What is a pedigree dog?

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Pedigree, purebred, crossbreed, mixed breed, mutt, the range of dogs and the terms we use to describe them are as varied as the breeds themselves, and there isn’t always a clear definition. Some people talk about pedigree the same way you might talk about fine wine, but what it means has become a little lost because it is often used interchangeably with purebred. So what is a pedigree dog?

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What is a pedigree dog?

A pedigree dog actually doesn’t necessarily need to be a purebred dog. A pedigree pooch must be registered with a recognised and reputable club, and you should be able to trace their heritage and have information on their family history and the associated breeders. It’s a bit like “Who Do You Think You Are” but for dogs.

Registration will require the birth and breeder details of your pooch, including their dam and sire, (which is just the “proper” way of saying mum and dad.) Clubs might also require the details of your dog’s grandparents and great-grandparents. In fact, many go back five generations to give a clear picture of your pooch’s ancestry and build your dog’s family tree.

Paw-haps the most well-known and highly respected club in the UK is The Kennel Club who are responsible for running dog shows like Crufts, where only registered dogs are allowed to compete.

But as I mentioned, your dog does not necessarily need to be purebred in order to be registered as these clubs, including the Kennel Club, do have crossbreed registers. That’s is why you might come across a crossbreed like a Cockapoo that has pedigree papers.

When a dog is registered, the club doesn’t just record the details of your pooch and their relatives, they also note the details of all the breeders and owners of these dogs, which means you will also be able to trace their humans too.

Are there benefits of a pedigree dog?

A dog is a dog, and there are no more benefits to having a pedigree, purebred, or crossbreed.

However, having a registered dog does allow you to do certain things with your pooch. Being registered with a club and being a pedigree means that owners have access to advice and events from the club, including the ability to present their dog at shows. I think of it like a golf membership. Your dog is no different or any better than another dog just because they have a membership, but it does mean they’re allowed in to use the facilities.

Most clubs also carry a code of ethics which all breeders and owners must follow. These rules are in place to ensure the health and happiness of dogs and responsible breeding. However, just because a breeder is registered does not mean they are inherently responsible or that the puppies they produce are more healthy. You still need to know what to look for from a responsible breeder and what makes healthy, happy puppies.

The one “benefit” to pedigree dogs is that you have an understanding of your dog’s family history, which means you can keep tabs on any health issues amongst the family. It also means you can predict what your dog will look like as an adult and what traits they might inherit from their ancestors.

It is im-paw-tent to stress that a pedigree dog does not necessarily mean a dog is any better than a purebred or a crossbreed. Purebreds are just more predictable in terms of their look and traits, but there is still never a guarantee on what your dog will inherit. Plus, nurturing plays a huge role in your dog’s paws-onality.

Do pedigree dogs have health risks?

This is the big reason why some people avoid purebred or pedigree dogs, because purebred dogs are more likely to inherit certain genetic conditions because they are more closely bred.

Purebreed dogs have a more limited gene pool as there are only select animals to breed with. However, most gene pools are quite wide, and there shouldn’t be inbreeding. Most purebred dogs are still happy, healthy dogs with a fantastic quality of life.

But, certain breeds are more predisposed to different conditions, and a purebred will have a slightly higher likelihood of developing these problems. Crossbreeds are not immune to breed-specific conditions though, as they are still at risk of inheriting any conditions within their parent breeds. Mixed breed animals just tend to have lower risks of inheriting genetic diseases. Although the same study found that many genetic conditions, such as hip dysplasia, still have an equal risk between purebred and crossbreed dogs.

So yes, purebred dogs do have a higher risk of developing some genetic conditions compared to crossbreeds, but, crossbreed dogs are not immune. But beyond genes, you need to make sure your dog is active and fed a healthy diet to protect their health, whether they’re purebred or a mutt.

What is the difference between pedigree and non-pedigree dogs?

The difference between a pedigree and a non-pedigree dog is just whether the dog is registered with a club or society, and if their family history can be traced. A non-pedigree dog will not be registered anywhere and you might not know both dog’s parents or any of the grandparents.

Otherwise, there’s not a lot of difference, especially as some crossbreeds can arguably be pedigree through their registration. They just can’t be purebred. So what’s the difference between pedigree and purebred dogs?

What is the difference between pedigree and purebred dogs?

For many people, there is no difference between pedigree and purebred dogs and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, this is not universal.

The definition many people follow for a pedigree dog is that it is a purebred dog that is registered with a relevant breed club or kennel club. These dogs have several generations of their family tree recorded, and they are all within the same breed.

However, since most clubs have crossbreed registers, pedigree could just mean any registered dog that has a recorded family history. Your dog’s pedigree is their lineage.

Meanwhile, purebred might just mean any dog that is born to parents of the same breed. They do not necessarily have to be registered with any club. When most people talk about purebred dogs, they just mean that their dog’s ancestors are all the same breed and there has been no cross-breeding in the bloodline.

What's a crossbreed?

A crossbreed is a dog whose parents are two different breeds of dog, or are mixed breeds themselves.

A crossbreed another word for a mixed breed dog, as there is more than one breed in the dog’s direct family history. A mixed-breed means there are several breeds in the dog’s genetics. It’s sometimes im-paws-ible to determine what exactly has been bred into a mixed breed dog, and their family history is unknown.

Terms like “mutt” and “mongrel” mean the same as a mixed breed but aren’t widely used nowadays.

How many pedigree dog breeds are there?

There are 221 pedigree dog breeds according to the Kennel Club. Pedigree dogs make up a huge proportion of Britains dogs, and it’s estimated around 4/5 dogs are pedigree pups.

How do pedigree dog names work?

One of the most entertaining things about a pedigree dog is often their pedigree name, also known as their registered name. The pedigree name is given to a puppy by the breeder, while a dog’s “given name” is what their owner’s call them.

Every pedigree name will have a Kennel Name included. This Kennel Name is a unique word associated with a specific breeder, and it’s sometimes known as a Kennel’s Signature. The Kennel Name can be at the start or end of a dog’s pedigree name depending on whether they bred the dog’s parents too. As well as the Kennel Name, there will be another word (or few) to give your dog a unique name.

So a dog’s pedigree name should tell you who bred your pooch, and any dogs with the same Kennel Name were bred by the same people. It doesn’t mean they are necessarily related, just bred by the same breeder.

For example, last year’s Cruft’s Best in Show was a Dachshund called Maisie, but her pedigree name is “Silvae Trademark”. “Silvae” is the Kennel Name, and her parents were also bred by the same breeder. (Silvae Zealot and Silvae Soltaire.)

Try looking through the results of dog shows to see some su-paw pedigree names. One of my paws-onal favourites is “Bottom Shaker The Greatest Picture”. “Bottom Shaker” is the Kennel Name, so there’s actually a lot of Bottom Shaker’s out there!

Can I find my dog's pedigree?

If your dog was registered at birth, you will need to contact the club they were registered to and ask for a copy of their certificate. If your dog has not been registered, you might not be able to find out their pedigree but you can still register them to some clubs.

Meanwhile, if you’re curious to see if your dog is purebred, or discover what breeds are in your mixed-breed pup, you can purchase a doggy DNA test.