The red fox Lab is a dark red shade of yellow Labrador Retriever. Brimming with intelligence, these affectionate, loyal dogs were originally bred as hunting companions. Red Labs tend to be from working lines. That means high energy, high speed, and a mountain of enthusiasm! These sensitive dogs are keen to please and responsive to training. Adult red fox Labs weigh around 65lbs, stand about 22 inches in height and have a lifespan around 12 years.
I’ll share photos of my red lab puppies as they grow from birth to maturity. The photo at the top of the page is their mother ‘Bella’ as a four month old puppy, playing in some wild daisies.
I’ll also share the breed traits, characteristics and behaviors you can expect from your red fox Lab puppy. I’ll talk about their growth and development, and give you training tips, and ideas to help you find a healthy, friendly puppy And we’ll have a go at tackling the genetics behind your stunning Labrador’s color.
- English vs American red fox Lab traits.
- Temperament and personality.
- Breeding darker red fox Lab puppies – the genetics.
- Red fox Lab puppy pictures week by week.
- Fox red Labrador breeders.
Fox red is a little more complicated to understand, than the other colors, but I’ll try to clear up any confusion. It’ll be fun!
Labs come in three colors, yellow, chocolate and black. Off the record, there are also dilute forms of those colors (champagne, silver, charcoal). The red fox Lab, or fox red Lab, is a dark coated variety of the full color yellow Labrador Retriever.
Is it Fox Red or Red Fox Lab?
The fox red Lab is sometimes called a red fox Lab, or a ruby Labrador. It doesn’t matter whether the fox or the red comes first. That’s a lot to do with the fact that fox red isn’t an official Labrador color. It goes down on record as a shade of yellow.
Of course, we know fox red is special! But from the AKC or KC’s point of view, it’s just another yellow dog. The selection of darker red Labrador Retrievers by breeders has increased as darker puppies become more popular companions than paler yellow Labs.
A Good Family Pet
Like all Labradors, this fox red Lab can be a great companion. Their energy levels are best suited to active owners, and families with older children. Youngsters can be clumsy and boisterous, but a senior rescue dog may do well alongside younger children.
Thorough training is important for your red fox Labrador puppy. And you are looking at one to two hours exercise each day once adult.
Labradors are some of the world’s most popular hunting companions in addition to their wider roles as service dogs, and most red fox Labs love to explore outdoors and to swim.
Fox Red Lab Origins and History
All three colors of Labrador Retriever, black, chocolate and yellow (including the red shade), share the same origins or history. The Labs we have today descend from the St John’s dog, a breed of working fisherman’s dog that gave rise to the Labrador Retriever, and, the Newfoundland. Labradors were developed as hunting companions and retrievers by a couple of British aristocrats in the 1900s.
At one time, almost all Labradors were black but the potential for red fox Labs has always existed. Chocolate and yellow Labs were less common (I’ll explain the genetics below) and yellow or brown puppies were often culled at birth!
Nowadays most Labs are companion dogs, and yellow and chocolate Labs are no longer considered undersirable. And this popular dog breed has now spread across the world.
Red Fox English Lab vs American Lab
In the 1970s the trend in yellow Labradors swung to pale cream colors. Especially in the show and companion dog community. A pool of dark yellow or fox red Labs remained popular in the sporting dog community. Possibly because a pale dog, easier for wildfowl to spot, is not an ideal hunting companion.
During the middle of the twentieth century in the UK, the Labrador breed became divided into the the two types of Labradors we have today, the working type we refer to as American Labs and the show type we refer to as English Labs. As red Labs were more popular with hunters, it is largely from the pool of working retrievers that we now have the stunning fox red Labrador Retrievers that we see today.
Red American Type Labs
Because they are often American type Labs, red Labs may be taller and more athletic in appearance than the paler yellow Labs.
American Labs have a slimmer build, with narrower heads and chests than show Labs. They have a stronger prey drive, and are a little less forward and playful.
Red Fox Lab Temperament
Many red Labs will have the friendliness and outgoing personality typically associated with Labs. An abundance of intelligence, a sensitive nature, and a spirit of co-operation make this an easy breed for you to train.
But, the sensitivity of the fox red Lab can in some cases spill over into reactivity. Including nervousness, and fear of strangers. These traits can sometimes appear in your dog even after thorough socialization. So it’s important you make careful choices when looking for a breeder.
English Red Fox Lab
If you want a typical English lab with the stocky body and blocky head, you’ll need to look for a dog with a show background, or at least some show blood in their pedigree.
Fox red Labs are mainly the preserve of the working retriever community, so you may find it a little more difficult to get an English fox red lab puppy.
Breeding Darker Red Fox Lab Puppies
Many of the fox red Labs we see today are darker than ever, as breeders select for deeper coat color in order to increase puppy sales.
In any yellow Labrador litter you’ll get a range of colors. Selection based on color narrows the gene pool available to the breeder. With pressure on breeders to select darker individuals for breeding stock, there’s a risk that health credentials, performance credentials, and temperament get pushed into second place.
Breeding puppies of a particular shade of yellow, is also complex, because of the mechanism of inheritance.
Fox Red Lab Genetics – Black & Brown First
Genetics can be complicated, but I find it helpful to think of a Labrador as a basically black dog. Black is the default color. The black coat is caused by a pair of genes called the B genes
- Your dog inherits one from their mother and one from their father – in a pair – like this: BB
- B genes come in big or little versions. So your black dog could have a pair like this: Bb
- Little b carries the code necessary to make a brown coat instead of a black one. BUT, big B is dominant and switches off little b.
- So little b only gets a say, if two of them get together like this: bb. When that happens, you get a chocolate Lab!
Red Fox Lab Puppies Are Genetically Yellow
To get a fox red lab, you need to switch off the black and brown coat color genes. This is done by two e genes. They also come in a pair like this: ee.
A yellow dog is still basically black or brown, but when the two little ee genes get together they have the amazing power to block the effects of the B genes on fur color.
A lab with two little ee genes cannot have a brown or a black coat and so the coat color now defaults to yellow. Now we are getting closer to our fox red color.
E genes can also be big like this: EE or mixed like this: Ee, but when that happens the big E switches off the little e, and takes away its power. This renders the little e gene useless and it can’t then in turn switch off the brown or black coat color.
So you’ll get a black or brown dog unless those two little ee genes get together to switch off the B genes and give you a yellow dog.
Yellow vs Red Fox Lab Coats
A red Lab is a variation of yellow, and every red dog has those two essential little e genes that switch off black and brown. But then it starts to get a little bit more complicated.
It centers on a pigment called pheomelanin. This pigment is responsible for the depth of red coloring in the yellow lab’s coat. And it is controlled by two more sets of genes.
Red Fox Lab Genes
The A gene controls the production of the red color. And the C gene controls whether or not it is fully expressed. These two different pairs of genes interact together to give us a range of different shades, from pale cream to rich fox red.
It isn’t just a question of switching the red color on or off. In fact, I am over-simplifying things.
Dogs have other genes involved in coat color, some of which affect the Labrador. Genes, for example, that control areas of darker shading which can cause that ‘saddle’ pattern on some yellow dogs. But let’s not go there today!
Remember, you’ll only see the effects of the interaction of these more complex genes involved in producing your lovely fox red lab if the ee genes are present as a pair.
Fox Red Lab Breeders
Finding a nice fox red stud dog and making a list of recent matings is a good starting point. Color is not the top priority for a responsible breeder so you are unlikely to find a good breeder who only breeds fox reds.
No breeder can guarantee you the final color of your puppy. In most yellow litters there will be a range of shades. Puppies may darken as they grow, or they may not.
For your pup to have the best chance of growing up healthy, both parents must have good hip and elbow scores and a clear eye test, as well as a PRA clear certificate. Check with your veterinarian for a further list of current tests required for Labs as these increase and change over time
Red Fox Lab Puppy Prices
Fashionably colored dogs can be expensive, and this is happening to some extent with reds. My advice is to be wary of paying an unusually high price for a red Lab puppy. An unscrupulous breeder may be cutting corners on health or other important matters.
Most respected breeders sell puppies of different colors for the same price irrespective of color, and a healthy pup from a well established breeder is usually your best option.
Fox Red Labrador Puppies
Fox red Lab puppies are noticeably darker at birth than the average yellow Lab. Here is my dog Bella’s litter soon after they were born.
This shade darkens over the first few weeks.
By three weeks old your puppy is starting to look more like a Labrador.
By the time you take them home at 8 weeks old they will have that lovely fox red shade.
Your brand new 8 week old red Lab puppy will need frequent meals, close supervision, and plenty of socialization. Those first few weeks can be busy ones. You’ll find lots of resources on this website to help and support you as you raise your new puppy.
Exercising Your Puppy
Exercise is important, but small puppies don’t need long walks. Start off with no more than a few minutes of formal exercise a day from about three months of age. And work up to any big walks or runs very gradually over time. Check out our puppy exercise page for more information
More about Labrador Types and Colors!
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website