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What is a dog's pedigree?

Updated: Nov 24, 2023

Many people have heard the term ‘pedigree’ but don’t know what it refers to. Is a dog with a pedigree better than one without? How do you know if your puppy has a pedigree, and should that be important to you?

What is a pedigree?

A dog’s pedigree is a written record of their ancestry, like a family tree. Their pedigree shows who the puppy’s parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were. Often, pedigrees can trace many generations further back. A ‘certified pedigree’ will usually be issued by a breeding organisation, who can confirm the records of all the ancestor dogs. Sometimes these pedigrees are referred to as the dog’s ‘papers’.

Traditionally, the pedigree was used to confirm that a puppy was a purebred dog, and that the ancestors of that puppy were all registered with Dogs Australia (formerly the ANKC) or another international purebred organisation. This is still true today for Dogs Australia certified pedigree dogs.

Not every purebred dog will have a pedigree, however. A dog will not be eligible for a certified pedigree if:

  • Their breeder is not an active member of a breeding organisation that provides pedigrees.

  • The exact ancestry of the dog has not been recorded or is unknown.

  • There has been any ‘backcrossing’ in the line (deliberately breeding with a dog of another breed to add new genetics).

In recent years, breeders of some newer developmental breeds (crossbreeds) have also started to keep tight records of their dogs’ ancestry and have drawn up their own pedigrees. Organisations other than Dogs Australia have started to define new breed standards and studbooks/breed registries. These organisations, such as the Master Dog Breeders and Associates (MDBA), now offer pedigrees for both purebred and crossbred/developmental breeds, in a very similar way to traditional ANKC pedigrees.

Browse responsible RightPaw breeders. RightPaw breeders will be able to tell you if their puppies come with a pedigree. Many will list this under ‘Included with our puppies’ on their profile.

Does my dog need a pedigree?

It is a personal preference whether you want your puppy to ‘have papers’ in the form of a pedigree. If you are not planning to breed from, or show your dog in the future, then you do not necessarily need to select a pedigree puppy. A pedigree does give you the advantage of knowing exactly what your puppy’s genetic makeup is and may help you predict what they will be like as an adult dog. A purebred dog that has champion show dogs in their bloodline, may be likely to have a great temperament and body conformation, since they have some great genetics in their line. However, there is no guarantee that a puppy will be healthy, based purely on their pedigree alone. Many dogs without a pedigree will also be healthy and well-bred.

Health Testing

Parent dog health testing is even more important than a pedigree. Health testing should be conducted on both the puppy’s parents, regardless of whether they are purebred/crossbred, or whether the breeder is a member of an organisation. Great parent health testing results provide another level of reassurance that your puppy is likely to be a healthy dog.

DNA Parentage Testing

With modern genetic testing, breeders are now able to offer a DNA test to prove who a puppy’s parents are and confirm their parentage. This is easily available via pet genetics labs such as Orivet. DNA parentage confirmation allows puppy buyers the peace of mind that they can confirm their puppy’s breed and parents, even if they do not have a traditional pedigree. If your breeder does not offer parentage testing, you can discuss this with them, and may be able to request the additional test if you are offered a puppy.


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