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