Monday, January 21, 2013

A Basic Understanding of Pedigrees

Tracing the lineage of a purebred dog should be easy, and the pedigree is the main tool used to do this research. Knowing the history of your pedigreed puppy gives you an excellent idea of what you might expect from the dog in the future. How it will turn out physically, what health issues it is predisposed to and what genotypes might be present.
Being able to visit the puppies litter, parents and other relatives is an important step in choosing a purebred puppy. Puppies brought home from a pet store have a shady background at best. How will you know whether or not a particular health problem runs in that litter or family of dogs? How did it's littermates and parents behave? What can you expect from the dog temperament wise? You have no history to compare the new puppy or dog to. It is always best to buy your pure bred puppy from a reputable breeder, after all, you are considering adding a companion and friend to your family for the next 8 -10 years.  It is not a purchase that you want to make on impulse.
To an amateur dog owner or potential puppy buyer a pedigree simply looks like a bunch of funny names on a page. Pedigrees are setup like a basic family tree.  The dog/puppies name will be center left, with its Sire (father) listed on top slightly to the right and its Dam (mother) listed on bottom slightly to the right.  The Sire and Dam’s parents are listed next (puppy’s grandparents) and so on and so forth.  Any reference to the puppy’s father’s side of the family is its paternal side and reference to the puppy’s mother’s family is the maternal side.
In researching pedigrees, breeders may use terminology to advertise a litter like “Champion lines” or “Championed pedigree”.  What exactly does this mean to an unsuspecting buyer? 
First of all what is a Champion? A Champion is a dog that has been shown to approved AKC judges in approved AKC shows and won enough points to earn the title of Champion.  It takes 15 points to earn a dog’s championship, which includes 2 major wins (I will reference this later).  The number of points in each show is determined by the number of dogs or bitches of the specific breed present at the show. The maximum number of points awarded at any one show is 5, so it takes a minimum of 3 shows to earn a dogs championship.  Included in those 15 points the dog must earn 2 majors under two different judges.  A major is simply a show in which enough dogs or bitches of that breed are present to make 3, 4, or 5 points available.
An International Championship through the IABCA is easier to earn than an AKC Championship, however it takes a getting a certain rating in three different shows by two different judges to be awarded this title.  A nice dog can complete this Championship in a weekend if several shows in the same location are offered. No competition needs to be present for the dog to earn it's Intl. Championship, hence why it's so much easier to gain.
So back to what a Champion Pedigree means... to reputable breeders this means numerous champions in the dogs first 3-4 generations.  For example, my female has 10 AKC Champions in her 4 generation pedigree (her parents, grandparents and great grandparents), 2 International Champions, and two dogs that did not receive their championship status. One of those happens to be her mother, who has 13 of the 15 required points and was unable to finish due to an injury.  This is a Champion Pedigree. 

Unscrupulous breeders will sometimes say their puppies are from Champion lines, but when you look at the pedigree you might see one or maybe 2 Champions 4 or more generations back.  This is NOT a Champion pedigree in my opinion.  After 2-3 generations of breeding to poor quality or sub-standard dogs, the genes of those Champions is diluted enough to make no difference in the quality of the puppies.

One might ask, if I am only looking for a pet, then why I care about such things as pedigrees, champions, lineage, etc.  Check out the article Why should anyone spend a little more money to buy a puppy from a show dog breeder?, for answers to these questions.

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