13 Things You Should Know about the Silver Labrador Retriever

You’re about to meet one of the greatest mysteries of the dog world, and just maybe one of its biggest controversies: the Silver Labrador Retriever or Silver Lab.

Silver labs have long been a source of discussion in the dog world. There are those who believe they are purebred and deserve their own place in the American Kennel Club. Then there are those who believe the dog isn’t a true purebred, but a crossbreed instead.

We’re going to examine that coat color controversy, as well as other things you should know before you decide to add a Silver Labrador to your family.

   Their coat color has caused many to question their lineage.

The Silver Labrador Retriever is by all accounts a beautiful dog. While their beauty may not be in question, their lineage is – and it all has to do with their distinct silver color. There are two sides to the issue. One side believes that the color comes from a genetic dilution that started naturally occurring in the 1950s. The other side believes that the color comes from a crossbreeding with another breed, most likely Weimaraners. At this point in time, the more widely accepted theory is that the color is a product of diluted genetics.


Toby has the classic grey color of a Silver Lab. You can see his pale green eyes too, which are notable in the breed.

   If the silver came from genetics, this is how.

If the Silver Lab is indeed a product of crossbreeding with Weimaraners, than it’s easy to see how they got their silver color. If it was a product of diluted genes, here’s how that works. Inside each Chocolate Lab is a set of genes that determines its color. The belief is that there is a small recessive color gene that, when paired with another of the same recessive color gene, produces a Chocolate Lab that, while technically still a Chocolate Lab, is actually silver in color. If a dog only has one of these recessive genes, the dog will be chocolate. It must have two of the genes in order to be silver.

   There are only three AKC-recognized colors for Labrador Retrievers.

Those colors are yellow, black, and brown. However, the recessive color gene that occasionally turns chocolate dogs silver also exists in the Black and Yellow Labradors. If you get two recessive color genes in a Yellow Lab, you’ll end up with a Champagne-colored dog. If you get two recessive color genes in a Black Lab, you’ll end up with a charcoal-colored dog.

  The AKC does still formally recognize Silver Labs.

You’re probably asking yourself how that’s possible if they only recognize three colors and silver isn’t one of them. Well, if you subscribe to the diluted gene theory as most dog experts now do, you’ll remember that the Silver Labs are actually Chocolate Labs that possess two recessive color genes. So silvers are allowed to be registered as chocolates in the AKC.

 Silver Labs need lots of exercise.

If you want to own this breed, make sure you’re ready to take your dog on long walks several times a day. They also make great hikers and they love to swim. Labs have coats that are an ideal texture for water, which is a throwback to their fish-fetching heritage. Because of their love of exercise and their need to move around a lot, Labs aren’t the best dog for apartment living.


Toby chases a ball that his owner throws. He runs fast across the yard, but also gets easily distracted at the end by the other smells around where the ball landed.

  The AKC recognized the overall breed in the early 1900s.

The first Labrador Retriever was registered with the AKC in 1917. As previously stated, it only recognized yellow, black, and chocolate colored dogs at that time. In the 1950s, the Silver Lab was bred for the first time. As previously stated, silvers are now recognized under the label of “chocolate” by the AKC, although the date that that first happened is unknown.

  Silver Labs are generally healthy but have one unique potential health issue.

Like other labs, you’ll want to keep an eye on a Silver Lab for possible issues with hip and elbow dysplasia. They are also prone to patella luxation, which means that their kneecaps can move around and cause the leg to have trouble extending. Surgery can fix that problem. The health issue unique to silvers is called “color dilution alopecia,” which means that there’s a problem with the dog’s hair follicles that causes thinning of the coat and dry, flaky skin. There is no cure, but there are medicines available to treat this condition should it occur.

  They are highly trainable.

Generally, Labs are very trainable dogs, and silvers are no exception to that. In fact, this breed is so intelligent and trainable that it’s often used as guide dogs and search-and-rescue dogs. They respond very well to treat training, so make sure you have a bag of your dog’s favorite treats on hand when you’re reading to get to work.


Toby is treat trained to do certain tricks, like shake hands. You can see in this picture how his eyes never waver from the bag of treats in his owner’s hand.

  They are people pleasers.

Silver Labs, like their other-colored counterparts, adore their people. It’s part of why they’re so trainable – they just want to please their owners. They love kids and other animals, and are highly sociable. They are also a little bit mischievous and have been known to eat just about anything, so you’ll want to make sure you keep an eye on them, especially until you train them.


Despite having lots of toys inside and even some outside, Toby gravitated towards sticks in the yard and lay down at one point to start chewing on one. You can see by the way that he is looking around, that he knows someone is going to come and take it away.

Labrador Retrievers were originally bred in Newfoundland, Canada.

They were raised and trained to be duck retrievers, and you could often find them on fishing boats in the 1800s. They’d be diving into the water to retrieve fish that had slipped off the boat deck. British visitors to Canada fell in love with the breed and began importing them back to England. They made their way to America in the early 1900s.

 Labs are the most popular dog breed in America.

The AKC first recognized Labs as a breed in 1917. It took them 74 years, but they finally made it to the top of the list in 1991. Once they got the top spot, however, they’ve stayed there and have been the most popular ever since, for 28 years running. Labs are all recognized together for this honor regardless of color.

 Labs are large-sized dogs.

All labs, silvers are a fairly big dog. They range in height from 21-25 inches and can weigh anywhere from 55-80 pounds. Their life expectancy is 10-12 years, which is about average for a larger dog.


Toby is a full-grown male who just turned one year old. He is 80 pounds, which puts him right at the top of the weight scale for male Labs. He’s right at the height limit as well.

 The only Lab to make it into the White House is the Chocolate Lab.

As we mentioned, Silver Labs are actually Chocolate Labs with recessive color genes causing a grey color. While a Silver Lab has never made it into the White House, a Chocolate Lab once did. President Bill Clinton owned one named Buddy, and he enjoyed life in the White House for his owner’s second term in office.

Because its temperament is so warm and it’s such a loveable dog who loves a lot in return, Labradors of any color are usually welcomed enthusiastically into homes of people seeking a new dog. If you can handle its energy level, you’ll have a loyal – and uniquely beautiful – friend for life when you adopt a silver lab.

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