"He has a pedigree a mile
long!" exclaimed the owner of the dog wagging his tail next to
me. Most people are justifiably proud of that large, mysterious piece
of paper with a list of strange-sounding names, some of them outlined
in red ink.
What exactly is this paper
that seems so impressive? What does it really mean? Very simply, a
pedigree is a record of your dog's ancestors: sire (father), dam
(mother), grandsire, granddam, great-grandsire and so forth. Every
creature - animal, plant or human - has a pedigree.
Unless someone has taken the trouble
to write it down and keep track of it, the information is usually lost
in the mists of time and memory. The American Kennel Club and other
animal registries are designed to keep track of pedigrees.
For a small registration fee, the AKC
will record your dog's name and pedigree information. The AKC
registration certificate you received means that your dog's
information is kept on file in the AKC's records. For another fee, the
AKC will provide you with a pedigree - a listing of the information
they've kept on your dog's registered ancestors.
The AKC records your dog's name,
color, sex, parentage, date of birth, breeder and owner and any titles
the dog has won in AKC-sanctioned shows, obedience or performance
trials. The AKC also records OFA & CERF certification numbers -
evidence that your dog and his parents were certified free of
inherited hip and eye diseases.
When applying for registration, AKC
relies on breeders and owners to be honest. If the breeder of your dog
has given the AKC false information, your dog's pedigree may not be
correct. Unfortunately, it's almost impossible for AKC to verify all
this information individually. Unless you personally know and trust
your dog's breeder, you really have no way of knowing if your dog is
really the one recorded on his papers!
What a pedigree doesn't tell
you is very important! Any purebred dog that meets AKC's requirements
for registration may be registered and receive "papers". The
papers can't tell you if the dog is of good quality or if it even
looks like the breed it's supposed to be. All it can tell you is that
the dog is registered and his records are kept on file.
Most people misunderstand this very
important point! Many, many poor quality dogs are AKC registered. You
can't judge a dog's quality from looking only at his registration
papers or pedigree.
With this in mind, you now know that
a pedigree can only tell you who your dog's ancestors were - it can't
tell you if they were of good quality, what they looked like or
whether they had inherited health or temperament problems that they
passed on to their descendants.
If your dog serves you well as a pet
or companion, you may not care about finding out more about his
family. If you intend to breed or show your dog, however, getting
accurate information about his background is crucial! You'll need to
do much, much more than just memorize the names on his pedigree.
To find out more about the dogs in
the pedigree, you should visit your dog's breeder to see his sire and
dam firsthand. The breeder should be able to tell you where to find
your dog's grandparents as well. For information on dogs farther back
in the pedigree, you may have to rely on books and magazines about
your breed. Contact the national breed club to find veteran breeders
who can give the history on dogs now deceased. Pictures can only tell
you part of the story. You need to talk to people who have firsthand
knowledge of what the dogs were really like.
What does "CH." mean? CH.
is the abbreviation for champion, a title that makes everyone's
heart beat a little faster! A pedigree filled with champions, their
names written in red ink, is an impressive sight indeed!
A champion is a dog that's defeated
enough other dogs at sanctioned shows to win the required number of
points to achieve the title. The required number of dogs to be
defeated varies with each breed. It can be easier to become a champion
in some breeds more than others.
Is a champion a dog of exceptional
quality? Sometimes - and sometimes not. A champion is only as good as
the competition he beats. In areas where the competition is poor, a
champion may be just slightly above average for his breed. He may not
be able to achieve his title in places where the competition is
tougher. Having the title doesn't tell you whether he actually
A championship title also can't tell
you if the dog was good breeding stock or if he/she had inherited
defects that were passed on to his/her puppies. Only firsthand
knowledge from people who actually knew the dogs can tell you that.
In short, a pedigree is a tool to
help breeders produce better dogs. It's a starting point for research.
A pedigree by itself really doesn't mean much. Without knowing what
the dogs in the pedigree were really like, a pedigree is just an
impressive list of names!
This article was
written and copyrighted by Vicki DeGruy, a DWAA award winning writer
whose work has appeared in the Dog
Owners Guide and Chow Life
magazine. Reproduction for other than personal home use is prohibited.
Contact us for reprint permission.