Friendly, smart, and cuddly to boot, Labrador Retrievers are known and loved all over the world as working dogs and family pets.
Their sweet-natured temperaments and non-threatening appearance make them incredibly sought after as The Quintessential Family Dog.
Lots of people are familiar with the Yellow, or Golden, Labrador; if you’ve been to a couple of dog parks, you probably know the Black and Chocolate Labrador Retriever as well.
These Labs have been around for years – but in the 1950s, breeders created a, somewhat controversial, fourth type of Labrador that isn’t quite as widely known: the Silver Lab.
These beautiful Labradors often have a Silver, Grey, or faintly Blue coat. Sometimes they even have blue eyes, making them unique among the Labrador breed.
Though once considered an undesirable color, Silver Labs are quite popular today!
History of the Silver Lab
The history of the Silver Lab is really quite interesting! A recessive gene is the likely cause of the strange coloring, and Silver or Blue Labradors have been around for a while.
However, as breeders sought the classic yellow or black coloring, any Silver Lab puppies were kept out of future breeding lines and were undesirable until recent decades.
Mainly for this reason, Silver Labs were not (and still are not in some parts of the world) considered pedigree by kennel clubs and breed standards.
Nonetheless, as times change, breeders actively sought out lines with Silver in them, mixing in Yellow, Chocolate, and Black Labs to create all sorts of new colorings – such as the Champagne Lab and the Charcoal Lab.
The gene that causes the silver coloring dilutes the pigment of the puppy’s fur.
However, there is another whirl of debate about the origins of the Silver Lab that is still going on today. It’s even a huge part of some controversy!
Some argue that Silver Labs are not true Labradors because they are in fact a mixed breed – meaning they aren’t purebred.
None of this pedigree stuff really matters unless you want it to matter. Silver Labradors have the same sweet, energetic nature as Yellow, Black, and Chocolate Labs.
Do Silver Labradors Have Any Unique Health Risks?
Really, the only unique thing about Silver Labs is their coloring. They have the same health risks as Labradors in general.
Labradors of all kinds are vulnerable to cataracts, retinal dysplasia, progressive retinal dysplasia, hip and elbow dysplasia, and epilepsy.
Most of these are conditions that appear late into the dog’s life, and can easily be caught and mitigated by regular vet check-ups.
Silver Lab Temperament
One of the reasons Labradors are so popular, especially with families and as service animals, is because of their even temperaments.
Few dogs can so happily let children crawl all over them and remain calm – though it is important to teach little kids boundaries and how to be gentle with your pets!
Just like with any other dog, though, less friendly temperaments can pop up. What causes such instances are genetics (the temperament of the mother and father) and how the puppy was raised (for example, if they were poorly socialized or mistreated).
Adult Silver Labs in these bad cases will obviously need extra training and a great deal of patience to ease their temperaments into happier states – and even with years of effort, they may never be fully rehabilitated.
This is why it is important to either adopt or buy puppies direct from licensed and fully registered breeders. You will be able to have a ‘meet and greet’ with the Labrador and get a feel for their personality. With breeders, you should be able to meet one or both of the parents too.
Silver Labs are not as widely available as Black or Yellow Labs. Finding the right Lab for you will take a bit of persistence, but it will be worth it!
Training a Silver Lab
There is a good reason why Labradors are service dogs! Aside from being even-tempered and having enough energy to remain active all day, they are very intelligent and will pick up what you’re throwing down with enough patience.
Still, no matter the breed, puppies take a lot of work. Silver Lab puppies are clumsy, bright, happy balls of silver fluff, and they are one of the easier breeds to train in simple and complex commands.
The first big challenge is house training.
Everybody that has raised a puppy will either laugh at you or offer sympathy when you say that you are about to start house training.
More than anything, this phase of your puppy’s life will require patience – and probably a few cleaning products.
First things first: stock up on puppy training pads. If nothing else, these are good for containing messes and training your Labrador puppy to go to the bathroom in a specific place.
You won’t be able to start house-training a puppy until it is roughly three months old, as it won’t have enough control over its bladder and bowel movements to hold onto its business.
The second thing is to establish a routine. First thing in the morning, last thing at night, just after meals, and after they wake up from a nap, take your puppy outside for a toilet break.
Stay out there with them until they go, and be sure to praise them once they do! Positive reinforcement is key in puppy training. It’s also a good idea to take the puppy to the same spot for every toilet break too!
Also, learn to recognize the signs your puppy gives when they need to go. Scratching, sniffing around, whining, and circling are all signs that it is time to run outside and find a nice patch of grass.
The third step can be to confine the puppy into a crate at night, preventing it from wandering around the house and having an accident.
Confining a puppy to a crate at night for the first few months can also be good for their safety too. Since Labs are curious, they may try to eat power cords or chew on electronic devices!
The last tip is to not punish your puppy for accidents. If you catch your puppy in the act of going to the toilet indoors, clap your hands and say their name in a firm voice – do not yell or clap right next to them.
Calmly take them outside and be sure to praise them for doing the right thing.
Basic commands are the big three: sit, stay, and drop. Every dog should know these, not only for the mental exercise, but for safety reasons. If they ever get out of the house, you must be able to call them back ASAP!
Labradors are pretty intelligent. Most will pick up basic commands in a matter of days if you put the work in. Labrador puppies can start learning these commands when they are around two months old. Formal training will have to wait until they are at least six months old, as their minds won’t have developed enough until this point.
So, in training a puppy to sit, stay, and drop, you are going to be using a method called food-luring. It may sound a little mean, but really, it’s just using a desire/reward system to train certain behaviors. Repetition and consistency is the key.
Get yourself some treats. Give the puppy one so that it recognizes the treat as a yummy morsel. Take the next treat and hold it up, moving it up and back until the puppy naturally sits. Repeat this and start using the word ‘sit’. Be sure to go slow, and use lots of verbal praise when they sit.
Slowly, over a few days, you can start replacing food treats with verbal praise until the puppy sits on command. As you replace treats with praise, keep using your hand as a command indicator – lifting your hand, flat with the palm up, is a pretty common “sit” command.
Once your puppy has mastered the sit command, it is time to move onto “stay.”
You’ll need a release word, like ‘go’ or ‘okay’. The process is pretty simple, but requires a lot of patience.
Tell your puppy to sit. Once they have, stand in front of them and, palm up in a ‘stop’ motion, say ‘stay’. Take a step or two back. If the puppy doesn’t move, praise them and go again – increasing the distance that you put between you and them. If the puppy stands, return to the start and try again.
Teaching “drop” is pretty similar to sit. Instead of lifting the treat up, you bring it down to the floor – only, you don’t let the puppy eat the treat until they are on their belly. Use the command ‘drop,’ ‘down,’ or ‘lay.’
Over time, replace the treat with verbal praise, and move your hand in a downward motion.
Silver Lab Needs
Grey Labs have the same needs as every other Labrador. They require lots of exercise and mental stimulation to keep them happy and from acting out, alongside regular grooming and vet checks.
This guide has been all about the Silver Labrador, a type of Labrador Retriever that is as beautiful as it is controversial in kennel clubs. Though definitely unique in appearance, the Silver Lab has the same temperament, needs, and intelligence as their Yellow, Black, and Chocolate counterparts.
Don’t let anyone fool you! Silver Labs are just as high-energy, sweet-natured, and smart as all the other Labradors. You may just call their coloring a silver lining!
Do you have any tips on owning a Silver lab?