Worried that your dog might not be purebred? Not sure if your Labrador is a genuine pedigree dog?
This is the article you need to read.
I have a steady stream of people coming to my forum, posting questions in the comments boxes at the foot of my articles
And writing to me by email, to ask this question:
Is my Labrador purebred?
The question is very often accompanied by photographs
Or detailed descriptions of the dog in question.
There are several ways that you can attempt to discover whether or not your Labrador is a purebred pedigree dog:
- Visual Assessment
- Pedigree papers
- DNA tests
Let’s look at a visual assessment first, because this is what most of my readers are hoping I will give them when they send me photographs.
Visual Assessment of Pedigree or Purity
A visual assessment of pedigree involves looking at a dog and comparing his appearance with the breed standard.
I want to give you a couple of examples to illustrate the problems involved with this approach
Example 1: purebred but doesn’t look it.
One of the Labradors in my home bears little resemblance to the breed standard. She has a thin, whippy tail with an upwards curve, overlong ears and a long narrow face.
These features, combined with her ginger coat mean that very few people recognize her as a Labrador at all.
I have been asked if she is a Viszla cross, a Lab x Greyhound, and other unlikely combinations.
In fact this Labrador has an impeccable pedigree full of noble ancestors with famous names.
But if someone made a visual assessment from a photo of her, unless they were familiar with working line Labs, they might well put her down as a crossbreed.
Example 2: crossbred but looks like a Lab
I have a friend with a Labrador X Pointer that looks for all the world like a classic Labrador – The father is a show line lab, and his looks have dominated in this particular dog.
A visual assessment would wrongly put him in the purebred category when he is actually no such thing
I hope you can see from these examples how worthless visual assessments usually are.
While I can point out that your dog may have faults that will eliminate him from the show ring
I cannot possibly tell you whether or not he is purebred by looking at him.
Obviously if he looks like a chihuahua then your best guess and my best guess is that he is a chihuahua, rather than a Labrador.
But no-one can make this kind of judgement based on a white patch, or the shape of your dog’s nose
Or by the set of his ears.
Purebred puppies can be mismarked
The current Labrador breed standard is very clear on what a Labrador should look like. But not all Labradors meet that standard.
Sometimes a mismark (a mark that is prohibited in the breed standard) occurs because the Labrador isn’t purebred.
But equally a mismark can occur in purebred puppies too.
Big white chest patches are fairly common in mismarked Labs.
My own red Lab’s mother had one, and a few white hairs on toes or under the chin are not unusual either.
It is even possible to get a purebred Labrador with tan points (like a rottweiler) or patches of brindle fur.
These types of puppies are genetic accidents and the puppies are usually sold as pets to owners who appreciate their unusual friend.
Okay, so if visual assessments don’t help you determine whether or not your dog is purebred, what about pedigree papers?
Pedigree papers for purebred dogs
If you buy a purebred dog, the breeder should give you the registration document with the names of both parents.
Most breeders will also give you a copy of the pedigree which lists the ancestors of those parents, together with any titles they may have, back through five generations.
If the breeder does not give you a copy of the pedigree he must give you the registration document. You can then order a pedigree document from the KC when you have transferred the registered ownership of your puppy from the breeder to you.
There is usually a small fee for this and another fee for a fancy copy of the pedigree. Check out this link for more information on puppy paperwork.
Limitations of pedigree papers
If you have the correct pedigree papers, then your dog is probably a purebred dog. I say probably because there is room for dishonesty with this system.
It is possible for a dishonest stud dog owner to mate his bitch to one stud dog and register the puppies to another.
So, pedigree papers are a good indication of pedigree, and sufficient for most people’s needs, but they are not an absolute guarantee.
Which brings us to our final method, DNA identification.
It is now possible to have some dogs DNA checked for identification purposes. Labradors are one of the breeds for which this test is now available.
There are various laboratories offering this service and you can even buy a test kit on Amazon.
The laboratory will examine the sample you send in.
It will look at hundreds of individual sites within the DNA and compare these with a database of thousands of breed samples to determine your dog’s ancestry
You’ll need to send your dog’s sample in the form of a cheek swab. You’ll find instructions when you purchase your kit.
How to check if my Labrador is purebred?
So, to sum up, as visual confirmation of pure breeding is not possible, you need to use pedigree papers, and / or DNA results to confirm whether or not any dog is purebred.
Here is what I suggest you do:
Before you purchase a puppy
If your heart is set on a purebred dog then before you purchase your puppy make sure the paperwork is in order. This greatly reduces the chances of your dog being cross bred.
Ask to see the registration documents! Do not accept any excuses, your breeder must have registered the litter in order for you to be able to register your puppy.
Meet the mother and make sure that you like the way she looks. If you can’t meet the father make sure you see photos and a certificate of mating that confirms he is actually the father.
If the puppies have markings on them that you don’t like, then don’t buy a puppy. There is always another litter. Let someone else who loves unusual markings buy that puppy.
Remember, the only problem with buying a mismatched puppy is that you won’t be able to enter him in a dog show. If that doesn’t matter to you, it certainly won’t matter to him.
After you purchase a puppy
Once you have purchased your puppy try not to worry about whether or not he is purebred.
Remember that many purebred dogs have mismarks or poor conformation, so if you have pedigree papers for him, he is probably purebred no matter what he looks like.
Curious about your dog’s ancestry?
If you know your dog is a cross breed and you want to know more about his ancestry and what type of dogs his parents were, you can get a DNA identification carried out.
You can buy a test kit from Amazon which contains instructions and equipment for taking a cheek swab and for sending it off to a laboratory to be analyzed.
The test is now available for many breeds of dog including the Labrador Retriever.
Accepting your dog
In my personal view it does not matter whether or not your dog is purebred. Or even whether he looks purebred. This is just a formality.
Don’t let doubts spoil your pleasure in your dog.
He doesn’t care where you come from, or where you are going, as long as he can come with you.
Enjoy him for what he is. Your dog, and your best friend, through good times and bad.