Silver Lab Controversy
Silver and Gold Labrador Retrievers
Intelligent, Happy and Healthy Labradors

The silver coat color in Labradors has gained attention recently and is a  controversial topic with some people and club organizations.  Reasons for the controversy stem from the lack of information available to trace the origins of this color in the breed as well as the fact that the AKC standard for the Labrador breed does not acknowledge silver as an acceptable color for a Lab.  In basic terms, this means the AKC would not allow your dog in an AKC sanctioned show ring.  Silver Labs are excelling in the field and in field trials. They are winning and earning their Field Titles as Junior Hunters and Master Hunters.  The Silver Lab is naturally camouflaged due to their coat color, and this additionally makes them attractive to hunters. The silver Lab is often very driven and birdy in the field . As a family pet and companion, they very much enjoy the activities associated with hiking, swimming, fishing and all the usual activities the Labrador breed has been known to love .  The Silver Lab comes from the base color gene of chocolate and therefore is registered as so.  The Charcoal Lab comes from the base color gene of black and therefore is registered as so. 

If you feel the traditional colors of Black, Yellow and Chocolate are preferred for you, please see my sister website  Those are my traditional colored Labs, and just as wonderful as the Silvers. 

The range observed in silver coloration suggests that silver occurs through a modifying gene. There have been several possible outcomes observed for the silver Lab:

Black Lab + silver modifier = charcoal gray coat with a "sparkly"-like appearance. Nose: dark gray; Eyes: dark to light gray

Chocolate Lab + silver modifier = "mousy"-brown gray coat. Nose: same as coat; Eyes: yellow to gray-yellow

Yellow Lab + silver modifier = platinum to pale silver (yellow with gray casting). Ears: gray (instead of red-toned); Nose: dark to pale gray; Eyes: dark to pale gray.

There are several possible explanations for the silver coat color in Labs. The first explanation would attribute this rare color in the breed to the D locus. Recall that the alleles of the D locus modify the color determined by the B locus. Therefore, if a dog is homozygous or heterozygous for black at the B locus, presence of homozygous recessive "d" at the D locus would dilute the black pigment to appear blue. Alternatively, if a dog is homozygous for chocolate at the B locus, presence of homozygous recessive "d" at the D locus would dilute the chocolate pigment to appear silver. 

The absence of the corresponding "blue" phenotype in the breed, however, would seem to argue against this explanation.

Another explanation for silver coat color in Labs would attribute this color to the C locus. There is an allele mutant at the C locus that has been determined to cause silver coat color and blue eyes in dogs. The "cb" allele is believed to be a type of albinism. Since alleles at the C locus influence red pigment only, effects of the "cb" allele should only be observed in dogs homozygous "e" at the E locus. 

Therefore, a silver Lab would not only have to receive the yellow allele from both parents, but also receive the silver allele from both parents (which is recessive to the common "cch" allele). This allele would explain the silver-toned modification of coat observed in yellow Labs in the presence of the recessive "e" allele, however it would not explain the eumelanin modification in the black or chocolate-based silvers (since the C locus alleles primarily dilute phaeomelanin).

Likewise, the possibility of a "partial loss of function" mutation that may have occurred in the dominant "E" allele resulting in muted tones of eumelanin would not explain the modification of phaeomelanin (yellow).

An alternative explanation for explaining the modification of both eumelanin and phaeomelanin again returns to the wild-type/gain-of-function "E+" allele that encodes for a normal functioning Mc1 receptor. If this allele either occurred as a spontaneous mutation or was introduced into the breed through interbreeding, this might explain the modification occurring in all three colors, particularly when one considers the following:

When one traces the pedigrees of some silver Labs, one finds a history of other color oddities occurring in some related bloodlines to the silver Labs. Occurrences of "black-casting" in chocolates, muted chocolate coloration ("card-board box" coloring), as well as the occasional occurrence of black puppies being whelped from two chocolate parents suggests that these "chocolates" were probably not chocolate at all but rather E+ yellows. 

As such, it is conceivable that the Agouti alleles could produce an intense red pigment resulting in deep red (interpreted as chocolate especially in the absence of "saddling" modifiers) or diluted, muted red (card board box color) due to further modification by the alleles of the C locus). 

In black Labs, an ayayEE+ geneotype could produce a muted black color (because of the presence of both receptor types) especially if the alleles at the C locus were cch, thus resulting in a deep charcoal, silvery coat appearance. This suggests a possible role of E+ for the silver coloration as well as for a multitude of other coat color variants that occasionally occur in the breed. 

General Information on the Labrador

The gentle, intelligent and family-friendly Labrador Retriever from Canada continues to be the most popular breed in the United States, according to AKC® registration statistics. This versatile hunting breed comes in three colors – yellow, black and chocolate – and because of his aptitude to please his master they excel as guide dogs for the blind, as part of search-and-rescue teams or in narcotics detection with law enforcement.

A Look Back
Labrador Retrievers, originally from Newfoundland, were initially used in work alongside fisherman, helping to pull in nets and catch fish that escaped from fishing lines. After being crossed with Setters, Spaniels and other Retrievers, the Labrador Retriever honed its skills as a true retriever. From this point in the breed’s history, "Labs," as they are affectionately called, were bred primarily to perform as an efficient retriever of game, with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of activities beyond hunting.

Right Breed for You?
An ideal sporting and family dog, the Labrador Retriever thrives as part of an active family or as a trusted hunting companion. A double-coated breed which sheds seasonally, regular grooming keeps his coat at its water-resistant best. Because of his even temperament and trainability millions of Americans own a Labrador Retriever as a pet. 
If you are considering purchasing a Labrador Retriever puppy, join millions of people who already have.  Year after year, the Labrador is the most highly recommended breed for family, hunting, companionship and fun!

Sporting Group; AKC recognized in 1917 
Average size: from 55 to 75 pounds 
Outgoing and devoted companions; Water dog 

If you feel you are not comfortable with the controversy surrounding the Silver Labrador Color,  I suggest you purchase the Lab of traditional coloring :  Black , Chocolate and Yellow.  If you are interested in purchasing a well bred tradtional colored Labrador from us, see

Added note:  Silver Labradors are not RARE but they are unusual.  They have been noted in breeding books since the 1940's and 1950's.  We raise, train and breed silver labradors because they are fabulous hunting and family companions.  Their unique coloring is frosting on the cake.  Hunters love them because they are camouflaged  in the field better than traditional Labs, and families love them because they are the same great Lab with a new , different color.  
Silver Lab Controversy and Breed Standard Guidelines