Despite the controversy, Silver Labrador Retrievers make wonderful pets. Just make sure you understand the full implications of your choice. Most breeders and official bodies do not fully recognise or accept this color. So if you think you might want to show your dog at a competitive level then you can expect to be disqualified on the basis of coat color alone in conformation and may face difficulties with judges at other events.
However, if you just want a family pet with a distinctive color, then you can expect these dogs to fulfill the role wonderfully as you’d expect with any other Lab. Physically, Silver Labradors usually tend to be closer to the American style than the English style of Labrador so you can expect slightly higher energy levels and for the dogs to take a tiny bit longer to mature and mellow out.
Due to the controversy, and the genetic underpinning of coat colors, the AKC requires that Labradors with a Silver coat are registered as ‘Chocolate’. Other Kennel clubs around the world have gone further in discouraging breeding by registering them as ‘non-recognised’ and still others have taken a tougher stance and not allowed them to be registered as Labradors at all.
Silver Labrador breeders often advertise their puppies as ‘rare’ or ‘unique’ and they do tend to command a higher price than the standard colors (Black, Yellow, and Chocolate). It’s likely that the dogs are indeed rare in the sense that there’s not enough supply to meet demand, but the idea that the dogs themselves are something special is hotly contested by breeders of other colors who feel that it’s more accurate to call them rare mutts rather than rare pure-bred Labrador Retrievers.
One of the first breeders of Silver Labs, Dean Crist, once made an open bet of $100K to anyone that could prove his Silver Labradors were not genetically identical to the general population, except for the genes related to coat color. No one was able to claim the money, however the terms made it very unlikely to begin with.
The coats of Silver Labradors can range from brown-grey to black with a silver sheen, but most commonly they’ll be a light grey or silver color (in the same way that an older man’s hair might be described as silver). Nose and eye pigment will nearly always be a chocolate brown. Which is no surprise considering the close genetic ties to Chocolate Labs. Silver Labrador Puppies will mostly be born with blue eyes which will gradually change to yellowish brown color.
Based on current knowledge, the most likely cause of the Silver coat coloring is the presence of the dd gene, commonly referred to as the dilution or blue gene. Put simply, it reduces the amount of pigment produced and thereby ‘dilutes’ the predominant color. However, the dilution gene is only thought to be responsible for Silver Labradors and no others within the breed. Other gene combinations are believed to account for variation in the Yellow color group, for instance, which can range from light cream to fox red.
Silver Labrador Retrievers have only ever been known to be produced by two Chocolate parents. The Chocolate color is quite rare due to itself requiring two parents both with certain recessive genes. Then to produce a Silver Labrador puppy from two Chocolate colored parents, each parent must have the recessive dilution gene. So Silver Labradors are somewhat similar to Albinos in that they require very specific gene combinations which don’t occur naturally very often.
The origin of the dilution gene is presently unknown in Labradors, but what is known is the other breeds of dogs that carry the gene. The list is quite long, but the interesting ones in terms of the Silver Labrador controversy are the Weimaraner, Norwegian Elkhound, Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and the Newfoundland.
There is little recorded of Silver Labs before Dean Crist, of Crist Culo Kennels, bred a partial litter of them around the mid 1980s. He was originally a breeder of Black Labradors, but in 1981 his dog ‘Topo Culo’ whelped her first Chocolate puppy named ‘Queja Culo’. Chocolate Labradors were quite rare in the 1980s, but Dean located ‘Toma’s BeaverCreek Hershel’, a Chocolate Labrador from the Upper Peninsular of Michigan. Breeding of this pair of Chocolate Labradors produced a litter of one quarter silver, one quarter yellow, and one half chocolate puppies.
It’s since been learned that Dean was not the first to whelp a Silver Labrador puppy in the USA. In the breeding world puppies of non-standard or undesired color are referred to as mis-marks and usually sold as pets rather than used as breeding material. The goal is to purify the breed by eliminating dogs that don’t conform to the breed standard. However, Dean felt that the Silver puppies were just as legitimate as any other and so started one of the biggest controversies in the Labrador Retriever world.
Earlier than the 1980s, there aren’t many hard facts, just a lot of speculation. Breeders in the early 1800s are known to have kept detailed records of their breeding programs (including mis-marks) and there were no mentions of Silver or any other color related to grey. In the 1930s, evidence suggests that some Champion Labrador Retrievers were not pure-bred, but in fact crossed with Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. It’s also known that a cross with a Norwegian Elkhound in Europe during the 1940s was followed by to reports afterwards of many Silver Labradors in the years following.
What we know with a lot more certainty is what has happened since 1985. The AKC and LRC investigated Dean Crist’s Silver Labradors and found no reason to doubt their purity. In other words, all the documentation for the parents was valid and the dogs conformed to the breed standard. After which, other kennels started to report Silver puppies, and Silver Lab Breeders were then able to breed the separate lines together.
Currently Silver Labradors are relatively rare and command a higher price, but it’s likely that this will change in the future either because enough puppies are bred to satisfy the demand or because there’s a resolution to the genetic issue of whether they’re actually pure-bred Labs.
Silver Lab Puppies For Sale
Putting aside criticisms of Silver Lab breeders, professionals are much more likely to know how to produce a healthy and well-adjusted puppy for you to take home. As they say, you can pay a little extra now, or a lot extra later in vet bills and stress dealing with a difficult dog.
Wicks Silver Labs is based in Ohio and run by Pat Wick. Pat produces both Charcoal and Silver Lab puppies and is dedicated to raising high quality and versatile dogs. Pat lets his dogs run free on his large property and they even get to play in the barn and run around with the horses. Pat fully backs the puppies he sells and prides himself on producing beautiful, healthy, loving and intelligent dogs.
Phantom Labradors is named after Ellyn’s Phantom of the Opera, arguably America’s top performing Labrador. This Kennel specializes in producing spectacular pets and hunting companions from some of the finest Labrador Retriever lines. Their mission is to improve and prove the Silver Labrador Retriever. The kennel is located in Utah and they do ship puppies interstate.
Silver Spoon Kennel is the continuation of Dean Crist’s legacy to the Silver Labrador. Earl is based in North Carolina and is breeding the bloodline that start it all in the 1980s, after transferring all Dean’s dogs upon Dean’s retirement. Earl is very helpful and friendly and you should definitely have a chat to him if you’re genuinely interested Silver Lab puppies.
Puppy for Sale Sites
These websites take different forms but, for the most part, they are simply online classifieds where breeders or dog owners can post listings of the puppies and dogs they have available. The benefit of using this method for finding a Silver Labrador Retriever is that you can narrow down the search results to find a dog of the particular age and sex you want – you may even be able to shop by price and location. The downside of using puppy for sale sites is that you may not get the same guarantees as far as the reputation and experience of the individual breeders and you cannot always visit the puppy before you purchase it.
Next Day Pets is a great resource for people looking for a Silver Labrador within a certain region of the country or within a certain budget. Users can view pictures of puppies and read a profile of each one which provides details about the puppy’s sex, age, size, and price in addition to information about the parentage. Many of the puppies on this website come with 30 days of free pet insurance.
If you would prefer to skip the whole puppy stage, you might want to consider adopting a Silver Labrador Retriever from a rescue agency. Though rescue agencies and shelters sometimes receive litters of puppies, they tend to get a larger number of adult dogs. These dogs have the benefit of being housebroken already and, in many cases, the dogs have already had some training. Many shelters have such limited space that they are forced to put down some of their dogs if they remain at the shelter too long — another benefit of choosing a rescue dog is that you can save a dog from this fate and give him a new life.
Adopt-a-Pet allows users to search for Labrador retrievers available in their area by city or postal code. When searching for available dogs and puppies, users may specify the sex and age of the dog they desire and can limit the search results to a certain radius. In addition to providing information about labs available for adoption, this website also provides users with valuable tips on dog adoption as well as useful information about the Labrador retriever breed.
Ohio Labrador Retriever Rescue Services is dedicated to finding new families for abandoned Labrador retrievers in Ohio. Though the operation is fairly small, Ohio Lab Rescue is dedicated to providing healthy, fully-evaluated Labrador retrievers for adoption into loving homes. Though they take in all types of Labrador retrievers, Ohio Lab Rescue does ocasionally have Silver Labradors available for adoption – you are free to leave your information with the service, asking them to call you if they receive a Silver Lab.
Lab Rescue of the LRCP (Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac) is located in Annandale, Virginia, Lab Rescue of the LRCP is a non-profit organization devoted to rescuing, fostering and placing homeless, abused and abandoned Labrador retrievers. This organization rescues labs from shelters and humane societies and works to rehabilitate and rehome the dogs after they have been evaluated, brought up to date on vaccinations and spayed or neutered. Lab Rescue typically has 30 to 60 labs available for adoption at any given time, so check back frequently to see if they have any Silver Labradors.