Selective Breeding Principles

Responsible, ethical breeders carefully select the dogs used in their breeding program.  Only the  "cream of the crop" are considered breeding quality.  The selection of the breeding pair includes pedigree research, conformation evaluation, temperament evaluation, review of health clearances, and working ability.  


The evaluation of conformation strengths and weakness is an important aspects in the selection process. 

  • Responsible breeders look for a sire that will complement the strengths of their female and help improve on any weaknesses.  
  • Both line breeding and out crossing are common practices in quality breeding programs.  A carefully planned line breeding helps fix desirable conformation traits and an out cross introduces genetic variation.  
  • Breeders that exhibit their dogs emphasize show conformation in their breeding program. 
  • Breeders that focus on field work tend to breed for a strong drive in the field, with less attention to some aspects of conformation.

Dogs with significant conformation or structural faults are not used in breeding programs. Dogs with minor conformation faults may be selectively bred with the goal of improving the conformation of the offspring. 

Labradors exhibiting coat color and pigment faults or disqualifications are not candidates for breeding.  

  • AKC disqualifications includes the Dudley nose (a nose without pigmentation). 
  • Any color or combination of colors other than black, yellow or chocolate are disqualifications.  This includes gray or silver, charcoal, and champagne coloration.  
  • Occasionally, Labradors are born with brindle markings, black and tan markings, or a large splash of white.  Mismarked puppies are usually place in pet homes with a spay/neuter agreement.
  • Usually, these mismarked Labradors are normal, healthy dogs and make wonderful companions.  
  • Some dilute Labradors may have inherited health problem. The dilute gene at the D locus is probably a result of crossbreeding with a breed that has the dilute d gene, most likely a Weimaraner or possibly a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. 


Dogs with temperament problems are excluded from ethical breeding programs.

  • A Labrador should be a good natured dog that is friendly towards both people and dogs.  Personalities and energy levels are variable.  
  • It is important that Labradors used in breeding programs have the appropriate temperaments for the breed.  Many aspects of temperament are inherited.  Aggressive, shy, or hyperactive dogs may pass these traits to their offspring.  

Attitude, intelligence, working ability, energy level

The ability to learn and retrieve are desirable characteristics in the Labradors.  

  • A loyal, eager to please attitude is an important trait in the breed.   
  • Field work, search and rescue, and obedience competition and agility require an intelligent dog that is easy to train.  
  • In field lines, good working attitude and ability are emphasized in the breeding program.
  • Some lines tend to produce mellow dogs and other produce high energy dogs. Working lines are often associated with more active energetic dogs than bench/show lines. 


Only healthy, sound dogs are considered potential breeding stock in ethical breeding programs. 

  • Labradors with hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, PRA, retinal dysplasia, TVD, epilepsy, autoimmune hypothyroidism, EIC, CNM, and a serious medical problem are excluded from breeding programs.
  • OFA and/or PennHIP hip, elbow, and cardiac clearances.  OFA also issues certificates for dogs that are normal for various conditions such as thyroid, cardiac, EIC, PRA, RD/OSD, DM, and CNM.
  • CERF and OFA registers eye clearances.
  • Dogs with several close relatives affected by epilepsy or TVD are poor candidates for breeding.

Spay/Neuter Contracts and AKC Limited Registration

The AKC and ethical breeders encourage responsible breeding practices.  Reputable breeders utilize the AKC limited registration option to maintain the integrity and to improve the quality of the Labrador breed.

  • Not all Labrador puppies are potential breeding stock and not all Labrador owners are potential breeders.  
  • The Labradors used in breeding programs should be carefully selected.  Lab owners that are considering breeding should be well aware of the risks and responsibilities.  Experienced breeders often serve as mentors for novice breeders.  
  • Companion dogs from ethical breeding programs are usually sold with a spay/neuter agreement and/or limited registration.  
  • AKC limited registration allows the new owner to register the puppy and participate in most AKC sanctioned dog events.  The dogs can not be shown in conformation classes and the offspring of the dog cannot be registered.  
  • AKC limited registration can be changed to full registration by the breeder if deemed appropriate.

Interesting and Informative 

AKC Labrador Retriever Standard
OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals)
AKC Limited Registration