The Truth About Dilutes

If you've been considering adding one of these "Silver" dogs to your family, thinking they are "rare" or "unique", I'd urge to at least get the facts.  Many of these Dilute "breeders" have not done proper research into Labrador history (or if they have, they fudge the facts to suit their fancy anyway).  Reputable Labrador breeders have heard all sorts of interesting, inaccurate tales from these Dilute "breeders" to justify their irresponsible actions.  Not one shred is factual to the history of the breed.

Personally, I've become very tired of seeing and hearing all the inaccurate tales being told by unscrupulous "breeders" who care nothing about the breed except to make money off of it.  So, I've created this page in attempt to de-bunk them and, hopefully, shedding some light for those considering adding one of these irresponsibly bred animals to their family.

~Myth vs. Fact~

Myth: Dilutes are registered and have certified pedigrees, thus they are purebred.
Fact: Let's examine the true meaning of being purebred.  The real definition of purebred involves establishing a set type/standard and after several generations of dogs breeding true to that type/standard without the infusion of outside blood, continuing to breed true to that type/standard with the established gene pool.  By this definition, Dilutes certainly have a solid case for being recognized as a new breed, but they are not purebred Labradors.  If they were purebred Labradors, there would be no need to improve Labrador type in these dogs by breeding into "clean" Labrador lines.

As far as Dilutes being regisered as a means of proof of purity, that is also a fallacy.  AKC registers dogs on the "honor system".  They do not check the accuracy of parentage of every dog or litter.  They depend upon the honesty of the person registering the dog.  If that person is dishonest (as Kellogg & Culo were- more on that later), AKC has no way of knowing unless a complaint is made.  Therefore, registration and pedigrees as a means of proof of purity have a direct correlation to the honesty of the breeder.  In the case of Dilutes, sadly, registration papers and pedigrees aren't worth the paper they are printed on.

Myth: "Silver", "Charcoal", and "Champagne" will be recognized as allowable Labrador colors some day (soon).
Fact: The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. (LRC), breed parent club of the AKC, has issued several position statements against the registering of these Dilute colored Labradors as they are not purebred.  It has been proven, through both breed history and science, that the Dilute gene is foreign to the purebred Labrador.  Therefore, these dogs are not purebred and will not gain "recognition" at any time as purebred Labradors.  That said, they may, in fact, have a solid case for being recognized as a new breed.  However, for the moment and until such time as their supporters decide to explore that route, they are as much a mixed breed as a "Labradoodle".  Therefore, they are not likely to be recognized as a purebred in the lifetime of the dog you may be considering.

Myth: Kellogg & Culo discovered the Dilute gene in the Labrador, brought it to light instead of culling it, and are heroes.
Fact: Kellogg & Culo were opportunistic salesmen looking to exploit a niche in the hunting dog market.  They saw a demand for a "Pointing Retriever" and decided to make money on the idea.  They were friends and it was well known that Kellogg kept both Labradors and Weimaraners on his property.  It was a much different time.  All of their dogs and puppies (of both breeds) ran amuck and paperwork was fudged to portray who they thought the parents of each litter of pups were.  Most of their Labradors were very houndy or pointer looking to begin with, so it worked to their advantage when their Weimaraners were bred with their Labradors in attempts to produce a "Pointing Retriever".  However, these dogs became the first Dilute Carriers and, after trading dogs back & forth amongst themselves and breeding them together, the first litter of "Silver" Labradors (called "Grey" in several advertisments at the time) was produced.  This color, while not the intention of the mixed breedings, became a bankable "happy mistake" for Kellogg & Culo.  So, essentially, Kellogg & Culo were irresponsible idiots who intentionally allowed mixed breedings to occur all for the sake of making sales and then fraudulently registered those mixed breeds as purebreds.  As there were no DNA tests for parentage at the time, everything was on the "honor system" in AKC.  AKC had no way to know or disprove these dogs were not of accurate parentage.  And, by the time AKC did investigate, the dogs on both properties were already several generations removed from the original Dilute Carriers.

Myth:  The Newfoundland carries the Dilute gene, so the Dilute gene must have come from that breed and is naturally occuring in the Labrador.
Fact: The Labrador Retriever did NOT come from the Newfoundland.  The Labrador Retriever originated from what was known as the St. John's Water Dog, the local dog of Newfoundland.  The Greater Newfoundland- what became the Newfoundland- was bred from many European breeds (likely hounds) that were brought to Newfoundland and then further bred with the St. John's Water Dog.  It is said they even had a "Husky" looking appearance at the time, and, therefore, a Husky anscestor.  The Lesser Newfoundland- what became the Labrador Retriever- originated with the St. John's Water Dog but was not bred with the Greater Newfoundland as they both became specialized for different tasks.  While both breeds were taken to England to be further developed, they continued to be bred separately from each other.  The Lesser Newfoundland was bred with mainly Flat-Coat Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Setters.  The Lesser Newfoundland (who was smaller with a shorter coat) were valued for their hunting & fishing skills, their ability to withstand icy waters and navigate water almost effortlessly, while the Greater Newfoundland (who was larger and hairier) was favored for cart work and his ability to pull grown men from the water.  It is also known that the Lesser Newfoundland was bred with some Gordon Setters and this is where the common Tan Points mismark comes from.  White patches are a throwback to the St. John's Water Dog itself.

It is believed the Labrador Retriever acquired the Yellow gene from breedings with the Golden Retriever and the Chocolate/Liver gene from breedings with the Flat-Coat Retriever.  However, given the fact that both Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundland both carry the Chocolate/Liver gene and both have breeding tracing back to the St. John's Water Dog, it would not be so far fetched to believe the Chocolate/Liver gene originated with the St. John's Water Dog itself.

Myth:  The Dilute gene is naturally occuring and, in the past, it was culled (or killed) to keep it secret.
Fact: Labrador breeders of the past kept some of the best records of odd colors and mismarks compared to some other breeds.  Had a "silver" dog been whelped or spotted in a litter, it surely would have been documented- no matter what the end result for the dog.  Also, considering that, when the breed was first recognized and registered with the American Kennel Club (1917), there were only a handful registered and given that these dogs were likely all interbred at some point, there definately would have been occurances of "silver" dogs in many litters.  Since the Dilute gene is a recessive gene, it takes both parents to carry it in order to produce it.  Therefore, with a gene pool of only a handful of dogs who are bred together, any naturally occuring recessive gene would have surely been produced frequently.  This did NOT happen.  Instead, the first "silver" dogs did not appear until the the late 1950s/early 1960s when the gene pool of registered Labradors was much larger and the Weimaraner was recognized.  The expression of this particular recessive gene also could only be produced by breeding individuals together who traced to a certain kennel.  These facts absolutely go against what science tells us is possible for a naturally occuring recessive gene.

Also, if the Dilute gene is naturally occurring, one must ask themselves why it never appeared in the country in which the breed was developed until after dogs with pedigrees from the suspect kennels in the US were imported there?  If the gene were naturally occurring, Dilute dogs would have commonly shown up in the litters in the originating country before any importation from these suspect kennels in the US.  This also did NOT happen.

Many Dilute "breeders" refer to a certain passage from Mary Roslin Williams which they claim shows evidence of "Silver" in the past.  However, they take this passage completely out of context.  The passage describes newborn puppies with a "silvery, tabby like" hue.  However, this color changed within a couple of days.  The puppies grew up to be a "true black with a wonderful, correct undercoat".  The "silvery, tabby like" hue at birth was nothing more than an indicator of a wonderful, correct undercoat.

Myth:  The American Kennel Club DNA tested these "Silver" dogs to be purebred.
Fact: In 1987, after many of these "Silver" dogs were registered as Silver on registration applications (which, at the time, included a write-in line for "other" colors), the AKC decided to investigate.  They supposedly took a representative from the parent club (Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.) with them to several properties.  Now, keep in mind, at the time, the Board of the LRC was (and still is) controlled by a grand majority of Field Trial participants who really cared nothing about the dogs appearance and, therefore, anything that had four legs, could hunt, and was registered was good enough to be called a Labrador in their book.  So, the LRC representative didn't bat an eyelash to say these dogs were Labradors.  As far as the DNA testing by AKC, at the time, there was none.  Everything was decided by looking at photographs- photographs that were black & white with a sepia hue.  So, when the the dogs appeared in those oddly colored photographs to be nothing more than poorly bred Chocolate Field dogs, the LRC representive agreed to allow these dogs to continue to be registered as Labradors- albeit as their base color, Chocolate.  However, it should be noted that it was never agreed to register "Charcoal" as Black or "Champagne" as Yellow.

Why haven't these dogs been DNA tested now, aren't there Breed tests?  While there has been major advances in DNA testing, breed testing panels are still not accurate.  Breed tests rely on a library of DNA samples from a variety of breeds.  However, the testing laboratories do not have a full samples library to work from.  They only have samples from most popular breeds.  They don't have samples from all breeds.  Therefore, they cannot accurately determine purity of breed and the laboratories themselves label their products with the warning "For entertainment purposes only".  Basically, these tests are only meant to be used as way to throw away an extra $50 you might have laying around.  Will your result be intersting?  Of course.  Will it provide you with a laugh or two?  Absolutely!  Will it be accurate?  Likely not in the least.

AKC can now test for parentage to say, with accuracy, this puppy came from this sire and this dam.  However, this test has no way to determine purity of breed- only that a puppy came from the listed parents.

Myth: "Silver" Labradors are just as healthy and are the same as their normal color counterparts.
Fact: Because "Silver" dogs are a mixed breed that comes from the Weimaraner, they suffer from various skin conditions that are known in that breed such as Dilution Coat Alopecia.  While these skin conditions may not sound as frightening as Hip or Elbow Dysplasia, they are lifelong maladies for the dog.  Think about if your skin itched profusely to the point of being raw in spots every day of your life and there was no relief, no matter what you tried- treatments, foods, supplements, etc. 
Many Dilute dogs also suffer from a host of allergies and are twice as likely to be dysplastic due their breeders engaging in breeding for color only.

Many folks want to add these dogs to their family because they believe they are a "rare" or "unique" colored Labrador.  However, one of the hallmarks and most wanted traits that families want when selecting a Labrador is the temperament.  This is something that a "Silver" dog does NOT have.  They tend to take after the Weimaraner and be aloof, guarded, too energetic and/or ecentric for most families to handle, and, generally, nothing like a Labrador.

Myth:  The Dilute "breeder" I'm considering does all the same health tests as reputable breeders of normal colors.  Therefore, they must be reputable.
Fact: Any color (or marking) other than Black, Yellow, or Chocolate is a Disqualification in the Breed Standard.  ANY Breeder who intentionally breeds for a Disqualification is NOT reputable- not matter which way you flip it.

Also, reputable breeders have no need to be deceitful when it comes to breeding their stock or acquiring new stock.  They have no need to be dishonest about their intentions when breeding a litter or acquiring a new breeding prospect.  Many Dilute "breeders" have been able to dupe reputable breeders into allowing them to use their studs or selling them a dog by misrepresenting themselves and their intentions.  (They often create separate online personas- one for their Dilute program and one for the Standard program.  They also commonly have sympathizers or "middle men" buy puppies/dogs from reputable breeders who then sell those puppies/dogs or their offspring to Dilute "breeders".)  Why lie?  Because Dilute "breeders" are intentionally breeding for a disqualification, most reputable breeders would deny these irresponsible "breeders" access to their dogs if they knew their true intentions.

Reputable breeders also strive for excellence and, therfore, compete with their dogs to prove they are truly worthy of being added to the breed's gene pool.  Both the Sire & Dam of any potential breeding have proven themselves with either titles and/or Championship points.  Any breeder (outside of a reputable service organization) who does not compete with their dogs and, instead, banks on a dog's ancestors to sell puppies, is NOT reputable.  Because the Sire & Dam should have enough titles and/or competition wins to brag about themselves, there should be no need to brag about dogs in the pedigree in any reputable breeding program.  In other words, the individual dogs should "speak" for themselves.  Most Dilute "breeders" do nothing with their dogs and those that do, do so deceitfully.  For example, a Dilute "breeder" took a "Champagne" dog to an IABCA show (NOT a reputable organization) for an "International" Championship where judges are MUCH less educated on how to spot such a dog and the dog never has to compete against another dog for that Championship.  The dog (with its nose painted Black), of course, gained its "Championship" and the "breeder" now brags of having the first Dilute "Champion".  Another Dilute "breeder" recently sent a Dilute Carrier to the Eukanuba National Championship show and LRC Specialty held in conjunction.  As a mixed breed dog, the dog should not have been there to begin with.  However, the judges in AKC are smarter than in IABCA and it was clear the dog was nowhere near a quality Labrador.  Rightfully, the dog was not even placed in his class at either event.  Yet, the Dilute "breeder" brags about her Dilute Carrier being in the ring at Eukanuba & the LRC Specialty "with the big boys".  This is NOT a real accomplishment.  Real accomplishments in the Conformation ring are actually earning Championship points (by way of actually beating other dogs) or, at least, placing in classes at Specialties.  "Bigger" accomplishments include Group placements, BIS/BISS, Breed Rankings, etc.  Just showing up is NOT an accomplishment!

Myth:  The Dilute "breeder" I'm considering seems to have a passion for and loves the breed.
Fact: Anyone who truly loves a breed, loves it for what it already is and has no desire to change it to suit their personal fancy.  The Labrador Retriever has a rich, full history that led its enthusiasts to the creation of its breed standard.  The original penmen of the breed standard, did not take that task lightly and everything in the breed standard has a purpose for being there- including color.  These Dilute "breeders" do NOT truly love the Labrador Retriever breed!  They seek to change it to suit their personal fancies.  Sadly, no matter how much they profess to love the Labrador Retriever breed, their motives are purely financial.  The Labrador Retriever is an established, popular breed and, in their eyes, being registered as a Labrador brings in money.  Do you think their dogs would be as desirable and they would be making as much money under a cute, designer dog name like "Weimador"?  No, because, in their eyes, the public is in love with the Labrador and, therefore, anything that carries that moniker will bring in money.  Therefore, their true motives for continuing to intentionally breed disqualifying faults are clear.  Sadly, those motives have nothing to do with any kind of love for the breed.



©Steve & Darcy Litzinger, Kinderwood Labradors.  All Rights Reserved.