How to read a pedigree certificate and what it all means

The breeder should provide the puppy’s pedigree before you make a commitment to buy. The pedigree is one of the things a serious breeder uses to plan a litter. An educated buyer looks at the pedigree when deciding whether to buy a puppy, and a responsible breeder will be proud to show you the dog pedigree certificate and explain it to you. If the breeder doesn’t seem to know much about the pedigree, beware.

A family tree of five generations

A pedigree certificate is a family tree and will usually show four or five generations. It begins on the left with the individual dog or litter and moves one column to the right with each earlier generation, giving the registered names of the ancestors.

Dogs that have won titles are in red writing. The only letters you should see on a five-generation pedigree from the Kennel Club are “FTCh”, which means field trial champion. You may also see the letters “FTW”, which means field trial winner, or “OFTW”, for open field trial winner.

Gundog pedigree certificate

1. Each generation shown in new column
2. Origin of pedigree
3. Titles earned in red
4. Puppy’s details
5. Official Kennel Club approval

Proven in the shooting field

It wouldn’t be unusual for the breeder to own only the bitch, but they should also be able to provide you with a copy of the sire’s paperwork. If they do not, be a little bit wary until you have made some further enquiries. A puppy with a pedigree full of red writing may not be suitable for the novice, but ideally you would want at least some of the dogs in the first two generations (the puppy’s parents and grandparents) to have titles or be on their way to titles. That way you know that some of the puppy’s ancestors have been judged and proven in the shooting field.

Will it be a good gundog?

There is the question of “nature or nurture” and how that can influence the outcome of a dog — for example, whether it will be a good gundog or not. The extent to which canine behaviour can be inherited was proven by an experiment by the Russian geneticist and silver fox farmer Dmitry Belyaev decades ago. Through only selecting for breeding the lower percentage of foxes with inherently tamer or more docile genetic temperaments, Belyaev proved that it was genes, rather than early nurturing environment, which had the most profound influence on canine temperament and behaviour.

So remember when choosing your puppy that looks, health, temperament, intelligence and ability are all influenced by the animal’s genetic background. By picking a well-bred puppy from the start, you are helping to increase the odds of success.