Labrador retrievers are an adorable and popular dog breed that can make a great addition to your household. If you’re uncertain if a certain puppy is purebred, there are several ways you can check.
Aside from a physical examination, you can do a professional DNA test on the dog to check its genetic makeup.
If you want to be extra certain of a puppy’s background, you can use its parent's DNA to get a pedigree chart of the pup’s family tree.
3 Method To Identify Your Labrador Puppy
First Method: Examine The Physical Feature
Pet the dog to see if it has a water-resistant coat. Run a hand over the puppy’s fur and stroke the animal’s back. Does the fur appear short, and have a thick texture? If not, there’s a good chance that the puppy is not a purebred Labrador.
- Since Labradors were originally bred to be water dogs, their coats are resistant to water.
Examine the puppy for a thick, sturdy tail. Look above the puppy’s butt to find the tail. Is it thick, and similar to an otter’s tail? Look closely to see if it’s thick at the base, and growing thinner toward the tip. If the puppy’s tail is narrow and spindly, it likely isn’t purebred.
- Keep in mind that the pup’s tail will become larger and thicker as it grows older.
Look for an angular head with a moderately-sized muzzle. Examine the puppy’s skull shape, observing where the forehead gradually slopes into the muzzle. Does the dog’s head look more triangular, or have an especially stubby muzzle? If so, there’s a possibility that your dog isn’t purebred.
- A puppy’s features will naturally be less pronounced than an adult Labrador’s. While you’re observing the dog, pull up a stock picture of a definite purebred Labrador puppy to make a more accurate comparison.
See if the puppy has a black, brown, or gold coat. Check that the puppy (and any other pups in the litter, if relevant) don’t have any colorful patterns on the fur, such as part 1 color and part another or with white flashes in their fur. The puppy’s coat should be 1 solid color, such as black, chocolate brown, or golden-yellow. If the puppy is any other color, there’s a good chance that it’s a mixed breed pup.
Check if the dog’s eye color is brown or hazel. Look into the pup’s eyes to examine the color. If the dog is a yellow or black lab, check that the puppy has brown eyes. In the case of chocolate labs, check for brown or hazel eyes.
- In the past, some purebred labs have had yellow-green eyes.
Search for a pup with muscular, average-sized legs. Look toward the dog’s rear to see if the puppy has thick hind legs roped with muscle. Check to see how long its legs are; while a Labrador should have longer legs than a Dachshund, its legs should be shorter than a Husky.
- When examining a puppy’s legs, compare it to a puppy of a different breed. A young dog’s legs will definitely be shorter than those of an adult Labrador.
Second Method: Getting a DNA Test
Swab the puppy’s mouth to get a DNA sample. Purchase a dog genetics test, which will give you a specialized testing kit. Use the provided swab to wipe up a good sample of the puppy’s saliva or the cells inside their cheek depending on the instructions that came with your kit. Check the instructions on your DNA kit to see if there’s anything else you need to collect or fill out before getting the sample ready to mail.
- Dog DNA kits can be purchased online. They generally range in price from $70 to $200, depending on how detailed your test is. Some DNA tests will look for genetic markers, while cheaper tests focus more on the different breeds.
Send the sample to a professional analysis company. Package the saliva sample according to the instructions given by the company. Seal the envelope or package carefully, so the sample is completely secure while it travels to the lab.
- If you’re confused about any step of the packaging process, feel free to call or email the analysis company for assistance.
Wait for the test results to come back in 6 weeks. Don’t expect your results in the mail after a day of waiting—or even a week. Expect to wait about 1½ months before hearing anything back from the analysis company. If you‘ve waited several months without hearing or receiving anything from the company, contact the lab to check on your sample.
Read the percentages listed in the report to find out the dog’s breed. Generally, you can find the test results listed by breed, followed by a percentage; however, this might differ, depending on the company. If your results contain extremely high Labrador percentages, then you most likely have a purebred puppy!
- Nearly all DNA tests are at least 95% accurate. If you aren’t happy with your results, you probably aren’t going to receive a different score with an additional DNA test.
- Mixed dog panels will have multiple breeds listed with smaller percentages (e.g., 25% Border Collie, 37.5% Basenji, 12.5% German Shepherd, etc.).
Third Method: Analyzing the Parentage
Obtain a DNA sample from the puppy’s parents. Ask the breeder or shelter officials if you can see the puppy’s mother and/or father. If this is possible, use a cotton swab to collect saliva samples from 1 or both parents. Store these samples carefully to send them to a professional company.
- Most DNA kits give you specialized swabs that help you collect the saliva sample.
- Even if you can’t swab both parents, just 1 can provide a lot of insight into the puppy’s pedigree.
Mail the samples to a company specializing in pedigree analysis. Package the samples according to the lab’s instructions. Seal the envelope or package carefully to secure the sample, and keep it safe in transit.
- If you have any questions about this process, feel free to contact the lab processing the DNA samples.
- You’ll have to wait several weeks to receive a pedigree chart.
Check the chart for abbreviations like “CH.” Once you receive the pedigree results in the mail, look for shorthand that indicates the puppy’s hereditary talents, like “CH” (Confirmation Champion), “FC” (Field Champion), or “MACH” (Master Agility Champion). Additionally, examine the chart for any information on the puppy’s health history, as some dogs can be prone to certain conditions and illnesses.
- Seeing a CH or confirmation champion title on the pedigree certificate means that the dog is close to the breed standard's ideals and is related to a dog that was able to win over other dogs at a show with at least 15 confirmation points. A dog with this lineage can make a great candidate for showing.
- Ask a vet if you have any questions about the puppy’s pedigree chart.
Purchase a pedigree certificate from the American Kennel Club. If your dog has documented parentage with the American Kennel Club, you can search their database and purchase a certificate that affirms this. You can also register your dog through the American Kennel Club once you have proof of their pedigree.
- Fees for pedigrees vary depending on the type. For example, a 3-generation pedigree costs $25, while a 4-generation pedigree costs $34, and a 3-generation export pedigree, which allows you to enter your dog into shows in other countries, costs $69.
- When you purchase a puppy, make sure to ask to see the dog’s family tree and the parents’ pedigrees as well.
Do Labradors come in long-hair?
Yes. They do.
Yes. The purebred dog in that last identification query is a Labrador.
And you may have seen a dog like this one on this blog before.
Remember, Ch. Zelstone?
Zelstone was born in 1880, and he became a very important sire in the old wavy and flat-coated retriever breed from which both golden retrievers and modern flat-coats descend.
Tracer, his son, and full brother to Ch. Moonstone was bred into the strain of yellow wavy-coated retrievers at Guisachan.
Moonstone, when bred back to his mother produced a red-gold puppy, which meant that Zelstone carried the recessive red color.
The long-haired dogs likely comprised the vast majority of the dogs imported to Britain, where they were used to found the wavy-coated retriever. It is often said that the long coats on these dogs derived from crossing the smooth-coated St. John’s water dog with the setter. However, this doesn’t theory hold up with much scrutiny.
If one breeds a dog that is homozygous for the smooth-coat to a dog that is homozygous for the long-coat, you will get smooth-coated puppies. The vast majority of retrievers derived from St. John’s water dogs or “Labradors” in the British Isles during the nineteenth century were long-coated and were called “wavy-coated retrievers.” These dogs were sometimes crossed with setters or collies, but as a rule, they were almost always long-coated.
The Rev. Thomas Pearce (“Idstone”) wrote inThe Dog (1872) that smooth-coated retrievers that were of this St. John’s water dog ancestry were quite rare in England, but it was possible to get puppies with both coats in litters. The smooths were always associated with imports from Newfoundland, but they were good workers.
Idstone believed that the setter was the primary ancestor of the wavy-coated retriever, but we now know that during the early days of this kind of retriever in the nineteenth century that they were primarily of St. John’s water dog ancestry.
The famous depiction of Paris and Melody from an edition “Stonehenge’s” Dogs of the British Islands. Paris was said to have been a pure “Labrador” or “St. John’s water dog.” He also had long hair. Melody was a setter cross, and she looks more like a setter than even the modern flat-coated retriever, which had some Irish setter crossed in at a later date to make them even more refined.
The modern flat-coated retriever also has more or less the setter’s coat, which lacks the very, very dense undercoat that is associated with golden and Labrador retrievers. Because of this coat type in modern flat coats, it is much more likely that the wavy-coated retrievers were primarily of St. John’s water dog ancestry– with only occasional outcrosses to setters.
When Stonehenge provided a depiction of a St. John’s Newfoundland or Labrador dog in an edition of The Dog in Health and Disease (1879), he chose to use an image of a long-haired one.
Now, the long-haired dogs would be instrumental in establishing the old wavy-coated retriever, which eventually became the golden retriever and the modern flat-coat. These were the dominant retrievers in the British Isles through the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century.
The founding president of the Kennel Club, Sewallis Shirley, was a major patron of this retriever, and he and Dr. Bond Moore, who often called his dogs “Labradors,” were instrumental in establishing the old wavy/flat-coated retriever as a defined breed. These were all long-haired dogs, but because there were only two varieties of retriever, the curly and the wavy, there was some interbreeding between those two types.
Smooth-coated retrievers were very uncommon at this time, which also strongly suggests that the founding population of St. John’s water dogs that were used to found the wavy-coated retrievers were of the shaggy-type that Lambert de Boilieu mentioned. If the founding dogs were smooth-coated as the later St. John’s water dogs were, then most of the retrievers that were derived from these dogs would have been smooths. But the bulk of the evidence shows that the British retriever in the nineteenth century was almost universally long-haired.
One needs to understand that the dog that these texts call a “Labrador” isn’t necessarily the same as the breed called the “Labrador retriever.” The modern Labrador retriever traces to the 1880s when the line of smooth-coated retrievers that were kept by the Dukes of Buccleuch was combined with that of the Earls of Malmesbury. This was the only British retriever to be selected for the dominant smooth coat. Modern Labrador retrievers are almost universally smooth-coated dogs.
However, very rarely, a long-coated puppy is born. These dogs are extremely rare– much rarer than Labradors with tan points or brindling.
The exact origin of these modern long-haired Labradors isn’t exactly clear.
They could have always been hidden within the smooth-coated St. John’s water dog bloodlines that eventually gave us the Labrador retriever, but if this were so, it probably would be more common in the breed than it is today. I think a much more likely source for this coat is cross-breeding. Labrador, golden, and flat-coated retrievers were considered varieties of a single breed, and interbreeding the varieties were very common.
When the Labrador retriever needed fresh blood, it was occasionally bred to wavy or flat-coated retrievers, which may have included dogs we would call golden retrievers. The Dukes of Buccleuch and the Earls of Malmesbury tried to keep their dogs from being bred to long-haired retrievers, which is one reason why they were so eager to import more smooths from Newfoundland. However, other breeders certainly did outcross.