What are Mini Labs and are they healthy?

Vivacious and fun-loving, Labradors are an instantly recognizable breed. However, their medium to large size is off-putting to some who want a smaller dog.

Is there a compact version of these gun dogs? Yes and no.

Brown Mini Labrador portrait
Image source

Most Mini Labradors are designer breeds such as the Cavador, Cockador, or the Chihuahua Lab mix. Purebred Teacup Labradors are not received warmly due to health issues which we will explore below.

Where did the Mini Labrador originate? 

These dogs came from Newfoundland in Canada, and the breed took off with fishermen. Bred from lesser Newfoundlands, or St. John’s water dogs, they were originally black.

Black Labs became extremely popular with the hunting community, and other color variants were often culled at birth for being undesirable.

Today, you can find Labs in an array of colors, even the striking red coat of a fox or the silver-grey beauty known as Silver Labs.

To learn more, we have an article on Lab coat colors where you can read all there is to know about all the different shades that lie within the Black, Chocolate, and Yellow color categories.

Since these gun dogs were bred for hunting work and labor, the Toy Lab is a controversial topic.

Not only are they often Labradors with dwarfism, but a large portion is also bred with unscrupulous practices.

Dwarfism is a genetic mutation, which comes in various forms that will be further discussed under the health section.

It is unclear where the first Mini Lab made its appearance, but the propensity for dwarfism has always been a part of the breed’s list of potential health problems.

While you can register your Mini Labrador Retriever puppy if its parents have the appropriate papers, it will be eliminated from the show ring for being too small.

What does a Mini Lab look like?

Normal Mini Labs look like a smaller version of their bigger counterparts. They have the same otter tail, block heads, and proportions of a standard Lab.

The mini dogs that suffer from dwarfism usually have bent legs and bigger heads. 

Dwarf Labs often look like Dachshunds, with their short legs and standard-sized body.

However, some Labs affected by dwarfism do not exhibit these symptoms and may look like a slightly shorter Labrador, with the same deep barrel chest, and athletic build.

This has to do with their genetics and how the dwarfism mutation is exhibited.

Take a look at Casper the dwarf Lab: 

Size: How big do Mini Labrador Retrievers get?

According to the AKC, Labradors should be anywhere between 21.5 to 24.5 inches (54 to 62 cm) and weigh 55 to 80 pounds (25 to 36 kg). 

In the case of Mini Labs, they can be up to 20 cm shorter. To find out how big your Labrador will be, we have a size chart you can refer to.

Not many people know this but full-sized Labradors are actually apartment friendly. If that’s your concern, perhaps you should reconsider, since they are calm dogs that don’t need a lot of space.

That being said, Mini Labs are definitely safe to keep in an apartment.

Coat: Are Mini Labs hypoallergenic?

If you are after a hypoallergenic dog, you will have much better luck with Labradoodles, which are Labs crossed with Poodles. They are an adorable and highly popular crossbreed that doesn’t shed.

Unfortunately, the Mini Lab has the same tendency to shed as a standard Lab. Their thick double coats are waterproof on the top layer, soft and fluffy on the inner layer. 

Thanks to their double coats, they can withstand heat and cold much better than their owners can. If it’s under 20 °F (-6 °C) you should offer your furkid a blanket or a warm shelter.

If it’s over 90 °F (32 °C), make sure there is shade and fresh, easily accessible water.

That being said, every dog is different and their preferences should be taken into consideration.

A house dog would not like being left out in the cold, whereas a dog used to winter would find your home too stuffy with the heating on.

Do Miniature Labs make better house pets?

Purebred Labradors are known to be awesome family pets. They get along great with kids and are as loving as they are active.

Your Teacup Lab Retriever will be no different. He’ll be a joy to be around and a wonderful addition to your family. 

However, due to issues with their health, your Mini Labrador Retriever dog might be more time consuming to take care of. 

How to take care of your Mini Labrador

Mini Labrador standing in his pool
Image source

Mini Labs bred with runts can have many health problems. According to Google, there are plenty of runts that live to lead healthy lives but they often have lower survivability in their puppyhood.

On the other hand, Labradors born with dwarfism will need a lifetime of specialized care and attention.

Exercising your Mini Labs

Mini Labradors have the same energy levels as their standard counterparts. The only difference is that they are even more susceptible to joint disorders such as hip dysplasia.

Mini Labrador close-up portrait
Image source

Therefore, it’s crucial that you don’t overdo the exercise until they are at least two years old when their bones have had time to set.

These little guys tend to have shorter legs, so you want to make sure that they are able to keep up when you’re hiking or jogging.

You also want to provide them with enough stimulation, lest they get bored and become destructive. 

How often should Mini Labs be groomed?

Miniature or not, Labradors shouldn’t be bathed frequently as this could destroy the balance of natural oils on their coat.

Too much shampooing can also cause their coats to dry out, which will either cause itchiness or an increase in oil production. Neither of which will do your dog any favors.

Check their eyes and ears frequently to ensure that there are no abnormalities. Nails need to be clipped every few weeks or when you can hear them clacking on the floor.

As you can see, they are quite low maintenance and only require a brush every now and then.

Any ole slicker brush you get off Amazon will do, although some pet parents like to use a furminator to get their annual shedding under control.

When they are blowing out their coats for the summer or winter, you’ll want to brush them on a daily basis.

How do you feed a Toy Lab?

These small variants should be eating 1½ of high-quality kibble per day. Even though they are a smaller size, they shouldn’t be fed a Beagle or small-dog kibble. They will need the same nutrients as a large-breed dog.

Why? Large-breed dog kibbles are fortified with supplements for healthy joints and heart and aren’t too high in fat since special precautions should be taken to prevent obesity.

We have an article filled with the best dog food for your Labrador that you can check out here. 

Miniature Labrador health issues

Depending on what caused your Labrador to be smaller than the breed standard, you might need to be prepared for a shorter than average lifespan.

Dogs with dwarfism might only live 5 years, whereas the breed average is 10 – 12. 

They also suffer from certain physical disabilities such as short legs, bowed knees, swollen joints, turned out feet, and a low slung back. Dwarf Labs also have proportionally large heads

Angry Mini Lab lying on the grass
A dwarf Labrador – Image source

There are two main kinds of dwarfism, SD1, and SD2. The SD1 gene is called osteochondrodysplasia and will manifest as malformed legs.

These dogs will most likely develop dysplasia and cause pain and lameness, something that the Labrador breed is already susceptible to.

The SD2 is the more common form of dwarfism and it causes skeletal dysplasia and inhibits their bones from fully developing. This means that while their legs will be shorter, they will not have any deformities.

Another genetic mutation that might create a Miniature Labrador lies in their faulty pituitary gland.

A malfunction that inhibits their growth hormones naturally stunts their growth and leaves them smaller than other Labs. All three mutations can increase the risk for retinal dysplasia which causes blindness.

Smaller Labs bred with runts are often more sickly than regular-sized Labs. It isn’t surprising for them to have weaker constitutions. However, they can also be just as healthy. 

This popular breed of dog could also develop ear and eye problems, and hypothyroidism. The other health issues that Labbie owners should look out for are obesity and cancer. 

How much is a Mini Labrador Puppy?

Lab puppies regardless of size should be around $300 to $1,000, depending on their pedigree. Most breeders do not advertise their stunted puppies as bigger Labradors are often more desirable.

Cute Mini Labrador puppy
Image source

Mini Labrador Breeders

If you come across a Mini Lab breeder, there are a few things you should consider. First of all, they should be breeding healthy Labradors who do not carry the gene for dwarfism

Due to its controversy, there aren’t many Mini Lab breeders or kennel clubs, which means that you will need to source your little baby from regular Labrador breeders for dogs that are smaller than usual:

Rescue a Mini Lab

Dog lovers who believe in adopting instead of shopping are commendable and giving dwarf Labradors or Toy Labs a second chance is an honorable thing.

You can call the following shelters to see if they have any Miniature Labrador Retrievers available, bearing in mind that most of them would be mixed:

Who should get a Mini Lab dog?

Mini Labrador posing near the sea
Image source

If you’re in love with the Labrador breed but don’t have the resources of a large dog, you can potentially adopt a small Labrador. Just be aware of the risks involved as they are unregulated.

However, if you’re happy with any small dog, there are plenty of other dog breeds such as the Spaniel or Terrier that will offer you the same outgoing personalities in a much smaller package.

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