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With the sudden loss of my dog I've started the process of finding a new dog. Not immediately, but I'm finding focusing on finding a breeder/researching is helping me cope.

Anyways, I've decided on getting a lab. Now where I live there are tons of lab breeders. My question is though, are people who breed the diluted colors (silver, charcoal, champagne) necessarily untrustworthy/unreputable breeders? Obviously all the breeders I'm looking at have their dogs AKC registered with all the health tests done. I personally have no interest in getting a diluted color lab but I notice it does take out a lot of breeders in the area. Any thoughts on the diluted colors and the breeders of them would be greatly appreciated!
 

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If you want a Lab, do NOT get a dog that is Silver, Charcoal, or Champagne. Those are diluted breeds. Labs come in Yellow, Chocolate, and Black, with White and Fox Red variants that cost extra, but are NOT worth the extra cost. You can also get American Labs (smaller) or English Labs (blockier).

If you have access to tons of breeders, then I suggest that you look for the 'high priced' breed, not necessarily the most expensive, but look for male and female champions, with health guarantees and terrific temperaments, especially if they're released at about 12 weeks.

You may find excellent pups for about $500, but look around, comparison shop, talk to the Vets, references if possible.

I had a wonderful Lab mix that I adopted at 9 weeks. A friend spent a little more than $500 for a 12 week old purebred with good references. After a year, I think the two dogs were roughly similar pets, but during that first year, my friend had a much easier time than I did, because he started out with a potty trained, calm, socialized puppy, and I spent 6 mos of training (and nipping) to get my pup to the same level as his...
 

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IMO... if breeders are breeding to produce these "rare" colours, they are obviously not concerned about upholding the breed standard. That makes them disreputable.
 

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My question is though, are people who breed the diluted colors (silver, charcoal, champagne) necessarily untrustworthy/unreputable breeders?
In a word, yes. There is no known evidence of dilution occurring naturally in the breed, and there is speculation that Weimaraner was slipped into the gene pool at one point to introduce it (easy enough to do, just fudge on the registration paperwork). Which explains why I've mistaken more than one "silver Lab" for a Weim mix.

Now, there certainly are variations in the color intensity of chocolate and yellow Labs. Some are very dark, and some are very light, and a lot are in between. Regarding yellows, anyone advertising "fox red" or "white" would also be suspect, in my book. "White" labs are simply a very (VERY) light yellow, while the "red" Labs are just a very (sometimes VERY) dark yellow.

There are also two pretty distinct styles of Labrador. The show line dogs (frequently called English style) tend to be quite stocky, with heavy bone. Field line dogs (frequently called American or working line) tend to be rangier and leggier.
 

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Labs are an extremely popular breed, and as such there are a huge number of breeders everywhere producing them. You're going to find a lot of sub par breeders, probably more sub par than good, and very few exceptional ones.

On dilute colors- in most breeds, the dilute gene is linked to skin and coat issues. I believe this is the same in labs. As mentioned above, there is also a strong suspicion by many that the dilute gene was introduced to labs by mixing in weimeraner, and people breeding dilutes are lying about the origins of the gene. Genetically, it is possible that the dilute mutation occurred spontaneously, but if that were the case you'd be able to trace that mutation back to the original dog contributing that gene, and every dilute lab would have to have that dog in their pedigree. As I understand it, this is not likely to be the case. Also, those breeding for dilutes will often claim that they are "rare" colors. While the mutation is recessive, if their breeding program is focused on producing that coat color, I fail to see how it is "rare". Personally, I'd consider anyone producing dilutes to be questionable.

I would agree on familiarizing yourself with the different lines of lab. Show and field lines differ in build and drive/energy level, though there are plenty of lines that are mixed. It's also worth noting that there are American and British field lines, which many will argue differ in stability.

A big thing to look for is elbow and hip clearances through OFA or PennHip, as the breed suffers from both hip and elbow orthopedic issues. They should also be performing clearences on eyes. It's a plus if they're checking dogs hearts using echos as well. Personally I would not buy a dog from lines that havent been hip and elbow checked, and eyes are so easy to do that IMO any lab breeder skipping eye checks is just being lazy.

A note on the "fox red" labs- while they are genetically yellow dogs, I have seen any number of reputable field breeders using that term and wouldn't associate it with them being irresponsible. "white" labs are also just genetically yellow dogs, but again I don't know I'd immediately cross a breeder off my list for using that term if they checked all my other boxes.

I would definitely be looking for a breeder that does some kind of early puppy socialization protocol with their pups. Personally I prefer dogs raised in the home to kennels, as well, and prefer breeders who don't produce large number of litters at once, or at least not large numbers at once all year 'round.
 

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I agree with Moonstream, and I re-iterate that if someone charges a premium for a color, commonly done with White and with Fox Red, note that those colors aren't 'special' but breeder selected, b/c they can get more money for them. If you really like the colors that's your preference, but a red Lab shouldn't be any different than a yellow Lab or black lab, and so on.

Lab litters can be be large, consisting of about 10 pups. It used to be possible with 3 or 4 litters to get at least one pup of each color and variants from a given lab. So a mix of black, chocolate, and yellow pups was common in a litter from two black Labs, with a chance of a Fox red or a white pup, b/c of the color genetics. With current breeding and selection, I don't know if that's still true.
 
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