White Labradors have their pale coat either as a result of selective breeding for paler and paler yellow Labs, or because they have inherited two copies of the gene for albinism. Albino Labs have red eyes, no pigment in their coat and the potential for some uncomfortable health problems. Fortunately, this trait is practically unheard of in purebred Labs, and your white Labrador puppy is much more likely to just be a yellow Lab in a bit of a disguise! You are more likely to find white English Labs than white American Labs, as lighter yellow dogs are more popular in the show ring and darker almost red Labs are preferred in the working dog world.
Where Do White Labs Come From?
Yellow Labradors have always come in a range of shades. This range has been deliberately broadened in recent years through selective breeding of more muted tones.
But despite this, there are only three recognised colors of Labradors – black, chocolate and yellow. Yellow Labs can now be commonly seen ranging from darkest rich fox red, through shades of golden, pale yellow, cream and even white. White Labs and fox red Labs are both classified as yellow Labs. Even though the hues look very different, they are just variations of the same base color.
Changes in Trends
What is considered desirable or fashionable changes from one decade to the next. And certainly differs between the show and working communities of Labrador breeders. In the 1950’s and 60’s a rich dark yellow was popular, but since then Labradors have swung back and forth a fair amount. Currently, working or American Labradors prefer the darker shades of yellow, and English Labradors are often much paler.
The White English Labrador
White English Labs are increasingly popular show bred lines. In the USA this type of Labrador is known as the English white Lab. English Labs differ from American or Working bred Labs quite dramatically in terms of their shape and personalities.
In general your white English Labrador will be fun loving, a little silly and very sociable with people and other dogs. He might take a little longer to mature than his working bred cousins and may have less of a hyped up drive to retrieve or run around all day. A white English Lab will also often have a broader chest and head, as well as slightly shorter legs.
The Albino Labrador
Albinism is an interesting trait that is found throughout the animal kingdom. It is caused by a gene which switches off coloring. Albino Labs will have white hair or fur, and pale skin. They may also have red eyes, although very pale blue eyes can also be seen in some albinos when some pigmentation remains.
True albinism in dogs is rare, and it is not a desirable trait as unfortunately it comes with health problems.
Albino Lab Health
Albino Labs can suffer from sensitive skin. This is an issue that leaves them particularly vulnerable to sun and heat damage. Not only can an albino Lab be easily sunburnt, the sun can also damage his eyes. This vulnerability can make these dogs prone to tumors and skin cancer. Many Albino dogs are born blind, or suffer from eye deformities.
Fortunately, a white Lab is almost always not actually an albino Lab. It is actually just a very pale version of a yellow Labrador. White Labrador Retrievers will have pigmented noses and dark eyes, as well as distinctive white fur. Their fur will almost always contain touches of cream or yellow, especially around the ears.
Finding a White Labrador Puppy
White Lab puppies will come from parents who have the genes for yellow coat color, and who have been selectively bred to have the palest version of this color.
In a litter of puppies the shades of color can range just as dramatically as they do in adulthood. Some pups can look far more orange and others will be at the paler end. Puppy coats will also change color as they grow. So white Lab puppies may appear more or less pale when they mature. It’s therefore very important not to hang all of your hopes on getting a pure white pup.
Even if you love white Labradors, remember that the most important thing about a puppy is their personality and their health. As with any puppy search, the way to find a white Lab puppy is to look for a litter of Labradors bred in a way that is appropriate for the breed.
White Labrador Retriever Breeders
If white Lab puppies appeal to you, then make sure that the breeder has not focused on color to the detriment of health or temperament. Color should always be a secondary consideration when breeding a litter or choosing your puppy. First make sure that all of the other boxes are ticked, and that you are happy with your breeder.
Make sure both parents are fully health tested. For Labradors this will mean low hip and elbow scores, and clear eye tests as a minimum. Ensure that the parents’ temperaments match what you are looking for in a puppy.
Think of the Type of Labrador
If you want a pup to show in the ring, then go to an established show breeder who will be able to help you select the best pup for your purpose. If you are looking for a family pet, make sure both parents are treasured members of the family too.
When buying any Labrador puppy, making sure the breeder is a good breeder is key. Here is some more information on how to find a good breeder, for any color of Labrador.
White Lab Puppies’ Care
Once he arrives home, caring for your white Labrador puppy will be exactly the same as caring for any other color of Lab. It’s normal to have a few trials when a puppy arrives in your home. The main ones which Labrador owners deal with are regarding potty training and biting. You can find lots of information on dealing with both of these common issues in our extensive Puppies Section.
Bringing a new puppy home is a big decision. If you have any doubts about whether you are ready for a Labrador check out this article to help make the right choice.
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