What Is a Dog's Pedigree?

Mychelle Blake
Dog with blue ribbon

Not every dog has a pedigree or even needs one. For people involved in breeding and dog shows, a pedigree is a crucial part of their work with their dogs.

What Is a Dog's Pedigree

A pedigree is an outline of your dog's genetic history. It is similar to what humans would call a family tree. The pedigree lists who your dog's sire and dam were, and their parents, and so on. A pedigree must be registered with a group such as the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club to be valid.

What a Dog Pedigree Isn't

A common misconception among the dog-buying public is that a pedigree is a certification of quality. A dog's pedigree will tell you who its ancestors were, but it won't tell you if the dog is healthy and if the parents had good temperaments.

Information in a Dog's Pedigree

Regardless of which registry the pedigree was filed with, there are some common pieces of information you should expect a pedigree to have:

  • Your dog's date of birth

  • Physical characteristics of your dog such as color

  • The name of the breeder and kennel name

  • The family line of your dog which usually goes about four to five generations back

  • If any of the dogs in your dog's family tree had special obedience titles or show awards, these should be listed and appear as abbreviations such as CH, CGC, CD, etc.

  • Any genetic testing done on the parents will be listed. These also appear as abbreviations such as OFA for Orthopedic Foundation for Animals which looks at elbow and hip dysplasia.

  • Some pedigrees will also now list a DNA number which corresponds to DNA testing that was done on the parents.

  • Finally a pedigree should have some type of official seal from the registration organization that demonstrates it is a valid pedigree. It will also list a registration number for the dog with that association that is unique to your dog.

Finding Your Dog's Pedigree

If you purchased a dog and were unable to get papers from the breeder, or perhaps lost them, you still can get a copy of the dog's pedigree if the breeder filed papers with a registry.

Armload of puppies

In order to find the pedigree, you would need to:

  1. Find out the registry that was used such as the American Kennel Club. If you don't know the registry, you can try contacting associations to see if they have a file on your dog.

  2. Most registries allow you to search for your dog based on either a registration number, which the breeder would have, or by the breed and the dog's name.

  3. Note that the dog's name is the registered name, which includes part of the kennel name and is not the dog's "call name" which is what you call your dog day to day.

  4. Visit the website of the association and either use their online search or contact them with the information your dog. Some larger registries have online database lookups:

    • American Kennel Club allows you to search for your dog's pedigree and purchase a copy online. The pedigree will go back four generations and is about $34.

    • The United Kennel Club allows you to order a three, four, six or seven generation pedigree based on the available information in their database. Prices range between $24 and $60 depending on the time length of the pedigree.

    • Continental Kennel Club allows you to purchase a pedigree going back three generations for about $15.

  5. If you don't know which registry your dog's pedigree is with, you can try searching for it on Pedigree Online. All you need is your dog's breed and their kennel name.

If Your Dog Doesn't Have a Pedigree

If you have a dog that you strongly believe to be a purebred dog but know for a fact that the breeders did not register the dog, you will not be able to get a pedigree. Unfortunately, registries rely on breeders to submit information to create their database and without that information, they cannot produce a pedigree. You may be able to persuade the breeder to register previous litters, but this does involve time and expense on their part. Even if you have the information, you cannot submit it for them. You do have the option of getting a conditional registration for your dog though.

Conditional Registrations

A conditional registration is one where you as the dog's owner submit a registration for your dog along with DNA testing information. If the registry does not have enough information in their database to establish at least three generations of a pedigree, but can at least substantiate that your dog looks like a purebred and has at least one registered parent, they will allow you a conditional registration. This allows you to register any litters from your dog with the registry to establish a pedigree for future generations.

Registering a Dog

When you purchase a dog from a breeder, they should provide you with the registration certificate for your puppy that they receive when they registered the litter. This will then be signed by both of you and sent in to the registry. You will add your contact information as well as the dog's "call name." Some breeders allow you to choose the kennel name, in consultation with them to make sure it meets the registry's naming criteria. Today many registries allow you to do all the paperwork online, such as the AKC's registration page and UKC's online registration services.

Golden retriever mom and pups

Difference Between Pedigree and Purebred

Pedigree and purebred are related terms that can be misunderstood by the lay person.

  • A pedigree is a dog's family tree that lists detailed information about their ancestors and about your dog's birth.

  • Purebred refers to whether or not a dog was sired by two dogs of the same breed. In other words, not a mixed breed or cross-bred dog.

  • A dog with a pedigree is always a purebred, since breeders do not keep track of pedigrees for non-purebred dogs. A purebred dog however does not always have a pedigree since not all breeders take the extra step of registering them with an association such as AKC or UKC.

You and Your Dog's Pedigree

A pedigree is a nice thing to have but don't feel like it's necessary if your dog is "just" a beloved family pet. If you plan on breeding or want to enter the conformation show world, then you'll definitely need to have one. Speak to your breeder, who should be willing to help you with procuring the necessary paperwork from your dog's registry.

What Is a Dog's Pedigree?