Purebred Dog Identification

purebred lab

You cannot tell if you have a purebred dog by looking. A purebred dog’s appearance might match the breed standard, but it might not. I give an example below, of one of my own Labradors that does not meet the breed standard, despite having an impeccable pedigree.

And in the same way, it is entirely possible for mixed breed dog to look purebred if they meet the breed standard. I give an example below.

A purebred dog comes from parents that are both registered members of the same breed. Purebred dog breeds have a lineage that has been selected for generations to have certain personality and physical characteristics. But breeding is not an exact science and there is plenty of scope for variation.

Your purebred dog might have unusual markings or a coat color that isn’t standard, but still be 100% the real deal. So if appearance isn’t enough to go on, how else can we ensure our dogs are purebred? I explain what your options are below, and look at some of the interesting variations that we find within the Labrador breed.


Is My Dog Purebred?

Purebred dogs can be identified in three possible ways:

  • Can you tell by looking?
  • Pedigree papers
  • DNA testing

Looking For Purebred Dog Characteristics?

Purebred dog characteristics are not a certainty when it comes to identification. 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 dog purebred? The question is very often accompanied by photographs, or detailed descriptions of the characteristics of the dog.

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 Dog Characteristics

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 breed standard. I don’t usually give these kinds of assessments because the value of them is so limited. It doesn’t really prove anything, it just tells the owner that I think their dogs has the look of a purebred Lab.

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. My own yellow Labs are a dark redish color, while Labs from show lines are often paler. 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.

Purebred Dog That Looks Like A Hybrid?

Visual assessments of purebred dogs 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 dog that doesn’t fit the breed standard, and a crossbreed that looks like the breed standard says a purebred 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.


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 my girl down as a crossbreed.

Example 2 – Mix That Looks Like a Purebred Dog

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.

purebred lab

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.

Purebred Dog Colors

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.

Do purebred Labs have white on them?

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. 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. My own red Lab’s mother had one, and a few white hairs on toes or under the chin are not unusual either. One of the puppies in a litter I bred had two white toes. This was a purebred litter with a great pedigree. 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.

Purebred Dog Pedigree Papers

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.


Pedigree Papers Have Limitations

If you have the correct pedigree papers, then your puppy is probably a purebred dog. I say probably because there is room for dishonesty with this system. It is possible for a dishonest stud dog owner to mate his female dog 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.

How to tell if your puppy is full blooded by DNA Identification

It is now possible to have some dogs DNA checked for identification purposes. There are various laboratories offering this service.

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.

Purebred Dog Identification

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 purebred dog. Here is what I suggest you do:

How To Know If A Puppy Is Purebred Before Buying

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.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson(paid link)

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.

After Buying Your Purebred 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 dog, 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.

is my dog purebred

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


  1. I bought a Choc lab and knew was without papers so unlikely to be a purebred despite what the breeder thought and I didn’t really care. I did Embark DNA test for breed and over 200 genetic abnormalities including ones known to b common for breed. Test negative and got breed results if 75% Labrador, 10% Rottweiler and 15% super mutt with 3 likely breed contributors to that category. Although expensive I found it helpful for me and shared with breeder 😉 Dog is now heavier than test predicted but all muscle so far…

  2. Hello let’s start with, I just simply put,
    (*”I LOVE YOUR ARTICLES”*) I have a Beautiful black and golden lab who looks like a long haired black golden retriever with highlights of red in her main, I know the father who is the golden and I own the mother who is solid black (and by the way she is currently 18 and a half years old) Now I’m very curious about my baby girl, She is seven years old and has 5 large black spots on her tongue?No Chow in her background this is the designer tongue they say bread down from the Newfoundland which is the Adam and Eve to the labrador breed what could possibly be your input to this thank you for your most appreciated help

  3. I recently purchased a AKC Black Lab previously from the same breeder I got a Chocolate Lab same parents on both labs. My new puppy which is 14 weeks old started showing a Mahogany color on the head and ears and a white band on his tail. The parents of the puppy father chocolate and mother solid black have puppies of all three colors. After talking with breeder they state they’ve never had this to happen. I’m just confused this has had to happen before..

    • Recessive gene that each parent possessed but it was only expressed once=your dog😍
      Can skip many generations, so may not have ever “happened before” as far as the breeder knows or anyone, for decades.

  4. I have purchased a puppy for 1200dollars …she was suppose to be an English lab. I had my first English lab for 12 years ..she was a gentle,kind girl. The puppy I recently purchased has a thinner face ..coat is not heavy ..she is very mean spirited and barks and bites constantly. I feel she is a mix..can you help me?

  5. Unfortunately, confirmation of purity CANNOT be made by pedigrees any longer. Too many people falsely document parentage for litters and clubs like the AKC do not verify. I have a pup from two AKC pedigreed parents (supposedly purebred labs) that came back 11% boxer!

  6. 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!🐾🐾

  7. 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

  8. 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.

    • There are different types of labs sounds like yours in more American and the other ones your seeming are English? Or a mix of both as mine are. If you google each lab you will see the difference. I think there’s even a 3rd one there all use for different purposes.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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!

  12. 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!

  13. 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) ?❤️