How to Read a Dog's Pedigree

By Louise Lawson

A dog’s pedigree is an insight into his past. A complete pedigree will list a dog’s family tree, noting parents, grandparents and great-grandparents. A pedigree can continue back as many generations as the breeder chooses, although most are three or five generations long. Knowing a dog’s history and who his relatives are can be a great asset for the future of your canine companion.

Start at the beginning of the pedigree. Pedigrees are often formatted in the manner of an extended family tree, with the dog in question at the beginning of the tree. Your dog’s name and information should be in the first area of the paperwork. His information, including breed, registration number and a brief physical description are normally included this area.

Look at the upper portion of the pedigree. The upper half of a pedigree always includes the sire’s information. Sire is the technical term for the father of your dog, and is most often used on pedigrees. Your dog’s sire will be the dog directly connected to her off the top of the tree. The sire’s information will include registration number, dog’s name and most often a short narrative on the dog.

Read over the other dogs in the sire’s history. The sire’s parents will be included in the upper portion of the pedigree, each branching off of the next dog down the line in the pedigree. You may notice the same dog come up in the pedigree more than once. This is not a mistake and is a practice known as linebreeding, which is used by breeders to strengthen their lines.

Review the bottom half of your dog’s pedigree. The dam’s information is listed directly off the bottom of your dog. The dam is the popular term for the mother of your dog and is frequently seen in the dog world. The dam’s side of the pedigree often includes her name, registration information and notes about the litter your puppy came from. Special notes about any breeding or birthing issues might also be present with the dam’s information.

Take a peek at the rest of the dogs related to the dam of your dog. Her sire, dam and grandparents will follow her on the bottom half of the tree, with males on top and females on the bottom. All purebred dog pedigrees will include dogs of the same breed, so note that all of the dogs listed are of the same breed. You may notice different colors, types or sizes in the dogs listed on the pedigree but this is acceptable as many breeds come in a wide variety of types.

Check for any titles that might be listed on your dog’s pedigree. A title is an award that a dog has won based off of achievement and merit. Most breeders include any titles that the dogs have won along with their information on the pedigree. You may see something like Ch., which designates a Champion dog, or UD, which is a Utility Dog obedience title. Titles on a pedigree offer a quick and easy glance into the achievements of your dog's ancestors, and might help predict your dog’s possibility for future success.