Miniature Labrador: Everything To Know About Mini Labs

The miniature Labrador is everything that comes with a typical Lab, just in a smaller size! Mini Labs do exist, and unlike what some people think, they are not a mix.

This breed is actually the result of a genetic condition called dwarfism.

At first glance it might not be obvious that your dog is a miniature. Sometimes people never realize they have a Mini Lab because the difference is only a few inches. Because of this, they are not officially recognized as a miniature breed.

Still curious about the miniature lab?

Keep reading to learn more about how it is bred, dwarfism and the health issues related to this condition. We also discuss its appearance and how it compares to its full-size siblings.

Do Miniature Labradors Exist?

miniature lab

Yes Miniature labs do exist. However, they are very rare because they are caused by a genetic condition called dwarfism. Miniature Labradors are born from two purebred Labrador parents who both carry the recessive dwarfism gene.

The main difference between these Labradors is that they have shorter legs. Sometimes this difference is not so obvious.

Usually miniatures will only be two to three inches shorter than a full sized Labrador.

There are two genes that are mainly responsible for dwarfism. These are known as skeletal dysplasia 1 and 2 (i.e. SD1 and SD2). These genes can also affect Labradoodles, but this is not how Mini Labradoodles are bred.

Miniature labs can occur as a result of:

  • SD1 Osteochondrodysplasia
  • SD2 Dwarfism
  • Pituitary Dwarfism

SD1 is a genetic disorder that has many dangerous health complications. This genetic condition causes malformed and/or bent legs. It also causes defects in the development of the bones, skeleton, cartilage, and connective tissue (i.e. osteochondrodysplasia).

Miniature Labradors with SD1 will have very large heads and develop hip dysplasia.

Hip dysplasia causes pain and lameness due to swollen joints, bowed knees, turned out feet and a low slung back.

SD2 is a form of dwarfism that stops the growth of long bones. This genetic mutation results in shorter legs, but it does not cause any deformities in the legs (e.g. bowed knees or bent knees) or health complications. This type of dwarfism is known as a mild form of dwarfism and is the most common.

Labs with SD2 will look just like a healthy, standard Labrador. The main difference is that they will have shorter legs.

They will have the same broad head, “otter” tail, and short and dense waterproof coat in either silver, black, chocolate or yellow.

Another possible form of dwarfism is called pituitary dwarfism.

Pituitary dwarfism is rarer than the SD1 and SD2 genetic disorders. It is caused by a defect in the production of growth hormones. This defect decreases the release of growth hormones and limits the growth of long bones. Miniature labs with pituitary dwarfism have shorter legs just like those with the SD2 defect.

Where Did They Come From?

miniature labrador

Toy and teacup dog breeds have become extremely popular as many prospective owners are searching for dogs that suit their lifestyle. Their smaller size makes them perfect for apartments and small children.

The miniaturization trend has led to breeders selectively breeding the runts of each litter.

Some successful examples of this are the Toy Poodle and Teacup Pomeranian.

The temperament of the Labrador makes them a popular family dog, but their size can be a bit much for some. This has led to some breeders trying to miniaturize them.

Some dogs can naturally be smaller, but this is by chance. The first Miniature was reported in 2007.

However, large dog breeds are not meant to be shrunk down.

The problem with this breeding practice is that it increases the likelihood of Labradors inheriting the recessive SD1 and SD2 genes for dwarfism. This breeding practice has brought about many ethical concerns. Puppies who inherit this condition are more prone to develop health issues, have a lower quality of life and shorter lifespan.

Breeders who advertise Miniature labs are likely not reputable.

To make sure that a puppy has not inherited dwarfism, the breeder must be able to provide proof that the parents do not carry the genes for dwarfism.

How Small Does A Miniature Labrador Get?

mini labrador vs lab
Miniature Labrador (left) vs Lab (right)

Puppies who inherit the recessive dwarfism gene will not grow as much as their litter mates. The degree to which they experience dwarfism will be unique to each pup. However, they are by no means considered a small dog.

A Mini lab is between two to three inches shorter than other labs. They are the smallest type of Labrador. A Miniature lab can stand from 19 to 22.5 inches tall. However, for miniatures with extreme cases of SD1 this can be a short as 17 inches.

According to the Labrador Retriever Club’s official breed standard a male should be 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall. A female should stand at 21.5 to 23.5 inches tall.

Also miniatures weigh about 20 to 40 pounds less than other types of labs.

The Miniature lab’s weight range is approximately 35 to 50 pounds vs. 55 to 80 pounds for full size Labs. This is much lighter because of their smaller size and legs.

It can be difficult to predict the rate at which they will grow, but, they will still grow quickly during their first year of life. Generally they will gain two pounds per week until they are seven months of age:

Miniature vs Standard Growth Chart
Age (months)Miniature (pounds)Standard (pounds)
316-2220-26
520-3033-50
724-3440-60
926-3648-68
1228-3850-75

Dwarfism Health issues

Miniature labs are more likely to develop health issues when compared with the standard Retriever. For labs with the SD1 genetic defect these health issues can be extreme. Labradors with mild dwarfism (i.e. SD2) can sometimes be just as healthy as a full size lab.

All types of dwarfism can result in abnormally sized skulls. This is more extreme with the SD1 genetic defect. Miniature labs with SD1 Osteochondrodysplasia can have:

  • Bent legs, swollen joints, and outward turned feet.
  • Shorter muzzles and brachycephalic airway syndrome.
  • Retinal dysplasia (blindness).
  • Intervertebral disc disease.

Keep in mind that any lab is prone to developing hip and knee dysplasia. This dysplasia can be more severe in SD1 dogs.

Dwarfism not only affects the size of a dog, but also its lifespan.

Miniature labs sometimes live to only five years old. This is because these pups are more likely to have health problems and growth abnormalities,

Full size Labradors normally live for between 10 to 12 years.

Health issues and lifespan are two of the main reasons for the controversy that surrounds breeding miniature dog breeds. Not only do breeders increase the likelihood of developing dangerous health conditions. They also decrease quality of life and lifespan.

These labs can be healthy and strong, but inheriting dwarfism does make them more prone to developing health issues. It is considered wrong to purposefully breed for a miniature.

Miniature Labrador Care

miniature chocolate lab puppy
Miniature chocolate lab puppy.

There are mini labs out there that need homes, and many people are capable of giving these dogs fulfilling and happy lives.

Miniature lab puppies need owners who are prepared to give them the special care they need. They need lots of visits to the vet and possibly a lifetime of medications to manage their health issues. This is especially true for SD1 Minis or dogs with pituitary dwarfism.

Even with all of their health issues, they won’t be any less energetic.

They need to be cared for by a family that is very giving. Their playtime and daily exercise should not be excessive, though, as this could hurt their delicate joints and bones. They should be given toys so that they are mentally stimulated but not allowed to run too much inside or outside the house.

Giving them enough playtime will also help with controlling their energy levels.

While Mini labs might require a lot of play, training and health care, they are low maintenance. Brushing them once a week is sufficient to remove any dead hair.

Mini Lab Appearance

mini labrador
Minis have a broad head, an otter-like tail, floppy ears, and large friendly eyes.

Miniature labs are just a smaller version of the Labrador Retriever. Most commonly the only difference is their shorter legs. If the mini lab were to inherit the SD1 gene, then it would have shorter, bent, deformed legs and larger heads as a result of defects in the development of their skull.

Labradors are classified as medium sized dogs as the tallest they can grow is 24 inches.

The mini Labrador is only two to three inches shorter, so it is also a medium sized dog. Miniature labs are not really mini at all! Generally, miniature breeds stand between 10 and 16 inches, unlike the 19 to 22.5 inches of this breed.

Mini or not, there are three different colors all Labs come in: chocolate, yellow, and black.

A miniature with any other coat color is likely not a lab. Other colors come from cross-breeding a smaller dog that looks like a Lab. They will actually be a mixed breed, so are not a ‘true’ mini lab as they must be bred from purebred parents.

The miniature Labrador’s coat will be short, dense and water-resistant, just like the standard’s. As it is made of two layers, and the undercoat sheds all year long, these dogs are not hypoallergenic.

If you are looking for a small hypoallergenic dog then the Mini Goldendoodle is a good choice.

Personality

Breed Characteristics
Family Friendly★★★★(4)
Energy Levels★★★★★(3)
Ease of Training★★★★★(5)
Shedding Frequency★★★★(4)
Price★★★★★(2)

The miniature lab gets all of the personality traits that make the Labrador the number one dog in the United States.

As a smaller version of the Labrador they are very outgoing, lovable, and family friendly. They will get along very well with children and other pets. Miniatures are also full of energy and ready to play all day!

All types of Labradors have an easy going nature no matter the size.

These mini labs are the kind of dog that will likely be running around the house and having fun. They can become destructive, especially if they are bored. They will bark, chew, and dig if they don’t get the proper stimulation.

Miniature labs might want to run around as much as any dog, but these pups should not be allowed to do so. Running as puppies can easily hurt their sensitive joints and bones. They must be limited on how active they can be.

They do require obedience training to help them control their energetic personality.

Fortunately Labradors are extremely smart and are eager to please. If they do not receive puppy training at a young age, then they will not be able to control their high energy.

Less exercise does not mean that they should be any less mentally stimulated. Things like interactive puzzle toys can help to tire them out and it avoids over exercising them.

Responsible Breeding

The average litter size of a Labrador is 6 to 8 puppies. It is possible for a miniature lab to be born in a litter of full-size siblings. This can happen either by mistake or deliberately through selective breeding.

Sometimes a breeder will not screen their breeding stock for dwarfism genes. A puppy might be born accidentally with dwarfism when there was no intention of breeding a smaller dog.

A Miniature Labrador must inherit either the SD1 or SD2 recessive dwarfism gene from both parents to be miniature.

However, this is not common.

Most breeders use unethical breeding practices like breeding runts or dogs with dwarfism. The deliberate breeding of these dogs raises many ethical dilemmas.

If you want to buy a miniature Labrador the chances are that the breeder is not reputable.

This is especially true if they advertise specifically for mini labs.

Dwarfism can cause many unnecessary health problems and a shorter lifespan. Encouraging the demand for miniature labs is not good for the health of this breed.

Miniature Labrador vs. Labrador Retriever

labrador
A healthy Labrador has a strong build and is larger than the Miniature Lab.

Miniature labs often look just like a healthy, standard Labrador. The main difference is that they will have shorter legs, sometimes only by two or three inches. Because of this some owners never realize they have a mini lab.

Mini vs Standard Differences
MiniatureStandard
Size19 to 22.5 inches21.5 to 24.5 inches
Weight35 to 50 pounds55 to 80 pounds
Lifespan5 to 12 years10 to 12 years
Health IssuesBent legs, swollen joints, outward turned feet, brachycephalic airway syndrome, retinal dysplasia, intervertebral disc disease, hip dysplasia and knee dysplasia.Hip dysplasia and knee dysplasia.
PurposeCompanionshipWorking
ColorChocolate, yellow, and black
TemperamentEasy going and loveable

The Labrador Retriever was originally bred for duck hunting, so it is a very active dog that has a high prey drive and loves to swim. These traits are not lost with the mini lab.

Labradors are bred mostly in America to be working dogs. Some of their jobs include: service and guide, scent detection and search and rescue. Minis are just companions and do not work.

Every Labrador is kind, outgoing, eager to please and not aggressive. They are usually very good with children and other pets too. The same is true for the mini lab.

Labradors are prone to developing hip and knee dysplasia, but they will not have the same health conditions related to dwarfism that miniature labs do. Miniatures can have bent legs, swollen joints, outward turned feet, brachycephalic airway syndrome, retinal dysplasia and intervertebral disc disease too.

4 Reasons To Not Get A Miniature Lab

labrador puppy
Miniature dogs have become fashionable, but large breeds are not meant to be shrunk down.

Sometimes a standard litter of Labrador Retrievers could have a miniature puppy.

While this puppy can come with many health issues, it needs a home too. People who are capable of attending to its needs and giving it the love it deserves should adopt this puppy. It will be just as friendly, energetic, and playful as the other type of lab.

However, buying one from a breeder who purposefully breeds them is discouraged.

  1. Their Dwarfism Causes Many Health Issues

Miniature labs are more predisposed to developing health issues and diseases than Labradors who do not have dwarfism.

They are already prone to developing hip and knee dysplasia, mini labs can also get:

  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • Swollen Joints
  • Intervertebral Disc Disease
  • Hypothyroidism
  1. They Have Shorter Life Expectancies

The typical Labrador can live up to 10 to 12 years, while the miniature sometimes only lives for five. That is less than half the average age. Not only that, but their health issues can also decrease their quality of life.

  1. They Need Lots Of Care

An increase in the likelihood of diseases and health issues also means more trips to the vet. Dogs diagnosed with the illnesses mentioned above will be prescribed medication.

These labs also need to be carefully watched. Parents will have to make sure that their Mini Labrador doesn’t get overexcited as it can hurt itself.

  1. Controversial Breeding

There have been ethical concerns raised against the deliberate breeding of miniature labs.

Trusted and reputable breeders will avoid breeding miniature dogs. Yet, there are breeders out there that still produce these puppies with the hopes of making money. Try to avoid these breeders.

A breeder that advertises Miniature Labradors is likely not reputable or is selling a mixed lab.

Summary

Miniature labs are not an actual dog breed certified by any major Kennel Club. They are Labradors that have inherited a genetic condition called dwarfism. Usually they will only be two to three inches shorter.

There are two genes that cause dwarfism in labs, SD1 and SD2. These genes cause Labradors to be smaller by preventing growth or causing malformed and/or bent legs.

Mini labs can sometimes be just as healthy as the standard Lab and live a relatively normal life. However, this is only true if they inherit a mild form of dwarfism. Most Miniatures have many health issues, a lower quality of life and shorter lifespan.

Breeding Miniature Labs is controversial.

Trying to decrease their size through breeding will only increase their likelihood of developing health problems and having a shorter life span.

Consider adopting a standard Labrador. It might not be small, but there is a reason for why it is ranked the most popular dog breed in the world. A couple of extra inches are worth the advantages that come with a healthy lab.

Have you ever seen a Mini Lab? Did you know they existed before this reading? Let us know down below in the comments!

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