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How to Identify a Purebred Labrador?

At A Glance

As a breed, Labrador retrievers are known to be energetic, friendly, and intelligent. They have strong hunting instincts and an affinity to water. There are three ways to identify a purebred Labrador: visual characteristics, certification, and DNA testing.

However, visual confirmation and certifications are not enough to definitively identify a purebred Labrador. A DNA test is the only way to be 100% sure of your Lab’s ancestry.

Last Updated on: Mar 07, 2022

One of the main concerns of families who are planning to get a Lab is the dog’s pedigree. Potential owners often ask, “How to identify a Purebred Labrador?” This is a valid concern given that breed standards are very strict. As dog parents, you may have personal reasons for preferring purebred Labs and  you want to know as much as you can about your furry family member.

If you’re purchasing one from a breeder advertising purebred Labs, it’s important to know how to distinguish a purebred one from one which may be a mixed breed.

In this article, we tell you all you need to know to determine if a Labrador is purebred. We describe the physical traits and other methods you can use to confirm your dog’s lineage: visual assessment, pedigree papers, and a DNA test.

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Know what your dog needs for a healthy life!

The Embark dog DNA kit helps ascertain everything about your pet, so you can provide them with the right mix of nutrition, environment and lifestyle, and help them live a long and healthy life.

  • Banda543

    This was SOOO MUCH FUN! We were surprised to learn our pup wasn’t a chocolate lab but a Doberman. We can see traits of the different breeds in our pup. It is a wonderful tool to learn about the puppy, what to expect from a breed and how to train. Knowing what our dog is, is a great tool!!!

  • Sarah H

    Collecting the dog spit was easier than I expected and the results came back pretty soon. Once we discovered our dog’s true breed, a quick Internet search showed photos that looked exactly like her. Also, the lab sends you great offers for more results about the dog’s age and health.

  • Mikayla P

    Great customer service! I got the results within 17 days. We were kept updated every step of the way. There’s some neat features like seeing her relatives and we were actually able to meet our dogs brothers and sisters that share some DNA. I got a lot more than what I paid for.

A black labrador with a red leash

Visual Assessment

Firstly, specific visual standards must be met for a dog to be considered a purebred Labrador retriever. The American Kennel Club sets these criteria.

You can check your Lab’s visual appearance and identify if they fit the following benchmarks:


The AKC is strict about defining the only three colors for purebred Labrador retrievers: black, chocolate, and yellow.

Black Labs have to be entirely black, while chocolate Labradors should fall within the range from light to pure dark brown.

Yellow Labs have more flexibility because light cream to fox red is still acceptable hues and will not disqualify them.

Do purebred Labs have white markings? White markings on the coat are still acceptable, but they should be small. Unfortunately, brindles, color markings, or color panels are causes for disqualification, especially if the Lab is already fully grown.


Your Labrador should have a slightly dense, short, and straight waterproof coat to be considered purebred.

The exterior coat should be a bit stiff when you touch it, whereas the undercoat should be soft. Silky and wooly undercoats are not acceptable.

Brown dog sitting in between curtains

Weight Range

Considered as medium-sized dogs, standard purebred Labrador retrievers are naturally athletic, weighing between 55 to 70 pounds with a height of 21.5 to 24.4 inches. Any measurement beyond these dimensions is outside the set standards of the AKC.

Tail Structure

The traditional tail of a purebred Labrador retriever is thick, and it tapers towards the end. Unlike the other retriever breeds, Labs have minimal to no feathering on their tails.

A lab’s medium-sized tail has dense fur, and it should not be longer than the hock. It also doesn’t curl over their back.

This breed’s tail is also often referred to as “otter tail,” mainly because of its rounded appearance.

Nose Color

Pure Labrador puppies’ characteristics include pinkish noses that eventually change color once they reach adulthood.

Yellow and black Labradors usually have black noses while chocolate Labradors have brown noses. The only exceptions are Dudley Labradors who retain their pink noses throughout their life.

An image of black labrador with a fig on his mouth

Natural Instincts

The Labrador retriever was originally bred to look for waterfowl for hunters. This breed has a powerful instinct to retrieve, run through overgrown terrain, and swim in the water.

They also have impressive athletic and physical skills, making them excellent working dogs. This means that if your Lab has limited hunting instincts, retrieval skills, and no affinity for water, there may have been a mix with another breed somewhere in your Lab’s bloodline.

Also Read: Types of Labradors

Conformation Standards

Labrador retrievers have a trademark broad head, naturally floppy ears, and expressive eyes. They have a strong build with a well-balanced conformation that makes them one of the best retrieving gun dogs.

One of their most distinctive features is their webbed feet. The skin between their toes, together with their ottered tails, helps them when swimming.

Do you want to know how long do purebred Labs live? They have a relatively long lifespan, at an average of 12 years.

You might be wondering if the visual signs of purebred Labrador are enough to identify your dog’s pedigree. No, these physical characteristics are not enough to be 100% sure that your Lab is purebred. This is why most owners and breeders opt for a second and even third method for accuracy and documentation.

a black lab puppy lying on the ground

Pedigree Papers

Secondly, another way to identify if your Lab is purebred or not is through its pedigree document. This is written documentation wherein your dog’s lineage is stated in stark terms. Your reputable, AKC-registered breeder should hand this certificate to you on the day you bring your puppy home.

An AKC-certified Labrador’s pedigree papers can be checked online, and their lineage can be traced up to four generations.

Unfortunately, the accuracy of pedigree papers is no longer 100% reliable because fake certifications are also common in the dog breeding industry. There are many dishonest breeders out there, and a certificate is not enough to ensure that your Lab is purebred.

A black dog surrounded by a green grass

DNA Test

Lastly, given the reality that even pedigree certifications are not foolproof, there is a final method for identifying a purebred Labrador: DNA testing.

You can have your Lab undergo a DNA test through local laboratories offering this service. Also, there are test kits that you can purchase online.

DNA testing is the most accurate way to determine if your Labrador is purebred. You can get a sample from your dog in two ways. One is a simple swab on the cheek, and the other is through blood collection.

Once the sample has been submitted, the laboratory will look into thousands of genetic markers to answer all your questions about your Lab’s ancestry. A thorough DNA test will give you definitive breed identification along with ancestral data back to your dog’s great-grandparents.

The results will show how closely the parents and ancestors correlate to the set standards of the breed.

Also Read: Pros and Cons of Owning a Labrador

A dog being hugged by its owner
The defining characteristics of a dog’s breed are among the major reasons why we decide to welcome certain breeds into our family.

Labradors are friendly, intelligent, gentle, and even-tempered. If you want to enjoy the best of what this breed has to offer, you can use our list to be certain of your dog’s pedigree.


Labrador identifying a purebred labrador purebred labrador

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Paul Andrews

A digital marketing expert by profession, Andrews is a gifted writer and animal lover at heart. A self-confessed "pawrent", Andrews is well-versed in all things dogs. He uses his years of experience of raising puppies into show-quality dogs to help guide first-time pet parents. He believes in spreading the joy that comes with being a dog dad and advocates more families to adopt pets.