The truth you need to know about Silver Labs

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Silver Labs, sometimes referred to as Blue Labradors, are known for their cool coat color. They are a variant of the Chocolate Lab and are registered with the AKC as such

This beautiful phenomenon is caused by a recessive gene that can turn Black Labs into Charcoal Labs, and Yellow Labs into Champagne Labs.

Silver Labrador in the woods
Image source

But today, we’re here to talk about Silver Labs – a color variation that’s gaining traction. 

Where did the Silver Labradors originate?

Off the coast of the Labrador sea is a place called Newfoundland. Labradors originated from this land and were developed with St. John’s water dogs.

These dogs were black in color and also called lesser Newfoundlands.

Like their Newfoundland cousin, they are water dogs that were used largely by fishermen and known for their affable nature.

They make fantastic family dogs, and they are the most popular breed in the United States. Although, when it comes to their color, these Silver Labrador Retrievers have only recently become fashionable.

Portrait of Silver Lab under the sun
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Black was the popular choice for Labradors, a preference that still holds true today, especially in the hunting community. Around the 1950s, Kellogg Kennels became the pioneer of Silver Labs.

No one has heard of them up till that point, which isn’t surprising, considering that many puppies with an undesirable coat color were culled or unregistered.

However, breeders often keep meticulous records and while there have been mentions of other mismarked pups such as vitiligos, brindles, even black and tans, there have been no mentions of no diluted pups, whether blue, grey, or silver. Suspicious, isn’t it?

An often overlooked record was written by Labrador breeder and enthusiast, Mary Roslin-Williams, in her book All About The Labrador.

She reports of Norwegian Elkhound and Labrador pairings sometime in the 1940s, along with the introduction of Pointers in certain lines. 

Labradors are also distantly related to the Golden Retriever, Flat-Coated Retriever, Curly-Coated Retriever, and Chesapeake Bay Retriever. In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever was used to refine the Lab

Taking into consideration the different breeds used to enhance the Labrador, the breed could have picked up the dilation gene from anywhere.

Some argue that all this talk about breed purity is a moot point because Labradors were also developed with other breeds during their early conception, making them a mixed breed dog.

Furthermore, it can be good for a breed if new genetic material is introduced into the gene pool.

Today, you’ll find that the American Kennel Club doesn’t recognize Silver as a color but you can register them under the Chocolate category. 

What does a Silver Lab (Silver Labrador Retriever) look like?

Aside from their distinctive silver color, most of these Silver Lab dogs have light brown noses.

When born, Silver Lab puppies usually have blue eyes and their eyes will change to a light yellow as they mature at around the age of 8 months to a year old.

In rare cases, some Silver Labs retain their blue eyes into adulthood or have light green eyes instead of yellow.

Silver Labrador staring at the owner
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Steeped in controversy, many dog fanciers and Labrador purists are convinced that Silver Labs aren’t purebred, in spite of genetic testing done by the AKC.

They even released a joint statement with the Labrador Club stating that there is no proof that Silver Lab Retrievers are anything but purebred dogs.

Labradors with unique coat colors are often written off as crossbreeds. Red Labs have also been thought to be crossed with Vizslas.

The same cannot be said for the Champagne or Charcoal Labrador because it’s a dilute gene that’s causing these beautiful deviations in their coat color. 

Silver Labs are thought to be Weimaraner cross breeds, especially since some can look quite Hound-ish, like Bo above. But this is an AKC registered Silver Lab!

If these beautiful dogs were indeed crossed with Weimaraners, they would have significantly larger ears than standard Labradors, which would be rounded instead of triangular. 

To get an idea of what a Labmarener might look like, check out Bacon below:

Labmarener in the middle of flowers
Meet Bacon – The Labmarener mix dog – Image source

Notice how he looks sunken and model-thin when compared to Silver Labradors? That’s because Labs are of a sturdy build, with an athletic frame.

They aren’t excessively thickset, nor are they lithe. They are somewhere in the middle, with the Lab’s signature otter tail.

That’s not to say that there aren’t Weimadors or Labmareners that look like a purebred dog. Here’s a prime example of a cross that looks more Lab than Weim:

Silver Labrador chillin' in the lake
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With all crossbreeds, there’s a chance of the puppy inheriting appearance from one parent and color from another. However, when it comes to the dilute gene, it’s a whole other story which we will tackle later on.

Now, you might come across some Labs that are slightly bigger, or some that are sleeker.

This isn’t because they aren’t purebred Labradors, it’s because there are two types of Labs. The American Labrador and the English Labrador.

English Silver Labs vs American Silver Labs

If you’re new to the Labrador breed, you might have come across the terms ‘English Labrador’ and ‘American Labrador’.

It does not refer to where the Labs originate from, rather these are nicknames for what type of Labradors they are

English Labs are for the show ring, whereas American Labs are for hunting. If you’re keen on reading more about their differences, you can check out our comparison chart.

Show dogs are often shorter but bulkier than field dogs since the latter is made for hunting. Aesthetics do not play a big part in American lines.

Being gun dogs, they are high energy dogs that require an active lifestyle. However, it has been said that show dogs might be slightly more mellow and might make better family pets.

English Silver Labs are a wonderful addition to any family but they aren’t eligible to compete in the show ring.

The same can be said for mismarked Labradors because they don’t conform to the breed standard despite being purebred.

Are Silver Labradors bigger than other Labs?

If Silver Labradors were Labmareners, they might be taller than your average Lab. However, a healthy dog will grow up to about 22.5 to 24.5 inches (57 – 62 cm) and weigh 65 to 80 lbs (27 – 36 kg).

Bitches don’t grow as big though, and are often 21.5 to 23.5 inches (54 – 60 cm) tall and weigh 55 to 70 lbs (25 – 32 kg).

It might surprise you to learn that Silver Labs can be happy living in an apartment. With adequate exercise and stimulation, this medium to a large-sized dog doesn’t need a lot of space.

Silver Lab looking at the window
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Your Labrador Retriever puppy might start out tiny, but he’ll grow rather quickly in his first year.

To learn about whether your puppy is growing well, or just to get an idea of what to expect, please take a look at our Lab growth chart.

How did the Silver Lab get its coat color?

Young Silver Lab in side view portrait
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The Silver Labrador’s diluted chocolate color comes in varying shades of silver. A light silver coat can almost look blue, whereas a dark silver can have a reddish cast that comes from their brown hues. 

If you’re new to genetics, you might want to check out our Labrador Retriever Colors article. In a nutshell, each puppy inherits one allele from each parent to create a gene.

In the case of these grey Labs, they need to inherit two pairs of recessive genes. This is important.

The first gene they need to have is the recessive brown genes which are written as bb. Another pair is the recessive dilute gene which is written as dd.

If a Black dog has the dd gene, they become Charcoal Labradors. Yellow Labradors with the same gene will be Champagne Labs.

Chocolate Labradors with only one recessive dilution gene is a Silver-factored dog. A Silver-factored dog won’t have the characteristics of a Silver Labrador, but it would have the potential to produce a Silver puppy. 

If they are bred with another Silver-factored Labrador, they have a 1 in 4 chance of having a Silver Labrador. If they were bred with a Silver Lab, they are twice as likely to have a Silver puppy.

Silver Labrador waiting for some snacks
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Since a Silver Labrador needs a pair of dilation genes, the theory that Labradors do not naturally carry the dilation gene cannot be true.

If that were the case, no Weimadors or Labraners would have the Weimarener’s ghostly grey coat, because you would need a Silver-factored Lab bred to a Weimaraner to achieve the color.

This would suggest that the dilation gene was already there in the breed’s pedigree.

It’s possible for recessive genes to lie dormant and appear many years down the line, therefore it isn’t implausible for Silver Labs to appear as spontaneously as they did.

All Labradors have a tendency to have white markings on the chest, and it is logical to assume that Silver Labs have the same possibility.

Regardless of color, Labradors have a very dense double coat. These short-haired dogs have a soft undercoat that provides insulation and a tough top coat that offers protection from the elements.

Due to this, you might not want to have a Labrador around if you’re allergic. Perhaps you could consider a Labradoodle instead.

Poodle mixes can be hypoallergenic and are the best option for people with sensitive noses.

Are Silver Labs good dogs?

Silver Labrador puppy
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Labradors are sweethearts, that’s how they’ve been America’s sweetheart for almost 30 years!

They are the definition of man’s best friend and will be your loyal companion, provided he’s given proper training. An unruly dog is often due to mishandling or a lack of exercise.

Like all Labs, they love people and make great guide dogs, which is why they are a popular service dog breed.

Although we have yet to see a Silver Labrador guide dog, there’s no reason to believe that they won’t be as good as a Yellow Labrador because the color doesn’t determine temperament, breeding does.

Finding a reputable breeder is extremely important when looking for a dog. You can tell from their sire and dam what kind of dog your puppy will grow up to be.

A puppy that grows up in a loving environment will be much more well adjusted than a puppy from a pet store or a mill.

Labradors are known to be naturally friendly and people-loving. Their loving nature makes him a great buddy for your little ones, pets included.

This can sometimes be a problem because they will greet burglars like old friends and could lead to separation anxiety. 

They are a joy to be around and a great choice for first-time owners who have the time and dedication for this popular breed.

How to take care of your Silver Labrador Retriever

This dog is pretty low maintenance, which is probably why it’s one of the most popular dog breeds. They are also quite durable in all weathers and climates.

These dogs were brave enough to swim in the freezing cold waters of the Labrador sea and can handle tropical hot climates, too.

Silver Labrador sitting in the snow
Image source

However, they should be given some protection if the temperatures drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit (-6 Celsius) or rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 Celsius).

Just like humans, they can be susceptible to frostbite and heat strokes.

You should always ensure that there is shade and fresh, clean water for your puppy. A lack of either could prove fatal.

Exercising your Silver Labs

Most guides will tell you an hour of exercise a day is enough but this doesn’t mean that a 60-minute walk is enough to burn off all their energy.

You have to understand that these dogs have retrieving bred into them, hence the name Labrador Retrievers

They need interactive stimulation. Fetching, swimming, and jogging are all examples of what you can do with this hunting dog breed. 

If you are training your Silver Lab puppy to become a hunter, you’ll want to pay attention to the type of exercise he’s doing.

We suggest that puppies be given age-appropriate exercises to ensure the development of healthy joints.

Silver Labrador Retriever playing outside

These high intelligence dogs cannot stand being bored. Without proper stimulation, a Labrador might grow to be quite uncontrollable and destructive.

Some owners find that upon adopting a Labrador, they also have to adopt repairman skills. Prevent this by enrolling your dog into obedience class the first chance you get.

You can also watch Youtube videos on how to train your Labrador. Watch how Molly, a 7 week old Labrador, learns how to sit in under 5 minutes: 

Keep your Silver Lab’s coat gleaming

Silver Labs don’t need much grooming. A brush now and then is good enough to keep their coats spick and span.

Due to the water repellent nature of their top coat, you’ll find that they are rarely dirty. Even when they’ve splashed through mud, you can wipe them clean or brush off the dried dirt off them

Silver Labrador Retriever lying on the lap of his owner
Image source

When it comes to showers, stretch them as long as you can. Frequent bathing can mess with their coat’s health.

The recommended frequency is every 4 – 6 weeks, if possible. But if he’s always jumping onto your furniture after a muddy romp, you can rinse him off sans the shampoo.

One thing you do want to make sure is that their ears are properly dried, and you also want to keep their nails trimmed. 

As with every dog breed with a double coat, these dogs do blow out their coat twice a year. When that happens, you can use a deshedder tool to keep shedding to a minimum.

Some might advise against it because deshedding tools like the Furminator might cause irritation if used incorrectly. 

Instead, you can use a slicker brush and comb them in the opposite direction of their fur growth to remove any loose fur from their coat. Do this daily until they are done shedding.

What should I feed my Silver Lab?

Silver Labrador at the beach
Image source

Labradors should be fed a high-quality kibble which is specially formulated for large breeds. Adult Labs eat approximately 3 cups a day, but it depends on the individual.

If you have an active lifestyle, you can feed your dog slightly more. 

However, Labs pack on the pounds rather easily so if his ribs start disappearing under a layer of fat, you might want to cut back on the treats.

For Silver Lab puppies, you can follow your breeder’s recommendations, but a two-month-old puppy should be eating one cup a day, a three-month-old should be eating slightly more than that.

To learn more about feeding and find out what’s the best dog food for Labs, you can check out our feeding guide here.

Do Silver Labs have the same health problems as any Labrador?

Silver Labrador lying on the bed
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Labradors are a robust breed, but they also have certain hereditary problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. For the Silver Labrador, color dilution alopecia is also a concern.

While not life-threatening, it can cause flaky skin and hair loss. It’s an incurable condition but you can treat it and keep it under control with the right shampoo and antibiotics.

Chocolate Labs in particular are especially susceptible to hot spots, eye problems, and ear infections. They are also known to have shorter lifespans and often pass around 10.7 years old.

Since Silver Labs are essentially Chocolate Labs with diluted genes, they might also inherit this strange phenomenon.

Chocolate and Silver Labrador dogs
Chocolate and Silver Labs- Image source

On a whole, Labradors usually live 10 – 12 years, and even 14 is not unheard of. If you would like to read more on the life expectancy of Labradors, we have an article you can check out.

Other common health issues in Labradors are hot spots, exercise-induced collapse, hypothyroidism, and patellar luxation. You also want to keep an eye out for muscle-related problems such as myopathy or dystrophy.

If you think that your Labrador eats like he’s never full, you could be right. Research has shown that many Labs simply can’t feel full because of a problem with their POMC gene.

You will have to exercise control over him. If left unchecked, it could lead to diabetes, obesity, or entropion, which is fatal.

How much do Silver Lab puppies go for?

Little Silver Labrador portrait

You can find Labradors for as low as $600, but for a Silver Lab puppy, you should be prepared to pay twice that. These grey Labs can cost double that.

It might be hard to find a decent breeder for a Silver Lab, simply because specialty colors attract money grabbers.

People who are in it for the money very rarely comply with ethical breeding guidelines. They might try to cut corners and forgo health checks, resulting in a poorly bred pup.

While dog-lovers believe breeding for color or setting a price for pups of different colors is bad practice, many do this.

If you are able to find a breeder that charges the same price for all their pups, you’re in luck! These are rare individuals who don’t believe in profiting off rare colors.

One of the reasons why Silver Labs might cost more is because there are so few of them around. In order to prevent bloodlines from becoming inbred means that breeders have to source a silver sire or dam from other regions.

Diversifying the gene pool without cross-breeding can be expensive, especially since there are only 7 traceable lines.

Silver Lab breeders

Silver Labs do not make up a large portion of the Labrador population, and they can be said to be quite rare. But perhaps it is that rarity that makes them such a commodity in today’s social media driven world.

Silver Labrador puppy
Image source

There are so many Facebook pages and Instagram accounts dedicated to this special dog. With demand comes to supply and you can easily find Silver Lab breeders. 

A word of warning, unscrupulous sellers are even easier to find. Make sure that you’re buying from a reliable source and if for some reason you find it hard to trust the breeder you’re dealing with, find another one. 

Your dog’s breeder should be someone you’re comfortable talking to because reputable breeders often like to stay in touch. They have their dog’s well-being at heart and would love to keep up with them. 

As you read above, Silver Labs have a rather murky history, so you want to make sure that you’re buying from someone that cares about their longevity and health.

Ethical breeders always make sure to screen their dogs and only breed healthy dogs.

Here are a few Silver Lab breeders that fit the bill:

Silver Lab rescues

Given their rarity, it might be slightly difficult to procure a Silver Lab from a rescue. But don’t lose heart! Sad to say, Labradors are one of the most abandoned breeds.

With some perseverance, you’ll likely come across one eventually.

Keep an open mind and continue calling up your local shelters and checking in with Labrador rescues. Here are some shelters that accept Silver Labradors:

Silver Labrador vs Weimaraner

Weimaraner dog breed
The big floppy ears of Weimaraner – Image source

As you can see, Weimaraners are not the well-built dogs that Labradors are. They have distinctive hound-like features and rounded floppy ears. 

Labradors are slightly smaller than the Weimaraner. The hound-dogs can grow up to 27 inches (68 cm) tall and weigh 88 lbs (40 kg).

Despite that, Weimaraners look smaller than Labradors due to their athletic build. They also have what is known as a tuck up. These pronounced waistlines give Weimaraners their svelte figure.

The characteristics that the two breeds do share are that they are both kind and loving. Both are hunting breeds that love to please.

Due to their need for attention, they can also suffer from separation anxiety. These high energy dogs often only settle down when they are a couple of years old. 

Weims don’t shed as much as Labs do, thanks to their short coats. If you prefer a low-shedding dog, a Weimaraner might be better suited for you, although there’s also a long-haired variation. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between the two breeds is their tails. Weimaraners have a whippet sort of tail which is long and slender which is often docked. 

Who should get a Silver Labrador dog?

Silver Labrador close-up portrait
Image source

If you’re enthusiastic about showing your dog, you might want to consider getting a more traditionally colored Yellow or Brown because these dogs do face prejudice in the ring.

If you’re looking for a pet instead, these Silver dogs make an excellent choice.

There is a reason for Labs and even Lab mixes to be so popular as guide dogs. They are easy to train and retain their training well.

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