The genetic makeup of a dog is very complex, and coat color is determined by many genes. Although all dogs have the same genes, certain ones get “turned on” while others remain off, depending on the breed or mix. The coat color of a Labrador is determined by several genes, including B and E. The B gene dictates whether a dog is black or chocolate, while the E gene acts as a “masking” gene. If a dog has the Ee or EE gene, its color depends on what is present at the B gene, but if it has the ee gene, it will always be yellow.
Additionally, there are concerns about the temperament and behavior of silver Labs. Some people believe that the inbreeding that was necessary to produce the silver color may have led to a higher incidence of health and behavioral problems. While there is no scientific evidence to support this claim, it is important for breeders to prioritize the health and temperament of their dogs over their color.
Overall, while silver Labs may be visually appealing to some, it is important to consider the potential negative effects of breeding for a non-standard color. As with any breed, responsible breeding practices should prioritize the health, temperament, and adherence to the breed standard of the Labrador Retriever.
The silver coloration in dogs occurs when the D gene is turned on. If the D gene is in its homozygous recessive form (dd), it dilutes the coloration of the B gene. When chocolate is diluted, the color is a silvery brown, and the dilute version of black yields a dark slate gray or “blue” color. Breeds such as Weimaraners and Dobermans have the dilute gene pattern in their population and produce blue dogs. Great Danes, Chow Chows, German Shepherds, and Newfoundlands can also be diluted.
Silver Labs were originally thought to be a mutation, but they are not. They follow the same pattern of dilution as other breeds. Silver Labs can be traced back to two kennels in the U.S. that stumbled upon the color and sought to express it as often as possible. They had to inbreed to keep the color going since other dogs would not yield the color. Both of these kennels had dogs that came from one kennel that bred both retrieving and pointing breeds in the U.S. back in the 20s and 30s. The dilution factor was most likely added accidentally, and breeders today are keeping it going.
However, silver Labs are a disqualification according to breed standards, and breeding them is not recommended. Adhering to a standard while breeding is what keeps a breed a breed. Silver breeders do not typically run health clearances on their breeding stock or participate in any competitions to prove their dogs are breeding quality. This leads to the belief that they are breeding simply to make money and do not care about the health or quality of their dogs.