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The Silver Lab is quite unusual, but Labrador retrievers are very popular dogs. In fact, they’re not only the most popular breed in the United States (according to the American Kennel Club), a large percentage of the mixed-breed dogs running around the world have Labrador retrievers in their family trees.
For the most part, there isn’t much mystery surrounding the breed. They’re incredibly friendly, sweet and affectionate, and they’re also one of the smartest breeds around. They make phenomenal pets for most families, and they’re even available in three different colors: black, yellow and chocolate.
However, from time to time, you’ll also see “silver” Labs offered for sale. And, in contrast to their normally colored counterparts, silver Labs are cloaked in several layers of mystery.
We’ll talk about the basics of silver Labs below, including not only their unusual color, but also their personality, health problems and grooming requirements.
Height: 21 to 24 inches
Weight: 55 to 85 pounds
Lifespan: 10 to 13 years
Origin: Newfoundland, Canada
Alternative Names: Lab
Energy Level: 9/10
Bonding Level: 10/10
Amount of Shedding: 8/10
Tendency to Bark or Howl: 6/10
Labrador retrievers were first created in Newfoundland, Canada around the beginning of the 19th century. They were originally all-around working dogs, who were primarily expected to assist fishermen in retrieving nets and escaping fish. Hunters – especially those pursuing waterfowl – began to use them shortly thereafter, which helped increase their overall popularity.
However, while the history of the breed is relatively well-chronicled, the origin of the “silver” color variant is not clear. We know why some Labs look silver – they have a pair of recessive genes that dilute the coat color, thereby making chocolate labs appear silver — but nobody knows exactly where this gene came from.
Some breeders and silver Lab enthusiasts believe that the genes for dilute color were always present in the breed, and they only became visible through a happenstance pairing of two dogs who had one copy of the gene (like all other recessive genes, the dilute color gene only shows up in a dog’s appearance when it occurs in pairs).
Others, however, believe that Weimaraners were bred with Labrador retrievers. Weimaraners have the dilute color gene, and they all appear silver.
The subject is quite controversial among Lab lovers and breeders, and we’ll leave it to others to discuss the details of the issue – we’re primarily going to focus on their personality and care requirements (please see the “Resources” section at the bottom of this article for further reading material on the subject).
Suffice to say, silver Labs act just like other Labs, and that, aside from their color, they are virtually identical to normally colored Labs (some believe that they have slightly longer ears than normal Labs, but others disagree). It is important to note that while the AKC does recognize silver Labs, it considers them to be a “non-recognized” color.
Silver Labs reach the same sizes as chocolate, yellow or black Labs do. Most are a bit under 2 feet tall at the shoulder, although you may occasionally see a large individual that exceeds 2 feet in height. Most Labs weigh between 55 and 85 pounds, although Labs are prone to obesity, so some individuals will weigh significantly more.
Labs may have the best temperament of any breed in the world. This is obviously a subjective issue, but few people familiar with a broad number of dog breeds would disagree. In fact, as explained on the AKC’s website, the breed’s incredible temperament is so celebrated that one noted dog judge stated: “If a dog does not possess true breed temperament, he is not a Labrador.”
Simply put, Labs are friendly, affectionate and playful. They make quick friends with just about any person or dog they encounter, and they are remarkably intelligent and easy to train. They are generally fantastic with children, and they often love paling around with the family kids.
The only serious problem with the personality of Labs (whether they’re silver or any other color) is that they do not enjoy being away from their owners for long periods of time. If left alone all day, many Labs will become quite destructive. They also have high energy levels and busy minds, so you need to keep them busy to stave off depression, frustration and the development of problematic behaviors.
Labs are generally healthy dogs, who aren’t susceptible to many health problems. Nevertheless, they can suffer from a few ailments, and you’ll want to work closely with your vet to catch any that manifest, so you can treat them promptly.
Some of the most common problems Labs experience include hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, cataracts, ear infections and progressive retinal atrophy. Many also experience coat and skin problems, and they may suffer from hot spots more than some other breeds.
There’s little you can do to prevent things like cataracts or progressive retinal atrophy, but most of the other problems that often afflict Labs are treatable (to some extent). Employing a proper flea and tick medicine and feeding your pet a high-quality food will help prevent skin problems. Similarly, administering joint supplements and ensuring that your pet maintains a healthy body weight may help limit the pain and discomfort caused by hip and elbow dysplasia.
Aside from their need for lots of exercise and attention, Labs are relatively easy dogs to care for. In fact, they’re probably one of the best large breeds for first-time dog owners. We’ll discuss some of the most important aspects of silver Labrador retriever care below.
For the most part, Labrador retrievers don’t have any special food requirements. They’ll need a high-quality dog food that meets or exceeds the AAFCO guidelines, and you’ll want to be sure to watch the quantity of food you offer, as they are prone to weight gain. It’s also a good idea to select a food that is fortified with joint-supporting supplements, such as omega-3 fatty acids, chondroitin and glucosamine. If you can’t find a food that contains these supplements, you can always purchase standalone supplements instead.
It is wise to speak with your vet about using a food that is designed for large dog breeds. Large dogs have different nutritional requirements from small- or medium-sized breeds, which these foods are designed to satisfy. However, many Labs remain slightly smaller than what most people would consider a “big” dog.
If your vet does recommend a large-breed dog food for your new silver Lab, be sure to check out our recommendations for the best dog food for Labs.
Labs are high-energy dogs who require copious amounts of exercise – a couple of 20-minute walks a day will not suffice for this breed. Instead, you’ll want to make sure that you take your Lab to the park, beach or pool several times a week, so he can burn off some excess energy.
Fortunately, it’s rarely difficult to figure out activities that your Lab will enjoy. Most Labs will fetch a tennis ball for as long as you’re willing to throw one, and they also love swimming. Many Labs will also make excellent running companions, and they also enjoy things like agility and obedience competitions.
Even though Labs have amazingly friendly personalities, they are still relatively big dogs, so it is important to train your new pet. Fortunately, Labs are very intelligent, and they enjoy pleasing their people, so they’re usually very easy to train.
Begin your training regimen as soon as you get your new pet by starting the housetraining process. A dog crate is often helpful during this process, and it’ll also ensure that your dog has a comfortable and secure place to sleep. Most Labs learn proper elimination behaviors relatively quickly.
You should also start socializing your Lab puppy immediately, by introducing him to as many people as you can. However, wait to introduce your new pet to any other dogs until your vet tells you it is OK to do so.
Labs don’t require any special grooming, although most owners will find that regular brushings (perhaps two or three times per week) help to limit the amount of hair they’ll shed in your home. Labs do shed relatively heavily, so they may cause problems for allergy suffers.
You’ll also want to bathe your Lab regularly. A once-per-month schedule usually works fine, and you should also bathe them anytime they go swimming in non-chlorinated water, or they get dirty. Because they love water, most Labs accept baths without too much fuss.
SEE ALSO: The 5 Best Dog Shampoos for Shedding
Also, as with any dog, be sure to trim your Lab’s nails and brush his teeth regularly.
You don’t have to look very hard to find a Lab – they’re virtually everywhere. But silver Labs are not very common, so you will have to look around a bit to find one for sale. The AKC’s puppy finder is probably the best place to start your search, but you can also use Google to find silver Lab breeders in your area.
You may be able to find a silver Lab at a rescue, but you may have to put in much more legwork to do so, given the relative rarity of the color form. There are likely Lab rescues operating in your area, but you can start your search by checking out the dogs available at Lucky Lab Rescue.
Many soon-to-be dog owners have questions about the new pet they intend to pick up, and this is especially true of those looking for somewhat rare dogs, such as silver Labrador retrievers. While we can’t address all of the potential questions prospective owners have, we’ll try to answer a few of the most common below.
Ostensibly, although some people suspect that they have Weimaraners in their family tree. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t matter at all to families that simply want a silver-colored pet that has the personality of a typically colored Lab.
Yes. Labs of all colors are exceedingly friendly dogs, which is part of the reason they excel as therapy and emotional support animals.
Labs – whether they’re silver or any other color – may bark at unusual sounds or strangers knocking on the door, but they’re entirely too friendly to be considered a good guarding breed. They’re more likely to bring a prowler their tennis ball than physically drive them away.
Yes, silver Labs shed as heavily as all other Labs do. Be sure that you consider this fact carefully before adding one of these dogs to your home.
The AKC does recognize silver Labs, as long as they’re the product of two AKC-registered Labs. However, they’re typically listed as being a “non-recognized” color (they may also be registered as chocolate).
Silver Labrador retrievers typically make excellent family pets, as long as you don’t force them to spend long periods of time alone. They also require plenty of exercise and stimulation, or they may become bored, which can lead to destructive behaviors.
READ MORE: 11 Best Large Dog Breeds for Families
In general, Labrador retrievers are great family dogs. They are smart, affectionate and friendly, and they usually get along well with children and other pets. And all of these characteristics apply to Labs of all colors – including silver.
Just be sure that you won’t be extremely put off by the amount of hair Labs typically shed, and that you are willing to provide your new pet with the exercise he’ll need. As long as you are comfortable accepting both of these challenges, a silver Labrador retriever may make an excellent pet for your family.
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