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But My Dog Has Papers!

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Comments : 3
Pedigree“AKC purebred with papers”
“Papered stud dog”
“Champion lines with papers and full pedigrees”

These are just a few of the phrases pulled from various ads for puppies. The phrases dog has papers and registered purebred with papers have been used over and over to make claims about a dog’s quality, breed worthiness, temperament, health, and more. Many ‘breeders’ use the phrase registered with papers to “prove” that the puppies will be of excellent quality, in perfect health with perfect temperament, and worth purchasing. Sadly, having “papers” means none of the above.

“Has Papers”

What does this phrase mean? When a dog ‘has papers’, it has been registered with a breed organization as a purebred. Here in the United States, this usually means the dog has been registered with the American Kennel Club, or AKC, although there are alternative registries such as the Continental Kennel Club and United Kennel Club. Being registered as a purebred usually means the dog’s parents were both the same breed, and their grandparents were the same breed, and so therefore this dog is too. However, here in the U.S. the breed organization/registry has never seen the dog, never evaluated the quality of the dog or of its parents or grandparents, has never checked to see if the parents meet the breed standard (look and act like the breed they are supposed to be), never asked for nor checked health clearances or working titles, and never met the breeder nor investigated their knowledge of the breed and breeding practices.  Simply put, someone paid the money to register these dogs with the breed registry, sight unseen, and that’s it.  When it comes to determining health, temperament, conformation, and working ability, these papers can mean diddly squat.

What about the pedigree? The “papers” include a pedigree that shows three or four generations of ancestors, which seems pretty impressive. The pedigree shows that this dog, its parents, and its grandparents all were registered with the large breed organization as purebreds–which is important if you are seeking a dog that is of a particular breed.  The pedigree is intended to serve as a record of the ancestors behind your dog, but it is only as good as the genetic heritage passed on through each generation. As we have seen, simply being registered with a breed organization as a purebred says nothing about the genetic quality, temperament, and health of the dogs in that pedigree.

A pedigree can be used to trace the inheritance of certain traits, whether it be coat color, good or bad hips and elbows, health issues, and to a certain extent temperament and working ability (if the parents have been titled and proven in working ability, these titles should be recorded on the pedigree, unless they are titles earned in Europe or under another organization not associated with the AKC.). This is the genetic legacy that is supposed to be recorded on those papers, and this is the genetic legacy the breeder SHOULD have knowledge of (if they don’t have a working knowledge of the dogs in that pedigree, run the other way!). But if the puppy has generations of untitled, untested dogs lacking health clearances, then what are you really getting? It may be a ‘registered purebred’, but after generations of breeding to whatever purebred dog is available (regardless of whether it is titled, health-tested, etc.), the resulting ‘registered purebred dogs’ may have very few of the qualities for which the breed is known and valued!

Simply having “papers” does NOT mean a dog is therefore worthy of being bred! Under the current AKC registration system, any two purebred dogs can be mated together, and their offspring can be registered and ‘papered’ as purebreds. But the two parents are not required to have any health checks, temperament tests, working titles, conformation titles, or ANYTHING before they can be bred and their offspring can be registered. This means two dogs with poor temperaments, hip dysplasia, and a host of health problems can still be bred and have their puppies registered and sold as purebreds. A shy, nervous dog that has never left the backyard can be bred with the indiscriminate biter of fearful and aggressive temperament down the street, and yet all the puppies will be ‘registered purebreds with papers’ if both parents themselves are registered purebreds of the same breed. All “papers” mean is that the dogs are purebred. Sadly, it is no indication of quality.

Buyer, beware if the breeder’s main claim is that the puppies and parents are registered purebreds! The myth of papers is that they somehow indicate a dog’s quality. This myth is just that–a myth! What determines the quality of the dog is the dogs behind it and the traits they possessed. Quality must be bred for. Temperament, health, working ability, and conformation must be selectively bred for. These things do not just ‘happen’, and they will disappear very quickly within only a couple generations of indiscriminate breeding.

In future blogs, we will unpack some common “breeder claims” that people make, particularly as it relates to German Shepherd Dogs.

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  1. Dawn Reply

    Oh how true this is. I love hearing, he has papers,so let’s breed! I wish these people would take a look at the dogs in the 60’s and maybe 70’s. Where they weren’t collie headed, back legs flying all over the place, so they could stand pretty for “what has destroyed the breed” THE judges!!!!! Scared of their own shadow! Pathetic animals. I won’t even call them gsd, if they don’t have a schutzhund ,herding, or some sort of title after their names!!!

  2. Janet Reply

    Thanks for posting this!!!

  3. Rosann Reply

    Oh so very true!

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