Red Lab Dog: Guide to Owning a Fox Red Labrador Retriever

Last Updated on June 30, 2023

Red Lab Dog Breed Guide
Source: @foxredmilo / IG

A Red Lab is a rare color variation of the purebred Labrador Retriever, not a separate dog breed. It simply refers to a traditional Yellow Lab with a darker shade of red color. It is labeled Fox Red Lab because its coat color looks similar to the color of a red fox.

Fox Red Labrador is characterized as medium to large in size, measuring 21.5 to 24.5 inches (55 to 62 cm) tall and weighing around 55 to 80 pounds (25 to 36 kg). Its average lifespan is around 10 to 12 years.

Purebred Labrador Retrievers are great family pets. They are affectionate, friendly, and gentle dogs, especially for young children. If you’re planning to own a puppy, you can get it between $800 to $1,500 from a reputable breeder.

We will cover everything you need to know about the Red Labrador breed. From its origin, temperament, diet, exercise, and grooming needs, to its common health issues. Read our complete guide and see if this intelligent and outgoing dog is right for you!

The Red Labrador at a Glance

Breed Summary Red Lab Dog Quick Facts
Group Sporting Group
Breed Purpose Hunting Dog
Breed Size Medium-to-large
Height 21.5 to 24.5 inches (55 to 62 cm)
Weight 55 to 80 lbs (25 to 36 kg)
Coat Type Short, straight, dense double coat
Shedding Heavy
Lifespan 10 to 12 years
Temperament Intelligent, Outgoing, Kind
Energy High
Exercise Needs 1 hr per day
Average Price $800 to $1,500

Where Did the Red Labradors Originate? 

In the early days of Labrador Retrievers, they were black and white. It wasn’t until the late 1800s and early 1900s did they start breeding solid Black Labradors. Any other colors were culled at birth.

While it isn’t clear when the Fox Red Labrador came into existence, they were quite common back then. The first Yellow Labs were also rather dark and born with tinges of Red.

Fox Red Lab in the woods

Dog coat colors are like a fashion statement, and like any trend, it waxes and wanes with the times. We all want what is uncommon.

Back in the day, solid Black Labs were all the rage, until people began desiring the lesser-seen Yellow or Red Labs. 

When they got too popular, Red Labs and the darker Yellows fell out of favor. 

Today, light Yellow Labs are more common due to an explosion in popularity around the 1970s. This made Red Labs rare again and have now turned into a commodity.

Much like their cousin, the Red Golden Retriever, Labs with these russet-colored coats are considered controversial simply because they do not meet traditional expectations. 

Some people claim that Red Labradors are crossed with a Vizsla, and are not actually purebred. The same claims have been made about Silver Labradors.

Purists are convinced that Labradors lack the genes to be Silver naturally, and therefore must be crossed with the Weimaraner

These claims have never been proven. On top of that, while Vizsla’s do resemble Labradors in size and have similar temperaments, they are much slimmer than the well-built Labrador. 

Furthermore, one look at their genetics will show that it is possible for these color variations in the breed.

What Genetics Make up a Fox Red Labrador?

Fox Red Lab standing on the sand

Before we delve into the exact science of a Fox Red Labrador, we must first understand how genetics work.

Each dog inherits an allele from each parent which makes up a gene. This allele can be dominant or recessive. They are often written in pairs, such as BB or Bb, one for each parent.

There are a few loci that determine coat color, from the A locus to the E locus. The B allele is a dominant black gene and can result in a black dog. In fact, all black dogs have at least one dominant B allele.

Black Labs can carry the recessive b and when two are present, you will get a Chocolate Lab. However, the gene that controls the brown pigment lies in the E locus.

To get a Yellow Lab, they must have two recessive ee alleles. This powerful little gene has the ability to completely block the dominant black color, repressing it so only the yellow comes through.

Labrador punnett square
Image source

Now comes the genes that create the dark yellow we identify as Fox Red: the a and c alleles. The A represents the pheomelanin in your dog, it comes in various forms that can affect the coat. 

This part of the color genetics can be quite complicated, but different modifiers can result in different results. For example, at will produce Black and Tan Labradors. 

In the case of Fox Red Labradors, it often looks like as. If they inherited the allele As, the dog would be either cream or white because that is a pheomelanin-suppressing allele. 

The intensity of the color is expressed by the c allele, so a dog with CC will have a darker shade, those with Cc will be in the mid-range, and Labs with the cc gene are likely to be quite light.

A particular type of C locus will result in a White Labrador.

In order to get a Fox Red Lab, the dog will need to have both CC and ee as well as the right type of A locus, making its puppy a special little fella indeed.

What Does a Red Lab Look Like?

Red Labrador sitting outdoor
Source: @foxredmilo / IG

According to the AKC, Yellow Labradors can be Fox Red to Light Cream and can have color variations around the ears, back, or underparts.

Therefore as per the breed standard, Labradors with this Fox Red color are eligible to compete in the show ring, as long as they are a solid color. Unfortunately, judges often favor lighter shades of yellow.

Dancer was crowned champion in the United States in the year 2011, making her the first Red Lab with this title.

The American Kennel Club states that Labradors should be proportional, with a muscular build. They shouldn’t be overly stocky, as the breed is first and foremost a working dog and should have the physique to match.

This doesn’t mean that you will not be able to find show dogs that are Red. On the contrary, breeders are fighting very hard to produce more show dog champions of the red variety.

American Red Labs vs English Red Labs

These labels are a bit of a misnomer as working dogs are referred to as American Labs, whereas show dogs are called English Labs.

English Red Labs are a rarity indeed, they haven’t been around long enough to have as much success as their more commonly colored counterparts.

However, this is slowly changing as judges become more accepting. 

Since English Labs have bred for show confirmation they will mostly be in the traditional yellow, chocolate, or black.

On the other hand, American Labs are field dogs and are bred for their skills more than their looks. This means that they have a better chance of being red since looks don’t matter to the hunter or the hunted.

They don’t usually have the blocky head that English Labs are known for. American Labs are also much more athletic-looking. You can further compare the two types with our chart.

That being said, most Fox Red Labs are American Labradors.

Read more: English Lab vs American Lab

Are Fox Red Labradors bigger than other Labs? 

No, Fox Red Labradors have the same height and weight as other colored Labs. These hunting dogs are a medium-to-large breed, weighing in at around 55 to 80 lbs (25 to 36 kg), depending on the gender. 

Male Red Labs should be between 22.5 to 24.5 inches (57 to 62 cm) tall, whereas female Red Labradors should be 21.5 to 23.5 inches (55 to 60 cm). For more info on their size, you can check out our Lab Growth Chart.

Do they change color?

Puppies born with a Fox Red coat might not retain that same shade of red. It usually lightens or darkens with age. It is hard to be certain of their final coat color until they are at least 20 to 24 months old. 

Young Fox Red Lab dog
Source: @joey.foxredlab / IG

White spots on the chest are quite common among Yellow Labradors and since the Red Lab is essentially a Yellow Lab, they are likely to have one too.

These mismark don’t mean that they aren’t purebred, it just means that they are more genetically similar to their Newfoundland ancestors!

You can read more about our Labrador colors article. 

Personality: What Color Labrador is the Best?

Color doesn’t dictate a Labrador’s temperament. They all conform to the breed standard of being loyal, outgoing, and kind. Labradors are simply everyone’s best friend

These gentle dogs are a great addition to any household, even if you have a young child or small animal, as long as your pooch has been well socialized. 

Labradors are all affectionate and love to be with their humans. If they don’t get the attention they crave, they might turn to mischief.

As with any dog, mishandled or untrained Labradors might have the potential to be fearful or aggressive.

It’s been noted that Red Labs might be barkier but while they will bark at strangers, it’s more of an invitation to play than a warning.

With consistent training, you should be able to teach your dog to behave the way you want them to.

How to Take Care of Your Fox Red Labrador Retriever?

Red Labs are in no way harder to care for than any other color. They require the same amount of effort in training, exercise, and maintenance.

The key to a good dog is to create good habits. Since Labradors are prone to beg for extra munchies, don’t fall into the habit of feeding them anything but dog food.

Keep your table scraps for the trash chute instead.

Another thing is, you want to keep your Labrador entertained, regardless of color. Labradors can’t stand being bored or alone, so bear that in mind before settling on a Labrador Retriever.

Exercise Requirements

As with any Labrador, Fox Red Labrador Retrievers love the water. Being waterfowl hunters and fishermen’s best friends, swimming is in their very nature

Red Labrador swimming
An active Red Lab fetching his toy in the water – Image source

Being working dogs, they are highly active. Failure to give them the stimulation they need will end with disastrous results as they can get quite destructive.

Try to spend at least an hour on exercise daily. However, you don’t want to overdo it in the first two years of their life as it can cause them to develop joint problems.

Also, Labradors can be prone to overexertion, since they are so eager to please, sometimes they forget their own limits and it’s up to you to make sure they don’t push themselves too far.

Grooming Needs

Just like any Labrador, they have a short, straight, dense double coat that sheds heavily and requires attention. All you’ll need to do to keep it healthy is to brush it once a week.

When it’s shedding season, many owners like to use a de-shedding tool to remove most of the undercoat. If you’re not too fussed about it, daily brushing with a regular slicker brush will do.

You should also trim their nails regularly. Since they are prone to ear infections, it’s best to clean out their ears every time they go for a swim. 

Some sources say that Fox Red Labs have a stronger smell than their pale yellow cousins because they tend to produce more oils.

One way to cope with this is to dry them off properly and stay away from harsh shampoos.

Shampoos that strip away the natural oils from a dog’s coat will stimulate them to produce more which will only aggravate the problem. 

What is the best dog food to feed a Red Lab?

Since Red Lab can be prone to obesity, you might want to look into home-cooked meals or whole foods instead. 

If feeding kibble, choose a high-quality kibble that suits their dietary needs.

For large breed dogs, they should be fed specially formulated kibble that isn’t too high in calcium and phosphorus. This will protect them from hip dysplasia.

A good kibble should be able to keep up with their caloric demands and help them manage their weight. Low-quality kibble typically does not offer the nutrients that a dog needs, resulting in them eating more.

Fox Red Labrador Health Issues

Red Fox Labradors have the same lifespan as any other Labrador. You can expect them to live 10 to 12 years on average.

All Labradors share the same health concerns but it has been noted that eye problems are much more common in Red Labradors. 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy is an eye disorder that causes blindness and can be easily avoided through screening. 

Aside from that, you will need to watch out for the usual, including hip and elbow dysplasia, cancer, ear problems, muscular dystrophy, idiopathic epilepsy, and exercise-induced collapse.

As mentioned, obesity is quite common in Labradors. This can be affected by a gene mutation that prevents them from feeling full.

Don’t miss out: Labrador Retriever Lifespan

How Much are Red Labrador Puppies?

When searching for a Labrador Retriever puppy of a specific color, you should be extra careful not to be swindled.

Bear in mind that respectable breeders often do not charge higher for different colors because breeding for color is largely looked down upon. 

Red Lab puppies
Source: @iron.mountain.pointing.labs / IG

But being high in demand and coupled with the fact that the Fox Red Lab is much rarer than Yellow or Black Labradors, it isn’t surprising to find a puppy costing $800 to $1,500 or more. To learn more about how much you will pay for a Red Lab puppy, read our Labrador Retriever Price article.

Labrador Breeders

Be very picky and particular when choosing a kennel to purchase from. Check the credentials of the breeder and take the effort to understand why they’ve chosen to breed Red Labradors.

Avoid buying your new puppy from someone who is unable to produce health screenings of their breeding stock.

The AKC lists Labrador breeders on their site, making it accessible for you to search for these beautiful dogs.

Here are a few that do not make color their top priority, but do incorporate Red Labs into their breeding program:

  • Penara Labrador Retrievers (Collins, IO)
  • Daisy Mountain Labs (Phoenix, AZ)
  • Blackfork Labradors (Hodgen, OK)

Labrador Rescue Sites

Labradors are quite exuberant as puppies and not many people are able to match their enthusiasm. If you don’t mind an older dog, you can give an old Fox Red Labrador a new home. 

Older dogs might come with their own challenges. While some might not have any behavioral problems, many need to be retrained.

To find out whether there’s a suitable dog for you, reach out to the following rescues:

  • Lab Rescue LRCP (Annandale, VA)
  • Labrador Retriever Rescue of Florida (Pompano Beach, FL)
  • Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Rescue (San Francisco Bay Area, CA)

Who Should Get a Fox Red Lab Dog?

Fox Red Labrador lying on the bed
Source: @red.lab.ronnie / IG

Labradors are one of the best dogs that you can get. They are extremely agreeable and a joy to be around. 

However, if you’re looking to show your dog, you might want to go for a more traditional color as you will be at a disadvantage with a Red-colored Labrador.

They are best as working dogs or family pets, preferably in an active home.

Further reading: Learn more about other Labrador colors


4 thoughts on “Red Lab Dog: Guide to Owning a Fox Red Labrador Retriever”

  1. As being of the older generation,myself and wife get the duties of looking after our sons fox red Labrador retriever,whilst he is at work.What I will say is,Rufus(the dogs name)is a joy to be around,patient,unconditional love,is a given,obedient,intelligent.To be honest,he is better sometimes than our grandchildren.A cuddle with Rufus works wonders,a big thank you to our son for getting him,he makes two older generation people very happy.

  2. I came across your page during a search for a ‘red’ Labrador.
    What an informative read, I am looking to purchase a Labrador to train as my assistance dog and the ‘red’ labs caught my eye.
    I am glad that I came across your writing, I have also followed some of the links supplied. As I said very informative.

  3. We have a 9 year old Red Lab named Cooper. We got him as a pup in July of 2013. He’s very protective, loves to talk & his internal clock is so spot on he knows when it’s time for a treat, his nighttime pills, naptime & bedtime. He’s on Apoquel for bad allergies. He has problem’s getting up but isn’t on any medicine for that yet. As for the agreeable part as long as we’re agreeable with him all is good in the house hold…lol. We’ll love him for as long as God sees fit & when it’s his time to go we know deep in our hearts we gave him the best years of his life & we’ll let him go to be at peace.


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