You’re proud of your little Pug… even if her legs are a little long… and her tail doesn’t actually curl all that much… and that one ear kind-of wants to stand up… But hey, she’s ADORABLE and she’s your best friend! That’s really all that matters, but even if your breeder says she’s a purebred – and you have the “papers” to prove it – you may have a mutt!
But that can’t be, I have papers!
What are “papers”? Papers are simply a dog registration. A registration certificate will tell you the name of your pup’s mom and dad and the date when she was born. Your certificate may come from the AKC (American Kennel Club), or the UKC (United Kennel Club). Unfortunately, the registration is not a guarantee of a pure breed. As long as the pup’s Mom and Dad (“Dam” and “Sire”) are registered, their puppies are eligible for a registration certificate too. “Papers” may also refer to pedigree. Pedigree is a history of your dog’s grandparents, great grandparents, and so on. It’s just a list of names, and, regrettably, that doesn’t guarantee anything either. The truth is, in order for a dog to get registration papers or a pedigree, he does not have to meet any qualifications of appearance, health, temperament, or any of those things you may look for in a purebred. AKC or UKC registered puppies purchased from a back-yard breeder or a pet store is not going to be the same quality as a dog purchased from a reliable breeder. Enough said about papers… bottom line is, KNOW who you are dealing with.
How can you find out? As in life…there are no guarantees! BUT, here are three things you can do to help determine whether or not your dog is a purebred:
Every breed has a set of standards for physical appearance and personality. These standards were developed by the dog’s national breed club and then approved by the AKC. They will describe the breed’s coat, colors, markings, gait, structure, temperament, etc.. For example, some of the Pug standards read: “….decidedly square and cobby…. Large, massive round skull…ears are thin, small, soft like black velvet. Muzzle: short blunt square …slightly undershot bite…” etc.. A dog that does not meet the standards for his breed is either a poor example of the breed, or simply is not what he’s supposed to be. Does your dog measure up? Examine each of your dog’s breed standards and compare them to your dog… be brutally honest… it could hurt.
An experienced veterinarian can usually give you some idea about your pup’s origin. Not only have they seen so many different breeds come through their door, but they also treat breed-specific conditions and medical issues. All breeds come with their own “health baggage”. For example, Boston Terriers are susceptible to airway obstruction disorders and abnormal tracheas. German Shepherds are prone to chronic eczema and hip dysplasia. Jack Russel Terriers are often predisposed to glaucoma. Your pet’s health characteristics may help determine its lineage.
Finally, DNA testing. Believe it or not, DNA testing was not designed to determine if a dog is a purebred. The test was designed to identify breeds found in the genetic composition of mixed breed dogs. However, in some DNA testing labs additional tests can be performed that compare how closely your dog’s DNA profile matches to a specific breed. Secondly, not all DNA tests are created equal. Many of the DNA tests currently on the market only recognize about 100 of the 300+ registered breeds and are simply not accurate. The more breeds in a company’s database, the better the results. Keep in mind, though, the kennel clubs govern the definition of purity – not test results.
Check with your vet for his advice on genetic testing.
Oh, No…I think she’s a mutt!
If you learn your supposed purebred does not fit the bill, so what? You love her, right? She will remain devoted to you for life. That’s way more important than simply being able to say your dog is a purebred. In the long run, it will not matter if your furry soul-mate does not come from a pristine blood line.
If you’re smitten with the idea of having a purebred dog and are in-the-market, chances are there is a breed rescue group or shelter in your area with just the right pup in need of a family. According to statistics, about 25% of dogs who enter shelters are purebreds. It is likely, with research, you will find exactly the dog you are looking for within a rescue group. Plus, by rescuing, you’ll have the added benefit of knowing you have actually saved the life of a puppy.