At Last, the Truth About Silver Lab Puppies!

Talk is increasing in the canine world regarding silver lab puppies, although in truth this unique coloring has been around for a very long time. Most of us have only ever heard of three colorings to come up in the Labrador retriever specimen: yellow, chocolate, and black. The term “silver Labrador retriever” isn’t one that is used much outside of the breeding and canine enthusiast circles, primarily because some people refuse to believe that this coloring is possible in purebred Labrador retrievers but also because some people believe these unique and rare specimens to be inferior to the traditionally shaded specimens. If you’re interested in the truth – and yes, you can handle the truth in this case! – read on to learn the answers to some common questions regarding silver colored labs.

How Are Silver Puppies Made?

A common myth about “silvers” is that they are the result of introducing the Weimaraner breed into a line of Labrador retrievers. Although some breeders in the past may have been guilty of doing this intentionally in order to make a tidy sum simply by flogging the resulting silvery coated pups as true silver Labradors, or even as a means to cover up an unintentional pregnancy between a retriever and weimaraner, the truth is actually far from this. In fact, the ghostly-colored coat is actually the result of genetics. Just like with us humans, the hereditary factors present in a dog’s DNA will determine physical factors like hair color, eye color, and coat texture and style. Scientifically speaking, a shimmery grey coat in this case will be the result of the animal bearing what is known as the “dilution gene,” but is also referred to as the “lightening” or “watering down” trait. This causes the animal’s coat to take on a lighter hue and it can happen even if neither parent to the pup displays this type of coloring.

It may help to think of it in relation to the occurrence of redheads in the human population. This is a “recessive” trait that shows up in only about 1 to 2 percent of the world’s population and as long as both parents carry this inheritable factor there is a chance that their resulting offspring will have this hair shade. It’s the same for dogs; in most cases it isn’t the parents who carry the lightening factor but rather the grandparents who pass it to their children, who may have a “traditional” dominant color. When a male and female possessing the gene are bred, there is a good chance that at least one pup in the resulting litter will physically display this trait.

Are Silver Labradors Less Desirable in the Breeding World?

Some individuals will say yes and others will give a resounding “heck no!” It is not uncommon for devoted breeders believe that this genetic trait encourages other, less responsible, breeders to mass-produce puppies in an attempt to acquire a specific coat color without giving due thought to the most important traits, such as temperament, physical health, suitability for hunting, the presence of serious genetic-related health issues, etc. Reproducing strictly to produce a desired hue can result in an increased risk of the pups being predisposed to health issues as they grow, but this typically occurs in situations where dogs of close familial ties are being bred together. For others, this genetic rarity is a wonder to come across and there is a certain thrill to be found in discovering a ghostly-colored pup in one’s litter. While the watering down gene may be less common, pro-silver individuals argue that it is still the same fun-loving, hardworking, loyal Labrador retriever underneath. There is also the undeniable opportunity, from a financial standpoint, for the breeder to charge extra money (sometimes several hundred dollars more) in the sale of a silver pup simply due to its rarity.

Although some individuals may have a problem with silvers, these pooches can still be registered with virtually any kennel club as long as they come from pure Labrador lines. The only quirk that one might come across is that the registration will cite the dog as being chocolate in color, not silver. That is because the lightening gene only turns chocolate labs a silvery color. When the dilution trait affects a yellow specimen the pup’s coat is called “champagne.” If a black pup is afflicted with a dilution gene, he or she is considered to be “blue.” Kennel clubs feel that silvers should be described by their foundation color: chocolate.

Why Do Breeders Claim That Silvers Don’t Exist?

Some breeders are staunch believers that the color oddity isn’t a result of the watering down gene in the Labrador’s background but rather that it is though the introduction of the Weimaraner breed into the breeding process. The Weimaraner genetic foundation is based on the presence of both the dilution trait and the brown coloration gene so that all offspring have a silvery hue. Some individuals find it hard to accept the explanation that some dogs in the Labrador line carry the color-weakening factor too, but genetic science tells a different story. Scientists believe that this gene may have naturally trickled down the familial latter from wolf ancestors, and DNA testing certainly supports the argument that some labs genuinely carry this recessive trait without any crossbreeding with the Weimaraner line.

Are These Dogs Physically or Mentally Different from Traditional Labs?

As mentioned earlier, the dilution trait is one that only affects the color of the dog’s fur. This particular feature only effects hair shade and has no bearing on other features like the animal’s size, musculature, temperament, mental capabilities, or physical disabilities. As with intense breeding of any type of dog, there is always a risk of physical defects and heightened chances of hearing/vision loss when dogs have been inbred with close family relatives. This is seen as a malpractice in the breeding communities because the dog’s basic defining traits are being compromised purely for the sake of obtaining a certain aesthetic result. Any reputable breeder will take care in the breeding process so as to create an ideal balance between “beauty” and the traditional Labrador traits.

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