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Guidelines for Lab Mixes

The Labrador Retriever is America's most popular breed. The sad side of that distinction is that our shelters are full of dogs that either have some Labrador in their heritage, or are mistaken for Lab crosses because they have a few characteristics of the Lab. Many black dogs are called Lab crosses simply because of their color.

Mixes also present a challenge to LABMED because it is impossible to determine a dog's true heritage simply from looking at pictures of the dog. A dog with very little Labrador blood could look very much like a Lab. A dog with one Lab parent could look only like the other parent. Because of this, LABMED's members must make some hard decisions regarding mixes. We can only look at the dog before us and make a subjective judgement as to whether the dog looks like a Labrador or Labrador mix.

It is not LABMED's intention to try to definitively determine whether or not a dog has "some" Labrador blood. Rather, our guidelines limit us to funding dogs that have strong Labrador characteristics. The dog must, in the opinion of the LABMED Board, resemble a Lab more than it resembles any other breed. This is not an easy distinction, and each LABMED member will vote their own conscience on each Labrador Mix that is presented to us for funding.

LABMED members will not be looking for perfect Labrador traits, but they will be looking for characteristics that are within a typical range. Following are some considerations that will be used by LABMED to come to a decision on a mixed breed. Characteristics in bold are likely to disqualify a dog.

  • Temperament: This is an essential characteristic. Correct Labrador temperament is characterized when a dog, regardless of how he has been treated or mistreated, displays no aggression. A Labrador will generally be excessively friendly even when in distress. A rescued Lab may be distrustful at first, but this should be a temporary condition. Particularly with regard to humans, a Labrador should display no aggression. Serious aggression towards other dogs is also not acceptable in a Labrador. Even a purebred Lab must display correct Labrador temperament to be considered for funding.

  • Tail: A perfect Labrador tail is thick and well coated. A Lab cross may have a rather gay tail -- one that curves up and may go almost vertically over the back. Lab crosses may have a thinly coated tail. A tail that curls completely over on itself is more indicative of a spitz breed (Siberian, Akita, Elkhound, etc).

  • Coat: A perfect Lab coat has a thick undercoat and a somewhat harsher Guard, or outer, coat. Some Labs may have a thinner, single coat. Some crosses may produce a more bristly coat, but this can also be seen in dogs with poor coat condition and would not typically be a deciding factor. However, the coat should be short -- short enough that there is very little feathering. There may be some feathering on a Lab Mix tail, but feathering on the ears and waves of feathering on the legs would be indicative of a longer haired breed. A short wavy coat, which is correct in a Labrador, is not to be confused with a long feathery coat.

    Size: Adult Labs range widely in size from 18-25 inches at the shoulder and 50-100 lbs. A Lab mix should fit roughly within those ranges but may be slightly larger or smaller.

  • Color: Labs should be yellow, chocolate, or black in color. Yellows can range widely in shade from almost white to fox red. Yellows generally have some shadings of yellow throughout the coat (i.e. they are not solid colored). Chocolates can also range from a faded rust to an almost black chocolate. There are some people who breed "silver" Labs. This is not a correct color, but it is a color seen in purebred labs. Consideration will be given to silver Labs if the dog otherwise appears to be purebred. A Labrador should not be "white".

    There may be very small amounts of white markings on a Lab, restricted to chest blazes and some white on the toes or back of ankle. Some crosses will have quite extensive blazes that may reach from the chin to the lower chest. Body white and facial white would be more typical of another cross, as would merling (speckles). Black and tan markings (as seen in Rotties and Dobies) would not be typical of a Lab. NOTE: There are occasional and specifically defined mis-marks in purebred Labs and this will be taken into consideration on dogs that otherwise appear to be purebred.

  • Head/ears/eyes: Head type is extremely variable in Labs and will be hard to use as a deciding factor in Lab mixes. Some Labs have a very narrow head with a longer muzzle, and some have almost Rottweiler shaped heads. A very "puffy" face may be indicative of a SharPei mix. Ears and eyes will be a more telling factor. While some Labs may have shorter ears that tend to be slightly more perked, prick ears (like a Shepherd)or blue eyes would not be typical of a Labrador.

No one of these characteristics would be considered "disqualifying" by itself. The very hard decision that has to be made is whether the overall appearance suggests a Labrador Retriever.

In some rare cases where a mix does not resemble a Lab, but is known to have a Labrador parent, the dog may qualify for funding regardless of its appearance. In most cases this will occur only if the dog's mother whelped while in rescue and both the mother and the pups were part of an application for aid.

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Last Updated: Fall 2013