breed, states that a “silver” Labrador is not a purebred Labrador.

The club also "does not recognize, accept or condone the sale or advertising of any Labrador as a ‘silver’ Labrador" and "opposes the practice of registering silver as chocolate.” To fight the issue, the club is now pushing dilute genetic tests to obtain factual data so they can fight the issue of "mixed breeds" being registered as purebred Labs.

Controversy continues over how this gene got into the Labrador breed. It is possible that it appeared via a genetic mutation but perhaps more likely that it arrived via a surreptitious outcross between a Labrador and a Weimaraner.

— Pippa Mattinson, The Labrador Handbook

References:

  • BMC Genet. 2005 Jun 16;6:34.Polymorphisms within the canine MLPH gene are associated with dilute coat color in dogs. Philipp U et al.
  • Advances in Veterinary Dermatology, Proceedings of the Seventh World ... edited by Sheila M. F. Torres, Linda Frank, Ann Hargis
  • The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc: The Issue of the Silver Labrador, by Frances O Smith, DVM, PhD Chair, Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Genetics Committee

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Adrienne Farricelli

Comments

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on December 30, 2019:

Hi Josh, I have no problem whatsoever if DNA testing could prove silver labs are the product of "grey ghost" crossings. I don't breed these dogs nor do I have any reason to want to stick to my claim. All I care about is providing factual information.

The fact is, according to research, the reliability of breed identification tests is questionable which is why they don't use results for serious issues such as legal proceedings.

Veterinarian and research fellow at Harvard Medical School’s Center for Bioethics Lisa Moses claims "it's fine if a pet owner wants to have his dog tested for fun, but he should "take the results with a grain of salt."

If you can provide any evidence on accurate DNA testing which can help determine whether these silver dogs are purebred or not, feel free to post it. The main issues seems to be there is lack of proof and the reliability of these tests remains questionable.

Josh on December 29, 2019:

Or the problem for people like you with DNA testing is that it conflicts with your claim

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on February 25, 2018:

I think the problem with DNA testing Labs in this case is that the results aren't reliable enough for providing any sort of concrete proof.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 10, 2018:

Thanks for sharing the useful and important information about Labrador retrievers. I love the breed and am always interested in learning more about Labs.

Jenn from Pennsylvania on January 10, 2018:

Wow very interesting! I have never seen nor heard of a "silver Labrador" before reading this.

Dr Mark from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on January 10, 2018:

Interesting controversy. Cant they do DNA testing to determine if the siver Labs are really Weim crosses?

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