Silver Labs – The Facts About Silver Labrador Retrievers

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Best selling author Pippa Mattinson investigates the controversy over Silver Labs and digs down to the facts!

Find out the truth about your silver Lab, where silver Labs come from, how to buy a healthy silver Labrador Retriever puppy, and why people can’t stop fighting over them!

Silver Labradors are one of the most controversial topics being discussed within the Labrador community today.

Silver Lab controversy

People have been arguing about these unusual grey labradors  for a decade or more, and in some ways we seem no closer to reaching any conclusions.

Many breeders of Labrador Retrievers consider these silver dogs to be a disaster for the breed.  Yet many Labrador owners across the world have fallen in love with these unusual pets.

The arguments about grey Labradors rage on

The arguments are not likely to go away anytime soon, and you can jump to some of the most interesting aspects of the discussion using the links in the green menu.

We’ll be looking at what is actually known about silver or grey Labs, in other words, at the facts.  And we’ll also be looking at the different opinions of those that love them, and those that hate them!

So, let’s not waste any more time.

Let’s have a look at the arguments and  dig down into the origins of the Silver Labrador Retriever.

We’ll need to start by looking at Labrador coat color as laid down and  recognised by international Kennel Clubs in their breed standards

Three recognised Labrador colors

There are three different colors of Labrador recognised by the Kennel Club in the UK and North America.

Those colors are: Yellow, black and chocolate.

You’ll notice that ‘silver’, fox red Labs, white Labs and the grey Labrador are all missing from that list!  But the story doesn’t end there.

Because although silver is not a recognised color for the show ring, it doesn’t necessarily mean a silver lab isn’t ‘registered’ with the AKC.  I’ll explain in a moment.  Let’s look more closely at what is a allowed and what is not.

What about white patches?

We do sometimes find white patches on Labradors, but strictly speaking, Labradors are supposed to be solid in color.

Any patch of different color apart from a small spot of white on the chest, is considered a ‘mismark’.

You can find out more about mismarks and their implications for purebred Labradors here.

So, to fall within the breed standard , a Labrador has to be one of those three basic solid colors, brown, yellow or black, give or take a tiny spot of white.

Within yellow Labs there is a wide range of ‘acceptable’  shades.

From palest cream to rich dark fox red Labradors.

But until recently there has been no such variety of shades in Black Labs or Chocolate Labradors,  apart from a very small variation in how dark or rich a shade the chocolate dogs may have.  Gray/silver lab coats were not found within the breed.

That has now changed.

Beautiful Silver Lab Phoebe
Silver Lab Phoebe – by kind permission of Courtney Woods Carr

What is a silver Lab?

I say until recently because the silver Labrador, is by many considered to be a Chocolate Labrador ‘with a twist’.

A silver Labrador looks just like any other Labrador, but with a very different coat color.

Silver Lab lying in long grass

You will often hear people say “There is no such thing as a silver Labrador”.  However, there is no doubt that these dogs exist, in the sense that there are certainly dogs that look like Labrador retrievers, have Labrador Retriever pedigree papers,  and that are silver in color.

We can all agree on that.

Where people fall out, is on whether or not these silver Labradors are truly Labradors, pure-bred, through and through. This is what gets people so excited.

What does a silver Labrador look like?

Instead of the strong original coat color, the silver Labrador has a paler and quite distinctively different shade of fur.

When this ‘dilution’ of color occurs in a chocolate Labrador his brown coat is lightened and subtly changed to the silver color that gets so many people’s blood boiling.

Some people confuse silver labs with white labs.  White Labradors are simply a very pale version of the yellow Lab and are registered as yellow on the Kennel Club’s database

The color of the silver lab has a more grey or metallic appearance.  It is very like that of a Weimaraner (because the same ‘gene’ is responsible). The dilute color occurs in some other breeds too.

But Weimaraners have been Silver for generations.  Whereas Silver Labradors are a relatively new phenomenon.

When did these grey Labradors appear?

When such a dramatically different shade of coat appears in a long established breed of dog, it’s only natural that people start asking questions about it.

silver labs and the controversy that surrounds themPeople want to know where Silver Labradors have come from and how they were created.

The very first Labradors were predominantly black.

You may hear people say that chocolate and yellow Labradors are a more recent addition to the Labrador family.

This is sometimes used as an argument in support of Silver being a natural part of the Labrador genome.  After all, if these two colors could remain hidden for so long, why not silver?

Yellow and chocolate Labradors have been recorded since the late 1800s. We are confident that the genes that cause the yellow and brown colors have always existed within the Labrador breed, yet dogs this color were rare for decades.

You can read about how they work in Chocolate Labradors in my in-depth article on Chocolate Labs.

The reason we didn’t see colors other than black growing in popularity in the breed until the 1900s were well under way, is simply that dogs that were not black were considered undesirable and unfashionable.

No-one bred from them, and initially they were probably often culled.

Over time people’s views changed and first yellows,  and later chocolates, became popular too.

silver labrador puppyReports of silver Labradors seem to have first appeared in the United States in the 1950s. Much later than chocolate and yellow. And how this new color came to be is a question that many people are asking, and arguing about.

Those who cannot believe that this new color has occured naturally believe this time discrepancy is proof that the color was introduced mischievously into the breed.

Not everyone agrees with them. And the capacity of ‘rare’ genes to remain hidden for long periods of time is a phenomenon that most scientists are aware of.

One of the early kennels to produce this new silver color in any numbers was Culo Silver Labs and you may be interested to read this report of an interview with the owner ‘Dean Crist’ giving his account of the history of the silver lab.

Genetically, we know exactly what causes the silver color.  Let’s have a look:

What causes the grey Labrador’s silver coat?

To understand the arguments and controversy surrounding these dogs, we need to understand how the silver coat color is created.  It’s all about ‘dilution’

Labrador coat color is controlled by a set of genes. You can read about the way B genes and E genes influence coat color in this article: Labrador color Inheritance

However, the silver color is controlled by a different gene,  the D gene. The D gene acts as a type of switch. One type: ‘big D’  switches coat color to full strength, and the other type ‘little d’  switches it to ‘dilute’.  But remember genes come in pairs. And big D over-rides little d.

So unless ‘little d’ is paired with another ‘little d’ it will have no effect.

Silver Labrador puppy
The silver labradors coat color is similar to a Weimaraner

Weimaraners all have two of the ‘little d’ genes.   And the appearance of the double little d gene in chocolate Labradors is what has enabled silver Labs to appear on the scene.

The dilute gene in the Labrador Retriever does not only produce silver dogs.  The dilution gene produces a different color depending on the base color of the Lab that carries it.

And the gene is not confined to chocolates.

Champagne Labradors

When a yellow Lab has two ‘little d’ genes, his or her coat is diluted to a color that has been described as Champagne

Just like in chocolate Labradors, the yellow Lab can also be a carrier of the dilute gene.

Having only one ‘d’ gene won’t change his coat, but he will be able to pass that gene on to his offspring.

Coat color dilution is not always easy to identify in a champagne Labrador Retriever.  This is because we are accustomed to seeing yellow Labs in quite a range of colors from palest cream to a rich fox red.

But once you have seen a champagne Labrador, you’ll appreciate the subtle difference.

Charcoal Labradors

Finally, Black Labradors can also have the little ‘d’ coat color dilution gene.

This produces a color that has been called charcoal, it is quite a subtle and slightly silvery  effect but slightly easier to identify than champagne.

If there is any doubt, the best way to be certain what the genetic make up of any Labrador is with regard to the coat color dilution gene, is a simple genetic (DNA) test.  This will also identify carriers of the dilute gene

The question we need to answer is not so much “how is the silver coat caused”, but more importantly  “how did the dilution gene get into the Labrador breed”? Opponents of the silver Labrador claim that it simply was not there a hundred years ago.

But is this true? Is it completely impossible that the silver gene arrived on the scene without any mischief on the part of Labrador breeders?

I believe it is possible.  Let’s find out why.

Where did silver Labs come from?

There are two ways that a new gene could appear in a closed register of pedigree dogs.

  • Spontaneous genetic mutation
  • Outcrossing

Genes can mutate.  We know that.

For a mutation that occurred spontaneously to create a new gray Labrador coat color would be unusual, but not impossible.

For the  mutation to be identical to a gene that already exists for an unusual coat color in another breed would be something of a coincidence.  So what about outcrossing?

Are silver Labradors really Weimaraner cross breeds?

The fact is, the dilution gene found in Labradors now, is the exact same gene that gives us the coat dilution in Weimaraners.

Many people feel that the spontaneous appearance of this dd  dilution gene, in the Labrador Retriever  gene pool is to say the least unlikely.

Diane Well of Blueknights labs  does not go quite so far as to directly accuse the breeders concerned but points out

However, it is interesting to note that Silver Labradors can be traced back to two breeders. Those breeders are Dean Crist (Culo) and Beaver Creek Labradors. Both of their lines trace back to Kellogg kennels (L.E. Kellogg and Harold E. Kellogg) Kellogg Kennels began breeding Labradors in 1922.  Guess what else they’re famous for breeding?  They’re credited for the ‘rare’ pointing Labrador of course!

Her point is that ‘Pointing’ is of course an HPR (hunt point retriever) trait,  and Weimaraners are HPRs.

Those in favour of the Weimaraner outcross theory often claim silvers have a houndy look about them.

To be fair, this is true of many field bred Labradors of any color.  And while this may have been true in the early days of Silver Labs, most Silver Labs today look pretty much the same as any other Labrador – apart from the fact that they are silver.

Is silver a hidden Labrador gene?

There is a third option of course, and that is that the silver gene was there all along in a few dogs and that only recently has the chance meeting between two recessive genes carried by their descendants occurred.

“But surely” you cry “that is most unlikely!”

Beautiful young silver lab galloping towards his master, unaware of the controversy that surrounds his ancestryWell, actually, it isn’t as unlikely as we might think.  The accidental pairing of two unusual genes to create new genetic blueprints in an individual dog is not that rare at all.

And it is becoming more common in pedigree dogs, as they become more inbred.

All pedigree gene pools shrink over time once registers are close because no new genetic material can ever be added and there is a natural and constant loss of genetic material over time

This is how rare diseases can spring up seemingly out of nowhere.

We also need to consider that Labradors were not always purebred pedigree dogs. Mixed breedings were common many years ago, and it is likely that there was mixed breeding between Labs and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers on more than one occasion in the past!  (Chesapeake Bay Retrievers carry the dilute gene)

Is a silver lab a purebred dog?

But what does all this mean for the owner of a silver Lab today?  Are their dogs purebred or aren’t they?

Some opponents of the Silver Lab will claim that Silver  colored Labradors cannot be registered as pedigree dogs, but at the time of writing, this is not true.

In order to be recognised as purebred, a breed or a dog belonging to that breed must be registered with the appropriate kennel Club.  In the USA this is the American Kennel Club or AKC

So are silver labs AKC recognized?

Some would like to see silver labs or grey labs banned
Some would like to see silver labs banned

Many silver Labradors have been registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

They have been registered, not as silver (not a color permitted under the Labrador breed standard) but as Chocolate.

So although these silver dogs are registered and recognised as being true Labradors, the color itself is not recognised in its own right.  The dogs are registered under the color that the dog would have been without the dilute gene.

You do still find people disputing this and claiming that silver Labradors cannot be registered with the AKC, even if both parents are registered pedigree Labs.

But this is not true. I have personally seen an email from the AKC stating that silver labrador puppies should be registered as chocolate.

Many Labrador breeders were outraged by the AKC’s acceptance of these dogs as pedigree.

 Some of these people have campaigned vigorously to oppose the registration of Silver Labrador in any shape or form.

What do Kennel Clubs say about silver Labs?

Five years ago there was a great deal of confusion over this issue, but more recently several Kennel Clubs and breed clubs have clarified their views on Silver Labradors

You can find some of these statements in the links below

There are also campaigns and petitions underway to try and stop the AKC in the USA from registering silver Labrador puppies at all.

If you enjoy your Labradors, silver or otherwise and don’t care much about coat color, you might well wonder what all the fuss is about.  Where did all this bad feeling over a difference in color come from?

There are a number of reasons that many Labrador breeders oppose the breeding and selling of grey Lab puppies.  Here are some of them.

Reasons for opposing Silver Labradors

Many breeders of Labradors strongly object to the production of silver puppies for a number of reasons

  • The feel that it threatens the purity of the breed
  • They are concerned about inbreeding
  • They object to false claims of ‘rare’ and ‘unique’
  • They feel silver breeders are dishonest about the origins of the silver Labrador
  • They feel that silver Labs are overpriced
  • They are concerned about health issues

There are various websites where you can read about the campaigns opposing silver Labradors – here is one of them.  Let’s have a look at a few of those reasons we just listed,  in more detail.

Do silver Labradors threaten the purity of the Labrador breed?

Some might say that pedigree Labrador breeders are worried about the competition in terms of sales from those producing silver puppies, but I suspect this is not often the case.

Most Labrador breeders care very deeply about the future of their breed, and some are concerned about the impact of accepting a genetic change without (they feel) proper consideration.

Most pedigree breeders are also committed to the concept of closed registry breeding and are angry that what they believe is most likely to be an outcross,  has been sneaked into the breed (in their view) dishonestly.

Preserving closed registers

As most Labrador breeders are in favour of a permanently closed register, or preventing outcrossing between different breeds, they object strongly to what they see as tampering with tradition and the contamination of the Labrador gene pool.

With so many concerns being raised over the last few years about closed registry breeding this is a contentious subject with strong opinions on both sides.

For those in favor of maintaining breed purity in our pedigree breeds, and who believe that silver Labs are cross-breeds, these dogs will always be seen as a threat to breed purity.

Perhaps of more concern to the average pet owner,  are accusations of inbreeding in silver Labradors.

Are silver Labradors inbred?

In order to establish their Silver lines, we could assume that breeders will initially have had to breed quite closely.  Mating dogs that were related to each other, in order to establish the new color in their puppies.

It would at first glance seem likely therefore that the silver Labrador gene pool is fairly small.  One way around this of course would be to accept them more widely so that their genetic diversity could be increased!

Of course inbreeding increases the risk of health problems arising or becoming exacerbated. But are silver Labradors particularly inbred?

Former Labrador breeder Jack Vanderwyk a vehement opposer of silver Labradors, conceded in 2012 that:

Today, in 2012, many, many generations later, the ‘silver’ Labrador population has a fairly viable gene pool, with seven distinct, (almost) unrelated lines. As a result, the average COIs (Coefficient Of Inbreeding) are often not higher than those of other Labrador lines.  This means that we shouldn’t underestimate the ‘silver’ population.

So it may be that inbreeding is not going to the be the problem in Silver Labradors that it once appeared to be.

Breeders also object to what they consider are very  high prices charged by breeders of Silvers,  and to what they believe are untrue claims that Silver Labs are rare and unique animals. Let’s look at that argument next.

Are silver Labrador breeders dishonest?

Many mainstream Labrador breeders feel that Silver Labrador breeders lack integrity.   They believe that these breeders are often dishonest about the origins of their dogs.

Woodhaven labs  make this claim on their website

Silver breeders also blatantly lie. They have information on their websites that talk about DNA testing done by the AKC and a researcher at UC Berkley. Both are not true. AKC never did any genetic mapping of silver Labradors nor do they have any plans to do so since they are a registering body only and the Labrador Club of America writes the standard for the breed.

At the moment the claims to rarity are true. Only a small proportion of Labradors born each year are silver.  Outside of the US,  there are very few Silver Labradors available at all compared with the three standard colors.  So not much dishonest there.

Are silver Labradors overpriced?

Objections to so called overpricing are common in dog breeding and not confined to the Silver Lab.

The same accusatons are hurled at Labradoodle breeders and Cockapoo breeders.

Many purebred pedigree dog breeders feel it is outrageous to charge large sums of money for dogs that are crossbred, and as most pedigree Labrador breeders view the silver lab dog as a crossbreed, this too causes anger.

Others feel it is entirely reasonable to charge whatever you can get for a puppy, no matter what its ancestry, provided that it is healthy and well cared for.

This seems a more logical approach.  Surely it is the quality of the puppy that counts, not the price on his head?  And like most prices in a free world, demand is what drives prices up.

But are silver Labradors as healthy as Labradors in the three standard colors?

Some claim that they are not.

Silver Labrador health issues

The color dilution gene, that double  dd  which gives us the pale silvery coat, is sometimes associated with coat problems.  Specifically, a kind of hair loss.

The problem is known as ‘color dilution alopecia‘ and is more common in dogs that have the  color dilution gene, dogs like Weimaraners, and now,  silver Labradors

It isn’t a life threatening condition, but it isn’t curable, and can lead to progressive hair-loss in young dogs.

However, not all dogs with the dd gene carry the faulty alopecia version and most silver Labradors are in fact free from alopecia.

Should you buy a silver Labrador?

The view that Silver Labradors were originally created by outcrossing one or more Labradors with a Weimaraner does seem to be persistent.  And without absolute proof one way or the other the argument may never be resolved.

Whether or not that matters to you will depend very much on your own point of view.

Some people that own pedigree Labradors that are silver in color may feel tricked, or deceived, if they hear these rumors but many won’t care. They love their beautiful dogs and that is all that matters to them.

However, if you are thinking of buying a silver puppy you may be uncertain about going ahead.

It pays to be cautious when buying a puppy

It probably pays to be particularly cautious when buying a silver Lab pup, not because purity of color is important in any breed of dog, but because a breeder that falls ‘outside the fold’ of the wider dog breeding community, may not meet the standards we expect of a responsible breeder.

And it is a responsible breeder that you are looking for.  Happily, breeding silver Labradors is not mutually incompatible with being a responsible breeder.  But your choice of breeder is likely to be restricted because of the stigma attached to breeding Silver puppies.

There are also question marks regarding the registration of silver labs born in the future should the battle to de-register them succeed.

This may affect those who want to breed from their dog, or who want to compete with their dog in the show ring or in obedience or field trial competitions that are only open to registered pedigree dogs.  But again, for most of you, that won’t matter.

An uncertain future for Silver Labradors?

The future of the grey Lab was looking uncertain. But with every year that passes it seems less likely that they will be excluded from the gene pool of pedigree Labradors in America.

Some people feel that the jury is still out on the origins of the Silver Labrador but despite the availability of DNA testing, no-one seems to have come forward with any evidence of Weimaraner blood in a modern purebred lab pedigree.

My personal feeling is that this battle can’t be won, and that the Labrador community opposed to silver in Labradors is probably going to have to accept defeat.

Where can you buy silver Lab puppies

When you buy a Labrador of any color, your first priority needs to be health.  Do check out our information on buying a healthy puppy.

Lovely Silver Lab puppy Lola - you can choose between an English silver Lab and an American silver Lab
Beautiful silver Lab puppy Lola

Finding a reputable breeder that produces pedigree Silver Labrador puppies from fully health tested parents,  may not be the easiest task, but it can be done.

There is a movement underway to bring more silver Labrador breeders into the ‘responsible breeder’ fold and an increasing proportion of silver breeders are now fully health testing all their breeding stock.

You can find out more about how to find a good Labrador breeder in this article.

Remember that a Silver Labrador, if registered with a Kennel Club, will be registered as Chocolate.  Check the pedigree and health certificates very carefully and if you decide to go ahead, be prepared to come in for some criticism for your decision.

The silver retriever – English silver Lab v American silver Lab

If you are considering a silver  puppy bear in mind that you may be more likely to find a silver Lab from American/field lines than from English/show lines.

And if you are looking for a hunting companion, you may well be able to get an American silver Lab puppy from titled parents.

There is no reason why a silver Lab from the right lines should not make a good hunting companion provided you take the time to train him properly

If hunting isn’t your thing, you’ll find an American Silver Lab can make a great agility dog and both American and English Silver Labs will enjoy the amazing sport of dock diving.

silver Lab dock diving in the USA
Linda’s Silver Lab Shenandoah dock diving in the USA

This is the fabulous Shenandoah competing in the USA

The price of silver Lab puppies

The price of your pretty grey puppy may be greater than the price of a Lab of one of the three recognised colors.

People are often willing to pay more for something they believe to be unusual.

Bear in mind that despite this high price, you won’t be able to enter your puppy into a conformation show, and you may cause a bit of a stir if you decide to enter your puppy in a hunt test or field trial.

Silver Labradors – facts versus opinion

This topic is often debated over on our Facebook page. As many of the debates on Facebook begin by referring to this article, I think it would be helpful to have this summary, which I posted on our page, up here too.

There are two things being confused each time the topic comes up. One is facts, the other is opinions. So I think it might be helpful to try and separate these two things out.

Opinion 1. Silver Labradors are not actually Labradors at all, they are mongrels

Some people do not agree with the AKC policy of registering dogs that carry the dilute gene.

They hold the opinion that this is wrong.

And they are of course absolutely entitled to that opinion, and to do whatever they can to persuade the AKC to change their policy. But it is only an opinion and is not supported by strong evidence.

Fact 1.  The American Kennel Club does register silver Labrador puppies

The American Kennel Club does at the moment register silver Labradors.

It registers them under the color chocolate, because most Labradors with the dilute gene are dilute chocolate. It is however, possible to get dilute blacks (charcoal) and dilute yellows (champagne).

The fact that the AKC has this policy means that there are members of our community who own AKC registered pedigree Labradors that are silver in colour. Whether the rest of us approve or not.

Telling these people that their dogs aren’t Labs is not helpful and not true because they are indeed registered pedigree dogs. Telling the AKC would be more appropriate.

Whether or not the AKC can be persuaded to change their policy is uncertain, but it becomes increasingly unlikely as time goes on. Many silver Labradors have been born and registered and bloodlines are now becoming well mixed. It is difficult to see how such a policy would be implemented.

Perhaps we will just all have to get used to the color silver? 

Opinion 2. Silver Labradors were produced by crossing Labs with Weimaraners

One theory is that silver Labradors are all mongrels and are actually crossed with Weimaraners.

People often post up on our Facebook page to say that there is DNA evidence to support this belief

Fact 2. No absolute proof for the origins of the silver Lab has been published, and there are other possible explanations

The introduction of Weimaraner blood is indeed ONE explanation for the dilute gene in our pedigree labs. But it is not the only explanation. Early on in the history of the Labrador, our breed was crossed with other breeds that contain the dilute gene, most notably the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

greenies for dogs
So, it is possible, however unlikely, that the dilute gene was carried by one or two individuals early on and has been in the breed for many years.

Recessive genes that are rare can take many generations to appear, but the chances of two recessive genes meeting increase constantly in a closed register of dogs due to genetic drift. 

Which is why of course, we get new genetic diseases appearing all the time in our pedigree breeds

While rumours of tests abound, no one has linked to published concrete evidence in support of Weimaraner DNA in any individual pedigree Labrador on any of the threads we have had on this topic on this page, nor in any of the many emails I receive about silver Labs. 

Weimaraners are one of the breeds that do show up in DNA tests, so this shouldn’t be hard to find if it exists.

On the other hand, I believe we have had someone publish a link, to DNA tests on our Facebook page, that shows that their silver dog is pure bred. If anyone else with a silver Lab has had a DNA test done, perhaps they would post a link to the results in the comments below?

Likewise, if anyone has a link to DNA evidence to the contrary, please post a link. Without evidence it simply isn’t possible to progress this aspect of the debate any further.

Opinion 3 Silver Labradors have no health clearances

It is often stated that silver Labrador breeders are all irresponsible and never health test their dogs

Fact 3 There are silver Labrador breeders that health test their breeding stock.

There are silver Labrador breeders that are health testing.  And more of them are likely to follow suit. You can find them through the web page that I link to above.  

There are also silver breeders that are irresponsible. In fact there are irresponsible breeders everywhere. They are not restricted by color.

Please people, make sure you get health test evidence before falling in love with your puppy!

Opinion 4  Silver Labradors are no use for anything other than pets

This opinion has been stated a number of times on our Facebook debates.

Fact 4. There are lots of roles that silver Labrador can play.

It is true that a silver lab cannot compete in the show ring. Only three colours are permitted when exhibiting Labrador at shows.  If you like the idea of showing, don’t buy a silver Lab.

However, there are silver Labradors working as hunting companions, competing in hunt tests, obedience competitions and agility.

There is no reason why a silver lab could not be an assistance dog for the disabled for example, a military service dog, or a guide dog for the blind. These are all useful roles, arguably more useful than being exhibited.

Opinion 5  Outcrossing (if that is how Silver Labs arrived) is bad for the genetic health of our breed.

Some of you have stated that bringing new genetic information into the lab gene pool (if that is what has been done) is harmful genetically. This is a misunderstanding.

Fact 5  Genetic health improves with increasing genetic diversity

The main problem genetically with closed registers (pedigree breeds) is diminishing genetic diversity.

Increasing genetic diversity improves the health of a closed population not the other way around.
Rudeness towards silver Labrador owners

This is becoming increasingly common.  Silver Labrador owners are referred to as ‘suckers’ for buying their dog, told their dogs are ugly, houndy, look like mongrels.

All very upsetting things to hear about a beloved dog that was bought in good faith and that has genuine legal documents to prove it’s ancestry.

It is the AKC that have, rightly or wrongly, decided these dogs are Labradors, it isn’t reasonable to berate people that have chosen and paid for such a dog legitimately, for their actions.

We all love Labradors even if we differ as to what we think is best for them and I don’t want the owners of silver labs to be afraid to post pictures of their dogs on our Facebook page, or afraid to talk about their dogs there or here in our comments section.

I hope you don’t either and I hope that we can carry on debating this fascinating topic without being mean to one another.

How about you?

We love all Labradors, no matter how prestigious their pedigree, or what color their coat is.

If you have a Silver lab we’d love to hear about your dog, and about your experiences in finding him or her. We’d also love to know if you have experienced any prejudice against your dog because of his unusual coat color.

Whether or not you love silver labs or oppose them, your views, politely expressed are very welcome! Just drop them into the comments box below.  Let us know what you think and why!

Help with buying a Silver Lab

Choosing the perfect puppyWhenever you bring a dog into your life, no matter what color or breed he is, there are some important precautions to take.

For a complete guide to finding and choosing the puppy of your dreams, check out Pippa’s step by step guide to finding your new puppy.

Choosing The Perfect Puppy covers every aspect of finding and selecting the right puppy for your family, and is packed with gorgeous puppy photos.

It was published in April 2017 and is available worldwide

 

Silver Labradors was extensively revised and updated in 2016


159 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Pippa, this is a very informative, unbiased article that presents all for and against information regarding silver labs.
    I have a loving smart silver lab. I’ve been verbally attacked by random strangers. People came over and examined her to make sure that she is really lab – like webbed feed and the distinct scent. Its quite odd watching people smell your dog :). The thing is … aside from her color, she is 100% lab in her personality. She is playful, energetic, loves our cats and pretty much everyone she meets.

    • Thanks for your kind comment Alana, and sorry to hear you have experienced unpleasantness towards you and your dog. 🙁

  2. Totally agree with Keenan T. I have a 9 month old silver lab and this has been the smartest and prettiest labs I’ve owned so far.

  3. When breeders choose to breed for silver, is it unwise to breed silver to silver? I know that in most breeds that have Merle coloring, breeding two Merle’s is avoided for health reasons; just as white boxers are not supposed to be bred to another white boxer. Are there documented health problems from breeding silver to silver?
    I love Labs and have had a chocolate and two blacks over the past 27 years. My present black Lab is a rescue, so I can’t be absolutely sure of her being purebred, but like the two before her, she is a wonderful dog who has added much joy to my life and exhibits most of the Lab traits that I love.

  4. I have a sliver lab he is 8 months now, they’re just like labs just sometimes don’t get seen as full bred labs. Like people, stop it with this stuff they’re animals! Even though the AKC doesn’t see them as silver labs they clearly are! Mine is a full bred labrador retriever.

    • Hi Keenan. I’m looking to purchase a Silver Labrador, can you recommend the breeder you purchased yours from..? Thanks

  5. I have a beautiful 8 year old silver lab. She is a lab in every way! Also AKC registered as chocolate. Everyone who meets her falls in love with her personality. The only negative comments I have received about her has been from posting about her on Facebook. Completely unfair because they do not know her or her breeding.

  6. The answer to the silver labradors genetic debates seems obvious to me. Champagne and charcoal labradors have the IDENTICAL COLOUR DILUTION GENE which results in the silver. So the silver is not a result of subterfuge any more than the other dilute colours and has just as much right to it’s pedigree status. ALL dogs are biologically the one species (ie they successfully interbreed) and have a common ancestral gene pool. Then humans selectively bred dog populations over tens of thousands of years for certain traits, and more recently developed “purebreeds”. This selective breeding manipulated what would otherwise be the natural statistical occurrence of genotypes. In some cases only one colour genotype is found in a breed, in other breeds there will be multiple colour genotypes and multiple modifying genes, all with differing prevalence. As fashions change, breeding changes, thus altering the prevalence of genotypes within the breed.
    Belyaev’s silver fox breeding program shows how quickly and dramatically rare traits (physical as well as psychological) can appear in a controlled breeding program.
    Black labradors were prized and blondes and browns not bred from, thus artificially reducing the prevalence of other genetic variants. Add a low incidence of the “naturally rarer” chocolate, so an even rarer occurrence of the the dilute chocolate (ie silver). If it occurred at all. And I can imagine that before genetics was understood/provable a breeder would want to hide (destroy) such an anomaly in their bloodline, to protect their reputation. Then browns became popular, and selectively bred. No surprise that silvers popped out!

    Interestingly a similar colour dilution gene exists in cats (Cream = dilute gene + Orange gene, Grey = dilute gene + Black gene) and purebred cats have faced the same arguments.

  7. I have a 10 year old Charcoal Silver lab who we rescued or he rescued me. He is papered as a black lab. He is a very soulful dog and doesn’t act like a lab at all. No fetching, no swimming and absolutely hates guns. He suffers from separation anxiety, degenerate elbows, thyroid problems, congestive heart failure and sensitive to protein. He is the love of my life and loves his chiropractor sessions, vet visits and going for walks with me. He can’t walk fast or far theses days, but has the best life possible for a dog who lived in a crate for 9 months. I hope more and more breeders are responsible, I reached out to the breeder who sold a bunch of dogs to the person I got Tucker from to let them know of the health issues of their dog and got no response from them. 🙁

  8. We got a beautiful, funny, smart, and exceedingly loving silver/grey Lab 2 1/2 years ago. He came into our family as an addition to our yellow Lab, Merlin, who is very true to form, AKC Lab ready “to show”. Mac is much taller than Merlin at 28″ tall. He is more vocal and more outgoing and at times drives Merlin nuts but there is no doubt in my mind or my husband’s that he is a Lab! He is no more a Weimeraner cross than I am. I just don’t think most people know what to make of him because of his color and the fact that he is probably even more animated than a chocolate Lab. All I know is that when he is out in the yard “greeting” families to the playground next to our house, he makes people smile because he always has a toy in his mouth! All he wants is love! We wouldn’t change our choice for anything in the world and as I write this he is resting his chin on my foot! What else can I say!!? My questions is – even our vet can’t tell us “technically” how much he should weigh. Currently, he weighs 116 lbs. but he is a big boy at 28″ tall. Does anyone have any idea?

  9. I was a respected Labrador breeder of all colors for more than 20 years until I could no longer handle the stress from the threats that I received for breeding the “other colors”. These were most often from other breeders that think they know it all and judged me for not conforming to their beliefs. I eventually gave up breeding the “other colors” because I am too old now to have to deal with the stupidity that comes with something new being introduced to those that can’t accept change. All Labradors are the best, no matter what their color may be. Being a Lab breeder for most of my life, I can tell you that medical conditions are not based on a color. As breeders, it is our biggest hope that none of our puppies will ever have any problems but that is not LIFE. Prejudices due to color do exist in dogs as well as in people. It just boggles my mind as to why…..

  10. I adopted a weimaraner lab mix from South Carolina. I like that he’s a mix because they are healthier. he looks mostly Weimaraner now at 6 months. He was in the shelter with his brother and I wonder what circumstances would lead to two puppies from the same litter being in a shelter. I hope it has nothing to do with that he is a dark or “blue” color, such that at Weimaraner breeder might want to get rid of him, or that he is “silver” lab, such that he might be considered undesirable by a lab breeder. He is adorable, sweet, playful and a joy. Who cares if the AKC doesn’t have a place for him?

  11. Great article Pippa. My son and I had to put down our 6 year girl Pepper on Valentine’s Day and we are so broken hearted it’s so hard to do anything. She was the most beautiful silver and so extremely smart, loving, laid back, and was my soul mate. As another commenter said…she did know what I was thinking or how I felt as I am disabled and she learned to become an alert dog for me all on her own. She was so beautiful but at around 2.5 developed hypothyroidism and lost most of her hair and her skin got dark. A year ago she quickly developed severe diabetes and went blind in one week which we got back quite a bit of her eyesight after we got her on insulin. Over recent times she kept lifting up her right leg liked she stepped on something and started going potty on the floor more and more….realizing when she needed to go out it was right now. We miss her so dearly and my heartache has now turned to anger but thankfulness to the breeder because she was so amazing but most of her life didn’t likely feel like a dog. I plan on trying to get ahold of them and wonder what I could or should do to report her AKC bloodlines so others don’t have to experience this pain. If anyone has any advice I would so greatly appreciate it. Thank you. I love you Pepper to the deepest part of me and miss you in an unexplainable way…but I know you’re still watching me all the time as that is what you committed your life to from the day we met! ♡♡♡

  12. I have a 6 month old Silver Lab named Charlie. He is registered as a Chocolate with the AKC and we have his pedigree going back six generations. All Labs ;). Since we have had him I have only had one person make a negative comment about how he “isn’t really a lab”. Everyone else that sees him comments on how sweet tempered and good-looking he is. He is a great dog and I would suggest anyone looking for a pet to consider a Lab ( of any color ).

  13. I just purchased a beautiful Silver Lab puppy from the breeder where I have gotten all four of my previous labradors (three yellow, one chocolate) They started their silver line three years ago, and through careful and responsible breeding have only just had their first litter of silvers (actually five silvers and three chocolates). My new puppy is sweet, smart, energetic and will no doubt turn out to be a beautiful, loving companion. I wish I could figure out how to post her picture.

    • Can you recommend a Silver Lab breeder in the UK please? We would really love one. We already have a Chocolate Brown Lab and a Black Lab. Just not sure where to begin looking!

  14. I have a silver 4 year old lab, Emmie Rose, she is the best and most loving dog I have ever seen or had. Her personally is the sweetest and she is super smart. It is like she knows what your thinking and does exactly what she should do. She is in good health except alittle over weight. She is really big boned and very tall. Best lab ever.

  15. I have a 2 yr old silver lab that came from a litter of 11 silver pups. The mom and dad were both silver. I have had all colors of labs, this is my first silver. He has a lot of energy and is extremely smart. He has become my best bud since my husband passed. His name is Grey Goose, I call him Goose!

    • Hello I had a silver lab named Bodie who only lived 5 years. When he died my heart absolutely broke. He developed cancer in his ear which eventually spread to his stomach and paw. He developed grand mal seizures which were terrifying to watch. He was my best friend and I loved him with every ounce of my exsistance. He was my second lab and now I have a female yellow lab named Penny. I now have back the love I shared with my previous two labs. Unfortunately I would not recommend a silver lab to anyone. Both parents were silver and on premise. Good luck and I hope all who have a silver enjoy them for many many years.

  16. Anybody (in any breed) breeding dogs for appearance only is doing a disservice to their breed. Period. If silver is a weird color that pops up every now and then in Lab litters, so be it. At least the breeder won’t kill the puppy because it’s a mutant if there are folks who would love a silver Lab. (yes breeders used to kill rejects…maybe some still do…hope not) My fear is as it becomes a “cool” “rare” color, people will start (if they aren’t doing it already) crossing Weimaraners and Labs in order to get more silvers per litter. Guess money changes everything…. But I can’t say it enough… breeding for appearance only is why American Cockers became somewhat nasty in temperament (not at all their original natural state), all the Setters lost a lot of their natural intelligence, and Quarter Horses (happens with other animals too) started falling over for no apparent reason. Form follows function…crossing breeds for function is how all the breeds evolved in the first place. Let’s get fashion out of the breeding equation.

    • Unfortunately, there are people out there crossing weims and labs together to get more silvers. But there are also breeders out there only breeding labs together. You have to be careful when your buying a silver bc of this reason.

  17. I have a question. I see that traditional lab breeders seem to mostly have a problem with silvers. Why don’t they have as much problem with champagne, fox red, white, and charcoal? Don’t all dilutes carry the dd gene? Thank you for your input!

    • Hi Mary, Champagne and Charcoal are dilute genes. Fox red and white are just shade variations produced by the standard yellow gene combination, not dilutes. I suspect that Champagne and Charcoal are not frowned upon as much because they are less common and less obvious than the silver Labs, but this would be a guess!

  18. What is all the fuss about colour?? Labs are still the best breed ever!!!
    If CKC’s are that worried about the silver ones looking like weimaraners, they should stop trying to breed out the big square “old-school” blockhead that labs used to have – the smaller slimmer head looks out of place on some dogs and combined with the silver colour, they do look like the other breed.
    In a litter our two purebred labs produced – only one pup inherited the father’s big head and all others inherited the smaller slimmer head of their mother. The one who inherited the big head is the best looking one of the lot and we receive many comments on his handsomeness. In my experience of owning and training Labs for 20 years or so, the ones with the big blockheads seem to be more confident and calm and easier to train, the ones with the smaller heads seem to be more anxious or flighty and harder to train.
    Maybe CKC should concentrate on the important things like ensuring the eradication of elbow and hip dysplasia, and let the colour be what it is – it doesn’t change the nature of the dog, or the integrity of their owners, just the perceptions of some narrow-minded elitists.
    Labradoodles have been accepted as a separate breed – if they can prove cross-breeding, then so be it – declare them a separate breed as well and let it rest.

    • I have a beautiful day silver lab that we rescued four years ago. He and a female had been purchased by a family who wanted to try to breed them. However, the female ran away before they were mated. The family split up and wanted to get rid of some of their many labs. We had lost our two chocolates the spring before and found out about Hank. He is a wonderful dog and totally devoted to me. What you have said about the dogs with the smaller heads was very interesting to me. Hank’s head is small enough that it is difficult to keep a collar on him. When they were younger our black lab mix pulled his collar off frequently. Other things you said also fit Hank. He has been a very anxious dog ever since we got him. He paces and whines if there is a closed door between us. If I leave the house he paces and keeps going to the door to see if I am back. He does the same thing if one of the family members or one of the other dogs is outside. He is my shadow, and whenever I turn around he is right behind me. He has fears of several things but one is the wind. If it is the least bit windy he avoids going out. Hank is a very loving dog, and has had to overcome several obstacles due to his being kept in a small kennel before we got him. He learned what treats and toys are. He learned how to play, and he is less fearful of some things. Oh, by the way, his pedigree says he is a silver chocolate.

  19. I have loved labs for all my life and they have always been a very beloved part of my family, since I was a small child until the present day (I am now 50).
    We recently delivered a litter of pups from our purebred black male and purebred golden female, that included four colours – black (with white patches), golden, white and chocolate. Both parents came from registered breeding kennels and both had been health tested, but one of the two pups we kept, developed elbow dysplasia in both elbows. Of all the mutations to develop, I would far prefer him to be silver than to have the shortened life span that he now has due to an unpredictable mutation. He has had surgery and he is doing very well, but it is unlikely that he will have a normal lifespan and I will have to make a very hard decision some time in the future when pain becomes an issue.
    I was advised that I should have put down the two black puppies because they were not solid in colour – I vehemently rejected this idea, and all puppies were found very loving homes. I believe that some individuals in the kennel club communities have become too elitist to recognise that the labrador is adored all around the world for its wonderful personality, its impressive intelligence, its outstanding loyalty which (in my eyes) is beyond compare. In my opinion as a Labrador owner for more than 40 years, there is no other breed that compares, and I would encourage the kennel clubs in Australia to welcome the Silver colour in Australia.
    It is time to come back down to earth and realise that colour is no more important in calculating the validity or the value of a lab as it is in calculating the value of a human.

    • We also bred our black male and yellow/red female twice. The first litter we had 10 pups. 6 yellow variations, 1 solid red, 2 black, and 1 chocolate. The second litter we also had 10 pups. 2 chocolates, 3 blacks, 2 reds, 3 yellows. I have always wanted a silver or charcoal female to breed with our black male but breeders want too much money for them and I don’t think that is right. The only reason that a lab should be expensive is if it has a champion blood line. There are many lab breeders so the normal price for a puppy should be reasonable. We sold our pups for $300 because we feel that even lower income families should be able to own a WONDERFUL registered lab.

  20. Thank you for this balanced and thoughtful article. I do not have a dog, but was curious when I saw silver lab puppies advertised in the paper for sale. I appreciate your distinguishing facts from opinions, without painting anyone as horrible for having their opinions. Sometimes it is so difficult when people have strong feelings about a subject. Clearly they are beautiful dogs, and if their temperaments and health are good, that should be all that matters. But then, I don’t have a stake, financial or otherwise, in the “purity” of the breed.

  21. We have a silver lab and our son has his brother. Both are as different as night and day. First health. Ours had elbow dyspepsia diagnosed at 6 months. The vet said she could have Certified his hips right then and there, but his elbows were a mess. We took him to UC Davis and they fixed him. His brother is the picture of health. Hunting. Our Jack is laid back and although he loves retrieving he does not have the drive brother Zeus has. That guy is a hunting machine. They are different in color too. Our Jack often looks more chocolate and Zeus more gray, but both look 100% Lab. Both are great with kids and loyal dogs. Glad we have them. I would love them the same if they were yellow, black or brown because all labs matter!

    • Thank you for helping me feel good about getting my new silver puppy! I will post on this site once I have some experience with my new pup to report back on. And I agree! All labs matter!

  22. We have the most amazing, silver Labrador who is 20 months old. Winston is a joy. He is the most gentle, sweet, and obedient dog that I have ever had. He is highly trainable. His pedigree is AKC registered and the breeder was very reputable. Do I feel like I was somehow lied to or that he isn’t a labrador. Heavens no! We love him and it is because of Winston that we will always own a Labrador.

  23. I have a 9 week old silver lab with plenty of history behind her lineage. The breeder whom I hold in high regard has all of his breeding stock genetically tested and provides a 2 year health guarantee on the puppy. I loved her so much that I’m going tomorrow to pick up her brother from him so she has someone to play with. Her brother is Chocolate and carries the little d gene and she is silver. If you took a black and white photo of her, nobody could claim she isn’t a lab LOL So who cares about the controversy. They’re both AKC register and we have health guarantees against genetic diseases.

  24. I have a 8 month old lab that is my baby girl
    Named Samantha . I guess until today and pics I have seen I thought I had a light chocolate lab , but now realize I have a silver lab . I think she is a beautiful color and get lots of compliments on her color . I didn’t know that this was an issue within the lab community , but I’m not upset by it and I don’t feel like I was lied to , I seen the litter of pups and her sister was the same color and her three brothers were the ” normal” chocolate color , I just figured her sister and her were just lighter chocolate , in the sun you can see all the chocolate in her . Lighting makes a big difference in her color .
    She is our pet and part of our family she will not be breed or shown , but she loves people , loves water , loves to play ball and tug of war , loves kids , loves dogs and is super smart and full of energy , she is a great dog and would have made a great companion dog . I believe the silver lab is a beautiful dog !!!

  25. i do understand that the silver labradors are registered as chocolates, but no one has
    said what charcoal and the other dilute color are registered as.

    does the chocolate registry have to gobble up all of the dilute colors that have shown
    up as labradors?, when none of these colors are chocolate, that is a very shady way
    to registar any dog.
    i have bred, raised and shown chocolate labradors as a registered ckc breeder, (now retired),
    and i do resent other colors being mixed into the chocolate registry, this seems to me to be
    unethical on the part of the CKC.

    • Silvers are registered as Chocolates, Charcoals are registered as Blacks, and Champanges are registered as Yellows.

    • Genetically there are ONLY THREE BASE COLOURS : BLACK, brown or Yellow
      All labradors are one of these base colours. And their base colour is obvious by looking at them.
      There are TWO sets of genes that produce the BASE COLOUR (E/e and B/b) and colour registration is by these genes.
      at least one E and one B gives a BLACK
      at least one E and two b gives a brown
      Two e gives a yellow regardless of type of B/b combination.
      All labradors also carry the dilute gene D/d. There are probably also other “lesser” colour moderating genes that alter the three BASE COLOURS which would explain other shadings. It would be impossible (at this point) to know precisely the moderating genes each dog has, so confining registration to one of the base colours makes perfect sense.
      Compare this to humans. We have base colours genes of black, brown, red and blonde. Then there are various moderating colour genes which alter the appearance of the base colour. But we essentially define our hair colour by the base gene.

  26. We have a gorgeous grey lab called Toby who is 11months old we purchased him from a London breeder and there are only 2 of them in Guernsey CI. I have only receive positive comments about him and how handsome he is. He is our first dog and having him from an 8 weeks old puppy he has been a lot of work and needs lots of walks but we love him too bits and wouldn’t be without him.

  27. Hi I have a beautiful Sivler Lab which we bought in Germany and is registered as a Silver Labrador Retriever ….. He ha she best temperament and has ever good feature as a Lab needs to be a Lab… His Mum and Dad are both Pedigree show winners and there parents, Grand parents etc back down to 2007 …. This calming (chocolate Lab) silver lab and it’s controversy has made me sick, since we went to a local fun dog show to enter or 11month old silver lab and came vets best choice winner….. a massive storm has kicked off trying to damage the vets reputation etc….. my baby lab has the best colouring and features than many labs I see to date….. I feel like getting a silver pedigree Bitch and start introducing them to the UK …. because they are far superior to my local labs, this is all a mess…. he his my baby and we love him, they should be judged on there colour alone!!

  28. I find it hard to believe that other Lab owners are rude to silver lab owners and that they cannot compete in show rings…. for goodness sake lets just reflect on the fact that the owners love their silver dogs and that is that matters. If the colour of a dog is what matters to the owner then I would question the love that they have the animal and their right to own it…..

  29. Our “silver” is due to arrive at the end of June and we are to pick him up sometime in July. We love his color and it was part of the reason for our purchase. We had choices and because we could meet the breeder, the parents and their due diligence to the lab breed for all colors made our decision an easy one. We could have paid 3x the amount but the breeders didn’t want their puppies to go someplace to be shown off, only to be shown love and love of the outdoors. He will be a great addition to our family. He will be registered and admired for who he becomes as our family member and not by anyone’s opinions. It’s almost like being made a minority and the prejudice that follows. I don’t understand the inbreeding and those that “create” mixes to charge huge amounts for financial gain. Those are the ones that should be shamed.

  30. I adopted a 1 year old silver here in Jackson Wyoming. Didn’t even know they existed until I found him and fostered him for a weekend. This dog has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. I don’t hunt but I fish, ski, mountain bike, and etc. This dog is by my side no matter what. Most loyal and athletic dog I could ever want, not to mention, best cuddle buddy around. I wish people would stop trashing the dog because they are “silver.” The Silver Lab I have, embodies everything and more that a “purebred” lab is known to do.

    • I too had a silver lab and he was the love of my life. All the qualities your dog has were present in mine too. He was also the most intelligent, intuitive, sensitive companion I could have ever hoped to have. I recently had him euthanized for medical reasons, which his vet would never link to his genetic background. I have his full brother as well, a charcoal, who is as healthy as can be. I also owned a black Lab whose allergies became so severe they could only be controlled with prednisone, which eventually caused organ failure and euthanasia at age 8. My point is, no one will convince me Dante (silver) and Loki (charcoal) are not ‘true’ Labs. They are no more prone to genetic diseases than the other colors, at least that’s been my experience. And I’m old enough to remember a lot of controversy many years ago regarding chocolate labs

  31. I have a silver lab. I love her and will treat her like I did my chocolate lab that I had for 14 yrs. She is a great addition to our family. End of story.

  32. I have been reading all these comments about colour, legitimate purebred, true labradors and so on….I have a lab crossed with golden retriever. I don’t think about his colour or how much he cost to buy…I think about his beautiful nature, how much he has added to our life, the never ending joy we have him being around us…he was great source of comfort when my wife had chemotherapy… and for me as her carer. She has fully recovered. There is no price you can write up when we consider what makes a labrador of true value… or any dog for that matter. Just love them, care for them and treasure them while they are in your life….

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