Labradors have stood at #1 in the list of most popular dog breeds in the US for more than 26 consecutive years!
They’re playful, social, and loved by all. However, there are one particular species of Labrador that are much disliked.
This species looks and behaves exactly like any other lab. But one unique feature that they possess is a shimmering silver coat.
So why is it that so many people hate the ‘silver’ lab in particular?
The Controversy Of Silver Labradors
Probably the most controversial topics surrounding the Labrador breed is the mysterious appearance of the silver lab. The first Labrador Retrievers were brought to the US in the early 1900s and were first registered by the American Kennel Club in 1917.
Since then, multiple breeders have worked tirelessly to protect the pedigree status of this species and conserve their purity. The early Labradors had two primary colors, yellow and black. The AKC had officially registered both of these colors as they were naturally occurring.
However, just about 30 years later, a new color of Labradors emerged in the US. In the 1950s’, Kellogg’s Kennel advertised a rare species of ‘Purebred Silver Labradors’ for sale. But since the color had never been seen or heard of before, it gave birth to a movement of adherent breeders of Labradors calling for the withdrawal of the Silver Labradors as it threatened the purity of the breed’s gene pool.
But even though silver labs have greatly multiplied in quantity since then, a raging debate still goes on arguing whether silver labs should be registered as purebred or not. The American Kennel Club has yet to recognize ‘Silver’ as an official color for labradors. However, this species can still be registered by most kennel clubs under the ‘Chocolate’ category of labs.
How The ‘Silver’ Color Occurs In Labradors
According to the American Kennel Club, there are three official colors of the Labrador Retrievers breed. These include Black, Yellow, and Chocolate.
In Labradors, the color of the coat is controlled by specific genes. We’ll call these genes by the letters B and E. Both of these genes control whether the Labrador will be either of the three primary colors.
However, there’s also a third type of gene that affects coat color, particularly Chocolate, in Labradors called the D gene. There are two types of D genes, a big D gene, and a small d gene, with the big D gene being the dominant one.
So the presence of a big D gene in a Labrador will always result in full and rich Chocolate color. But if two small d genes are paired up, they’ll create a ‘diluted’ version of the Chocolate color, silver.
Here’s how the D genes pair up with each other:
- D+D = Chocolate color
- D+d = Chocolate color
- d+d= Silver color
For silver to appear in a Labrador, the puppy must get the small d gene from both parents to make a pair. Because the presence of only a small d gene is so rare, not to mention in both parents, the likelihood of such an event occurring is very slim, but not impossible. This is the whole basis of the argument about whether silver labradors are purebred or not.
Here are the three most popular theories explaining how silver labs came into being:
1. Silver Labradors Are A Mixed Breed
Most Labrador breeders and aficionados against this species hold the belief that Silver Labradors are a mixed/hybrid breed between a Lab and Weimaraner.
The theory is believed due to two reasons:
- Weimaraners have a unique silver coat
- Silver labs have houndy facial features
The opposers accuse silver labradors of being mixed breeds because Weimaraners contain two copies of the small d gene. According to them, this is what gives this breed their distinct silver color. So if you breed a Labrador with a small d gene with a Weimaraner, you’ll get a silver lab mix.
The first silver labs appeared somewhere around the 1950s’ from two leading breeders, Beaver Creek Labradors, and Crist Culo Kennels. Since there have been claims of both of these kennels breeding Weimaraners, it could leverage the argument that the silver lab could be a result of mixed breeding.
Also, most opposers claim that silver labs have a distinctive houndy appearance. According to claims, this is the result of hybrid breeding with Weimaraners, which caused silver labs to take some of their facial features.
Though recently, testing and research have proved this theory to be unreliable. Genetic testing has failed to prove that silver labradors have any relation to the Weimaraner breed. The argument on silver labs having a houndy appearance doesn’t hold any weight either since silver labs look similar to any other color of work bred Labrador.
2. Hidden Genes Caused The Silver Color In Labradors
This theory favors the notion that silver Labradors are indeed a purebred species. And the explanation for it lies in the birth of the Labrador species itself.
But before that, here’s a brief explanation of how genes actually work. During the whole reproduction process, the child receives genes from both parents. Usually, the more dominant genes overpower the weaker genes and the weaker genes which get pushed down. These genes are known as recessive genes, and can often stay hidden for generations. But when this recessive gene finds a similar copy, the result is the unveiling of a trait or disease that hadn’t been seen for decades.
When the British were still perfecting the Labrador breed, they mixed the St. John’s breed with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever. Because the Chesapeake Bay Retrievers have the diluted gene responsible for the silver coat, it’s quite rare in Labradors.
But since we cannot completely rule out its existence, there might be a possibility that this recessive gene found a pair from time to time. This would have given birth to the same silver labradors. However, it’s highly likely that these labs were immediately euthanized by breeders to avoid the accusation of contaminating the purebred Labrador gene pool.
By this theory, the same phenomenon occurred in the 1950s with Kellogg’s Kennels. But instead of euthanizing the litter, they advertised and sold them publicly, despite knowing the public outcry it would cause.
3. Genetic Mutation Caused The Distinct Silver Coat
The least credible of all three theories is that the silver lab was caused due to a genetic mutation.
Generally, genetic mutation is not uncommon. It occurs all the time and can affect the genes responsible for the color of labradors as well. But like we mentioned before, for a feature to appear, there must be a co-existence of two copies of a gene.
For a silver labrador to occur through genetic mutation, both parents would have experienced the mutation of the coat color’s genes, which is the D gene. And for both of those Labradors to find each other and breed would have been no less of a miracle.
Therefore, this explanation is not very plausible since the odds of this phenomenon naturally occurring are very slim.
The Ugly Side Of Silver Labradors
While silver labs are one of the most striking and attractive breeds globally, their popularity has given rise to a lot of debate and argument throughout dog communities and kennel clubs across the world.
Much worse, this breed’s status and value have given birth to several malpractices that threaten this species and the Labradors species.
Despite how appealing this breed might be, here’s what the ugly side of the debate looks like:
Inbreeding And Health Concerns
While the theory of hidden genes appearing after decades seems plausible, there’s still a huge question raised over the topic. Because the recessive genes responsible for the silver color are so rare, it’s very likely that there were only one or two litters initially. If that’s true, there’s a high chance that the first few litters were inbred to create even more litters of silver labradors.
Inbreeding can create serious health issues and diseases due to the same phenomenon of recessive genes. So even if silver labradors are purebred, they might have multiple health concerns that might taint the original Labrador gene pool as well if they’re ever combined.
Poor Breeding Practices
Even though there’s a large population that disapproves of the silver labrador species, there’s also a huge market segment that appreciates their elite status. Because of the rarity of the species, buyers are willing to pay a considerable sum of money for these dogs.
This demand gives rise to a lot of heedless and greedy breeders as well as illegal puppy mills. These breeders are focused on producing as much litter as possible, often leaving out the necessary standards required for creating a healthy litter of puppies.
Most breeders also start producing such rare species in puppy mills in large quantities. These puppies are barely cared for in these mills and can develop lots of health issues and behavioral problems. They have no pedigree, no guarantee of protection against diseases, and often develop lots of physical disabilities later in life.
Appearance Of Silver Labradors
The general appearance of the Silver Labrador is similar to a standard Labrador. They’re medium to large-sized dogs with a broad chest and skull and are somewhat bulky but well-balanced in proportions.
An adult silver lab will stand anywhere around 22.5-24.5 inches in height for males and 21.5-23.5 inches for females. They weigh on the heavier end of the spectrum, with male silver labs weighing between 65-80 pounds and females weighing between 55-70 pounds.
However, the most spectacular feature of this dog is their shiny, silver coat. Their fur is short and straight and has a silver-bluish hue that makes them stand out. Also, they have a double-coat, so they’ll probably shed some hair during spring and fall seasons.
Temperament Of Silver Labradors
Silver Labs are some of the jolliest, social, and loyal companions you can have. They love just about any kind of physical activity and are extremely devoted to pleasing their family.
Like any Labrador, the silver lab loves socializing and spending time with their owners. Since they’ve been bred as working and retrieving dogs, they enjoy any activity that involves being alongside their master, whether it’s jogging, a walk in the park, or even swimming! They’ll happily accompany you on just about any adventure.
They’re also extremely active pups and require at least 60-minutes of exercise per day. These dogs are also extremely intelligent and can figure out things on their own. This also makes training them a breeze, but their intelligence can involve them in mischievous activities.
Silver labs make perfect family dogs as they’re excellent with kids. They’ve very well-mannered and love getting involved in playing sessions with just about anybody. With a little training, they can become your child’s best friend!
They’re also very affectionate and loving and will enjoy taking a nap in your lap as much as going out on a morning run with you. Though if you don’t provide them enough social interaction, they can develop separation anxiety.
Overall, silver labs make just as good of a family pet as a yellow, chocolate, or black Labrador will. However, you should know that some people look down upon silver labs due to the controversy surrounding them, but that doesn’t mean they deserve any less love than other breeds.
Health Of Silver Labradors
Labradors are generally considered as a moderately healthy breed. They are predisposed to certain health conditions, but some precautions and knowledge before buying your pup can help you avoid the majority of these issues.
Also, there’s quite a bit of controversy claiming that since silver labs are inbred, they are prone to more illnesses than a standard Labrador. However, a silver lab is predisposed to just as many diseases as any other Labrador would.
A silver lab will usually have a lifespan of around 10 to 12 years. Here are some health conditions that you should be aware of when getting a silver lab:
1. Joint Dysplasia
Joint dysplasia is a particularly common health issue that affects the majority of labradors throughout their life. Joint dysplasia is mostly caused in the hip and elbow joints when abnormal growth leads to the misalignment of the ball joints. This can be a painful condition and can severely impact the movement of your dog’s joints.
As your Labrador grows older, joint dysplasia can worsen and can cause severe arthritis. In some cases, it becomes untreatable, and the dog has to be euthanized due to the pain.
Unfortunately, there are currently no cures for joint dysplasia except for surgery. Surgery can also correct this abnormality to a certain extent, so your lab might still be bound to painkillers and other medication. The only way to prevent joint dysplasia is to check with your breeder for any disease history in their lineage.
2. Retinal Disorders
Although most labradors don’t suffer from any significant retinal disorders, some labs, including silver labs, can be predisposed to conditions such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy and Cataracts.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy causes the gradual deterioration of the vision until the dog becomes completely blind. It starts with trouble seeing at night, but can slowly degrade to the point of complete loss of sight.
Cataracts are also associated with age and cause the lens to develop a cloudy, white appearance. These can also impact your dog’s vision, and even though surgery is available, getting it is only advisable if their vision is severely impaired.
3. Color Dilution Alopecia
Color Dilution Alopecia is the only disease that is closely associated with silver labs. This disorder is caused in dogs with two dd genes like the silver lab.
It mainly causes hair loss and dry skin, which leads to bacterial infections in the hair follicles.
However, not all dogs with the dd genes are predisposed to this condition. It’s also not a very serious disease and can be managed with some antibiotic doses.
4. Exercise-Induced Collapse
This particular disorder is common in most sporting breeds, including Labradors. It causes a sudden loss of muscular control after an extended period of vigorous exercise or physical activity.
When it occurs, your Labrador might suddenly go partially or entirely limp. These episodes usually last around 5 to 20 minutes. Though in some extreme cases, some dogs can succumb to it.
How Much Do Silver Labradors Cost?
Since silver labs are so rare and high in demand, they can cost you a pretty penny. If you’re in the market for these dogs, you should expect to pay a base price of at least $850 for a single silver lab puppy.
However, if you’re buying from reputable breeders, these costs can quickly soar up to almost $1,250 to $1,500. A reliable breeder will also provide you with complete health inspection and reports and your puppy’s lineage.
Despite that, there are still some important facts and points you should keep in mind to ensure that you’re getting the best puppy for your money and aren’t involving yourself in anything illegal.
1. Never go for a deal that seems too good to be true
The amount of money involved in breeding silver labradors has given rise to many illegal puppy mills and unethical breeders looking to hoard as much money as possible.
If you ever come across any breeder or pet store offering ‘purebred silver labs’ for an ‘extremely affordable price,’ always look the other way. Most of these fraudulent breeders will provide you with fake documents and health checks.
2. Always ask for complete health reports and documents
Like any other Labrador, silver labs are also predisposed to several health conditions. But because there is such high demand for these puppies, breeders often try to produce them in as much quantity as possible.
Because of this, there’s no proper health inspection of these puppies and no documentation proving if they’re safe from diseases and health issues. Inbreeding can also be a significant problem when these breeders produce silver labs in as much quantity as possible, often leading to even more predisposed diseases than a standard silver lab.
What is the eye color of silver labs?
Silver labs are born with beautiful blue eyes, but as they grow older, their eyes turn into a pale-yellowish color.
Can silver labs be registered as purebred?
Yes, silver labradors can be registered as purebred if proof of 3 generations of purebred breeding is available. In spite of this, they’ll be registered as ‘Chocolate’ labradors.
Can silver labs be used as show dogs?
No, silver labradors cannot participate in show rings as the AKC does not officially recognize the color. However, they can take part in field trials if their parents are registered with the AKC.
Do silver labrador retrievers shed a lot?
Silver labradors do shed quite a bit during spring and fall seasons. But except for that, they shed average amounts of fur and only need brushing once or twice per week.
Where do silver labradors originate from?
Although there are no accurate reports about where the first silver labradors were seen, some studies suggest that they first appeared in the UK.