VetGen - The leader in veterinary genetic disease research and genetic disease detection services for purebred animals

Labrador Retriever

Genetic Testing Available for Unusual Labrador Colors

When one thinks of the Labrador Retriever an image comes to mind of a breed that comes in three colors:  black, chocolate, and yellow.  Dogs which have the appearance and behavior of a Labrador, but are not one of these colors are often assumed to be something else.  Looks can be deceiving, however, because the basic genes that control coat color are the same in every breed.  This leads to the sporadic appearance of unusually colored animals.

There are genetic tests available for some of these unusual colors and patterns. For those who care, these provide a tool to manage the outcome of future litters.  The variations of most interest to Labrador breeders are silver, brindle and tan point.  Another common sort of unusual color is the appearance of black or chocolate blotches on a yellow dog.  These are generally the result of a mutation in the animal as it is developing and are not inherited.  Since there is no predictive test, they will not be discussed further.

There has been a lot of attention paid recently to the silver Labrador.  These dogs have inherited a recessive copy (d) of the Dilute locus gene from each of their parents. The result is that these dogs do not produce as much pigment in their coat as is normally present.  This makes an otherwise black dog appear grey as seen in some Newfoundlands, while a genetically chocolate dog will appear the color of a Weimaraner.  Both colors are sometimes called silver although it is more common to see dilute black called charcoal and dilute chocolate called silver.  Simply testing for the recessive d in prospective mates will allow a breeder to know if silver is a potential outcome.

More commonly, a litter may show up with a surprise pup or two that are either tan point like a Doberman or a Rottweiler, the same pattern with brindle in the points, or even brindle all over.  Historically, the brindle and tan point variations have been noted since the inception of the breed.  They have always been there, simply at a very low frequency.

They are due to variations in the genes at the K (dominant black) and A (agouti) loci.  Most Labradors have two copies of the KB version of the K locus gene.  Only a single copy is necessary to make a black or chocolate dog be of a solid color.  About 1 in 25 Labradors carry one of two recessive versions of this gene, either ky or kbr.  When two such dogs are bred about 25% of the puppies will not be solid colored.  Usually these pups will be tan point or brindle point because the vast majority of Labradors also have two copies of the tan point version of the A locus gene.  The pattern is normally hidden because of the presence of a KB in most Labradors.  Some puppies may have other versions of the A locus gene than “tan points” and in such cases a dog may be brindle all over.  All of these surprise colors may be predicted or avoided by testing prospective mates for the K locus.  As long as one parent is KB/KB all the puppies will be solid in color.

For more detailed information on the genes involved in coat color, one can visit the Vetgen site at  There is also information there on the genetic disease testing that we offer for the Labrador Retriever. 

Rob Loechel

Vetgen, L.L.C.

Coat Testing

1st coat test/1st dog $65, additional coat tests for the same dog $20 each. As you place additional coat tests into the shopping cart and tag them for Animal #1 etc the discounting will appear.




black vs chocolate


dilute  (silver/charcoal in Labs)


brindle, allow/prevent expression of A Locus mutations




fawn/ sable


recessive black


tan points


at is only available for testing along with “a” due to genetic interaction between the two mutations

Turnarnound time is up to two weeks from receipt of DNA if the sample yields a result on the first run.
Please note that batches finish on various days so you may not receive all reports at once.

Disease Testing

Price individually $65- order two or more for the same dog receive discount pricing


Centronuclear myopathy




Degenerative myelopapthy


Progressive Retinal Atrophy – 2 (very rare)


Heriditary Nasal Parakeratosis








Pyruvate kinase deficiency


Cord 1 PRA (very rare)

SD – 2

Skeletal Dysplasia 2


X Linked Myotubular Myopathy (very rare)


Turnarnound time is up to two weeks from receipt of DNA if the sample yields a result on the first run.
Please note that batches finish on various days so you may not receive all reports at once.

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