New DNA testing scheme for Labrador Retrievers

Following consultation with the Labrador Breed Council, The Kennel Club has approved an official DNA coat colour test reporting scheme for Labradors tested for the dilute coat colour gene variant (d). Results will only be published for those dogs which do not carry this variant.

The test is the first such DNA coat colour test recognised by The Kennel Club and is the result of a recommendation by the Non-Breed Standard Colours Working Party, which was established to address concerns raised by a number of breeds about the registration of and rise in colours typically not recognised in breed standards.

This coat colour test is to be launched as a pilot scheme to gauge the take up and relevance of the test. The Kennel Club will monitor this over the course of this year, before it will consider applications for the recognition of equivalent tests in other breeds.

A number of different genetic variants have been discovered that determine a dog’s coat colour. The dilute variant (d), which is found at the D locus, affects a dog’s coat colour, making it paler than normal. This coat colour-changing variant is inherited in an autosomal recessive way. This means that a dog must have two copies of the variant (one inherited from their mother and one inherited from their father) before its coat colour is affected (known as dd). Dogs that only inherit one copy of the gene variant (from either their mother or their father) will not be affected but will be a carrier (Dd) and may pass the variant on to any offspring.

This gene variant dilutes the natural colouring, e.g., Labradors which would otherwise be black, but have two copies of this variant (dd) tend to appear with a charcoal colour; dd chocolate/liver Labradors tend to appear as silver; and dd yellow Labradors are known as champagne. 

The Kennel Club has agreed with the breed council that only results from dogs which do not carry the dilute gene variant (DD) will be published so as to not promote those dogs which carry the dilute gene variant and are therefore either non-breed standard (NBS) colours or have the potential to produce NBS colours. This will enable breeders and puppy buyers to identify dogs which only have genetic variants associated with breed standard colours for the breed, which are certain not to produce NBS colour puppies, and which will therefore enable informed choices to be made in their breeding programmes.

The Kennel Club will only recognise test results that have been issued by laboratories on its approved list, which can be found on The Kennel Club website – results from laboratories not included on this list will not be recorded. Owners are reminded that it is mandatory that the dog’s microchip (or tattoo) is recorded along with either the dog’s registered name or registered number on any DNA certificates. Test results will be published on The Kennel Club website and updated once a month.

Results for dogs already tested can be recorded, but owners will need to submit copies of the DNA certificates themselves. DNA test certificates should be scanned and emailed here.

Furthermore, The Kennel Club has agreed that from 1 March 2023, the dilute test will become mandatory for any imported Labrador that is to be registered with The Kennel Club. This restriction also applies to the use of AI from an overseas stud dog, and also for the sires of bitches imported in whelp. Again, only the clear results will be published.

Frank Kane, Chairman of the Non-Breed Standard Colours Working Party said: “The recognition of a coat colour DNA test is a major step for The Kennel Club, which has previously only recorded the results of health tests. The working party is pleased to have worked together with the Labrador Breed Council over the past year to ensure that this test receives Kennel Club recognition. The publishing of results of dogs which do not carry the dilute variant will promote those dogs of breed standard colours, helping educate breeders and puppy buyers to protect the heritage of this great breed.”