Learning Your Dog's Breed History by Their Pedigree

A dog's pedigree shares your dog's genetic history and must be filed by the breeder.

Updated February 22, 2024
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's similar to what humans would call a family tree. The pedigree lists who your dog's sire and dam were, their parents, and so on. A pedigree must be registered with a group like the American Kennel Club or the 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 or if the parents had good temperaments.

Information in a Dog's Pedigree

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

  • Your dog's date of birth
  • Physical characteristics, like color
  • Breeder and kennel name
  • Your dog's family line back 4-5 generations 

What Else to Expect in Your Dog's Pedigree

Your dog's pedigree should also contain the following.

Awards or Titles

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.

Genetic Testing

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

DNA Number 

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

An Official Seal

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

Armload of puppies

Finding Your Dog's Pedigree

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

To find the pedigree, you need to do the following. 

Find Out Which One Was Used

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.

Search Based on Breed and Name

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.

Need to Know

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

Visit the Website

Visit the association's website and either use their online search or contact them with your dog's information. 

Quick Tip

Some larger registries have online database lookups you can use.

Check the American Kennel Club

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

Check the United Kennel Club

The United Kennel Club allows you to order a three-, four-, six-, or seven-generation pedigree based on the available information in their database. 

Need to Know

Prices range based on the length of the pedigree requested.

Check With Continental Kennel Club

Continental Kennel Club allows you to purchase a pedigree going back three generations.

Search on Pedigree Online

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 can't 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 can't submit it for them. You do have the option of getting a conditional registration for your dog, though.

Golden retriever mom and pups

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. Suppose the registry doesn't have enough information in its 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. In that case, they will allow you a conditional registration. 

Need to Know

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 received when they registered the litter. This will then be signed by both of you and sent 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.

Related: How to Find a Reputable Dog Breeder You'll Feel Good About

Difference Between Pedigree and Purebred

Pedigree and purebred are related terms that the layperson can misunderstand.

Detailed Information About Your Dog

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

Purebred, Mixed-Breed, or Cross-Breed

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

All Pedigrees Are Purebred

A dog with a pedigree is always purebred since breeders don't keep track of pedigrees for non-purebred dogs.

Not All Purebred Dogs Have a Pedigree

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 the 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, you'll need one. Speak to your breeder, who should be willing to help you procure the necessary paperwork from your dog's registry.

Learning Your Dog's Breed History by Their Pedigree