All Labradors aren't created equal.
In fact, if you want to know if your Labrador is pure, there are a few ways to tell, including knowing what traits are associated with Labradors overall, knowing what traits are associated specifically with your dog, and knowing what traits are associated with the Labrador's parents.
If you want to know if your Labrador is pure, start with the basics.
In the United States, purebred dogs are registered through the United Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club, or the Continental Kennel Club, depending on the breed. The United Kennel Club registers a dog if one of its parents is registered with any of the other three kennel clubs.
(Purebred dogs whose parents are not registered are called "Fila Brasileiros.") The American Kennel Club registers a dog if both parents are registered as purebreds with the United Kennel Club.
The Continental Kennel Club registers a dog if both parents are registered as purebreds with the American Kennel Club.
Is My Labrador Purebred?
Worried that your dog might not be a purebred Lab? Not sure if your Labrador is a genuine pedigree dog? This is the article you need to read.
There are several ways that you can attempt to discover whether or not your Labrador is a purebred pedigree dog:
- Visual Assessments
- Pedigree Papers
- DNA Test
A visual assessment of pedigree involves looking at a dog and comparing his appearance with the breed standard.
This involves a detailed knowledge of the pure-bred Labrador breed standard.
So, let’s take a quick look at that before diving into some examples.
Purebred Lab Breed Standard
Breed standards vary slightly from one country to the next. So, here, we will just be focusing on the AKC breed standard.
This standard says that a purebred Labrador Retriever should weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, growing to between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall.
The three recognized colors are yellow, black, and chocolate. But, yellow is accepted in a variety of shades.
Dilute colors and mismarks can be AKC registered but are disqualified from the show ring.
Other key physical traits include a short, dense coat, an otter tail, a broad skull, and “kind” eyes.
To read more on the purebred Lab breed standard, take a look at this article.
Visual Assessment Examples
Visual assessments of pure-bred Labradors aren’t always accurate.
I want to give you a couple of examples to illustrate the problems involved with this approach.
So, let’s look at a purebred Lab that doesn’t fit the breed standard, and a crossbreed that looks like the breed standard says a purebred Labrador should.
Example 1 – Purebred But Looks Different
One of the Labradors in my home bears little resemblance to the breed standard. She has a thin, whippy tail with an upwards curve, overlong ears, and a long narrow face.
These features, combined with her ginger coat mean that very few people recognize her as a Labrador at all.
I have been asked if she is a Vizsla cross, a Lab x Greyhound, and other unlikely combinations.
In fact, this purebred Labrador Retriever has an impeccable pedigree full of noble ancestors with famous names.
But if someone made a visual assessment from a photo of her, they might well put her down as a crossbreed unless they were familiar with working line Labs.
Example 2 – Crossbred But Looks Like a Labrador
I have a friend with a Labrador X Pointer that looks all the world like a classic Labrador. The father is a show line lab, and his looks have dominated in this particular dog.
A visual assessment would wrongly put him in the purebred category when he is actually no such thing
Mixed breeds like this can inherit any blend of traits from their parents. So, crossbreeds can look just like a purebred Lab, even though they aren’t.
Are Visual Assessments Any Good?
I hope you can see from these examples how worthless visual assessments usually are.
While I can point out that your dog may have faults that will eliminate him from the show ring, I cannot possibly tell you whether or not he is purebred by looking at him.
Obviously, if he looks like a chihuahua then your best guess and my best guess is that he is a chihuahua, rather than a pure-bred Labrador.
But no one can make this kind of judgment based on a white patch, or the shape of your dog’s nose. Or by the set of his ears.
Can You Tell From Color?
Can you tell if you have a purebred black Lab or a purebred chocolate Lab from their color alone?
Unfortunately, the answer here is no. Labs aren’t the only dogs that come in the colors yellow, chocolate, and black.
So, a mixed breed could easily have a solid coat in one of these colors.
Visual assessments won’t be able to tell you if you have a purebred black Lab or a purebred chocolate Lab, just that they are that color.
Purebred Lab Puppies Can be Mismarked
The current Labrador breed standard is very clear on what a purebred Labrador should look like. But not all Labradors meet that standard.
Sometimes a mismark (a mark that is prohibited in the breed standard) occurs because the Labrador isn’t purebred.
But equally a mismark can occur in purebred Labrador Retriever puppies too.
Common Lab Mismarkings
Big white chest patches are fairly common in mismarked Labs.
My own red Lab’s mother had one, and a few white hairs on toes or under the chin are not unusual either.
It is even possible to get a purebred Labrador with tan points (like a rottweiler) or patches of brindle fur.
These types of puppies are genetic accidents and the puppies are usually sold as pets to owners who appreciate their unusual friend.
Okay, so if visual assessments don’t help you determine whether or not your dog is pure Labrador, what about pedigree papers?
If you buy a purebred dog, the breeder should give you the registration document with the names of both parents.
Most breeders will also give you a copy of the pedigree which lists the ancestors of those parents, together with any titles they may have, back through five generations.
If the breeder does not give you a copy of the pedigree he must give you the registration document. You can then order a pedigree document from the KC when you have transferred the registered owner of your puppy from the breeder to you.
There is usually a small fee for this and another fee for a fancy copy of the pedigree. Check out this link for more information on puppy paperwork.
Pedigree Papers Have Limitations
If you have the correct pedigree papers, then your dog is probably a pure Labrador. I say probably because there is room for dishonesty with this system.
It is possible for a dishonest stud dog owner to mate his bitch to one stud dog and register the puppies to another.
So, pedigree papers are a good indication of pedigree, and sufficient for most people’s needs, but they are not a guarantee.
This brings us to our final method, DNA identification.
It is now possible to have some dog's DNA checked for identification purposes. Labradors are one of the breeds for which this test is now available.
The laboratory will examine the sample you send in.
It will look at hundreds of individual sites within the DNA and compare these with a database of thousands of breed samples to determine your dog’s ancestry.
You’ll need to send your dog’s sample in the form of a cheek swab. You’ll find instructions when you purchase your kit.
How to Identify Pure Breed Labrador Puppy Dogs
So, to sum up, as visual confirmation of pure breeding is not possible, you need to use pedigree papers, and/or DNA results to confirm whether or not you have a pure Labrador.
Here is what I suggest you do:
Before Buying a Puppy
If your heart is set on a purebred dog before you purchase your puppy make sure the paperwork is in order. This greatly reduces the chances of your dog being cross-bred.
Ask to see the registration documents! Do not accept any excuses, your breeder must have registered the litter for you to be able to register your puppy.
Meet the mother and make sure that you like the way she looks. If you can’t meet the father make sure you see photos and a certificate of mating that confirms he is actually the father.
If the puppies have markings on them that you don’t like, then don’t buy a puppy. There is always another litter. Let someone else who loves unusual markings buy that puppy.
It is possible to find a purebred black Lab with white markings or a purebred chocolate Lab with brindling.
Remember, the only problem with buying a mismatched puppy is that you won’t be able to enter him into a dog show. If that doesn’t matter to you, it certainly won’t matter to him.
After Buying Your Puppy
Once you have purchased your puppy try not to worry about whether or not he is purebred.
Remember that many purebred dogs have mismarks or poor conformation, so if you have pedigree papers for him, he is probably purebred no matter what he looks like.
Try to ignore any other people who criticize your purebred Lab or convince you he is not a purebred.
After all, the most important thing is that your dog is happy, healthy, and a great addition to your family.
Know the Dog’s Ancestry
If you know your dog is a crossbreed and you want to know more about his ancestry or what type of dogs his parents were, you can get a DNA identification carried out.
Summarizing the Discussion.
To sum it all up, you can’t check if a Labrador is purebred or not based on visual assessment only as there are chances of it being mismarked. In addition to this, you will also need a DNA identification test, and pedigree papers to check their lineage. If you can’t get your hands on the pedigree papers, then at least make sure that you receive the registration documents.
Additionally, before you purchase the Labrador, ensure that you receive all the correct paperwork. Accept no excuses. There is a high chance that if you have all the necessary documents, then you can accurately ascertain if a Labrador is purebred or not. Moreover, if you are purchasing the dog from a breeder, you can meet the pup's parents and see for yourself if they are purebred Labradors.
In another case, if you have already welcomed the Labrador into your life, then you can always go for DNA identification, or use the registration documents to get your hands on the pedigree papers.