Most, if not all of us, love something new and unusual. And that’s exactly why there has been a noticeable increase in popularity of the White Labrador Retriever.
But, does this rarity come with a price? Does it have negative implications for the dog’s health, life span, and overall wellness? Are White Labrador Retrievers products of unethical breeding, or of a rare genetic condition?
Read on to learn more about the adorable White Labs and why most of them make excellent family pets or show dogs.
Breed at A Glance:
- Size: 22.5 to 24.5 inches (males); 21.5 to 23.5 inches (females)
- Weight: 65 to 80 pounds (males); 55 to 70 pounds (females)
- Energy Level: Highly energetic
- Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
History and Origin
Currently, the Labrador Retriever holds the top spot among the most popular dog breeds in the USA according to the American Kennel Club. And this friendly favorite has been in that much-coveted spot for more than 20 years.
However, before its popularity, the Labrador Retriever was an average water retriever and companion animal for the families of fishermen.
Also, all Labrador Retrievers used to go by the name of St. John’s Water Dog1, also known as Newfoundland (the place where they were first bred). It got its current name when it was exported to England from its native country Canada.
During their early days, these hardworking and talented dogs were black since the chocolate and yellow Labradors were commonly put down at birth.
It was only in the late 90s when the light-colored labs became desirable – thanks to the success of the television commercial featuring a light-colored Labrador Retriever.
While the official colors of this breed are yellow, chocolate and black, other lighter shades like silver and white have also laid their roots. And this topic of colors has also become a subject of different controversies.
Today, you can find labs in a wide array of hues. Chocolate Labs range from light brown to deep mocha, while Yellow Labs can be snow-white to fox red (fox red lab). And white Labradors can either be very-diluted Yellow Lab, or they may carry the albino gene.
Albino Labrador Retrievers can’t be registered with the AKC. The white lab puppies, on the other hand, can be registered with kennel clubs under the Yellow Lab category.
Just like many other working breeds, the Labrador Retriever is split into two categories: the English Labs, or the “show dogs,” and the American Labs, or the “field/working bred labs.” In the USA, White Labs are largely English, because White English Labradors are favored in the show ring. However, it doesn’t mean that there are no American White Labs.
Compared with the stockier English Labs, the American White Labradors are taller and far more active. In contrast, the English White Labrador Retrievers may have a lesser drive to retrieve or run all day, and they also have a broader chest and head, as well as shorter legs. Nonetheless, both the English and American White Labs make excellent companions.
Types of White Labrador
White Labradors can be described as Labradors whose coat has a white, or almost white color. However, their coat takes this unusual shade for various reasons.
Most White Labradors are actually Yellow Labradors with extremely diluted or pale coats. These dogs have similar characteristics to most labs but both of their parents have genes that allow for an almost white coat.
White Labradors that are classified under the Yellow Lab Category also have darker brown or black nose and eyes like most Labradors. And they also have the same temperament, as well as the same level of wit as the other Labs.
Additionally, they also face the same health risks. However, none of these health issues are attributed to the color of their coat. They are not more vulnerable to illnesses just because they are white, or almost white. Moreover, the Yellow Labrador is available in many colors: fox red, gold, cream, and of course, white.
And as mentioned earlier, White Labradors are most likely to be English Labradors or the show dogs, because of their breeding history. This means that they also have a stockier body, shorter legs, and a broader stature.
Albino Labradors are white labs that carry the white coat because of a genetic disorder, called albinism. Unlike the Yellow Labs with white coats, which are healthy dogs just like their darker brothers and sisters, the Albino Labradors often develop health problems due to their genetic condition.
It has been reported by researchers that albinism is a universal genetic disorder across the animal kingdom, but is rarely experienced in dogs, affecting maybe just around one in every 20,000.
Albinism happens when an animal has a gene mutation that blocks color pigmentation. The result is white hair with very pale skin. Albino Labs can be easily distinguished from Yellow Labradors that are white due to a lack of pigmentation on their eyes and noses. Their eye colors usually are red, although they may also be blue.
Due to their lack of skin pigmentation, Albino Labs are susceptible to sun damage, which makes them at risk for skin cancer and tumors. Additionally, their eyes are also more sensitive to the sun and can be easily damaged. Oftentimes, they are also born blind or with eye defects.
Leucistic White Labrador
Unlike white-colored Yellow Labradors, and Albino Labradors, the Leucistic White Labradors have low pigment in their skin, rather than being unable to produce pigments. Leucism2 usually occurs in dogs just like vitiligo in humans. Hence, you can expect to see Leucistic White Labs that are all white, or with random patches that are bleached of all colors (piebald).
These puppies can be difficult to separate from albino dogs sometimes. Albino Labs will likely have a pink nose, pink skin, and pink eye rims, while Leucistic White Labs may appear totally white, or with patches of other colors. Also, their eye color is normal unlike the red eyes of Albino Labs.
Silver Labradors got their color due to the dilution of their brown or black coats. Unlike white Labrador breeds who are not just recognized in the shows but are also prized, there has been much controversy surrounding Silver Labradors. This breed is registered by the Kennel Club as a Chocolate Labrador with a silver coat, and they are not allowed in shows.
The good thing though is that just like the Yellow Labs with a white coat, Silver Labs are not prone to health issues due to the color of their coat, and they also have the same personality traits as the other darker-colored labs.
Besides their color, White Labradors have no differences from other Labradors. Generally, Labs have wide heads, large eyes, and droopy ears. And just like many other dogs, their nose is black.
Labradors are medium-sized dogs, and White Labs make no exception. A male labrador is normally larger than a female lab. Compared to males, bitches weigh 55 to 70 pounds, while dogs weigh 65 to 80 kg. The same applies to height since dogs are generally one inch taller.
Labradors can either be taller or thinner depending if they are show dogs or work dogs. As mentioned earlier, White English Labs (which are the show types) are stockier, while the American Labs (which are the field or work types) are much leaner and taller.
Additionally, all labs have a double coat that has waterproof fur, which is perfect for water retrievers. These dogs also have bushy tails and webbed paws that help them swim better.
Labradors are easy to groom. However, you do need to bathe them frequently to keep their coat healthy and glossy, especially if they are always playing outdoors. But if they are not always outside, you can bathe them at least once every two months.
Additionally, these medium-sized and playful pups are also heavy-shedders, especially during shedding season, and they are not hypoallergenic. Hence, it would be helpful to invest in a high-quality vacuum cleaner to keep your environment free of dead hair.
Just like any other dog breed, hygiene must be taken into account. Brush your Lab’s teeth regularly to keep them healthy, clip their nails, and clean their ears.
Personality & Temperament
Aside from their physical beauty, Labradors are hailed as the most popular dog in the US3 for over 20 years because of their innate loveable characteristics and wonderful personality traits. This only shows that inner beauty shines not just in human interactions, but also between humans and dogs.
White Labradors act and behave like all Labradors. So, the colors do not affect the temperament. Labs can be a good partner for any person. This group is friendly towards children but also loves adults.
They also love strangers and can deal with other animals such as cats and rodents. Labs can be the perfect pet, even for novice or first-time dog owners. However, because of their active and playful nature, they won't be a good fit for a couch potato.
How to Care For a White Lab?
Caring for a White Labrador Retriever is like caring for any other color Lab. And similar to all other dogs, one of the major challenges when welcoming a new puppy at home is house training to keep him from biting any random thing, as well as potty training so he won’t make a mess around the house whenever he feels like doing it.
Nonetheless, with regular training paired with tasty treats and praises, your pup can easily learn while having fun and he can adapt seamlessly to his new living environment and routines.
Exercise & Training
As an active dog, the breed requires lots of daily activities. If not, it could lead to restlessness and destruction. Spending 30 minutes to one hour of exercise every day is enough for him to use up his energy and be happy.
It's also worth noting, though, that at times Labs can be so engrossed with what they are doing that they end up overexerting to the point of fainting. So, you should be extra careful not to let him endure a lot of physical activities.
Watch your dog for signs of tiredness and stop him from doing anything if he looks exhausted. Also, don't forget to have some breaks in between and to keep him hydrated, especially during summer. Among the Labs' favorite activities are swimming, fetching, and various sporting activities such as fishing and tracking.
Labradors are extremely trainable and cooperative, but just like with other dogs, it's best to start the training while they are young to have better chances of reducing undesirable behaviors. Also, Labs should be socialized so they won't grow to be fearful and shy. And they also need obedience training because of their restless nature.
Diet & Nutrition
Similar to other canines, White Labs need plenty of high-quality dog food made with protein, low fat, and moderate carbohydrates. And just so you know, it's true that this breed enjoys eating, which is a good thing because you'll hardly encounter Labs who are picky eaters!
However, since they love food, they tend to overeat which puts them at risk for obesity and is therefore unhealthy. Hence, you have to regulate their food intake. Normally, they require between 1.25 to 1.75 cups a day.
To know better how much food your pup should eat daily, you should also consider his age, weight, activity level, and individual preference. You can always ask your veterinarian for a more detailed recommendation.
Common Health Issues
Labradors are healthy dogs in general, and the White Labrador Retriever has no illness that is specific to its color. All Labs are prone to the same health problems as most large breed dogs, such as obesity and hip dysplasia. Below are other ailments that can affect every Labrador dog regardless of its color:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia are two joints associated problems that are usually inherited and show themselves later in life. Hip dysplasia is caused mainly by dislocation in the joints due to a bad fitting in balls and sockets.
Elbow dysplasia occurs largely due to abnormal joint development in the elbow. Hip and elbow dysplasia may cause lameness in your puppy. Common symptoms include limping, pain, and unwillingness to do even simple exercises.
This occurs usually in puppies, but it can be avoided if you don't let your Labrador puppy exert too much. Adults also have to have a good-paced routine, particularly in the heat. Symptoms include muscle wasting syndrome and depression.
Exercise-induced collapse is as literal as it sounds. When your dog gets too exhausted, he could suddenly faint. This should be considered an emergency as the collapsed dog could die within 25 minutes.
Just like many humans, and many other dogs, Labradors can also have eye infections. Two of the common eye problems that they can experience are progressive retinal atrophy and cataract.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy is a congenital eye problem that can happen when a dog's retina starts to weaken before the affected eye becomes totally blind. Unfortunately, this illness has no cure.
The veterinarian will likely provide treatment that can delay its deterioration, and a blind dog could still live normally. However, dogs with PRA in their genes are not suitable for breeding.
Bloating, or Gastric Dilatation Volvulus (GDVs) is a severe condition that often affects dogs of varying breeds, particularly Labradors since they love to eat. This condition is caused by fluid, food, or gas accumulation inside the stomach that can lead to the twisting or swelling of a dog's tummy. GDV can develop without warning, it can progress quickly, and it can kill dogs within minutes.
Bloating can be prevented by not letting your dog eat fast, feeding him small portions, and not allowing him to run or exercise immediately after a hearty meal.
Canine Epilepsy is similar to epilepsy in humans. It is an incurable condition that can cause serious convulsions and mild to severe recurrent headaches. Some medications are used to reduce convulsions, but the condition stays for life.
Buyer’s Guide: How To Locate One
While there are many Labrador breeders available on the Internet, you should be extra careful when choosing White Labrador breeders.
There are unprofessional ones who only see this rare color lab as a lucrative source of income. These breeders don't bother about health screening and socialization.
Dogs that came from poor or unfavorable backgrounds often have behavioral issues and health problems, that won't only cost you more in future vet fees, but can also drain you emotionally and wreak havoc on your physical and mental wellness.
Breeders that concentrate exclusively on one color often make profits from this strategy. So, when you come across these types of people, just simply walk away.
Generally speaking, when choosing a breeder it's important to pick someone with good intentions, and always trust your gut feeling. If you are not happy with them, then, chances are you won't be happy with the Labs that you'll get from them. So, choose wisely.
Cost of Puppies
White Labs are pretty dogs, and as expected, they also come with a pretty price tag. In an ideal world, all Labs regardless of their color should have the same price. However, since White Labrador puppies are harder to find, their price will ultimately depend on the breeder’s discretion.
If you are eyeing this rare canine gem, you should expect to pay no lower than $2000. This is indeed way more than the usual price of Labrador Retrievers, which usually starts at $300. White Labrador puppies can also fetch up to $4000 from a reputable breeder.
Should You Get a White Lab Puppy?
The only difference that sets White Labs apart from other Labradors is its color. Its energy, temperament, and intelligence are the same as other Labs. That said, this active and playful dog isn’t for everyone.
This dog breed is certainly not for a couch potato since labs need regular exercise to keep them happy and healthy. Additionally, potential pet owners should also not mind vacuuming a handful of dead hairs around the house because Labs are heavy-shedders, especially during shedding season.
When breeders talk about White Labs, they are referring to Yellow Labradors that have been bred to have very pale fur. However, as mentioned earlier, the white coat in Lab puppies can also occur due to genetic conditions, such as in the cases of Albino Labs, and Leucistic White Labs.
White Labs, just like Black, Yellow, and Chocolate Labrador Retrievers all share the same wonderful traits, and they all make great family pets, show dogs, and field dogs.
- St. John's Water Dog, Wikipedia
- Born With Leucism, Dogster
- Most Popular Breeds, American Kennel Club