Your 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. Yet you cannot tell if you have a purebred dog by looking. Purebred dog characteristics will match well with the breed standard, but so could those of a lucky mixed breed.
Your purebred dog might have unusual markings or a coat color that isn’t standard, but still be 100% the real deal. Pedigree dog certificates and paperwork are a sign you have a purebred dog. However, forgeries aren’t usual and dishonest dog breeders do sometimes pretend litters of puppies come from a different mating to their genuine mother and father. The only surefire sign of a purebred dog is a DNA test.
Is My Dog Purebred?
Purebred dogs can be identified in three possible ways:
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.
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.
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 her 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.
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. 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.
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.
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