Rebuttals to the "silver" controversy

Pheasants Forever Magazine published an article on the "silvers" so full of inaccuracies that we asked Sharon A. Wagner, a geneticist and breeder of Labrador Retrievers, to comment. Here is her letter to the editors of Pheasants Forever Magazine.

Dear Pheasants Forever,

I was absolutely shocked and dismayed by the poor journalism presented in your publication. The author clearly did not research the subject matter whatsoever and aside from presenting information that is factual incorrect, he states his biased and inexperienced opinion as fact. Isn’t it common practice to research both sides of a debate?

I would like to discredit the “facts” the author stated. The authors words are in italics.

“Unique dogs with striking good looks, silver Labs evolved as the product of a recessive gene combination in chocolate Labs. Subsequent breedings have proven the silver color to be a replicable genetic trait with silver/silver breedings producing litters of all silver pups. The spike in availability of silver Labs dovetails with the growth in the number of chocolate Labs.”

No silver (more appropriately deemed dilute) Labradors evolved in a very small population of field type Labradors in the United States and were first recognized in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The dilute gene is a separate gene from the black/chocolate gene. In its homozygous recessive form it can dilute any coat color equally. Chocolate Labradors have increased, however there are no dilute Labradors in show or pet type Labradors. Only those with ancestors and pedigrees tracing back to those first discovered are dilute.

“The silver Labrador shows up in three variations – light silver (similar in color to a Weimeraner), charcoal silver (best described as a dusty or smoky black, and silver factored chocolate.”

This is just absolutely wrong and any silver breeder worth anything will correct this misinformation as well. The dilute Labrador can be three colors – dilute yellow (Champagne), dilute chocolate (Silver), and dilute black (Charcoal). A dog may carry one copy of the dilute gene and be “silver factored” and be any of the three correct colors of yellow, chocolate, or black.

“A few breeders on the lunatic fringe decry the advancement of the silver Lab as a detrimental to the breed. Canine historians will tell you they made the same argument against yellow Labs earlier in the last century and again against chocolates when they started showing up more frequently after World War II.”

Lunatic fringe? A few breeders? How about the entire national parent club to the AKC - the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. On their website they clearly state their negative opinion of the color combination:

Yellow and chocolate Labradors were always present alongside of black during the origins of the breed in the UK. Never has a silver or dilute dog been mentioned or produced anywhere else in the world aside from the United States. The Labrador gained popularity in the UK prior to being imported here and chocolate Labradors are produced there today as well without a single silver.

“Detrimental to the breed? Hardly. DNA testing on silver Labs by investigators from AKC several years back concluded 'There was no reason to doubt that the dogs were pure bred Labrador retrievers.'”

No absolutely incorrect. This is very easy to research. THERE HAS NEVER BEEN DNA TESTING ON SILVER DOGS TO PROVE THEY ARE PUREBRED OR NOT! First of all “DNA testing” by the AKC is to check parentage only. They do not apply such methods to prove a dog is “purebred”.

In 1987 a representative from the AKC and the LRC visited Culo Kennels and inspected their facility and record keeping. The color was just identified at that time and the investigators were satisfied with the inspection and directed the owner to register the dogs as chocolate.

The dilute color is a disqualification per the LRC AND the AKC and thus purposefully breeding for a disqualification IS in fact detrimental to a breed. All breeds have a standard to which breeders should adhere to as much as possible – it is the goal of reputable breeders and the reason for purebred dog registries. Breeding a trait that a small population deems “unique” or “pretty” is detrimental to keeping the qualities of a particular breed.

Aside from all of these facts presented it is also widely known that silver Labrador breeders are in general irresponsible breeders due to the lack of any health clearances run and the lack of participation in competitions to deem their breeding stock worthy of reproducing. They are in it to make money and blatantly lie about the origin and importance of their dogs.

Sharon A. Wagner

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