Silver Lab – The Facts About Silver Labrador Retrievers

silver lab

Welcome to our extensive article on the silver Lab! Best selling author Pippa Mattinson investigates the controversy over silver Labradors and digs down to the facts!

Find out the truth about your silver Lab, where silver Labs come from, how to buy a healthy silver Labrador Retriever puppy, and why people can’t stop fighting over them!

Silver Labradors are one of the most controversial topics being discussed within the dog community today.

Along with the purebred vs mixed breed debate, this pale chocolate Lab is the cause of most of the arguments among canine contemporaries.

silver labs

What’s The Problem With Silver Labs?

You might not realize it if you aren’t immersed in the world of pedigree dogs, but many people believe that the silver Lab is not a true Labrador Retriever.

The general thought is that, in order to gain the dilute color, they were mixed with another breed.

In fact, people have been arguing about these unusual gray Labradors for a decade or more. In some ways we seem no closer to reaching any conclusions.

But are the claims true?

Many breeders of Labrador Retrievers consider these silver dogs to be a disaster for the breed.

Yet many Labrador owners across the world have fallen in love with these unusual pets.

The Silver Lab Arguments Continue

The arguments are not likely to go away anytime soon.

But there are a few things that we know for sure. And we’ll look at these in-depth in this article.

You can jump to some of the most interesting aspects of the discussion using the links in the menu above.

We’ll be studying what is actually known about silver or gray Labs.

Regardless of the controversy surrounding them, we’ll take a look at facts that are scientifically based, rather than fueled by emotions.

But we’ll also be looking at the different opinions of those that love them, and those that hate them!

Coat Color Basics

Extensive research has been done over the years on what determines a certain coat color in a dog.

So when it comes to basic origins silver Labs can easily be pin-pointed.

We’ll start by looking at Labrador coat color as laid down and recognized by international kennel clubs in their breed standards.

Interestingly, officially there are just three colors of Lab.
So where does this fourth silver Lab come in?

Aren’t There Only Three AKC Labrador Colors?

There are three different colors of Labrador recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Those colors are:

Missing from the list, you’ll notice, are:

That’s because the story doesn’t end there.

Although silver is not a recognized color for the show ring, it doesn’t necessarily mean a silver Lab isn’t “registered” with the AKC.

I’ll explain in a moment. Let’s look more closely at what is allowed and what is not.

What About White Patches?

We do sometimes find white patches on Labradors, but strictly speaking, Labradors are supposed to be solid in color.

Any patch of different color, apart from a small spot of white on the chest, is considered a mismark.

You can find out more about mismarks and their implications for purebred Labradors here.

So, to fall within the breed standard, a Labrador has to be one of those three basic solid colors: brown, yellow, or black, give or take a tiny spot of white.

Within yellow Labs there is a wide range of “acceptable” shades. These range from the palest cream to rich dark fox red Labradors.

But up until recently there has been no such variety of shades in black Labs or chocolate Labradors, apart from a very small variation in how dark or rich a shade the chocolate dogs may have.

Gray/silver Lab coats were not found within the breed.

But all of that has changed.

Beautiful Silver Lab Phoebe
Silver Lab Phoebe – by kind permission of Courtney Woods Carr

What Is A Silver Lab?

Silver Labs look just like any other Labrador, but with a very different coat color.

What is described as silver is in fact a dilute version of the chocolate color.

“Dilute” is a commonly used term for animals. It refers to a gene that causes the color of an animal to show in a lighter variation.

We’ll discuss the science behind it, especially when it comes to silver Labs, a little further on.

The main giveaway of a dilute dog is the color of the nose and eyes.

For silver Labradors, the extent of the dilution varies, so some seem more gray, some more silver, and others on the borderline of chocolate.

Silver Lab lying in long grass

Disagreements On Silver Labradors

You will often hear people say, “There is no such thing as a silver Labrador.”

However, there is no doubt that these dogs exist, in the sense that there are certainly dogs that look like Labrador Retrievers, have Labrador Retriever pedigree papers, and are silver in color.

We can all agree on that.

The confusing part of the issue is whether or not a silver Labrador is truly a Labrador, purebred, through and through.

This is what gets people so excited.

What Does a Silver Lab Look Like?

Instead of the strong original coat color, the silver Labrador has a paler and quite distinctly different shade of fur.

When this “dilution” of color occurs in a chocolate Labrador, his brown coat is lightened and subtly changed to the silver color that gets so many people’s blood boiling.

The color of the silver Lab has a more gray or metallic appearance.

It is a lot like that of a Weimaraner, because the same gene is responsible.

This dilute color occurs in some other breeds too.

But Weimaraners have been silver for generations. Silver Labradors, on the other hand, are a relatively new phenomenon.

Although they appear to be all Lab to most, some people claim that their ears can look longer and make akin to that of a Weimaraner too.

Which is where some of the controversy grows…

When Did Silver Labs First Appear?

When such a dramatically different shade of coat appears in a long-established breed of dog, it’s only natural that people start asking questions about it.

People want to know where silver Labradors came from and how they were created.

silver labs and the controversy that surrounds them

So let’s trek back to the Lab’s beginnings.

The very first Labrador Retrievers were predominantly black.

You may hear people say that chocolate and yellow Labradors are a more recent addition to the Labrador family.

This is sometimes used as an argument in support of silver being a natural part of the Labrador genome.

After all, if the other two colors could remain hidden for so long, why not silver?

Silver Labs Compared To Other Colors

Yellow and chocolate Labradors have been recorded since the late 1800s.

We are confident that the genes that cause the yellow and brown colors have always existed within the Labrador breed. But dogs this color were rare for decades.

You can read about how these genes work in chocolate Labradors in my in-depth article on chocolate Labs.

So why is it that the other colors didn’t grow in popularity until the 1900s? The simple answer is that dogs that weren’t black weren’t considered desirable and fashionable.

No-one bred from them, and sadly they were probably often culled. Over time, people’s views changed. First yellows, and later chocolates, became popular.

silver labrador puppy

Timeline Of The Silver Lab

What about silver Lab origins?

Reports of silver Labradors seem to have first appeared in the United States in the 1950s. Obviously, this was much later than chocolate and yellow.

Exactly how this new color came to be is a question that many people are asking, and arguing about.

Did It Appear Or Was It Created?

Those who cannot believe that this new color occurred naturally believe this time discrepancy is proof that the color was introduced into the breed under false pretenses.

Not everyone agrees with them.

And the capacity of “rare” genes to remain hidden for long periods of time is a phenomenon that most scientists are aware of.

Culo Silver Labs was one of the early kennels to produce this new silver color.

You may be interested to read this report of an interview with the owner Dean Crist giving his account of the history of the silver Lab.

While the exact timing is shrouded in mystery, we do know more about the science aspect.

Genetically, we know exactly what causes the silver color. Let’s have a look.

What Causes The Gray Lab’s Silver Coat?

To understand the arguments and controversy surrounding these dogs, we need to understand how the silver coat color is created.

And now, for the science!

As we mentioned earlier, it’s all about dilution.

Labrador coat color is controlled by a set of genes. You can read about the way B genes and E genes influence coat color in this article on Labrador color inheritance.

However, the silver color is controlled by a different gene, the D gene. The D gene acts as a type of switch.

One type, “big D,” switches coat color to full strength, and the other type, or “little d” switches it to dilute.

But remember, genes come in pairs. And big D overrides little d.

So unless little d is paired with another little d, it will have no effect.

Other Dogs, Other Colors

Weimaraners all have two of the little d genes.

In the same way, the appearance of the double little d gene in chocolate Labradors is what has enabled the silver Lab to appear on the scene.

The dilute gene in the Labrador Retriever does not only produce silver dogs.

The color of the dog with a dilution gene depends on the base color to begin with.

And the gene is not confined to chocolates.

Are Champagne Labradors Like Silver Labs?

When a yellow Lab has two little d genes, his or her coat is diluted to a color that has been described as “champagne.”

Just like in chocolate Labradors, the yellow Lab can also be a carrier of the dilute gene.

Having only one d gene won’t change his coat, but he will be able to pass that gene on to his offspring.

Coat color dilution is not always easy to identify in a champagne Labrador Retriever.

This is because we are accustomed to seeing yellow Labs in quite a range of colors, from palest cream to a rich fox red.

But once you have seen a champagne Labrador, you’ll appreciate the subtle difference.

And What About Charcoal Labradors?

Finally, black Labradors can also have the little d coat color dilution gene.

This produces a color that has been called “charcoal.” It is quite a subtle and slightly silvery effect, but it’s slightly easier to identify than champagne.

If there is any doubt, there is a way to determine for certain what the genetic makeup of any Labrador is.

A simple genetic, or DNA, test will identify carriers of the dilute gene.

The question we need to answer is not so much, “How is the silver coat caused?” but more importantly, “How did the dilution gene get into the Labrador breed?”

Opponents of the silver Lab claim that it simply was not there a hundred years ago. But is this true?

Is it completely impossible that the silver gene arrived on the scene without any mischief on the part of Labrador breeders?

I believe it is possible. Let’s find out why.

Where Did Silver Labs Really Come From?

There are two ways that a new gene could appear in a closed register of pedigree dogs.

  • Spontaneous genetic mutation
  • Outcrossing

Genes can mutate. We know that.

For a mutation that occurred spontaneously to create a new gray Labrador coat color would be unusual, but not impossible.

For the mutation to be identical to a gene that already exists for an unusual coat color in another breed would be something of a coincidence.

So what about outcrossing?

Is A Silver Lab Really Just A Weimaraner Mix?

The fact is, the dilution gene found in Labradors now is the exact same gene that gives us the coat dilution in Weimaraners.

Many people feel that the spontaneous appearance of this dd dilution gene in the Labrador Retriever gene pool is, to say the least, unlikely.

Diane Welle of Blue Knight Labs does not go quite so far as to directly accuse the breeders concerned but points out

[T]here have been accusations that these “rare” silver Labradors are actually a cross between a Labrador and a Weimaraner. I will let you be the judge, as there is no evidence at this time, one way or the other.However, it is interesting to note that Silver Labradors can be traced back to two breeders. Those breeders are Dean Crist (Culo) and Beaver Creek Labradors. Both of their lines trace back to Kellogg kennels (LE Kellogg and Harold E Kellogg) Kellogg Kennels began breeding Labradors in 1922. Guess what else they’re famous for breeding? They’re credited for the ‘rare’ pointing Labrador of course!

Her point is that ‘pointing’ is, of course, an HPR (hunt point retriever) trait, and Weimaraners are HPRs.

An update to her original article, however, also notes that she previously claimed that Weimaraners were also bred in those same kennels, but found out that that fact was in doubt.

Those in favor of the Weimaraner outcross theory often claim silvers have a houndy look about them.

To be fair, this is true of many field-bred Labradors of any color.

And while this may have been true in the early days of the silver Lab, most silver Labs today look pretty much the same as any other Labrador – apart from the fact that they are silver.

Do Silver Labs Have A Previously Hidden Gene?

There is a third option, of course.

That is that the silver gene was there all along in a few dogs and that only recently has the chance meeting between two recessive genes carried by their descendants occurred.

“But surely,” you cry, “that is most unlikely!”

Well, actually, it isn’t as unlikely as we might think.

Beautiful young silver lab galloping towards his master, unaware of the controversy that surrounds his ancestry

The accidental pairing of two unusual genes to create new genetic blueprints in an individual dog is not that rare at all.

And it is becoming more common in pedigree dogs, as they become more inbred.

Gene Pools In Pedigree Dogs

All pedigree gene pools shrink over time once registers are close because no new genetic material can ever be added.

Over time, there is a natural and constant loss of genetic material.

This is how rare diseases can spring up seemingly out of nowhere.

We also need to consider that Labradors were not always purebred pedigree dogs.

Mixed breeding was common many years ago.

It is likely that there was mixed breeding between Labs and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers on more than one occasion in the past!

(Chesapeake Bay Retrievers also carry the dilute gene.)

Is A Silver Lab A Purebred Dog?

But what does all this mean for the owner of a silver Lab today?

Are their dogs purebred or not?

Some opponents of silver Labradors will claim that silver colored Labradors cannot be registered as pedigree dogs, but at the time of writing, this is not true.

In order to be recognized as purebred, a breed or a dog belonging to that breed must be registered with the appropriate kennel club.

In the USA, this is the American Kennel Club, or AKC.

So, Are Silver Labs AKC Recognized?

Many silver Labradors have been registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC).

They have been registered, not as silver but as chocolate. Silver labs are not a permitted color under the Labrador breed standard.

So although these silver dogs are registered and recognized as being true Labradors, the color itself is not recognized in its own right.

The dogs are registered under the color that the dog would have been without the dilute gene.

You do still find people disputing this and claiming that a silver Labrador cannot be registered with the AKC, even if both parents are registered pedigree Labs.

But this is not true.

I have personally seen an email from the AKC stating that silver Labrador puppies should be registered as chocolate.

Many Labrador breeders were outraged by the AKC’s acceptance of these dogs as pedigree.

Some of these people have campaigned vigorously to oppose the registration of silver Labradors in any shape or form.

What Do Kennel Clubs Say About Silver Labs?

Five years ago there was a great deal of confusion over this issue.

More recently, though, several kennel clubs and breed clubs have clarified their views on silver Labradors.

You can find some of these statements in the links below:

There are also campaigns and petitions underway to try and stop the AKC in the USA from registering silver Labrador puppies at all.

If you enjoy your Labradors, silver or otherwise, and don’t care much about coat color, you might well wonder what all the fuss is about.

Where did all this bad feeling over a difference in color come from?

There are a number of reasons that many Labrador breeders oppose the breeding and selling of gray Lab puppies. Here are some of them.

Reasons For Opposing Silver Labradors

Many breeders of Labradors strongly object to the production of silver puppies for a number of reasons:

  • They feel that it threatens the purity of the breed
  • They’re concerned about inbreeding
  • They object to false claims of “rare” and “unique”
  • They’re concerned that silver breeders are dishonest about the origins of the silver Labrador
  • They feel that silver Labs are overpriced
  • They’re concerned about health issues

There are various websites where you can read about the campaigns opposing silver Labradors – here is one of them.

Let’s have a look at a few of those reasons we just listed, in more detail.

Do Silver Labradors Threaten The Purity Of The Labrador Breed?

Some might say that pedigree Labrador breeders are worried about the competition in terms of sales from those producing silver puppies, but I suspect this is not often the case.

Most Labrador breeders care very deeply about the future of their breed.

Some are concerned about the impact of accepting a genetic change without what they feel to be proper consideration.

Pedigree breeders are also commonly committed to the concept of closed registry breeding.

So they are angry that there seems to have been a dishonest Trojan horse operation to sneak what may be an outcross into the breed line.

Preserving Closed Registers

Most Labrador breeders are in favor of a permanently closed register, preventing outcrossing between different breeds.

So they object strongly to what they see as tampering with tradition and the contamination of the Labrador gene pool.

But with so many concerns being raised over the last few years about closed registry breeding, this is a contentious subject with strong opinions on both sides.

Many scientists are hugely concerned about the restricted gene pools created by pedigrees.

They would like to see them opened, at least in a controlled manner, to allow new genetic material to enter.

However, for those in favor of maintaining breed purity in pedigree breeds, and who believe that silver Labs are cross-breeds, these dogs will always be seen as a threat to breed purity.

Perhaps of more concern to the average pet owner are accusations of inbreeding in silver Labradors.

Are Silver Labradors Inbred?

In order to establish their silver lines, we could assume that breeders will initially have bred quite closely.

This means they likely mated dogs that were related to each other in order to establish the new color in their puppies.

It would at first glance seem likely, therefore, that the silver Labrador gene pool is fairly small.

And as we’ve just seen, small gene pools are bad news.

One way around this, of course, would be to accept them more widely so that their genetic diversity could be increased!

Inbreeding increases the risk of health problems arising or becoming exacerbated.

But are silver Labs particularly inbred?

Silver Labrador Inbreeding

Former Labrador breeder Jack Vanderwyk, a vehement opposer of silver Labradors, conceded in 2012 that:

Today, in 2012, many, many generations later, the ‘silver’ Labrador population has a fairly viable gene pool, with seven distinct, (almost) unrelated lines. As a result, the average COIs (Coefficient Of Inbreeding) are often not higher than those of other Labrador lines. This means that we shouldn’t underestimate the ‘silver’ population.

So it may be that inbreeding in silver Labradors will not be the problem that it once appeared to be.

But that doesn’t answer everything.

Breeders also object to what they consider to be very high prices charged by breeders of silvers.

Along the same lines, they object to what they believe are untrue claims that silver Labs are rare and unique animals.

Let’s look at that argument next.

Are Silver Labrador Breeders Dishonest?

Many mainstream Labrador breeders feel that silver Labrador breeders lack integrity.

They believe that these breeders are often dishonest about the origins of their dogs.

Woodhaven Labs make this claim in an article by breeder Sharon A. Wagner, hosted on their website:

Silver breeders also blatantly lie. They have information on their websites that talk about DNA testing done by the AKC and a researcher at UC Berkley. Both are not true. AKC never did any genetic mapping of silver Labradors nor do they have any plans to do so since they are a registering body only and the Labrador Club of America writes the standard for the breed.

At the moment the claims to rarity are true. Only a small proportion of Labradors born each year are silver.

Outside of the US, there are very few silver Labradors available at all compared with the three standard colors. So, not much dishonesty there.

Are Silver Labradors Overpriced?

Objections to so-called overpricing are common in dog breeding and not confined to the silver Lab.

The same accusations are hurled at Labradoodle breeders and Cockapoo breeders.

Many purebred pedigree dog breeders feel it is outrageous to charge large sums of money for dogs that are crossbred.

As most pedigree Labrador breeders view the silver Lab dog as a crossbreed, this too causes anger.

Others feel it is entirely reasonable to charge whatever you can get for a puppy, no matter what its ancestry, provided that it is healthy and well cared for.

This seems a more logical approach.

Surely it is the quality of the puppy that counts, not the price on his head?

And like most prices in a free world, demand is what drives prices up.

The Price Of Silver Lab Puppies

The price of your pretty gray puppy may be greater than the price of a Lab of one of the three recognized colors.

People are often willing to pay more for something they believe to be unusual.

Bear in mind that despite this high price, you won’t be able to enter your puppy into a conformation show.

And you may cause a bit of a stir if you decide to enter your silver lab puppy in a hunt test or field trial.

But are silver Labradors as healthy as Labradors in the three standard colors?

Some claim that they are not.

Silver Lab Health Issues

The color dilution gene, that dd which gives us the pale silvery coat, is sometimes associated with coat problems.

Specifically, it may be linked to a kind of hair loss.

The problem is known as “color dilution alopecia” and is more common in dogs that have the color dilution gene, dogs like Weimaraners, and now, silver Labradors.

It isn’t a life threatening condition, but it also isn’t curable. It can lead to progressive hair loss in young dogs and potentially recurrent infection in the hair follicles.

Coat dilution is, however, caused by one or more mutations within a certain gene, and does not always lead to skin problems.

Not all dogs with the dd gene carry the faulty alopecia version and most silver Labradors are, in fact, free from alopecia.

In most respects however, silver lab health is much the same as that of any purebred Labrador.

Labs do have some inherited problems that breeders should test for, including a tendency to develop hip dysplasia.

You should sure you are aware of all the relevant tests before buying a silver lab puppy.

Should You Buy A Silver Labrador?

The view that silver Labs were originally created by outcrossing one or more Labradors with a Weimaraner does seem to be persistent.

And without absolute proof one way or the other, the argument may never be resolved.

Whether or not that matters to you will depend very much on your own point of view.

Some people who own pedigree Labradors that are silver in color may feel tricked or deceived if they hear these rumors, but many won’t care.

They love their beautiful dogs and that is all that matters to them.

However, if you are thinking of buying a silver puppy, you may be uncertain about going ahead.

Where To Buy Silver Lab Puppies

It probably pays to be particularly cautious when buying a silver Lab pup.

This is not because purity of color is important in any breed of dog.

It’s because a breeder that falls “outside the fold” of the wider dog breeding community, may not meet the standards we expect of a responsible breeder.

And you definitely should only work with a responsible breeder.

Happily, breeding silver Labrador puppies is not mutually incompatible with being a responsible breeder.

But your choice of breeder is likely to be restricted because of the stigma attached to breeding silver puppies.

When you buy a Labrador of any color, your first priority needs to be health. Do check out our information on buying a healthy puppy.

Lovely Silver Lab puppy Lola - you can choose between an English silver Lab and an American silver Lab
Beautiful silver Lab puppy Lola

Remember, your breeder should have their silver Lab health tested before breeding from them.

Finding a reputable breeder that produces pedigree silver Labrador puppies from fully health tested parents may not be the easiest task, but it can be done.

Responsible Silver Lab Breeders

There is a movement underway to bring more silver Labrador breeders into the “responsible breeder” fold. An increasing proportion of silver breeders are now fully health testing all their breeding stock.

You can find out more about how to find a good Labrador breeder in this article.

Remember that a silver Labrador, if registered with a kennel club, will be registered as chocolate. Check the pedigree and health certificates very carefully.

By now you’re well aware of the ongoing controversy on these dogs. So if you decide to go ahead, be prepared to get some criticism for your decision.

There are also questions regarding the registration of silver Labs born in the future, should the battle to de-register them succeed.

This may affect those who want to breed from their dog, or who want to compete with their dog in the show ring or in obedience or field trial competitions that are only open to registered pedigree dogs.

But again, for most of you, that won’t matter.

An Uncertain Future For Silver Labradors?

The future of the gray Lab is still somewhat uncertain.

But with every year that passes, it seems less likely that they will be excluded from the gene pool of pedigree Labradors in America.

Some people feel that the jury is still out on the origins of the silver Labrador.

However, despite the availability of DNA testing, no one seems to have come forward with any evidence of Weimaraner blood in a modern purebred Lab pedigree.

My personal feeling is that this battle can’t be won, and that the portion of the Labrador community opposed to silver in Labradors is probably going to have to accept defeat.

Your Silver Lab Questions – Answered

This topic is often debated over on our Facebook page.

As many of the debates on Facebook begin by referring to this article, I think it would be helpful to have this summary, which I posted on our page, up here too.

There are two things being confused each time the topic comes up.

One is facts, the other is opinions.

So I think it might be helpful to try and separate these two things out.

Opinion one: Silver Labradors are not actually Labradors at all, they are mongrels

Some people do not agree with the AKC policy of registering dogs that carry the dilute gene.

They hold the opinion that this is wrong.

And they are of course absolutely entitled to that opinion, and to do whatever they can to persuade the AKC to change their policy.

But it is only an opinion and is not supported by strong evidence.

Fact One: The American Kennel Club does register silver Labradors

The American Kennel Club does at the moment register silver Labradors.

It registers them under the color chocolate, because most Labradors with the dilute gene are dilute chocolate.

It is however, possible to get dilute blacks (charcoal) and dilute yellows (champagne).

The fact that the AKC has this policy means that there are members of our community who own AKC registered pedigree Labradors that are silver in color.

Whether the rest of us approve or not, this is a fact.

Telling these people that their dogs aren’t Labs is both unhelpful and untrue, because they are indeed registered pedigree dogs. Telling the AKC would be more appropriate.

Whether or not the AKC can be persuaded to change their policy is uncertain, but it becomes increasingly unlikely as time goes on.

Many silver Labradors have been born and registered and bloodlines are now becoming well mixed. It is difficult to see how such a policy would be implemented.

Perhaps we will just all have to get used to the color silver?

Opinion two: Silver Labradors were produced by crossing Labs with Weimaraners.

One theory is that silver Labradors are all mongrels and are actually crossed with Weimaraners.

People often post on our Facebook page to say that there is DNA evidence to support this belief.

Fact two: No absolute proof for the origins of the silver Lab has been published, and there are other possible explanations.

The introduction of Weimaraner blood is indeed ONE explanation for the dilute gene in our pedigree Labs.

But it is not the only explanation.

Early on in the history of the Labrador, this breed was crossed with other breeds that contain the dilute gene, most notably the Chesapeake Bay Retriever.

So it is possible, however unlikely, that the dilute gene was carried by one or two individuals early on and has been in the breed for many years.

Recessive genes that are rare can take many generations to appear.

But the chances of two recessive genes meeting increase constantly in a closed register of dogs due to genetic drift.

Which is why of course, we get new genetic diseases appearing all the time in our pedigree breeds.

Fact two, part two: No concrete evidence

While rumors of tests abound, no one has provided published concrete evidence in support of Weimaraner DNA in any individual pedigree Labrador on any of the threads we have had on this topic on this page, nor in any of the many emails I receive about silver Labs.

Weimaraners are one of the breeds that do show up in DNA tests, so this shouldn’t be hard to find if it exists.

On the other hand, I believe we have had someone publish a link on our Facebook page to DNA tests that show that their silver dog is purebred.

If anyone else with a silver Lab has had a DNA test done, perhaps they would post a link to the results in the comments below?

Likewise, if anyone has a link to DNA evidence to the contrary, please post a link.

Without evidence, it simply isn’t possible to progress this aspect of the debate any further.

Opinion three: Silver Labradors have no health clearance.

It is often stated that silver Labrador breeders are all irresponsible and never health test their dogs.

Fact three: There are silver Labrador breeders that health test their breeding stock.

There are silver Labrador breeders that are health testing.

And more of them are likely to follow suit.

You can find them through the web page that I linked to above.

There are also silver breeders that are irresponsible.

In fact, there are irresponsible breeders everywhere.

They are not restricted by color.

Please, people, make sure you get health test evidence before falling in love with your puppy!

Opinion four: Silver Labradors are no use for anything other than pets.

This opinion has been stated a number of times on our Facebook debates.

Fact four: There are lots of roles that silver Labradors can play.

It is true that a silver Lab cannot compete in the show ring. Only three colors are permitted when exhibiting Labradors at shows.

Simply put, if your plan is to show, don’t buy a silver Lab.

However, there are silver Labradors working as hunting companions, competing in hunt tests, obedience competitions and agility.

There is no reason why a silver Lab could not be an assistance dog for the disabled, a military service dog, or a guide dog for the blind.

These are all useful roles, arguably more useful than being exhibited.

Opinion five: Outcrossing (if that is how silver Labs arrived) is bad for the genetic health of our breed.

Some of you have stated that bringing new genetic information into the Lab gene pool (if that is what has been done) is harmful genetically.

Fact five: Genetic health improves with increasing genetic diversity.

The main problem genetically with closed registers (pedigree breeds) is diminishing genetic diversity.

Increasing genetic diversity improves the health of a closed population, not the other way around.

Rudeness Towards Silver Labrador Owners

This is becoming increasingly common.

Silver Labrador owners are referred to as “suckers” for buying their dog, told their dogs are ugly, houndy, and look like mongrels.

These are all very upsetting things to hear about a beloved dog that was bought in good faith and that has genuine legal documents to prove its ancestry.

The AKC has, rightly or wrongly, decided these dogs are Labradors.

So it isn’t reasonable to berate people who have chosen and paid for such a dog legitimately for their actions.

We all love Labradors, even if we differ as to what we think is best for them.

I don’t want the owners of silver Labs to be afraid to post pictures of their dogs on our Facebook page, or afraid to talk about their dogs there or here in our comments section.

I hope you don’t either, and I hope that we can carry on debating this fascinating topic without being mean to one another.

Your Silver Lab

We love all Labradors, no matter how prestigious their pedigree, or what color their coat is.

If you have a silver Lab, we’d love to hear about your dog, and about your experiences in finding him or her.

We’d also like to know if you have experienced any prejudice against your dog because of his unusual coat color.

Whether you love silver Labs or oppose them, your politely expressed views are very welcome! Just drop them into the comments box below.

Let us know what you think and why!

References And Further Reading

  • “Purebred Vs. Mutt,” The Labrador Site, 2019
  • “Dilute Coat Color D-Locus and New D2-Locus,” Animal Genetics, 2019
  • “Dilution D Series,” Dog Genetics
  • Welle, M, et al., “MLPH Genotype – Melanin Phenotype Correlation in Dilute Dogs,” Oxford Academic Journal of Heredity, 2009
  • “Q And A With Dean Crist,” Silver Labs – Just The Facts
  • Welle, D, “No Such Thing – Silver Labradors,” Blue Knight Labrador Retrievers, 1990
  • “Breed Color Position Statement,” National Labrador Retriever Breed Council of Australia, 2010
  • “Silver Labs,” The Labrador Club of New Zealand
  • “What’s In The Gene Pool?” Institute of Canine Biology, 2017
  • “How Population Size Affects Inbreeding,” Institute of Canine Biology, 2017
  • Wagner, S, “The Truth Behind ‘Silver’ Labradors,” Woodhaven Labrador Retrievers
  • Hered, J, “A noncoding melanophilin gene (MLPH) SNP at the splice donor of exon 1 represents a candidate causal mutation for coat color dilution in dogs,” 2007
  • “Color Dilution Alopecia,” Animal Dermatology Clinic, 2010
  • Philipp, U, et al., “Chromosomal assignment of the canine melanophilin gene (MLPH): a candidate gene for coat color dilution in Pinschers,” 2005
  • Philipp, U, et al., “Polymorphisms within the canine MLPH gene are associated with dilute coat color in dogs,” 2005
  • “Silver Labs – Improvement Movement,” Silver Labs Blog

This article was extensively revised and updated for 2019.


  1. Correct me if I’m wrong but in my research about the silver lab. From my understanding the Newfoundland had the recessive color Gene dd which is the labrador as we know it today. Also in my research I found that the skin issues is not dd but is d1.

  2. I haven’t read all the comments – so please forgive me if someone has already answered this – but if you do genetic breed testing on a Silver/Champagne or Charcoal Labrador (which I think are gorgeous, by the way), would it not come up either 100% Labrador or Labrador with a degree of Weimaraner (if that is in fact the case). Has no-one genetically tested their “dd” Labrador?

  3. I stumbled upon this article because my family wants a dog. We aren’t purists and I’m looking at shelters to rescue a dog. A silver lab puppy stopped me in my tracks and I want to inquire, but I’m concerned about the puppy’s health. How do I go about finding the health info out without knowing who mom and dad are?

  4. We have 2 Labradors, 1 Red & 1 Silver. Gracie Lou, our almost 4 yr old Red lab is super smart, happy, & loves to play catch. She is very competitive when it comes to running, she will race you anytime & loves to win!
    She seems petite (60 lbs) compared to parents & litter mates.

    Together we have figured out a few hand signals without really trying…she can sit, lay, roll, high five & stand without me saying a word. We love her dearly & our daughter has certified her as an emotional support dog.

    Now our Silver, Daisy May is almost 1 yr old is completely different! She is a solid 80 lbs of fun loving happiness & very friendly but a bit defiant at times.
    She has learned a lot from Gracie whom Daisy adores but can be also be very dominant over her when it comes to playing with toys.
    Daisy is on a daily medication for allergies or she turns bright red all over her body & gets a rash on her belly plus ear troubles.
    We love both our dogs very much & plan to add a third within the next year.

  5. We recently purchased a silver. My husband fell in love with her color she is the seeetest dog ever and we wouldn’t change her for the world. We drove 3 hours to get her at 20 weeks old. Took her to vet last week and they said she’s perfectly healthy and they fell in love with her also !!! Everyone loves their dog for different reasons . If you don’t like silver that’s fine there are many colors of labs!! But we wouldn’t trade Skylar for anything and are actually thinking about letting her have one litter when she’s old enough .

  6. I have been curious about the silver labs and any health problems …. in Utah we have lots of silver breeders, but we are partial to yellow so we purchased a female ended up being champagne golden and she has blue eyes/silver eyes from parents 1)female yellow ( from two yellow parents ) shown championed AKC both conformation ( open and junior) and field trials As well as family companion to a family of 5 children. 2 ) Champagne AKC golden male avid duck hunting retriever and service dog ( from yellow and chocolate parent) to their son with autism -both have brown eyes both black noses. 3 pups ( one female 2 males) came out champagne yellow with blue silver eyes others came out yellow with brown eyes and black noses, not outrageously expensive, AKC application, all tested with vet checked and parents ofa certified. Yes rare will she be loved -tremendously! She is very smart too already taken out with older labs and will be eager to retrieve by fall as well as very gentle with my grandchildren and no one is not welcome for attention like most labs. So just wondering how pups like this affect the long term lab breeding genetics ( this female will be fixed-but assuming others would find this very marketable )

  7. As breeders, the color of a Labrador should be very low in order of important qualities.
    As prospective buyers, the color of the Labrador should be very low in order of important qualities.
    I’ve seen a lot of problems from both sides. This is what I try to stress to buyers.

  8. I have a beautiful silver girl. She is health tested and clear of all Labrador diseases. She has her OFA clearances as well. She is hunt titled in AKC and UKC. She also has her Canine Good Citizen title. I have had Labradors for 40+ years. She is a Labrador. The best I have ever had.

  9. We have had our silver female for 6 years. We happened to come across a breeder that was selling them, and we fell in love with her immediately. We have always had labs, and did not choose her because of her “designer color”, but because she was beautiful! Never had any intent on breeding her, or care what she was registered as, we just wanted a friend, a loyal companion, and a puppy we could make part of our family. She has lived up to those expectations, and far surpassed them. I could care less what our girl was bred with to become who she is, because I love her for being one of the best dogs we have ever had!
    Lighten up world and just let people be happy!

  10. I’ve been researching about having a puppy trained as a service dog for my 9 year old son who has high functioning autism. Absolutely love how beautiful silver labs are but I’ve never seen one trained as a service dog. Anyone with experience know if a silver lab would be a suitable fit for a life long companion and support dog?

    • I’ve seen a handful of silver labs used as service dogs, however choosing an appropriate service dog is much more involved than simply choosing a breed and color. Finding an appropriate breeder and then even the right puppy is still a challenge since it’s a rare dog that will end up being suitable and being able to successfully pass once all of the training is complete.

      If I were you, I would get in touch with a reputable trainer as well as a behaviorist to have BOTH of them help choose the appropriate dog to be trained. Be aware however that if you go the route where you choose the dog yourself you still might end up with a dog that doesn’t end up passing (called a wash out) and will have a pet that might not be completely suitable as a service dog for your son. What this most likely would mean is that the dog wouldn’t be capable of joining your son in public. You’ll be much better off if you can find a program which will provide you with an already trained dog. This would also be a faster route as training a dog from scratch takes about 2 years.

      I completely understand however how difficult it is to find any programs that have availability due to the number of people who need assistance. Please be careful as there are also a number of nefarious people out there who will steal your money and not provide you with the appropriately trained dog for your son. I’d also suggest seeking out groups on Facebook for advice and assistance. Either search for service dog groups, service dogs for people with invisible disabilities, parents of children with autism, etc.

      Also, check out Becca and Frannie on YouTube for suggestions on finding a service dog and training tips if you do choose to get your own pup. All my best to you and your son (from someone w/ high functioning autism).!

  11. well I personally don’t care if my lab is black green or purple but mine is a year and a half old black lab with white marking and we love her. If you get a lab make sure you keep it mentally and physically challenged or it won’t be happy they get bored easy. but my true comment is that the AKC and there in breeding for look has ruined the gene pool in this country if you want a healthy dog look outside the U S got our German Shepard from Germany and never had a health issue

  12. I’m confused as to how a champagne labrador with the dilute gene can be considered genuine and yet it’s questionable as to where the dilute gene could have come from within a silver fox labrador.

    Surely if you took a champagne labrador with two diluted genes and bred it with a chocolate or black labrador the offspring would then contain the dilute gene (even though they’ve both come from labradors), at that stage they would probably be all chocolate (or black) labradors because they’d receive the diluted d gene from champagne side and the full D gene from the chocolate (or black) side. But then if you took another set from another group of dogs that had also been bred in the same way, then some of the dogs at the end would come out silver as they might gain a dilute gene from both of the previous dogs rather than one dilute gene and one full gene… eg.

    Grandmother 1 = Champagne Lab = dd
    Granddad 1 = Chocolate Lab = DD
    Dad = Chocolate Lab = Dd

    Grandmother 2 = Champagne Lab = dd
    Granddad 2 = Chocolate Lab = DD
    Mum = Chocolate Lab = Dd

    Dad Chocolate Lab (Dd) + Mum Chocolate Lab (Dd) = Pup Chocolate Lab (dd) = Lab with dilute coat.

    There is of course many other combinations in that situation that you could also end up with too but as the dilute gene is already in the breed then there is no reason why it can’t spread across the breed, but it could take time considering the chances of firstly someone mating a yellow lab with a black lab, which as yellow labs weren’t that popular before the 1800’s was unlikely to happen, and then for that labs siblings to go be bred with another labs siblings that have been mated in the same way. There was only 150 years (1950’s) between the yellow lab appearing and the silver fox appearing so this it’s highly plausible that this could have happened.

  13. Many of the silver Labs that I see have either blue or pale green eyes (although nearly as many display a light brown color). Are these “Weimariner” eye colors consistent with Labrador d/d genetics or are they clearly evidence of outcrosses?

  14. For me as just a dog lover (regardless if those puppies are pure or not), as long as the dog is intelligent and healthy and can protect me and my family and can love us more than we love each other i can still care and love him no matter what… i know this is all about business to all labrador breeders but just in reality they are smart and very loving animals..Actually i have one silver labrador and he is one of the sweetest and protective dogs i have he made my parents and family happy all the times…

  15. we have a 3 year old silver he is very smart and beautiful we’ve had people argue with us about him not being a lab he is registered with the AKC but as chocolate i don’t think it’s fair, but my vet made me feel better when she said you can tell the difference between a lab and the weinmer silver labs have wavy fur down their spine .we got him when he was 8 weeks old and she knew the first time he went into her for shots, what he was without asking. so i think the AKC should register accordingly

  16. I think it’s with all breeds, some owners interbreed and some do their best to keep the breeds pure. It’s a money market and you have to be very careful who you get your puppy from. I think the Silver labs are beautiful, I think the chocolate, black and yellow are beautiful as well. I bought my granddaughters a chocolate lab. And I’d like to own a silver lab someday. People are cruel. I don’t think it should matter, there is proof that they have been around since 1922. So, I feel that if you do your research on the type of puppy you’d like to bring home, then do it, love him/her, treat him/her right and you will be surprised at what you will receive in return.
    Have a Heart!
    And don’t even get me started on the AKC.

  17. We have a one year old female silver lab. She is smart, sweet, and beautiful. Training her for basic obedience was quite easy, as she is intelligent and easily motivated by food and praise. We have had nothing but positive interactions from folks. Many people have asked if she is a silver lab, so perhaps knowledge of the breed is spreading. A few have asked what kind of dog she is because the color is that of a Weimaraner, but the shape is not. Not one single person has said anything negative to us about her. We have only had positive interactions. We have even had interest expressed in breeding her (which we do not intend to do.) She is a joy. We did not search out this particular color. We just happened to know the breeder, and knew several people who have gotten his dogs over the years. The folks we know use them as hunting dogs and/or companion dogs, and all have been very happy with them. We have no regrets. She is a joy, and we are completely smitten!

  18. We discovered “silver labs” about 3 months ago. We had never heard of one before, never seen one before. We found one fairly close by and made the purchase, having never been dog owners, we didn’t know what we didn’t know. We were told he was the “smallest male of the litter” and he was, at 5 months he was only 22 pounds. We figuered he just needed some “fattening up” and not competing for food would take care of that. Fast forward a month and we discover that he had a congenital defect and we needed to put him down. It was horrible and heartbreaking. We decided we’d never do that again, but there was such a hole left behind, we ended up getting another! He came with health certificates and OFA certs and DNA profiles on the parents, we bought him, had him examined and tested top to bottom and he’s been a great and loyal dog! Every bit a lab!! Our oldest son then bought our dogs sister, same litter—within a week of the purchase, with all the same certifications, she too had to be put down due to mega esophagus! My only point here is this: dogs get sick, we have not had good luck, 2 of 3 dogs had to be put down, but that’s the way it goes. These dogs could have suffered the same fate had we rescued them or bought them—but to say they aren’t Labs is just crazy talk. These are Labs by any standard applied, EXCEPT coat color—we were very unlucky in our situation. But that does not mean there is a defect with the breed, it just means “crap happens” and it happened to us.

  19. We have a 10 month old Silver Lab that we are putting down day. His name is CAMO, he was dealt a bad hand of cards. His hips and front elbows are shot. We reached out to Ohio State, VA Tech, and several Vet’s in our area. We were told it would be inhumane to put him through surgery. That said, we love him to death and will place him under his favorite place today, the pear tree’s. It’s going to be a sad day today, our Little DUDE was a joy and blessing. He will be missed. I highly recommend researching your breeder in depth, asking for a ton of references, and contacting a few of the current owner’s (purchased within the past two years) to see how their puppy’s are doing. We don’t want anyone else to go through with what we our dealing with, our hearts are broken.

  20. I have purchased 10 Silver Lab pups, starting in 2006. All males and defiantly LABS. I have had Labs since the early 1970s. No difference, other than color. Beautiful heads, coats, and minds. I purchased my first two full brothers, in 2006. They did have some slight skin issues, but none of the others have. I am getting ready to train one, of my current pups, as a Companion Dog, for my disabled husband. I will certify one, or maybe two, as Therapy Dogs, which I have done, with Labs, before. I have pups 8 months, 4 months, and 8 weeks. I have purchased all my Silvers, from the same breeder, who I think is great. I remember when she started breeding the Silvers. She traveled all over the US to get her males. She then bread them to her chocolate females. Then, she would breed those female chocolate pus back to another silver male. These produced the silver pups. Usually mixed liters, but eventually, she got all silver/charcoal litters. It was a painful process. I have total confidence in this breeder. No questions, on my part.

  21. We have had yellow labs for 29 years. Now we have a chocolate lab sand silver lab who are both 18 months. There is a big difference between our yellow and chocolate labs to being smart. Our silver lab is the dimmest dog compared to the others. He lacks being smart. Is this common with silver labs?

  22. Judy H, where do you get your misinformation? Can you cite sources? Do you realize how self-defeating your argument is that the nefarious alleged cross-breeding occurred too long ago to be detected by DNA testing, but recently enough that the temperament of the silvers allegedly “could be anything and will not be consistent?” Those who aren’t sure that silvers are purebred Labs with genes that have been in the breed since the beginning are invited to do their own research. Please Google “images of dilute Newfoundland dogs” and “founding breeds of Labrador Retrievers.” The AKC recognizes dilute Newfoundlands; they are registered as “grey.” In addition to Newfoundlands, there are other founding breeds who may have been the source(s) for dilute genes that have been in the Labrador Retriever breed since the beginning. The AKC used to register silver Labs as silvers (there were silvers whose AKC pedigrees and registrations formally listed silver as their color) and switched in the 1980s to registering them as chocolates because that is what modern science revealed they are, dilute chocolates. It is similar to how the AKC doesn’t register red (informally known as “fox red”) Labs as red, they register as yellow because these beauties are genetically a shade of yellow.

  23. I have a four year old silver lab. Previous to her we had a Yellow lab, which passed away at 13 years of age, To say the silver lab is not a true lab is insane. She in every way represents the beauty and loyalty of this awesome breed. and is just as much a lab as my yellow boy was. It is sad that this is even a debate.

    • I agree Amy. I have a 12 week Okd Silver Lab and he is AKC registered and is beautiful. I have gotten pushback from people though. It’s insane.

  24. I do not bash the dog, I bash the breeder.. AKC does not accept the color silver- at all. Fox red is a yellow lab hence the standard reads that a yellow is anything from a cream to a fox red in color. Black is black, period, chocolate is brown, period. Yellows and chocolates appeared in England ages ago. However silvers did not appear until the 1980’s and they first appeared a the home of a breeder who bred both Weimereiners and Labradors- big surprise. If we had only had dna testing for dogs in the 1980’s we could have nipped this in the bud, but now too many generations have passed. If you wonder what the big hoopla is about , welll here it is. You are not getting a Labrador temperaments. You are not getting a Weimie temperament. You are getting a mixed breed temperament which could be anything and will not be consistent. You will get the skin problems of the dilute gene.. The dilute gene and the chocolate or yellow gene are not the same. If you think that AKC accepts the silver color just try registering your Labrador as a silver or a charcoal or a champagne and good luck with that.

  25. I had never heard of this new introduction to the breed. My uncle breed labs in the 1970s-80s, and we owned a pup from his breeding dam.

    Recently a strange dog appeared on my farm property and committed a heinous act which I witnessed. The authorities asked me what kind of dog it was, and I said it was a maybe a lab mix that was gray. Weimeraner was in the back of my mind, so when I looked up Weimeraner attributes, I felt convinced that the dog was a Weimeraner.

    My husband who did not grow up with purebred labs, thought it was a chocolate lab.

    The dog did indeed look more houndlike. It had longer legs, a slimmer appearance, a no characteristic head shape that was broader (I even wondered if there was a trace of pit bull blood), a coat that didn’t look like chocolate at all… and yet this creature bore an AKC tag, so I thought it had to be Weimeraner.

    The owners revealed it was a “rare and expensive Labrador.”

    I must admit that it felt pretty outrageous to me. I couldn’t even recognize it as a purebred lab, and inexperienced laypeople can’t tell the difference.

    No one mentions temperament. They may be cute, but how trainable and obedient are silvers?

    As for me, I definitely am convinced by my own eyes that this is a “designer dog” lab/Weimeraner outcross.

    I do find it outrageous that the AKC has lowered their own standards to turn an extremely blind eye in this case. I agree that some breeder was able to slip them through.

    This has definitely lowered my respect for the AKC.

  26. Months after losing our yellow lab, we got a darling charcoal female lab puppy and she has all the physical characteristics as our yellow lab (except color). She is turning out to be a great dog; smart, sweet and man, does she have a nose on her. She would be a great hunter but my hubby’s a fisherman.

    We do get stopped a lot asking what kind of dog she is, simply because of her grey coat, yet she clearly looks like a lab puppy. No one has ever said anything negative directly to us but those who have never heard of or seen grey labs do seem rather puzzled. I often refer them to this website and article, which is so well written and thorough, thank you!!

    The only comment that we overheard from earshot was ‘designer dog’ which was frustrating. My understanding of designer dogs if you will, were those who are deliberately cross bred, such as labradoodles. Our girl has her AKC papers and just because she is a different color than the traditional black, yellow or chocolate, doesn’t mean she is any less a purebred lab.

    We live in Western Washington and got our dog from a very reputable breeder (Circle B) who breeds all colors of labs. We paid a premium for our pup but the breeding parents have all the genetic testing and OFA certifications so we feel confident in her health and pedigree. And with many things in life, you get what you pay for.

    Labs are the best family dogs and we are looking forward to many great years with our grey girl!

  27. I have a silver lab male. He is very loyal, loving, and obedient. He can spell(ride, out, treat, etc) and understand many words. I have only had labs because of their loyalty, friendship, and kid tolerance! Best breed ever!

  28. I am a proud owner of a male silver lab he is now 13 months he is a full breed I purchased him in PA his name is Apollo and he is such a beautiful dog he absolutely loves people I’ve never received any bad comments from anyone when people see him they automatically wanna pet him .. I luv this dog 2 death it was the best move I’ve ever made and any1 who bashes this breed of dog is heartless and rude… this dog is so smart and loveable I have nothin negative 2 say..

    • I have a 12 week old Silver Lab registered through AKC. He is beautiful and smart and very healthy. I’ve been befriended by someone on FB because of his color lol. We love him above and beyond. I’m going to a pet expo today with him. I’m hoping I get out alive lol.