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Dwarf Labrador: Facts, Details, Pictures

Dwarf Labradors are desired due to their smaller size and adorable appearance. Owners may also think that they need less exercise, but this is often not the case. Dwarf labs are also at a higher risk of a wide range of health conditions. 

Dwarf Labrador Facts

Dwarf Labradors are Labrador retrievers with dwarfism. The condition is passed on genetically, which means it’s inherited from the pooch’s parents. 

You should know that there are several types of dwarf Labrador. 

Chondrodysplasia and Chondrodystrophy

Chondrodysplasia and chondrodystrophy are the most common types of dwarfism in dogs. However, these forms occur very rarely in purebred Labradors. 

They are common in other breeds, including Basset hounds, dachshunds, and corgis. Labradors with this these types of dwarfism are nearly always not purebred. 

They may have mixed breed parents. It’s also possible that the mixed breeding goes back farther in their line. 

This type of dwarfism causes these breeds to have their signature short legs. Both forms of dwarfism are caused by a mutation of the FGF4 gene. 

Chondrodystrophy  greatly increases the risk of intervertebral disc disease, or IVDD. This condition causes severe pain and gets worse over time. 

The only way to differentiate between these two forms of dwarfism is through genetic testing. 

Oculoskeletal dysplasia

Oculoskeletal dysplasia is a form of dwarfism that occurs in Labradors. It is caused by a recessive gene mutation, which means the dog must inherit the gene from both parents to have the condition. 

However, if they have one copy of the gene, they are carriers. They will not have Oculoskeletal dysplasia, but they can pass it on to their offspring. 

In addition to shorter legs, this type of dwarfism causes eye problems. 

Skeletal dysplasia 2

Skeletal dysplasia 2 is the mildest form of dwarfism. It’s common in American labradors, also known as field labradors. These labs were originally bred as working dogs, and enjoy being active. Because this type is less severe, a lab can have this form, and still be within the breed standard, particularly if they are from a naturally tall line. 

Like the other forms of dwarfism, it is passed on through a recessive gene. This type of dwarfism does cause the legs to be shorter, so they are out of proportion with the rest of the dog’s body. However, this may not be easily noticeable. 

This type doesn’t increase the risk of health conditions. Because this type doesn’t cause health concerns, it’s considered acceptable to breed them. If a lab has any other type of dwarfism, they should not be bred. 

Radius curvus deformity

Radius curvus deformity affects the cartilage at the end of the leg bones. The leg bones will stop growing prematurely, and curve. This causes their legs to be shorter than normal, like the other types of dwarfism. 

This type is not as well understood as other types. Researchers haven’t discovered the gene that causes this condition yet. 

Health Causes of Dwarfism 

There are a few health issues that can cause a Labrador to stop growing prematurely. One of these is hypopiturism. This is a genetic condition which causes low amounts of growth hormone. 

Of course, growth hormone is necessary for growth. With a lower amount of growth hormone, the pooch will not reach their full size. 

The other potential health condition that can cause dwarfism is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism causes the thyroid to be underactive. The thyroid is responsible for producing the hormones for growth, energy, and metabolism. 

An underactive thyroid will stunt or slow growth, causing the dog to be smaller than normal.  

Dwarf Labrador Appearance

Dwarf Labradors are similar in appearance to their full size counterparts, with a few differences. 

Dwarf labs will have shorter legs, which are often disproportionate to the rest of their body. Some are smaller in all respects, particularly those with dwarfism caused by a health issue. 

Dwarf Labradors have a double coat. They have an insulating undercoat, and a short dense topcoat. Their coat can be yellow, chocolate, or black. Labs are well known for their floppy ears and expressive smile. 

Dwarf Labrador Price

The price for a dwarf Labrador can vary. There’s no set price for them, because they are rare.

Standard labs can be bought for $800 to $2,000 for registered puppies. The average price is $1,200. Unregistered pups are less expensive, usually $300 to $800.

The price of a lab can vary, based on the breeder, its bloodline, and its physical features. 

Dwarf labs will typically fall into the price range of standard labs. Some breeders sell dwarf labs for a higher price, but this practice is controversial.  

Dwarf Labrador Rarity

Dwarf labs are rare. Breeding them is discouraged because most types of dwarfism are associated with a high risk of health issues. 

Dwarfism genes are recessive as well, which means both parents must have the gene for the puppies to have dwarfism. 

Dwarf Labrador Life expectancy

Standard Labradors live for 10 to 14 years, with the average lifespan being 12 years. 

Dwarf Labradors can have a significantly shorter lifespan. Of course, this depends on the type of dwarfism, and if they have any serious health conditions due to dwarfism. 

Dwarf Labradors typically live for 8 to 12 years. Unfortunately, some will only live for about 5 years. 

Dwarf Labrador Size and weight

Most dwarf Labradors are a few inches shorter than standard labs. Standard labs are 50 to 80 pounds, and 22 to 25 inches tall. Dwarf Labradors can be 18-22 inches tall, and weigh 35 to 70 pounds.  

How small a dwarf  Labrador will be will depend on the type. SD2 is typically milder, so these Labradors may be larger than those with other types. 

Labs with dwarfism due to health issues will be proportionately smaller, and will typically weigh less than those with other types. 

Dwarf Labrador Health

Dwarf Labradors are susceptible to the same health conditions as other labs. However, there are other concerning conditions that are commonly associated with dwarfism in Labradors. 

Joint Pain and Mobility Issues 

Dwarf Labradors have shorter legs, which can put strain on their body. Some types of dwarfism also have malformed or curved legs, which increases the risk of pain due to bone or joint problems. 

They may have pain in their joints, particularly their knees and elbows. This can make movement difficult. If the joint pain is severe, the Labrador may have very limited mobility. 

Skull Malformation 

Skull malformation is another concern. If the skull is malformed, it can lead to Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. This occurs when the malformation affects the dog’s ability to breathe due to obstructions or malformations. 

Dogs with Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome often have exercise intolerance, difficulty breathing, and snoring. 

Spinal or Back Problems 

Dwarf Labradors often have spinal or back problems. Some types of dwarfism can cause intervertebral disc disease. This spinal condition is progressive, which means it gets worse over time. 

The condition can cause pain in the neck and back, difficulty walking, difficulty peeing or pooping, and shaking due to pain. 

Being disproportionate can also put increased pressure on the spine, leading to herniated discs or back pain. 

Eye Issues 

Dwarfism is often associated with eye problems. Labradors in general are at risk of PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy. This causes the eyes to stop functioning properly. 

Labs develop late onset PRA, while other breeds develop it at 2 or 3 years old. It typically affects night vision, but it can lead to blindness. 

Retinal dysplasia is associated with ocuskeletal dysplasia. It can cause the retina to detach, which leads to blindness. 

Dwarf Labrador Behavior/Characteristics

Labradors are very affectionate, gentle, and friendly. They are excellent pets for families. They bond closely with all members of the family. They are very gentle with kids, and friendly with strangers as well. 

How to care for a Dwarf Labrador

Caring for a dwarf Labrador is a bit different than caring for other dogs. They have many of the same needs as other  Labradors. However, they may need additional care as well. 

Before You Buy a Dwarf Labrador 

Before getting a dwarf Labrador, you need to know that they can have significant health issues. Will you be able to care for them if they need frequent vet visits, medication, or surgery? You’ll need to be prepared for the monetary and time aspects of this type of care. 

Can you accommodate them if they are unable to walk well? What will you do if they develop blindness? Will you ensure that they don’t breed, and pass on dwarfism to a litter of puppies? 


Labradors typically need 1 to 2 hours of vigorous exercise each day. Some dwarf Labradors will need less exercise, because of joint or breathing conditions. 

It’s important to follow your dog’s lead when it comes to exercise. You should also speak with your vet about their exercise needs, and what type of exercise is appropriate for them.

Just like humans, exercise is good for dogs. However, overdoing it can cause unnecessary injuries and pain.  


Labradors have a double coat. They have a fluffy and insulating undercoat, and a dense short topcoat. You’ll need to brush their coat at least once a week. 

They will shed in the spring and fall. During this time, you’ll need to brush them daily. This will help reduce the amount of hair they shed on your furniture, and speed up the process. 

Veterinary Care 

All dogs need routine veterinary care. However, dwarf Labradors need frequent checkups. Your vet will perform regular eye exams, as well as physical exams. 

  Special Needs 

Because they have skeletal abnormalities, dwarf labs can have special needs. They may need doggie stairs to help them get to the couch or bed. 

They may need an extra soft or supportive doggie bed, to reduce pain levels. You should use a harness for these labs, rather than a collar. This will reduce the pressure on their neck. This is particularly important if they have skull malformations or are Brachycephalic. 

How do you buy a Dwarf Labrador?

Buying a dwarf Labrador is difficult, because they aren’t easy to find. It’s also controversial. 

Why You Shouldn’t Buy a Dwarf Lab 

Buying a dwarf Labrador is generally not a great idea. Remember that breeding Labradors with dwarfism is considered unethical, particularly if it’s a type of dwarfism that is at a high risk of health issues. 

The biggest reason not to buy a dwarf Labrador is because of supply and demand. When there’s a demand, breeders will create the supply. You can see this in every market, from illegal drugs to gasoline. When there’s a demand for dwarf labs, breeders will be tempted to intentionally breed them to meet the demand. 

Of course, not all dwarf labs are the result of intentionally breeding dwarf labs. If both parents have the dwarf gene, even if they aren’t dwarves themselves, some of the puppies will have the gene as well. 

Why You Should Buy a Dwarf Lab 

Now, for the other side of this issue. If you happen upon a dwarf lab for sale, there’s an argument to purchase it. It’s a pooch that needs a home, and you can provide one. 

If you are capable of the special care that dwarf labs can require, perhaps you can be their forever home. 

Which side of the coin you fall on will depend on the situation and your personal conscience. 

Other Options 

The good news is that a dwarf Labrador is not the only option. If you want a lab that’s a little smaller than average, consider a miniature lab bred from runts. 

They are purebred labs without any extra health concerns. They are often smaller than the breed standard, but far from tiny. 

The other option is to purchase a mixed breed lab. Labradors are bred with smaller dogs to create miniature Labrador puppies. 

Of course, their size, appearance, and personality can vary greatly, based on the other parent.  However, they are sure to have some of the traits of a labrador.