How To Read A Pedigree

Here are a few pointers when confronted with that mysterious piece of paper thrust at you by a breeder:


Hopefully you have been given a copy (the original works also) of the AKC Certified Pedigree. Ask to see one and if one is not available, ask why.


Sire and dam names and AKC registration numbers should be on the paper. If it is a certified pedigree, all names will have registration numbers listed and if it is a breed with specific colors, these will also be listed.

   3. DNA profile numbers will be on a certified pedigree.  
   4. OFA and CERF numbers will be on a certified pedigree.  

Stud book numbers will be on a certified pedigree. These are especially useful in determining when a dam was first bred. For instance, if the dam has a birth date of 2/20/99 and a stud book number of 4/2000 then this means she was a year old when she had her first litter. Seriously question this. Breeding year old bitches is like human teenagers having babies. A year old bitch is not grown up enough, physically or emotionally, to have a litter of puppies. The practice of breeding this young is usually done by those who are interested in producing puppies for profit rather than in the breed itself. Ask how many litters the dam has had and for litter registration numbers. You can research birth dates yourself at the AKC Online Store.


A CH in front of a name means that the dog or bitch has fulfilled the requirements for an AKC championship. Titles awarded by other registries and by the Canadian Kennel Club will not be recognized on an AKC pedigree. Count the number of CHs in the first three generations. Are there at least three for the sire and three for the dam? If not, ask why.


If the pedigree is written out or typed out, sometimes the CHs are in red and the non champions are in black.


Look for names of dogs that appear frequently. This can indicate line breeding or inbreeding. Ask why this was done. This is not necessarily a bad thing but there should be valid reasons for breeding choices.


If all the names of dogs are different, this is probably an outcross. Again, ask why this was done. The breeder should be able to validate breeding choices.


Ask why this breeding took place. Listen carefully to the answer. If you hear “So and so is a big winner”, ask why Big Winner is the best choice for this particular dam. Sometimes Big Winner is used as a selling point for the puppies. This is not necessarily a good thing. A conscientious breeder has carefully researched pedigrees and conformation to match the best possible breeding partners. If this hasn’t been done, question your choice of this breeder. Instead, a breeder should say something like “I wanted better shoulders or better rears and this dog has a background of these things”. There is no middle ground, no way to get an average. Some of the puppies might have good rears, some might not. Maybe the breeder will luck out and have a litter with all good rears. Genes are funny that way. But breeding is done with the hope of possible success and never should be entered into lightly. It is a serious responsibility.


CGC and TDI titles will not be reflected in a Certified Pedigree. However, the breeder should have the certificates for these titles available for your perusal.


If claims of points on an unfinished dog have been made, ask for the registration number and check the AKC Online Store.


A pedigree only shows you who the ancestors of the litter are. Ask to see pictures of these ancestors and ask for a health history. This information should be available for a minimum of three generations and the more, the better. This will help you make an informed buying decision.


About the Author Buying a Purebred Pup Know Before you Buy How to find a puppy Puppy Visitation Checklist What a Puppy Costs How to read a pedigree What it costs to breed properly

Jo Kurtz
Hof Kurz Great Danes
Fawns and Brindles
since 1975
P.O. Box 63
Princeton, ID 83857-0063
Phone 208-875-0311
Fax 208-875-8921


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Bio I Buying a Purebred Puppy I Know Before You Buy I How to Find a Puppy I Glossary

Puppy Checklist I How to Read a Pedigree I Breeding Costs I Articles of Interest I Puppy Costs

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