The Experience of a Previous “Silver Lab” Breeder by Mary Frances Clark

The dog on the left  is what most people refer to as a “Silver Lab.” Her name is Sky.  As you can see, Sky is hairless–not like a Labrador Retriever should be! She is affected by color dilution alopecia, which is a hair loss condition in dogs which are dilute.  In “Labs,” dilutes are referred to as silver, charcoal, and champagne. Sky also has allergies and mast cell carcinoma (skin cancer).

My husband, then fiancé, and I purchased the two dogs you see in the photo. I was 23 years old and ignorant about Labradors. I believed what I read on silver breeders’ websites about the origin of the dilute gene supposedly being “inherent in the Lab gene pool,” and “no health issues.” I didn’t even know about health clearances when we bought these first two dogs.

I’ve learned much since acquiring our first two dogs. I did complete some health clearances on Sky. I bred her twice, producing two litters of 5 puppies. I had a litter of full dilutes by another silver I previously owned. (He was neutered and placed in a pet home shortly after the silver litter, which was an unintentional litter.) Sky was bred to a standard chocolate stud for her second litter.  I informed the stud dog owner that Sky was silver when asking for stud service. I would not trick someone into breeding to a silver dog, as there are repercussions among fellow breeders for doing so, nor is it right to do so. Sky had complications and required a c-section and spay with this litter. I kept a female puppy from the litter. But, owners of some puppies from Sky’s first litter began telling me that they were having allergy and coat problems. I then decided to stop breeding dilutes fully and placed that puppy in a pet home. That was the end of my breeding dilutes. I do however still own Sky. She has temperament issues and developed the multiple health issues I mentioned above, so I did not feel it would be fair to her or anyone else to re-home her. She will stay here until she dies.

Breeding dilutes is a mistake I regret, but I cannot take it back. I regret it for several reasons. I regret producing unhealthy dogs, though at the time I did not realize they were going to be unhealthy. I regret breeding dogs that at some point had a mixed lineage to produce the dilute color. I regret it also because of all the drama and stress it has caused me and the issues it will cause me in my future efforts to breed quality, healthy, purebred Labrador Retrievers.  I hope sharing my experience can help prevent others from making the same mistakes.