What springs into your mind when you envision the Labrador breed? Probably a black lab, yellow lab, or chocolate lab. But what about silver labs? Unlike other dogs, Silver Lab Retrievers often don’t come to many people’s imagination at first.
This is because the silver lab is not the most usual or common Labrador Retriever. While their popularity is rising, there’s a lot of skepticism, myths, and uncertainty from many regarding silver Labradors.
Often, they’re not as well known as other purebred dogs because of the lack of knowledge people have about them. Therefore to help identify what’s true and whether they’re a good fit for your life or not, today we’re going to cover everything you need to know about these stunning silver dogs.
Where did Silver labs come from?
To know the real origins of the Silver Labrador Retriever, we have to jump back to when Labrador Retrievers first came into existence. It’s believed that the Labrador came into existence in the 18th century in Newfoundland, Canada. Their purpose back then was to serve as a sporting and hunting dog for fishermen. Mainly they would hunt for fish, ducks, and small aquatic animals.
Later on, English noblemen gained a particular liking to this breed and brought them over to Britain by boat. It was there that this dog breed got the name we know today as the Labrador Retriever. This popular dog breed has become a favorite amongst many families from then until now.
Regarding the silver lab, there’s a lot of confusion about where they originated from. Some people think that these dog breeds are just purebred Labradors. Whereas others feel this dog is a cross between the Labrador and Weimaraner.
This uncertainty about silver labs first arose in the 1950s when a Kennel club called Kellogg’s advertised gray Labradors to buy. This advertisement alone triggered a lot of questions and that their coat color suddenly existed out of nowhere.
The main controversial belief
Do you recall that many people think the silver lab is related to the Weimaraner? Many people believe this due to the history of two of the first known Silver Labrador breeders.
These two breeders of the silver lab were Beaver Creek Labradors and Crist Culo Kennels. Even their litters can be traced back to the 1950s Kellogg’s advertisement. Many people believe that these breeders bred Labradors with close relatives like the Weimaraner to achieve the distinct gray color.
Many believers of this theory think that breeders of Silver labs contaminate the dog’s gene pool, causing a range of health problems. Therefore many people argue that these dogs are not purebred and are a mixed breed instead.
Others also believe that breeders brought this dog into existence for their gain and profit. Many people argue that breeders like this do not care about the Labrador.
Is silver an official color for the Labrador?
Although there’s some skepticism, today, silver labs are not officially recognized in their own right by the American Kennel Club. They still, however, can be registered as a Labrador Retriever by Kennel Clubs. Similarly, with the American Kennel Club, they can be registered as a Chocolate Labrador. There’s also a chance of this dog being registered as a non-recognized color in some Kennel Clubs.
While these dogs can’t be officially registered as silver, their controversy and confusion around their color status are causing them to rise in popularity.
Silver Labrador appearance
So by now, we already know these Labradors are silver. But what else contributes to the Silver Labrador Retrievers’ appearance?
Typically, they are a medium-sized dog that requires a big home and backyard to run around in.
Both genders are well-proportioned dogs with a stock body. They also have a long and thick tail, similar to an otter, which helps them move well in the water. You can also identify them by their powerful neck and iconic strong muzzle.
They also have ears that are slightly longer than the typical Labrador Retriever, causing some skepticism towards their relation to the Weimaraner breed.
Most of the time, Silver Labradors look similar to any other Labrador Retriever, apart from their coat color.
Sometimes, these dogs will have light yellow eyes with a brown nose. Silver lab puppies younger than 8 months will also have light blue eyes, which eventually turn to a yellow color once they get older.
How do they get their silver coat color?
Silver lab dogs get a silver coat due to their gene pool. Many people refer to this dog breed as a diluted version of the chocolate-colored Labrador. Regarding genetics in dogs, any color variations are referred to as a diluted gene due to the watered-down look of their coat.
With Standard Labrador Retrievers, mainly the B and E genes dictate their coat color as yellow, chocolate, or black. The recessive dilute gene D is responsible for their coat color when it comes to the silver Labrador.
Too much science? Think of their genes like a switch. The switch is flicked on for them to be a solid color and off for them to be diluted. To help further your understanding, genes come in pairs. In the case of the silver Labrador Retriever, their genes come in two, one being a big D the other a little D. They stand for the following:
- D- Full strength coat color (Dominant)
- d- Dilute coat color (Recessive)
Genes influence coat color, and the silver lab has two dilution gene pairings known as dd. To give you a better idea, let’s look at the gene pairings of chocolate labs:
- Chocolate Labrador: DD
- Chocolate Labrador: Dd
- Silver Labrador: dd
When breeding, the capital D will always stay dominant and override the lowercase d. Therefore, if the silver lab was to be born, they would need little d’s dilute gene to have silver fur. Similarly, other dogs like Weimaraners are also known to have two little d genes, adding to the controversy about the silver Lab’s origin.
Can they participate in shows?
Unfortunately, as the AKC does not recognize the Silver Labrador, they can’t enter nor compete in the show ring.
While many reputable breeders try to challenge the status quo of the AKC for them to compete, they’re still not recognized. Therefore if you’re planning on buying a dog for show purposes, you might want to consider another one.
Silver lab temperament
If you have a house full of children and elders, then the Silver Labrador may be perfect for you. The eager to please nature a silver Lab holds makes them fantastic family dogs. They are also incredibly social dogs and will join in the household games whenever they get the chance to. Moreover, they love to spend a lot of time playing, swimming in pools, and retrieving items to have fun.
Their eager to please nature makes them highly obedient dogs. Often they’re the better family dog for training, as they will learn quickly and can be disciplined easily, as long as you do from a young age.
The loyalty of a silver lab is also unparalleled to their master and anyone in the family.
Expect them to curl up and snuggle up to you while watching the tv. On the contrary, if you’re an outgoing person who has a lot of commitments, then this dog will suffer on its own. The silver Labrador can easily get separation anxiety.
While these beautiful dogs have a lovely nature, they have quite demanding exercise requirements. This dog needs at least 60 minutes of vigorous exercise a day to keep them in shape.
Don’t be deceived, though; their needs shouldn’t be just met through a walk. You’ll want to take them on fast-paced, intense activities to fatigue them. Therefore, you should be creative and switch up their routine.
Try taking them running, playing fetch, taking them on agility courses and interactive games. Don’t forget that this dog used to be a great companion of fisherman too; therefore another exercise you’ll want to involve them in is swimming.
Further to this, purebred Labradors are also one of the most intelligent dogs in the world. Because of this, they’re a breed that’s used as a service dog and are regularly working. These dogs are involved in essential roles like drug detection, search and rescue and being guide dogs.
Labradors are quite easy to train if done from an early age. Note that this dog might be a bit stubborn at first when you train them. They can also become easily distracted as they have a curious nature. Therefore you’ll want to ensure you start training them as young as 8 weeks old, using positive reinforcement.
In addition to its training, you’ll want to ensure it’s mentally stimulated. If the silver lab is not stimulated, it will engage in destructive tendencies making it difficult to train them. Another way to help with their training is playing fetch, as you’ll be able to teach them basic tricks like leaving it, sitting, and dropping it.
Most of the time, the silver lab is quite a healthy dog with a lifespan of 10-12 years. However, just like all dogs, this breed can be subject to some health problems such as the following:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Exercise-induced collapse
- Swimmers ear
Color dilution alopecia
Among the typical health problems a Labrador Retriever might face, silver labs are known to experience an additional health condition known as color dilution alopecia. This condition occurs in some dogs that have the double little d gene. This condition occurs due to infected hair follicles contributing to dry skin and hair loss. Usually, it occurs between 6 months-3 years old and can be usually managed by antibiotics.
The only two problems unique to silver and chocolate labs are color dilution alopecia and swimmers ear, medically known as otitis externa. Part of the reason is that they have long floppy ears that trap a lot of water when swimming. If the water lingers in their ears, there is a higher risk of infection.
If you own a silver lab, you should always take it to the vet for regular health checks to rule out or help manage the above conditions.
Silver labs are at risk of the same health problems that most Labrador Retrievers face.
Fully grown Silver Labradors should eat around 3 cups of food a day, split across 3 meals. Their food should add up to around 800-1200 calories. While silver labs will eat anything they can get their paws on, you should be careful. This breed can easily become obese and suffer from weight issues if their food is not monitored.
Their dog food should have natural ingredients and be free from fillers. If you’re unsure of what to feed a silver lab, speak to your vet, who will guide you.
The coat of a silver Labrador is pretty much the same as other labs. They have a double coat that sheds quite heavily. Therefore if you own this breed, expect to find several silver hairs lingering on your couch, carpet, and furniture. Especially during the transition of major seasons like spring and fall, they will shed a lot more. Therefore the allergens of these dogs can quickly trigger allergies if not groomed or maintained well.
Due to their high shedding, they will need to be brushed at least once per week. When it’s the heavier seasons, you’ll probably need to brush them every other day.
Silver Labs have floppy ears and are prone to ear infections like other dogs. Therefore it’s important to check their ears once a week. You’ll want to lift their eyes and examine them gently. Look into their ears for wax and gently clean them with cotton. If you find them with odor or pus, you’ll need to take them to a vet as it might be an infection.
You should check silver labs’ paws for cuts, thorns, or damage. You’ll want to check their nails every 2-3 weeks. Usually, they’re quite active dogs, so you won’t need to trim their nails. However, if you hear their nails scraping across the floor, you’ll want to trim them. If you’re not that confident, you should take them to a vet or groomer to do this.
Their teeth should also be brushed twice a week to reduce their risk of gum disease. This is best done using flavored toothpaste. It would help if you also aimed to bathe them every 4-6 weeks using a dog-friendly shampoo. Moreover, you might want to switch up their treats now and again and provide them with a dental chew to help clean their teeth.
How much does a silver lab puppy cost?
If you’re looking to buy a silver Labrador, be prepared to pay a premium as this dog coat is uncommon and a luxury. Many factors can influence their costs, such as the breeder, location, health conditions, and parents; therefore, the prices of this lab may not always be consistent. On average in the USA, though, a Silver Labrador can cost between $1000-$1500.
If you’re looking to buy from silver lab breeders, you should visit the dogs before buying. There is a chance that some silver labs may have been bred unethically and treated badly. Doing this will prevent you from buying rare gray labradors from backyard breeders.
Ideally, prepare a list of questions when visiting the breeder and ask for the dog’s papers. While they aren’t recognized as an official color by the AKC, they will be able to provide you with proof of their parent’s status.
In addition to their costs, you should aim to budget for the annual expenses of a silver lab puppy-like food, toys, vet bills, and more. To give you an idea that this dog can cost between $35-$60 for food each month.
Pros and Cons of owning silver Labs
If you’re undecided on owning silver labs, here’s a quick summary of the advantages and disadvantages of owning them:
- They’re a fantastic pet
- Silver Labs are easy to train
- They’re easy to love
- Silver labs are stunning to look at
- You won’t be able to enter these dogs into shows
- It may be difficult to find an ethical breeder
- You may have to pay a lot more than a typical Labrador Retriever
- Others might be rude to your dogs due to the skepticism surrounding this breed
Overall, you should definitely consider getting a silver lab over yellow labs, chocolate labradors, or any other labrador coat color. Their silver color makes them unique and a dog that stands out from the typical labrador or lab mix.
Whether you choose a female or male silver lab, you and your family members will have a loyal life companion. They’re easy to train, not stubborn, and will constantly fill you with delight. If you hear about any skepticism, whether they are purebred dogs, ignore it and appreciate the silver lab for who they really are.
Do note that this is a breed that is quite high maintenance. They require regular grooming and vigorous exercise to meet their health needs. Therefore you should only consider bringing one into your life if you have the time to look after them.
When buying this dog, you should also visit a specialized breeder in person and ask any questions you may have. You must avoid backyard breeds and make sure that the dog is looked after well. You’ll want to check for health papers, pedigree papers, and more to ensure you’re getting a top-notch Labrador.
Alex Wrigley is a professional writer and blogger who loves travel, technology and dogs. She is originally from the UK but currently lives in Nepal with her three dogs: two pugs and a golden retriever.