A Guide to the Fox Red Labrador Retriever


The active, sociable and friendly Fox Red Labrador Retriever is a wonderful medium-sized dog with a luscious darker red coat that distinguishes it from the other members of its breed. There exists relatively little information about these dogs.

However, they are mired in controversy. Thus, it will be helpful to understand their origin, history and characteristics, before you decide to choose them as pets.

History of the Breed

Hailing from the famed breed of Labradors, the Fox Red Lab also shares its history. Saint John’s Dog is believed to be the Labrador’s ancestor. The Labrador breed of dogs emerged in Newfoundland, Canada as retrieving and hunting dogs.

They were a breed of working dogs used frequently by fishermen to retrieve fish, ducks, etc. Later this breed was imported to Great Britain, to be used as gundogs. They appeared in the US around 1917, as the Labrador Retriever breed we see today.

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The red variant of the breed was present ever since its inception. As a hunting dog, the black variant of the breed was preferred over the Red one. This resulted in the rarity of the coat color over the years.

It was only during the mid-20th century that the lighter shades of the breed became common and desirable. This led to selective breeding to increase the sale of pups with these coat colors. This resulted in the decline of the demands for darker colored coats.

The Fox Red Lab became uncommon due to selective breeding. The red color was ‘actively bred out’. However, over the last 10-12 years, there has been a sudden rise in its popularity. This is effect is a result of their rare coat color. The Fox Red Labrador is now seen as almost ‘exotic’ and hence highly desirable.

The Genetic History of the Fox Red Labrador

Labradors like all other organisms inherit genes from both their parents. Genes can either be dominant or recessive. Each gene pair determines the physical characteristics as well as the personality traits of your pup. The default color of a Lab’s coat is black.

Coats of this color are produced by the BB pair of genes. However, a black lab may either have the BB or Bb pair of genes. The big B is responsible for switching off the effects of the small b. hence, the big B is known as the dominant gene.

The brown coat of a lab is a result of the bb pair of genes. Here the absence of the big B is responsible for not muting the effects of the small b, resulting in a brown coat instead of black. This same system of genetic determination is responsible for the Fox Red Labrador.

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Four Labrador Retriever dogs on a spring meadow

There are often controversial statements made about the Fox Red Labrador. Some people claim that they are products of crossbreeding a Labrador with a Vizsla, hence, they are not purebred Labs. However, evidence to support these claims is insufficient.

Genetic explanations for their rare coat color are more probably and accurate. Genes that switch off both the black and brown coats are needed for a yellow Lab. They can be present in the Lab as EE, Ee or ee pairs. The last combination is successfully strong enough to block the black and brown coats and produce a yellow lab. Labradors with the ee pair of genes are incapable of having a black or brown coat. Thus, the Fox Red Lab begins as a variation of a yellow Lab.

Every Fox Red Lab has the ee set of genes accompanied by a pigment known as Pheomelanin. This pigment produces the red coat instead of the usual yellow one. However, this pigment is also controlled by two other sets of genes known as the A and C genes.

The A gene controls the production of the color red, while the gene C controls the degree of the color’s expression. Whether the red color will be expressed fully or diluted will be determined by the C gene. Unlike other pairs, these two genes work together instead of cancelling each other out. They are responsible for producing different shades of a Lab’s coat ranging from pale yellows to fox reds.

Size of a Fox Red Labrador

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The height of an adult male Fox Red Labrador Retriever can be in the range of 22.5-24.5 inches, weighing an average of 65 to 80 pounds. A female of the breed can weigh 55 to 70 pounds and its height ranges from 21.5 to 23.5 inches. The average life expectancy of a member of the breed is 10-12 years.

The Appearance of a Fox Red Labrador

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The Fox Red Labrador is a rare sight due to the genetic complexity of its development. However, its uncommon coat color is the only real difference in this dog as compared to the other members of the Labrador Retriever breed. Their coats are a few shades darker than the yellow Lab.

Fox Red Labradors are muscular, sturdy dogs with thick neck and tail. Sometimes, they may have slightly deeper pink features around the muzzle. But they may easily share the same features as their black, brown or pale yellow counterparts. They share their appearance and features with other Labs.

The Temperament of a Fox Red Labrador

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The personality and temperament of a Fox Red Lab are much too similar to the other colored Labs. As an energetic, playful, loving dog that adores company, the Fox Red Lab is believed to be one of the best fur companions one can have. As a kind and gentle breed, this dog is well-suited for households with kids.

Their sociable and easily trainable nature makes them good fits for families with other pets and young children. However, early socialization is needed to keep them from developing destructive tendencies like mouthy behavior. Their friendly nature makes them unsuitable for the role of guard dogs.

The only notable difference between the general breed of Labradors and the Fox Red variant is that the latter can be slightly more prone to barking than the former. This barky nature is the only temperamental difference one can note in these dogs.

Intelligence Levels of a Fox Red Labrador                                    

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Like the breed in general, the Fox Red Lab is equally intelligent. Labradors are considered to be the 7th most intelligent breed in the world. This makes them fit for fulfilling the role of assistance dogs for the blind as well as other professions.

This trait – combined with their constant need to please their owners- make them easy and quick learner. Although they are intelligent, early training is important for these dogs to grow into obedient adults.

Prejudiced Against in the Show Rings

The Fox Red Labrador is not preferred in the show ring. The Fox Red Labrador is simply recognized as a yellow Lab. There is no recognition for its red color by global kennel clubs. The Fox Red Lab fares less favorably in the show rings as compared to the other color variants of its breed.

Grooming Routine of a Fox Red Labrador

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The care routine of a Fox Red lab is not that different from the other members of this breed. They have a water-resistant double coat that keeps them warm during winters. Their coats need to be brushed regularly to prevent matting. Like yellow, chocolate and black Labs, Red Labs also shed a lot.

The frequency of brushing must be doubled during the shedding season. An undercoat rake can be used to remove loose hairs from their undercoat. A sheer brush is appropriate for the top-coat.

The Ease of Training a Fox Red Labrador

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The fox red Labrador is equally easy to train as its yellow, black and chocolate counterparts. Their predisposition toward pleasing their owners becomes handy in making them quick learners.

Their ease of trainability makes them a favorite among novice dog owners. Positive methods of training are advisable. Use reward-based training to maintain your dog’s interest in the routine. Early socialization and training can help avoid the development of any undesirable traits.

Exercise Routines Suited for Fox Red Labs

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As dogs of a hyperactive breed, the fox red Labrador requires sufficient outdoor time and a fairly extensive exercise routine. At least an hour of exercise is recommended for a Fox Red Labrador. Long walks and intensive exercising routines are recommended for the breed.

Their hyperactive selves can be kept contented with sufficient engagement to vent the high energy levels. These dogs love running around leash-less, so they thrive better in open spaces with enough room to run around. Mental and physical stimulation is needed for these dogs to prevent them from becoming destructive. Agility courses are also well-suited for Fox Red Labradors.

Their high energy levels make them perfectly suited for families with loud and active children. The Fox Red Lab – like its counterparts- loves playing with toys. As these dogs also love spending time in the water, swimming can be effectively incorporated into their exercise schedule. Consistency in training these dogs is advisable.

Health Concerns With a Fox Red Labrador

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The Fox Red lab shares the health concerns of its black, brown and yellow counterparts. As an active, energetic, medium-sized dog, they are predisposed toward developing hip and elbow dysplasia.

This is a result of malformed joints and can lead to the development of painful arthritis. The condition needs to be monitored as in an advanced stage it can lead to complete immobility in the dog. Anti-inflammatories and palliative medicines are used to relieve the pain. Consultation with the vet is necessary to effectively manage the condition.

The Fox Red Lab is also prone to developing obesity- much like its other breed members. This means that their food intake has to be closely rationed and monitored.

Bloat is another common ailment the breed is prone to. Exercise-Induced Collapse is also fairly common among Labs. Avoid overly exhausting exercise sessions with your Lab. Loss of muscular control might be caused due to such exertions. Most mild episodes last for about 25 minutes. The vet’s attention is needed to develop ways of avoiding these episodes.

Labradors are also prone to PRA- progressive Retinal Atrophy– that can in extreme cases lead to blindness. The Red Fox Lab is no different. Regular eye check-ups and testing is needed to monitor its eyesight.

Diets Fit for a Fox Red Labrador

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The dietary requirements of a Fox Red Labrador are not very different from that of the black or brown Lab. They need 2-3 cups of dry dog food every day. Their appetites can be a little difficult to manage.

The food schedule for these dogs must be carefully drafted as they are prone to an early onset of obesity. Always feed your pooch a nutrient-rich, age-appropriate diet for best results.

Do They Make Good Pets?

Fox Red Labs make really good family pets. The color of the coat is not a determining factor in altering their temperament. Like all Labs their personality traits make them excellent pets.

The Fox Red Labrador makes a perfect pet for households with kids. Their affable, playful and friendly nature makes them perfect family pets. They love spending time playing with kids. However, initial training is recommended before introducing them to very young kids.

Cost of a Fox Red Labrador Pup

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The average cost of a Labrador is $1000. The Red Fox Labrador can be a bit more expensive due to its rare coat color. Sometimes breeders may try to extract a higher price for a Fox Red Lab pup, by marketing it as a rare breed. It is important to remember that they are not a different breed but rather a rare variant of the same breed.

Due to their rare coat color, they are bound to be a little more expensive than the normal Lab pup. The most important thing to remember is to buy the pup from a reputed breeder to avoid future health complications in your pup. Meeting the parents is also important to gauge a sense of their personality that will be reflected in your pup.

Ensure proper health tests are conducted on both the parents as well as the pup. Update yourself about the immunization schedule of your pup.

Alternatively, you can also adopt a Fox Red Labrador from an animal shelter. However, due to their rare coat color, finding these dogs at a shelter may be a considerable challenge. There are also rescue groups that operate to find the best home for these dogs. You can go through these rescue groups to find the perfect Fox Red Labrador.

Controversial Breeding of Fox Red Labradors?

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There exists some controversy regarding the breeding process of a Fox Red Lab, suggesting that breeders often resort to unethical practices to breed these puppies- disregarding healthcare issues. The evidence to support these claims is not enough to generalize the accusations.

However, when buying the Fox Red Lab, one must remember to cross-check the reputation of the breeder and do some preliminary research on him to be on the safe side.

Does the Red Coat Change With Time?

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Fox Red Labradors do maintain their coat color throughout their lives. The pigmentation of the color might slightly alter- like in all other Labs- but its coat will remain distinctly red. The red pigmentation of its coat is highest at birth, then fades slightly, regaining its intensity after a couple of months.

At about 2-3 years the Fox Red Lab attains color fixity for its coat. The easiest way to determine the final color of its coat is to closely examine the ears. The color of the ears is the best representation of the final pigmentation you can expect in your Fox Red Lab.