Silver Labrador Retriever: Facts, Color Controversy, Origin & Differences

Silver Labrador Retriever standing on a branch

Silver may be for second place winners, but silver labs are definitely first place in many dog owners’ hearts.

Did you think Labradors could only be yellow, black or chocolate? Labs actually come in a variety of different colors and the Silver Labrador Retriever is one of the rarest. If you happen to see one, treasure the moment! You may not see another for a long time.

These dogs are really no different than any other Lab. They are just as outgoing, goofy and active. They even have the same beaver tail that Retrievers are famous for. But, their unique feature is their beautiful silver coat.

This silver color makes them irresistible to many dog owners. It quickly wins over the love of anyone who meets one.

In this article, we will share the history of this breed, the controversy in breeding for silver, and share what it takes to care for this magnificent breed…

What Is A Silver Lab?

Young Labrador Dog Sitting in Forest

The Silver Lab is a beautiful color variation of the standard Labrador Retriever. These muscular dogs were originally bred for sporting and working purposes; however, their affectionate and loyal nature has made them the most popular dog in the United States.

Labradors still are used for retrieving and hunting, but they are more likely to be found as a family pet. They are known for being friendly with every person or animal they meet. They love making new friends and receiving endless attention. Regardless of their age, these pups love everyone!

They are an outgoing breed that thrives off trips to the dog park and being involved in large family events. Labs have a goofy personality and will make you laugh with their clumsy antics and playful attitude.

Silver Labradors are known for their beautiful silver coat and striking blue or warm brown eyes.

Beyond these two traits, they have the same personality and look just like any other Labrador Retriever. They have the stocky build and broad head that Lab owners love so dearly. Their fur is also water resistant, and they still have a thick beaver-like tail to help them do their favorite activity… swimming!

Labs are not too much of a handful to care for, but their heavy shedding and moderate exercise needs make them slightly high maintenance.

Silver Labrador Retrievers do require a bit of extra attention. Silver Labs in particular can develop various skin allergies and irritations that you may have to treat with external ointments. Labradors in general also require a hearty meal twice a day because they have a big appetite that is difficult to satisfy.

These loyal dogs are very easy to train and socialize, incredibly hard-working, and focused if given a job. Silver Labs may have a few extra health needs, but they make the perfect snuggle buddy, especially given their beautiful coat color.

Silver Labrador Origin and Controversy

The Labrador Retriever is a breed with a rich history dating back to the 1800s. These sporting dogs were refined and selectively bred in England for the purpose of retrieving ducks and fowl for hunters. They are exceptionally good at this job due to their athleticism and intelligence.

These desirable traits also made them great at other jobs such as service dog work, scent work, or skilled agility/obedience trial competitions. Although many Labs still perform their historic jobs, many have now become beloved family pets and companions.

Labradors were eventually brought to the U.S. in the 1900s. They were recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club in 1917.

It was not until the 1950s when Silver Labs started to appear. Breeders and Kennel Clubs originally doubted the existence of this color and claimed that breeders had crossed a Labrador Retriever with a Weimaraner to produce such a stunning coat color. But, modern science has proven that these dogs are purebred Labrador Retrievers!

Chocolate Lab parents naturally have a silver puppy if both parents carry the right recessive gene. These genes are known as dilute genes because they dilute the typical Chocolate Lab brown coat color.

Silver Labrador dogs are still very rare because it is difficult to breed healthy puppies created by a double recessive gene. Any owner who has the privilege of welcoming a Silver Lab into their home is very lucky.

Silver Coat Color and Dilute Genes

Dilute chocolate lab

The silver coat of a Labrador Retriever is stunning and beautiful. But why are there so few silver puppies?

That is because the silver color can only be caused by two recessive genes. These genes are known as dilute genes because they dilute the typical Chocolate Lab brown coat color. That is why many people refer to these dogs as Chocolate Labs with a dusting of flour on them.

Silver Labrador Retrievers can be bred from two Silver Lab parents, just one, or no silver parents. As long as both parents are carriers of the double recessive dilute gene, their puppies have a chance of being silver. However, there is no guarantee that you will get silver puppies because the dominant genes may overpower the recessive genes.

Because their silver coat is a dilute variation of the chocolate gene, the American Kennel Club still registers Silver Labs as Chocolate. However dog owners have recently started calling these dogs Silver Labs to give them their own identity since they are distinctly different.

Chocolate Labs are not the only Labrador Retrievers that can inherit this dilute gene:

  • Black Labs can inherit the genes and are called Charcoal Labs.
  • Yellow Labs can also inherit the genes and are referred to as Champagne Labs.

Many dog breeds, such as German Shepherds and Mini Australian Shepherds, can inherit these double dilute genes too. This can create breeds such as the Blue German Shepherd.

The two recessive dilute genes that cause this color have only recently appeared in the Labrador Retriever gene pool. Because of this, all Silver Labs can be traced back to just seven bloodlines!

The reduced number of bloodlines poses a risk to breeders as they have to be very meticulous in checking stud books to make sure they do not accidentally practice inbreeding. Inbreeding can result in many genetic defects and health issues.

Because Silver Labs are only rarely produced in litters, many breeders do not breed for the color. If a breeder happens to end up with a Silver Retriever, they may sell it for a higher price. So, because it is a game of chance, many breeders choose not to just specialize in breeding Silver Labs.

Breed Appearance and Size

Silver Labrador Retrievers are undeniably cute with their big, beautiful blue eyes.

The color of a Silver Lab is one of its most distinct features. This silver gray color is a genetic variation of the chocolate brown coat.

Their coat color is very similar to that of a Weimaraner. Some Silver Labs show the gene more prominently than others. Many will have the Weimaraner gray appearance, but some may just look like a washed-out or lighter shade of chocolate.

Their fur has the same texture and appearance as any other Lab. It is short, straight, dense and is delightful to pet.

They have a thick, double coat that sheds heavily throughout the entire year. This durable coat is specially designed to keep them warm in the winter and protect them in the water.

Silver Labs, just like any other Labrador, are known for their stocky appearance. Even their tail is thick and helps to steer them through the water. Many owners lovingly refer to the tail of a Labrador as a beaver tail because of this.

Labs are built for strength, agility and endurance. They typically weigh between 55 to 80 pounds and are 21 to 24 inches tall.

This breed has a deep, broad chest that hangs low underneath their bodies. Having such strong features helps these dogs be good at the jobs they were originally bred for. Their strong body makes them powerful swimmers and durable hunters.

Unfortunately their strong bodies often become quite flabby because of their tendency to overeat. It is not uncommon to see a Labrador Retriever who looks anything but muscular and strong.

Is The Silver Labrador Retriever A Purebred Dog?

Silver Lab Puppy

Yes! Silver Labrador Retrievers are still a purebred dog, they come from two purebred Labrador Retriever parents. The American Kennel Club recently made the decision to allow Silver Lab owners to register their puppies as purebred.

However, the exclusive nature of the American Kennel Club makes silver labs not “show worthy”. Their fur color is considered a serious fault in their breed standard. Because of this, Silver Labs are not allowed into showing rings.

The Kennel Club only recognizes three coat colors:

  1. Chocolate
  2. Black
  3. Yellow

The American Kennel Club will allow Silver Labs to be registered as purebreds, but will not let them compete in Kennel Club events the same way other Labrador Retrievers are allowed to.

If you plan on showing your dog, you will unfortunately need to choose a different colored Labrador Retriever. The Kennel Club is strongly against this coat color variation and considers it a serious fault in their breed standard. If you have no intentions of showing your dog, then the Silver Lab will be no different to you than any other Labrador Retriever.

Are Silver Labs Different from Other Labradors?

Labrador Standing In the Snow

There are not many differences between a Silver Labrador and any other Lab. Silver Labs still have the typical, stocky build of a Labrador Retriever and characteristic broad skull, chest and beaver tail.

They are not only similar in appearance, but are also identical in temperament and care.

All colors of Labrador are overwhelmingly affectionate, loyal and outgoing. They are friendly towards everyone they meet and are incredibly easily to socialize because of their agreeable temperament.

In addition, every Labrador is easy to train. These pups are often purchased by families due to their trainability. Any color of Lab will make a great choice for a first time owner.

A Silver Lab’s fur is the same texture and requires the same care (e.g. weekly brushing). This dense fur is the same, regardless of color, and can withstand cold temperatures and long swims in the lake.

The only significant difference for a Silver Lab is their coat color. Most Labs do not have the silver gray color that only a few individuals have. Apart from their coat color, their appearances are identical!

Their only health concern different from other colored labs is that Silver Labradors are prone to developing alopecia. Alopecia is an uncomfortable skin irritation where the skin becomes very dry and flakey. Your Silver Lab will itch and itch at it until you treat it with either a vet prescribed ointment or by adding supplements to their diet that support coat and skin health.

Beyond the differences in coat color and skin health, Silver Labs are really just like any other lab. Their temperament, care, fur texture, and overall build are identical.

Deciding Between a Traditional Lab vs. Silver

Silver Lab Puppy Side Profile

There are both pros and cons to consider when choosing between a traditional or Silver Lab.

The pros of Silver Labradors are quite obvious… they have a beautiful coat! Their silver color is so unique they will stand out in a crowd. The traditional Labrador colors of chocolate, black and yellow are still beautiful, but they are much more common and less striking.

There are a few cons to consider before owning a Silver Lab though.

These beautiful dogs are very rare and difficult to find. You will likely have to research intensely to find a qualified breeder and will end up on a long waiting list once you find one. If you are able to find a breeder, you should be prepared to pay a price of up to $2,500. Silver is not cheap.

Chocolate, yellow and black dogs, are much more common. You can easily find a great breeder who will sell these puppies at a much lower price.

In addition, Silver Labs tend to have skin problems. They often develop alopecia, which is a skin irritation that can be quite uncomfortable for them. This condition can be resolved with topical ointments, but they can get costly.

Silver Labrador Retriever Temperament

Silver Labs are just as kind and outgoing as any other Labrador Retriever. These dogs are highly praised for their loving nature and have earned the top spot on the American Kennel Club’s favorite dog breeds list.

These dogs are extremely affectionate with their family members. They love to be pet and crave scratches on the belly, body, and behind their ears. The more attention they can get, the better! This intense love for their owners also translates into an unfailing loyalty that is characteristic of all Labradors.

They will love all family members equally and often struggle to decide which person they want to follow around all day long. Their love and devotion makes them the perfect family dog. They are gentle and patient with children and crave the exciting chaos of a big family.

Silver Labs are equally caring towards strangers. If they meet someone out on the street, they will instantly become best friends will them. They will happily trot up to that person and eagerly lean on them for pets and attention.

They are just as outgoing with other dogs. They are polite but excitable when meeting other dogs. Silver Labradors love having lots of canine friends and will likely be the most popular dog at the dog park.

This friendliness also applies to cats, gerbils, rabbits, iguanas, or whatever pet you may have in your home! They just want friends, they do not care what species those friends are.

Labs are goofy dogs with a silly personality.

They have big, expressive smiles and often wiggle around to show their excitement. Their funny expressions can make anyone’s day better.

These little comedians have plenty of energy and love to play! They can play fetch all day long if they have someone willing to play with them. They may be playful, energetic, and excitable, however, they do settle down very nicely.

Because of their powerful stature, they naturally have a low-pitched strong bark. But, they will only use this when they feel necessary. They may bark if you forget to feed them, but they should not bark excessively unless they are bored and are not being exercised enough.

Exercise and Training

Adult Silver Lab Panting

Any Labrador can be cuddly and lazy, but they need to be exercised first! Labs love being active and crave at least 60 minutes of exercise each day.

They love going for walks and typically walk very well on a leash. Two long walks each day will make these active and curious dogs very happy!

Silver Labs have an extremely playful personality, so on the weekends they will likely want to do more than just go on walks. They love playing fetch, running through agility courses, hunting, hiking and swimming. Toss a ball into the water and watch your athletic puppy expertly retrieve it.

Labs are very smart and will easily get bored if you do not keep them entertained.

Kong toys, puzzle toys and plenty of exercise are required to keep them mentally active. If you do not provide them with enough mental stimulation each day, they will chew on your furniture or bark excessively.

Labradors are known for being incredibly easy to train! This breed is highly intelligent and eager to please.

They respond best to positive reinforcement and are highly treat motivated because of their big appetite. It is ok to use treats during training sessions but try to limit treats to avoid weight gain.

Socialization is not a concern with Silver Labs. They are naturally friendly and love meeting new people. They enjoy the company of other dogs and also do well with other pets in the home because of their friendly nature.

Summary

Silver Labs are a rare breed to find, but if you are lucky to find one, treasure it! These incredible dogs are beloved by everyone who encounters them and they make the most loving and loyal companions.

These dogs, like all Labs, are exceptionally sweet and known for their social behavior. They make friends wherever they go and flash an inviting smile at anyone who approaches them.

The only difference between Silver Labradors is their coat color. Apart from their silver color, their appearance is identical to any other Lab!

These dogs are great for new dog owners, experienced dog owners, families, young couples and single adults. They are even great for people with disabilities who are in need of a service dog. They are a versatile breed that adapts well to many homes.

Remember that Silver Labs are active and do need to be kept busy during the day to stay happy. Exercise will tire them out and transform them into cuddly, couch potatoes at the end of the day.

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