Purebred Lab Or Not? How Can You Tell If Your Labrador Is Pure Bred?

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purebred lab

There are three main methods you can use to determine if your dog is a purebred Lab. These are a visual assessment, a DNA test, and pedigree papers.

Visual assessments are the least accurate, as they only compare a dog to the official breed standard. If you’re trying to figure out if you have a purebred black Lab, visual assessments won’t help!

Pedigree papers or a DNA test are the best way to tell if you have a pure bred Labrador.

Read on to learn more about these methods and how to identify a pure breed Labrador puppy.

Is My Dog Purebred?

Worried that your dog might not be a purebred Lab? Not sure if your Labrador is a genuine pedigree dog? This is the article you need to read.

There are several ways that you can attempt to discover whether or not your Labrador is a purebred pedigree dog:

Click the links above to jump straight to more information about each of these methods. Or keep scrolling for our full guide.

Visual Assessments

I have a steady stream of people coming to my forum, posting questions in the comments boxes at the foot of my articles, and writing emails to ask: is my Labrador purebred?

The question is very often accompanied by photographs, or detailed descriptions of the dog in question.

A visual assessment is what most of my readers are hoping I will give them when they send me photographs.

So what exactly is a visual assessment of a purebred Labrador?

purebred lab

Visual Assessment of Pedigree or Purity

A visual assessment of pedigree involves looking at a dog and comparing his appearance with the breed standard.

This involves a detailed knowledge of the pure bred Labrador breed standard.

So, let’s take a quick look at that before diving into some examples.

Purebred Lab Breed Standard

Breed standards vary slightly from one country to the next. So, here, we will just be focusing on the AKC breed standard.

This standard says that a purebred Labrador Retriever should weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, growing to between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall.

The three recognized colors are yellow, black, and chocolate. But, yellow is accepted in a variety of shades.

Dilute colors and mismarks can be AKC registered but are disqualified from the show ring.

Other key physical traits include a short, dense coat, an otter tail, broad skull, and “kind” eyes.

To read more on the purebred Lab breed standard, take a look at this article.

Visual Assessment Examples

Visual assessments of pure bred Labradors aren’t always accurate.

I want to give you a couple of examples to illustrate the problems involved with this approach.

So, let’s look at a purebred Lab that doesn’t fit the breed standard, and a crossbreed that looks like the breed standard says a pure bred Labrador should.

Example 1 – Purebred But Doesn’t Look It

One of the Labradors in my home bears little resemblance to the breed standard. She has a thin, whippy tail with an upwards curve, overlong ears and a long narrow face.

pedigree-labrador

These features, combined with her ginger coat mean that very few people recognize her as a Labrador at all.

I have been asked if she is a Vizsla cross, a Lab x Greyhound, and other unlikely combinations.

In fact this purebred Labrador Retriever has an impeccable pedigree full of noble ancestors with famous names.

But if someone made a visual assessment from a photo of her, unless they were familiar with working line Labs, they might well put her down as a crossbreed.

Example 2 – Crossbred But Looks Like a Lab

I have a friend with a Labrador X Pointer that looks for all the world like a classic Labrador. The father is a show line lab, and his looks have dominated in this particular dog.

A visual assessment would wrongly put him in the purebred category when he is actually no such thing

Mixed breeds like this can inherit any blend of traits from their parents. So, crossbreeds can look just like a purebred Lab, even though they aren’t.

Are Visual Assessments Any Good?

I hope you can see from these examples how worthless visual assessments usually are.

While I can point out that your dog may have faults that will eliminate him from the show ring, I cannot possibly tell you whether or not he is purebred by looking at him.

Obviously if he looks like a chihuahua then your best guess and my best guess is that he is a chihuahua, rather than a pure bred Labrador.

But no-one can make this kind of judgement based on a white patch, or the shape of your dog’s nose. Or by the set of his ears.

Can You Tell From Color?

Can you tell if you have a purebred black Lab or a purebred chocolate Lab from their color alone?

Unfortunately the answer here is no. Labs aren’t the only dogs that come in the colors yellow, chocolate, and black.

So, a mixed breed could easily have a solid coat in one of these colors.

Visual assessments won’t be able to tell you if you have a purebred black Lab or a purebred chocolate Lab, just that they are that color.

Purebred Lab Puppies Can be Mismarked

The current Labrador breed standard is very clear on what a purebred Labrador should look like. But not all Labradors meet that standard.

Sometimes a mismark (a mark that is prohibited in the breed standard) occurs because the Labrador isn’t purebred.

brindle-markings

But equally a mismark can occur in purebred Labrador Retriever puppies too.

Common Lab Mismarkings

Big white chest patches are fairly common in mismarked Labs.

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My own red Lab’s mother had one, and a few white hairs on toes or under the chin are not unusual either.

It is even possible to get a purebred Labrador with tan points (like a rottweiler) or patches of brindle fur.

These types of puppies are genetic accidents and the puppies are usually sold as pets to owners who appreciate their unusual friend.

Okay, so if visual assessments don’t help you determine whether or not your dog is pure Labrador, what about pedigree papers?

Pedigree Papers for Purebred Labs

If you buy a purebred dog, the breeder should give you the registration document with the names of both parents.

Most breeders will also give you a copy of the pedigree which lists the ancestors of those parents, together with any titles they may have, back through five generations.

If the breeder does not give you a copy of the pedigree he must give you the registration document. You can then order a pedigree document from the KC when you have transferred the registered ownership of your puppy from the breeder to you.

There is usually a small fee for this and another fee for a fancy copy of the pedigree. Check out this link for more information on puppy paperwork.

purebred

Pedigree Papers Have Limitations

If you have the correct pedigree papers, then your dog is probably a pure Labrador. I say probably because there is room for dishonesty with this system.

It is possible for a dishonest stud dog owner to mate his bitch to one stud dog and register the puppies to another.

So, pedigree papers are a good indication of pedigree, and sufficient for most people’s needs, but they are not an absolute guarantee.

Which brings us to our final method, DNA identification.

DNA Identification

It is now possible to have some dogs DNA checked for identification purposes. Labradors are one of the breeds for which this test is now available.

dna-testThere are various laboratories offering this service and you can even buy a test kit on Amazon.

The laboratory will examine the sample you send in.

It will look at hundreds of individual sites within the DNA and compare these with a database of thousands of breed samples to determine your dog’s ancestry.

You’ll need to send your dog’s sample in the form of a cheek swab. You’ll find instructions when you purchase your kit.

How to Identify Pure Breed Labrador Puppy Dogs

So, to sum up, as visual confirmation of pure breeding is not possible, you need to use pedigree papers, and/or DNA results to confirm whether or not you have a pure Labrador.

Here is what I suggest you do:

Before Buying a Puppy

If your heart is set on a purebred dog, before you purchase your puppy make sure the paperwork is in order. This greatly reduces the chances of your dog being cross bred.

Ask to see the registration documents! Do not accept any excuses, your breeder must have registered the litter in order for you to be able to register your puppy.

Meet the mother and make sure that you like the way she looks. If you can’t meet the father make sure you see photos and a certificate of mating that confirms he is actually the father.

If the puppies have markings on them that you don’t like, then don’t buy a puppy. There is always another litter. Let someone else who loves unusual markings buy that puppy.

It is possible to find a purebred black Lab with white markings, or a purebred chocolate Lab with brindling.

Remember, the only problem with buying a mismatched puppy is that you won’t be able to enter him in a dog show. If that doesn’t matter to you, it certainly won’t matter to him.

  

is my dog purebred

After Buying Your Puppy

Once you have purchased your puppy try not to worry about whether or not he is purebred.

Remember that many purebred dogs have mismarks or poor conformation, so if you have pedigree papers for him, he is probably purebred no matter what he looks like.

Try to ignore any other people that criticize your purebred Lab, or try to convince you he is not a purebred.

After all, the most important thing is that your dog is happy, healthy, and a great addition to your family.

Curious About Your Dog’s Ancestry?

If you know your dog is a cross breed and you want to know more about his ancestry or what type of dogs his parents were, you can get a DNA identification carried out.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

You can buy a test kit from Amazon which contains instructions and equipment for taking a cheek swab and for sending it off to a laboratory to be analyzed.

The test is now available for many breeds of dog including the Labrador Retriever.

Accepting Your Dog

In my personal view it does not matter whether or not your dog is purebred. Or even whether he looks purebred. This is just a formality.

Don’t let doubts spoil your pleasure in your dog.

He doesn’t care where you come from, or where you are going, as long as he can come with you.

Enjoy him for what he is. Your dog, and your best friend, through good times and bad.

Do You Have a Purebred Lab?

Have you used one of these methods to find out if you have a purebred Lab? Let us know about your results in the comments below!

We would love to hear about your puppies.

References and Resources

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

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Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of several books on dogs. She is the founder of the Labrador Site and a regular contributor. She is passionate about helping people enjoy their Labradors and lives in Hampshire with her husband and four dogs.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Both my chocolate and my black are supposedly “purebred” labs.As I am no expert and have no intention of showing them…ever, it doesn’t matter!I love my girls to the moon n back whether they come from a noble line or aliens!!!In my mind that is what doggy ownership is about.Unconditional love, friendship and companionship!🐾🐾

  2. Hai i am raj here, currently i juz bougth a puppy for the 1 month ago.. his weigth was about 4kg ( aprox of 1 1/2 month old) and now he already 3 months ( 9.3kg) i am not so sure either he is a lab or a lab mix, he loves playing water.. love chasing around my ducks.. controls a medium dog of mine which is 6 years old (15 kg) . Have ears facing downwards. Easy to train . I have seen the dog dad.. which is big and have the same resemblance as a labador

  3. HELLO,
    I’m from India. And I’m having problem with identifying my black lab is pure or not. He has full black coat without any mark or patches. His ears are hanging in downward position close to the head. But the main difference I see in my lab is that. He has a very long tail as compared to other lab. Found else where in my surrounding. It has long tail with broad at base and sharp pointed towards the end. This is something that is annoying me when I see the other lab puppies. And it also has narrow mouth. She is currently getting 3months old with good height and weight of about 5kg measured when she was 2 and half months old..

    Please help me.

  4. hi , ive just had a litter out of a FTCH WHO IS KC REGISTERED , my bitch is also pure and was bred by myself i have her mother and owned her grand mother and great grandmother original line always came from FTCH ALONG WITH SIRES on both sides, so full pure bred dominant black.
    one of the pups has a mixture of grey white and black on the inside of her back leg progressing down and comming slightly over her back foot. her back appears to be black but in natural light under the sun she looks greyish . could she be the result of the Dd gene ??

  5. We have a Lab / Golden mix and he is beautiful. He was a rescue. We thought there may be hound so we did the DNA test and it came back Lab/Golden mix and mixed breed 4 generations back.They say they can’t go back that far it was a blood test from the vet sent out. It was a waste of almost $300.

  6. I want to know if the AKC Labrador mates with her fathers brother all so AKC is there puppies going to be as good as the mom
    And are they ok to mate with a different AKC lab line
    Thanks hope you can help in this

  7. Our breeder lets you meet the puppies at 4 weeks but you cannot have the pups until they are at least 8 weeks old. You see the mother and father at that visit. Our chocolate lab looks just like her father who was chocolate and our black lab features are like her father although he was yellow. If you want a purebred then pay for a purebred and see where the dogs came from. If you don’t care then don’t pay less than breeders prices and then wonder afterwards. Like you say, the dogs don’t care what you look like…..cause most of us are crossbreeds!

  8. Yes! Ours is a lab/ St. bernard…90lbs. He’s gorgeous with soft black fur and a white chest… Look online at them. Theres many with everyone saying this has been their best dog EVER! Our best dog BABY EVER!

  9. We have a ‘rescue’ black lab who is utterly gorgeous – we have no idea of her history and no papers to prove she is a pure Labrador. She looks like a Labrador but one thing everyone remarks on is that she is ENORMOUS – about the height of a German Shepherd. She is really beautiful and everyone she meets is very taken with her and thinks she is a very handsome dog. We don’t mind a bit if she is a crossbreed but I am curious to know if you can get a pure bred Labrador as big as her

    • I also have a rescue ‘lab’ who is enormous! Both the vet at the rescue centre and my own vet are certain he is a lab but he is now a healthy weight and still weighs 44kg…he was morbidly obese when I rescued him and 57kg ? I don’t care what he is as one thing is for sure, he is the best dog I could ever wish for (even if he is the size of a small bear) ?❤️

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