Last Updated on May 14, 2024 by themubbi63

The Labrador Retriever is, of course, probably the most popular dog in the whole world. But there are some kinds of Labradors that are rarer than others. While we’re all fairly used to Labs that are yellow, black and chocolate (with chocolate being rarer than the other two), would it surprise you to learn that there are silver Labs? This kind of silver or grey Labrador is formed because of certain genetic anomalies and are some of the rarest Labradors in the world. 

What Exactly Is a Silver Lab?

Exactly what it sounds like. A silver Labrador is a Labrador that is a dull silver or grey color. It’s highly unusual since it occurs because of a genetic anomaly. The silver Lab is essentially a chocolate Lab that contains something called a dilute gene. The gene dilutes the rich chocolate of the Lab’s dense fur and turns it into a pale silvery-grey color.

There is, unfortunately, lots of controversy about the silver Labrador. Some people believe that they aren’t true labs and they aren’t always allowed to compete in shows. There have been decades long debates about whether this variation of Labrador should even exist in the first place. But the silver Labrador Retriever has increasingly won hearts with the striking color of its fur and its pale blue eyes during puppyhood.

But let’s take a look at the exact scientific explanation behind silver Labradors.

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Let’s Talk About That Dilute Gene

What exactly is the dilute gene that makes a silver Lab dog what it actually is? Coat color dilution is actually quite common in pet animals like dogs, cats and rabbits. Thus, even within the three main colors of Labs, there are three dilute genes – champagne as a dilution of yellow, charcoal as a dilution of black and silver as a dilution of chocolate.

The last one – the gene that dilutes the chocolate color to silver – is the D gene (there are also B and E genes which play a part in other dilutions). As with many types of genes, you inherit one of a pair from either parent. There’s a big D gene and a small d gene. So silver Labradors can inherit one of three combinations – DD, Dd and dd. 

The silver dilution is a recessive gene so a chocolate Labrador that has two little d genes – dd – will be silver in color. If it only inherits one little d – Dd – then it will have its usual chocolate coat. (Basically it’s the same kind of genetics that gives a human being recessive traits like green eyes or red hair).

Unlike other breeds like Weimaraners where all individuals within the breed have two recessive genes, this isn’t true of Labs. Thus, silver Labradors are fairly rare and the first instance of the dilute coat appeared quite recently.

History of the Silver Lab

Labradors as a breed are far from an old one, especially when considering the fact that some dog breeds date back thousands of years. They originated in the 1800s and were first bred in Canada to aid fishermen. They had thick water-resistant double coats and webbed feet because they were meant to be water retrievers. 

When Labradors were taken to England, they became extremely popular with hunters. Trained as gundogs to retrieve ducks and other fowl, they had an impeccable sense of smell. They’re one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs and have been trained for all kinds of services, like search and rescue and as guide dogs.

The silver Lab has all the characteristics of ordinary Labradors. However, it showed up much more recently. In fact, it was only in the 1950s that reports of the silver Labrador started making the rounds. The first breeder who produced these dogs was Dean Crist and Crist Culo Kennels. There was also Beaver Creek. 

The origins of the silver Labrador is shrouded in controversy and no one seems to agree on how this color dilution just suddenly appeared.

The Controversy of the Silver Labrador

One of the raging debates around the question of the silver Labrador is the fact that some people don’t even consider them purebreeds. They argue that the silver Labrador must be a crossbreed of a Labrador with the Wiemaraner, which always comes in a silvery blue color. The first silver Labs were a product of this crossbreeding and breeders have since continued to breed them in this color. 

Financial gain could have been a motivation. Many believers of this theory point out the fact that silvers have a hound-like look to them. But many non-show Labs have longer and more pointed muzzles and are less chunky than the show Labs. This theory has recently lost some steam because genetic studies have shown no evidence of Weimaraner DNA within silver Labradors.

Another argument is that the gene suddenly mutated, which isn’t actually all that uncommon. It often explains the appearance of a characteristic within a group that did not show that characteristic earlier. However, people consider this quite unlikely. A spontaneous appearance of the exact dilution gene that can be seen in other breeds might be too much of a coincidence to be true.

The final theory is that the gene remained hidden for a long time until two closely related Labs with the same gene were bred together. This is a very plausible explanation. Hidden genes can be responsible for many rare diseases that are passed down along a bloodline for generations before showing up. It’s not hard to believe the same of the color dilution gene. 

There is also the fact that the first Labs were only officially registered in 1917 so we don’t really know what colors they carried before that. Or even if they were crossed with other breeds since being purebred wasn’t a concern before that (the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, for example, closely resembles the chocolate Labrador and does have a dilution gene).

Many kennel clubs, including the AKC, consider the silver Labrador a purebred Lab. However, they don’t give it the honor of a separate category. It has to be registered under the color ‘chocolate’ rather than ‘silver’. As a chocolate Lab, however, it is at times allowed to participate in shows. This is rare and most are only bred as family companions.

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Are Silver Labs Rare?

Yes, silver Labs are in fact quite rare in a lot of countries. Part of this is because they’ve only been seen very recently and most people aren’t even aware of their existence. However, because of their stunning looks and unusual appearance, they have quickly been winning hearts.

In the United States of America and the United Kingdom especially, the silver Labrador Retriever has become extremely popular. Many people are looking for this unusual colored dog despite the hue and cry about their ancestry. There are now seven distinct lines of silver Labs that are almost unrelated to each other. Thus, any concerns about inbreeding have become significantly lower.

So yes, silver Labs are still rare. If you’re looking for one, you should search for a reputable breeder. But they aren’t so rare anymore that you’ll almost never come across one.

Are Silver Labs Healthy?

There is no evidence that the silver Labrador is different from the regular Labrador in anything other than its unusual color. Thus, it carries all the same kinds of predisposition to ill-health that a Lab does, namely a tendency towards overeating and obesity and subsequent joint problems.

Some of the most common health problems faced by silver Labs are:

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hereditary Myopathy

Overeating

Ear Infections

Exercise-induced Collapse

The first two are especially painful. Responsible breeding practices are very necessary to make sure that these hereditary problems are rooted out. And the eating habits of your Lab has to be closely monitored. Anyone who knows anything about Labs is aware that they will eat at any time and as much as you give them. Thus, it’s your responsibility as the owner to make sure your dog doesn’t eat too much. Consult a vet about recommended portions.

Finally, an issue that can affect the silver Labrador specifically is color dilution alopecia. This is something that all dogs with the color dilution gene are prone to. It’s a skin problem that causes itchy and flaky skin and hair loss. Unfortunately, this disease has no cure although you can manage it by using special shampoos and providing your dog with a balanced diet that is rich in fatty acids.

Size and Appearance of Silver Labs

A silver Labrador is the same size as a normal Lab, standing at about 24 inches height at the shoulder and weighing between 55 and 80 lb. Males are slightly larger and heavier than females. Along with the distinctive silver coat, they have eyes that are blue during puppyhood and change to yellow in adulthood. Both shades provide a striking contrast to the silvery-grey of their fur.

With a muscular physique, a short and dense double coat, flattened head and floppy ears, the silver Labrador is a very handsome example of the breed indeed. Their noses are generally brown in color. Basically, they’re just like regular Labs but in an unusual color.

Personality and Temperament of Silver Labs

Labradors are the ultimate family dog. No wonder so many people all over the world have taken them into their homes. High energy dogs that require a lot of both mental and physical stimulation, they’re ideal for more active families that have older children. They’re extremely intelligent and quite social by nature which means that leaving them to their own devices for hours on end is a bad idea. 

Labradors get bored easily and they tend to get destructive when bored. Separation anxiety is a real problem with this breed so you can’t leave them alone for long periods of time. They also get distracted easily. Thus, while they’re relatively easy to train, it has to be done consistently and in short increments. They can’t concentrate for long periods of time. They love food and respond well to positive reinforcement.

Friendly and affectionate, if you bring a Labrador into your home you have a devoted companion for its entire lifespan (which averages around 12.5 years). They’re generally easy-going and tend to mellow out with age. But a Labrador is always up for a walk or for playtime. This is good to ensure that it does not get obese.

Labradors are the extroverts of the dog world (although less so than golden retrievers). This means that, with just a little socialization, they get along well with people and other animals. They can be gentle with smaller children if properly trained that way. They don’t bark a great deal and they aren’t wary of strangers. This makes them bad as guard dogs but excellent as family dogs.

And of course, if you have a silver Labrador, your dog is more likely to get attention. It’s a good thing that it will be able to deal with this attention without a negative reaction.

Are Silver Labs Expensive?

Yes, silver Labradors are indeed quite expensive. Since they’re still not as common as the other Lab colors, silvers can be double the price of a regular Labrador. While a common yellow, black or chocolate Lab will cost between $500 and $1000, a silver Labrador might cost as much as $800 to $1500.

Please do note that there are Labrador enthusiasts who are quite vehement about the fact that silver Labs are ruining the breed. You might have to face rude comments about how it isn’t a proper or purebred Labrador. And when you’ve paid so much just for the sake of a silver colored pup, these comments might be extra hurtful. Go into this new adventure of getting an unusual pet with wide open eyes.

Conclusion

The silver Labrador Retriever is a stunning variation of a beloved breed. While not universally accepted by kennel clubs, their gentle nature and playful spirit have won them many fans. Before welcoming a silver Lab into your life, consider the breed’s needs, potential health concerns, and the higher price tag. Responsible breeding practices are crucial to ensure a healthy, happy pup. Remember, love and care go a long way, regardless of fur color!

FAQs

Are silver Labs more expensive?

Yes! Their rarity drives up the price compared to yellow, black, or chocolate Labs. Expect to pay $800 to $1500 for a silver pup.

What’s the silver Lab’s temperament like?

Silver Labs share the classic Lab personality – friendly, energetic, and eager to please. They require training and socialization but make excellent family companions, especially for active households.

Are silver Labs purebred?

The debate rages on! Some kennel clubs consider them purebred Labs, while others don’t recognize the silver coat as an official color. Genetic studies haven’t found Weimaraner DNA, but the origin of the silver coat remains unclear

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