Chapter 4
How To Know What Type Dog Is Best For You

What "Having Papers" Really Means

So what "having papers" really means is a dog can, or already have been registered with a breed registry. As we have discussed, The American Kennel Club maintains a database for breed registrations, so having an AKC-registered dog means that the breeder or the owner sent in the required paperwork to register that dog. In theory, "having papers" means that your dog is genetically 'pure' and this is where the term purebred comes from. When your dog has a pedigree, you can trace the ancestry of the animal to ensure that you truly have a purebred dog. Registration documents list the dog's parents and registration numbers, which enables owners to trace the pedigree. Unfortunately, some dishonest breeders falsely register dogs with a breed registry. Breeders might provide a sire and dam's registration numbers as parenting a litter of puppies, when in fact that sire and dam did not parent those pups. Another way dishonest breeders can get "extra" sets of registration papers is to tell the breed registry there were more puppies in the litter than there actually were. Generally, Breed Registries do not require breeders to genetically verify the puppies of a litter when the breeder registers the dogs. To counter these dishonest breeders producing falsely-registered puppies, the American Kennel Club started a voluntary DNA testing program. Many breeders participate in this voluntary DNA testing as additional proof that puppies are registered AKC purebreds. It is only in limited situations that the AKC requires DNA testing.

What Papers Doesn't Mean

Having papers does not mean that a puppy is healthy. The registration process does not require any health information for the sire (father), dam (mother) or puppies in the litter. This means that breeders can breed two unhealthy dogs, and as long as they are both registered in the same breed by a breed registry, the pups will have papers. Registration, purebred status, or a pedigree does not indicate that a puppy is healthy. In fact, because they are inbred, purebred dogs are more likely to have genetic health problems than non-purebred dogs. Beware of breeders who tell you a puppy is healthy because it has papers. This is untrue. The only thing that papers tell you is that the puppy is or can be registered with a breed registry, and it comes from parents registered with the same registry. However, because registration is a purely mechanical process, it doesn't tell you anything about the puppy except that it's registered with, and descended from other registered dogs. Papers don't mean that your puppy is genetically sound, has a good temperament, or could earn a championship for his breed. The only thing that registration means is that the registry has assigned a number to your dog, and accepted your dog as a member of the registry. Conversely, a puppy without a pedigree can still be a purebred dog. If your dog is a Golden Retriever, and his parents were Golden Retrievers, and his grandparents were Golden Retrievers; if your dog has the genetic inheritance of a Golden Retriever, then he could be a purebred Golden Retriever. Purebred status does not depend on registration. Not all purebred dogs are registered, so the lack of a pedigree doesn't make a dog any less purebred than a dog that is registered by the AKC. It could be registered by a breed registry other than the AKC, or, although this is unusual for most breeds (but common for a few), the breeder may not have requested papers for the litter when the puppies were born. It's the genes that determine whether a dog is purebred- not being registered with the AKC or any other breed registry.