Miniature breeds are the new hype, especially in show rings. Not only do they look super-cute, but some owners specifically prefer them due to a lack of space in their homes.
But miniaturing a breed comes with consequences, especially when it involves a large breed dog such as the Labrador.
So do miniature labrador dogs exist? How small are mini labs? And do they have any specific health issues?
Read on ahead to find the answers to your questions:
Do miniature labradors exist?
Before we head into detail, let’s answer the most crucial question. And that is, do miniature labradors exist?
The answer is both Yes and No. Mini labs do exist, and you’ll often come across breeders advertising these dogs. Maybe that’s why you came over here in the first place. However, these miniature labrador dogs are the result of some very shady experimentation that can create a host of problems for both the pups and their owners.
That’s why there isn’t any officially recognized ‘miniature’ version of Labradors. Even though some breeds have well-known ‘miniature’ or ‘teacup’ forms such as schnauzers, dachshunds, and poodles, Labradors do not.
So if these miniature labs do exist, what are they like?
Overview of miniature labradors
Besides being smaller in size, miniature labradors are the same as any normal labrador in all aspects. They’re still one of the friendliest and most energetic breeds you’ll come across, and they love being with their people.
Mini labs are extremely devoted to their owners and love to please them in all sorts of ways. They love accompanying their owners in any activity they do, especially if it involves physical exercise.
Due to their smaller size, miniature labrador dogs are lighter in weight than your average lab. However, this compact body structure often comes at a cost which we’ll discuss later.
Mini Labrador puppies tend to make excellent pets for families with lots of children and activity. They do need a bit of training as these dogs love to bite when they’re excited. Luckily, these pups are extremely intelligent, and training shouldn’t be an issue.
Despite that, there is a bit of controversy surrounding the overall health of these dogs. So before you go on to buy one, it’s better to know how these puppies are bred and what problems they’re likely to suffer from.
How are miniature labradors made?
Although many breeders have successfully created ‘miniature’ or ‘teacup’ versions of standard breeds, a similar category in Labradors is still to be considered by Kennels in the US.
But first, let’s discuss how miniature versions of Labradors, or any other breed for that matter, are created.
Like humans, dwarfism is a condition that is known to exist in many breeds, including Labradors. It affects dogs just like it affects humans, causing a slowed growth of bones, which causes the dog to develop a shorter-than-normal stature. Or, more simply, a miniature version of ‘Labradors’.
The way dwarf labs are conceived is by breeding two labradors that carry the genes responsible for dwarfism. When both dwarf parents contribute a copy of the dwarf genes, the litter is born with predisposed dwarfism.
There are two types of genes responsible for dwarfism in labradors known as the SD1 and SD2 gene. Here’s how each of these creates a different kind of dwarfism:
- SD1 Gene: This gene is also known as osteochondrodysplasia that causes the lab to have bent or curved legs. Because this gene produces a significant malformation in the bones, it can create a ton of other side complications that can seriously hinder a labrador’s ability to move.
- SD2 Gene: This is the most common gene that causes dwarfism in labradors and is also known as skeletal dysplasia. It hinders bone growth and prevents them from reaching full size, giving the lab a smaller appearance.
However, there’s also a third disorder that causes dwarfism. This is known as pituitary dwarfism, and it disrupts the production of growth hormones in labradors. Due to this, the Labrador cannot grow as much as a typical lab, causing them to develop a smaller stature.
Another way most breeders create miniature labradors is by crossbreeding them with another small breed of dogs.
Such labradors might be significantly smaller in size. It’s deceitful to advertise a litter as being purebred miniatures when they’re really just a hybrid. And to sell them at a premium is unethical and can land the breeder in quite a bit of trouble.
Another problem with hybrid miniature labs is that they might not always turn out to be perfectly healthy. That’s because crossbreeding is a very complicated process which should only be performed by professionals
If you breed a labrador with an unknown breed, there’s a high risk that the litter will be born with multiple predisposed health concerns. To safely cross a lab with another breed, the breeder must have complete knowledge of various dog breeds’ backgrounds and should preferably be certified.
3. Breeding Runts
This one is perhaps the most popular technique through which miniature breeds are created. Breeding ‘runts’ or the smaller-sized puppies from a litter with each other is an old technique known for producing popular teacup breeds.
With some breeds, this technique can be quite successful and can yield puppies that are significantly smaller in size than the average puppy of that same breed. However, there are some issues with this technique as well.
Firstly, there’s no guarantee that breeding ‘runts’ will always yield a litter that’s smaller in size. Some litters from runt parents could grow equal to a standard pooch of that breed. So when a breeder claims to be selling mini labs, when they’re really just selling a pup from the runts, you’ll find out that your Labrador is just as big as any other lab when they grow up.
Secondly, the selective breeding of runts can cause several defects to appear that weren’t present before. Because the small-size of these runts is usually due to some health condition, or worse dwarfism, the same defects would probably pass on to the litter they conceive. Also, some breeders inbreed these runts, and that can cause several new health problems that won’t be visible until those pups become adults.
Health concerns with miniature labradors
Labradors are considered as a quite healthy breed overall. And even though they are predisposed to specific health issues, breeders have evolved labs in such a way that these defects are slowly decreasing in dogs with pedigrees.
However, most methods used to produce miniature labradors can bring back severe defects that had previously subsided. So what are those health defects? And which mini labs have them?
Defects In Miniature Labs
The method of producing miniature labs, which leads to the highest amount of defects, is dwarfism. Both SD1 and SD2 genes can cause abnormal growth, which can worsen or create entirely new defects within a miniature lab.
Some of the most prevalent defects associated with dwarfism in mini labs are:
- Bowed Legs and Knees: The reason why labs with dwarfism appear shorter is that their legs are malformed. Sometimes they’re bent or generally just of a shorter length. This can cause quite a lot of pain, especially during physical activity due to the uneven stress placed on their legs.
- Swollen Joints: Because dwarfism causes a malformation of the bones in labs, it can put uneven pressure on the joints, causing swelling and inflammation. Swollen joints are usually controlled through regular medication, but could need surgery in some cases.
- Worsened Joint Dysplasia: Joint dysplasia is a predisposed defect that many labradors suffer from naturally. But because of the unnatural length and shape of mini labs’ leg bone, this condition can deteriorate at a rapid pace. Not only is joint dysplasia extremely painful, but it can also lead to arthritis, which might even lead to the dog getting euthanized in severe cases.
- Larger Skull and Breathing Problems: Dwarfism is also associated with abnormal growth of the skull, including the muzzle. This can create breathing problems for the Labrador and deteriorate their quality of life.
Should you get a miniature labrador?
Now for the most important question, should you buy a miniature labrador?
We wouldn’t recommend buying miniature labrador dogs for three important reasons:
- Miniature labs suffer from too many defects and health issues.
- Most breeders and advertisers of miniature labs are frauds.
- They can’t participate or register with the AKC
- There isn’t much difference between a mini lab and a standard lab.
Let us explain each of these reasons in a bit detail:
1. Miniature Labs Suffer From Too Many Health Complications
It’s no secret that caring for a pooch with multiple health complications is a difficult job. And considering that a miniature labrador dog suffers from way more than the average dog, attending to them isn’t a piece of cake.
Not only would you have to make more frequent visits to the veterinarian, but you’ll have to take even more care of them at home. This includes keeping tabs on their medication, as well as getting them to eat them regularly.
It’s also worth mentioning that all the medicines and vet visits will likely cost you thousands of dollars. And to be honest, it’s not worth putting that much money and effort while making your pooch suffer.
2. Most ‘Miniature’ Labrador Breeders Are Frauds
Like we discussed before, there aren’t any ‘miniature’ labrador officially as of yet. So if you ever hear or see a breeder or pet store selling ‘rare miniature labradors’, they’re most likely ripping you off with a dwarf lab or a hybrid breed of labradors.
Even if they’re selling you a litter conceived from a pair of runts, there isn’t any guarantee that the puppy will also turn out to be small in height. So basically, the breeder is trying to exploit you with fake guarantees.
3. They can’t participate in shows or register with the AKC
The appeal of miniature and teacup breeds is mostly due to their desirability in show rings. However, it’s worth knowing that a breed has to be registered with the American Kennel Club to participate in any show ring in the US.
For a labrador to register with the AKC officially, they must be between 22.5 to 24.5 inches in height from the withers if it’s a male, and 21.5 to 23.5 inches if it’s a female. If a labrador does not meet these requirements, they can still get registered with the organization.
However, the owners must provide the pedigree documents to prove that the dog is purebred. But even after registration, a labrador will not be allowed to enter a show ring if they do not meet the height requirements by the AKC.
So if you’re solely buying a miniature labrador to take them to show rings, you might want to reconsider your decision and look into other breeds.
4. They Aren’t Too Different From Regular Labs
This is perhaps the harshest truth about the whole miniature labrador scenario.
A standard labrador and a miniature labrador aren’t visibly different unless they’re put side by side. In fact, a miniature lab is only about 2 to 2.5 inches shorter than a standard labrador.
So if you imagined that your miniature Labrador will be recognizable from far, you’re probably wrong. That’s why it’s worth considering the reason why you really want a mini lab.
What is the lifespan of a dwarf labrador?
Unlike a standard labrador, a mini lab might only live up to 5 years, even if they receive full medical care and attention.
What can you buy instead of miniature labradors?
If you’re insistent on buying a smaller labrador, contact a reputable breeder, and they can get you a lab that will be both smaller and lighter than the average pooch that’s both purebred and free from dwarfism.
What is the difference in height between a standard and miniature lab?
Unlike other miniature breeds, a miniature lab might only be 2 to 3 inches shorter in height than a standard labrador. This difference isn’t usually visible unless both dogs are placed side by side.
How much do miniature labradors shed?
A miniature lab has the same double-coat as a standard labrador. They shed an adequate amount of fur, particularly during the spring and fall seasons.
Do miniature labradors bite a lot?
Miniature and standard labs are both more prone to biting during puppyhood. But once they become adults, the habit mostly subsides, provided they get proper training.