Do I Have a Purebred Labrador Retriever?
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The Labrador Retriever is the most common domestic dog breed in the United States. There are kennel clubs and breeders dedicated to maintaining this breed long into the future. With such popularity and dedication from human guardians, it is relatively easy to tell the lineage of a Labrador Retriever. However, since many of these dogs will mate with other breeds, there are a lot of non-pedigree Labs, Labrador crosses and mixed-breed dogs with varying degrees of Labrador heritage.
At AnimalWised, we ask how do I know if I have a purebred Labrador Retriever? We look at the characteristics which make up their breed standard and show you how to tell purebred Labrador puppies and adult dogs.
Is it important that your Labrador Retriever is purebred?
Your dog's breed will have a bearing on how they look and their physical capabilities. It can even influence their behaviors, although it is important to stress this will be only one factor of many. What breed doesn't affect is their level of value to us as a recipient of our care and affection.
Being a purebred dog means we can trace their ancestry and they should maintain the characteristics of the official breed standard. It means they are more likely to attain a certain appearance which is valued among certain dog guardians. It is important if you are wanting to enter the dog into shows or competitions, but whether your dog is a purebred Labrador Retriever will be largely irrelevant.
What is most important when any dog is in our care is they they become part of a family. We must meet the responsibility of their care and provide for them in a way which best ensures happiness and well-being. This doesn't mean there are not some benefits to knowing a dog's lineage. For example, there are some diseases common to the Labrador Retriever which it is good to be aware of.
Physical characteristics of a purebred Labrador Retriever
Different canine societies establish breed standards, but there is usually not significant deviation from the most important physical characteristics. There are also international breed standard organizations, such as the International Cynological Federation (FCI) which aim to codify these characteristics on a global level. It is against these standards most dogs compete in competitions across the world.
According to the FCI, the most important characteristics to meet the breed standard of the Labrador Retriever include:
- General Appearance: medium-sized dog with strong build.
- Size: height at the withers of 56–57 cm (22–22.5') for males and 54–56 cm (21.5–22') for females.
- Weight: the weight of an adult Labrador can range between 29–36 kg (65–80 lb) for males and 25–32 kg (55–70 lb) for females.
- Head: has a broad skull with a defined stop (fronto-nasal depression). The nose is broad and the muzzle is powerful, but not pointed. The eyes are brown or hazel in color, are of a medium size and they have an intelligent expression. The ears are not very long or thick and should hang slightly back on both sides of the head.
- Body: the neck is robust and powerful. It ends in a wide and deep chest, with well-arched ribs. The loin area is broad, short and strong.
- Tail: it is a distinctive characteristic of the breed. It is colloquially known as an ‘otter's tail’ because of its particular appearance. It is very thick at the base and progressively tapers towards the tip. It is medium in size and has no fringes, although it must be well covered with short, thick hair. It can be carried at different heights, although never curled on the rump.
- Extremities: well developed, with bent knees and lowered hocks. The feet are round with well-developed pads.
- Coat: it must be short, dense, hard and without waves or fringes. In addition, it has a waterproof undercoat. The coat color can be totally black, chocolate/ liver or yellow. The coats of Yellow Labs can vary from light cream to reddish. They may have a small white spot on the chest.
To know more about the appearance of Labs, take a look at our article on the different Labrador Retriever colors.
Purebred Labrador Retriever character
While we cannot tell a purebred Labrador Retriever by character alone, there are some characteristics common the the breed. They are known for having a very level temperament with an affable and docile character. They are a very sociable breed and ideal for families of all ages. They rarely show aggression or shyness and are good for living with other companion animals.
The Labrador Retriever also stands out for their intelligence. They are able to adapt to various households and can be used in a range of activities as a working dog. These include being used in therapy, security, the armed services, search and rescue, as well as many other industries. Although further research needs to be carried, there is some evidence they can be used in detecting diseases in people.
It should be noted that Labrador Retrievers are very active dogs. If they exhibit signs of nervousness, it is likely because they are not receiving enough daily exercise and enrichment. This can lead to some destructive behavior. Although it is possible for a Labrador to live in an apartment, they will need sufficient time outside and walks to ensure their physical needs are met. Being able to provide enough physical exercise is an important requirement of care which needs to be considered before they are adopted into any home.
To learn more about meeting these needs, you can take a look at our video all about the Labrador Retriever breed:
How to know if a Labrador Retriever is purebred
If you are wondering how to know if a Labrador Retriever is purebred, you will need to know their pedigree. This can be achieved by contacting the breeder from which you adopted the dog. They should be able to provide documentation confirming the dog's history.
You can apply for a pedigree certificate using the dog's registration numbers. You will need to do this in the dog's country of origin. For example, in the USA, you can do this through the American Kennel Club. They will check the registration, find their pedigree up to a certain number of generations and print a certificate as proof.
However, not all dogs will have this registration and pedigree information. In this case, you will need to perform a DNA test on the animal. The AKC also offers this service. A swab will be taken and their genetic history will be examined. The genetic information available will depend on who carries out the genealogy test, but databases are increasing.
If you do not have the ability to get a DNA test for your dog, it will be difficult to determine if they are purebred. You can use the physical characteristics described above to make a close estimation, but you may not be able to confirm officially.
A genetic history might also help you tell between the different types of Labrador Retrievers.
Mixed-breed Labrador Retrievers
As we have already mentioned, the fact that your Labrador is mixed-breed will be irrelevant unless you wish to show them in competition. We must not forget that value attributed to pedigree is relative. Breed standards are traits selected subjectively by certain organizations to define a specific breed. In addition, these standards change over time. This implies traits that are considered typical of a breed today may be modified in the future.
Likewise, it is important to bear in mind there are breeders who do not comply with the freedoms of animal welfare. Shelters are full of dogs which need homes desperately. Some of these are Labrador Retriever crosses and mixed-breed dogs of all kinds. They can have the same traits which make Labrador Retrievers appealing to you as a family.
Caring for any dog is a responsibility and not one which should be taken lightly. In fact, although it will always depend on the individual, there are some advantages of adopting a mixed-breed dog. Take a look at our video below to learn more:
If you want to read similar articles to Do I Have a Purebred Labrador Retriever?, we recommend you visit our What you need to know category.
1. DNA Profile Program (n.d.) The American Kennel Club. Retrieved from:
The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Labrador Breed Standard. Retrieved from: https://thelabradorclub.com/about-the-breed/breed-standard/
Federation Cynologique Internationale. (2011). FCI Standard No. 122 : Labrador retriever. Retrieved from: http://www.fci.be/Nomenclature/Standards/122g08-en.pdf