Buying a Purebred Dog "With Papers"

by TerryMcNamee

You see the ad in the newspaper: "For Sale: Purebred dog with papers." But what are papers? They are the registration certificate and pedigree that belong to every purebred dog.

By Terry McNamee © 2013

Any purebred dog should come with his registration certificate. In North America, the dog should be registered with the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), American Kennel Club (AKC) or the United Kennel Club (UKC). All three are more than a century old and recognized around the world. Beware of unrecognized clubs using the same initials. Two examples are the Universal Kennel Club and the Continental Kennel Club, neither of which is recognized by any other national registry. If a dog is registered with another approved breed or hunting dog registry, it may be eligible for CKC, AKC or UKC registration as well. The National Greyhound Association, the Field Dog Stud Book and Master of Foxhounds Association are three examples. The registration certificate belongs to the dog and should go with it every time the dog is sold or rehomed.

Veterinary health record and an official registration certificate
Veterinary health record and an official registration certificate
© Terry McNamee

Registration Certificates For Purebred Dogs

A registration certificate will include the registered name and registration numbers of the puppy and its parents, the names of the breeder and owner, the puppy’s sex and date of birth and the name and logo of the registry. Generally there is a section to fill out to transfer ownership from the current owner to the new owner.

Some puppies may not be registered individually until sold. In that case, there should be an individual registration application that belongs to each puppy. The breeder puts the new owner's name on it and sends it to the registry, which then sends the buyer the individual registration certificate for that puppy.

In Canada, someone who sells a purebred dog cannot charge extra for registering the dog, except the actual cost charged by the CKC for registration or transfer of ownership. If the dog is advertised as purebred, registration must be included. Even if the dog is given away, legally the new owner is entitled to the dog’s certificate, and ownership must be transferred. Remember, the registration certificate belongs to the dog. If you live outside of Canada, check with your national kennel club for the laws governing the sale of dogs advertised as purebred.

An exception is if some special lending or fostering arrangement is made with a breeder. For example, the breeder may want to retain showing and/or breeding rights on a promising puppy while letting you have the dog as a family pet the rest of the time. In that case, the breeder may retain legal ownership, and you will not have the right to neuter or breed the dog. A neutered dog cannot be shown or bred, so this is a very serious issue for breeders!

You may think the certificate isn’t important. But if later on you get interested in obedience or field tests, or your child wants to enter dog shows as a Junior Handler, you’ll need it, since only registered dogs can compete in some organized dog sports.

Two types of pedigrees. At left is a CKC certified pedigree. At right is a hand-written one.
Two types of pedigrees. At left is a CKC certified pedigree. At right is a hand-written one.
© Terry McNamee

Pedigree: A Family Tree For Dogs

Don't confuse a pedigree with proof of pure breeding! Sometimes potential buyers are shown a pedigree and think that is what “papers” means, but a pedigree is simply a family tree. You can create a pedigree of a mongrel if you know the names of its parents, grandparents and great-grandparents.

The pedigree of a registered purebred puppy could be anything from a hand-written document to an official pedigree from a registry. That’s why the registration certificate is important. Once you have that, you can always purchase an official pedigree from the registry later.

At the very least, a pedigree the buyer receives should include the registered name of every dog in the puppy’s first three generations.

Beware of pet shop puppies! “Purebred” puppies sold in pet shops often come with papers, too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they are registered, or even purebred. The lineage in the pedigree of a pet shop puppy may be false. A fancy document that looks very nice may not be worth anything. Many of the big puppy mills use the registered names of males and females that they own on litters that are not even related to the dogs whose names are on the registration papers or pedigrees. That is fraud, and it is a big problem for major registries that are trying to combat it.

As with everything, let the buyer beware. "Purebred, no papers" is a big red flag in advertisements for dogs and puppies for sale. Too many people get scammed into paying more for an unregistered dog of unknown background than they would for a nice pet puppy from a reputable breeder. In Canada, if the parents of the puppy are registered, the seller is legally obligated to provide the buyer with registration certificates for the puppy if it is being sold as purebred.

Non-Breeding Contracts For Puppies

Many pet puppies are sold as non-breeding stock by responsible breeders. If your dog is purchased with an official Canadian or American Kennel Club Non-Breeding Agreement, but you go ahead and breed the dog anyway, its offspring cannot be registered and will not be considered legally purebred. Some breeders even will go to court to get the dog back afterwards because of breach of contract.

The Non-Breeding Agreement has a big advantage: it can be used as a short-term alternative to neutering. The Non-Breeding Agreement can be canceled by the breeder at a later date if the puppy turns out exceptionally good and the owner wants to show it, or if the breeder faces unexpected circumstances where he needs to restore that bloodline.

Most pet puppies (including all pet shop and puppy mill puppies) should be neutered, but not necessarily at a young age. Early neutering is becoming increasingly controversial. There are possible health risks caused by a lack of normal hormone production when a dog is neutered prior to maturity. Generally, a better age for neutering would be between eighteen months and three years of age.

In addition to the health issues, waiting lets the dog be evaluated for health and quality first. Once done, neutering can't be reversed.

Cockapoos, Schnoodles and Puggles, Oh My!

Another scam is telling potential buyers that they are getting a purebred something (fill in the blank) when the dog is really a mix. Some sellers con people into paying hundreds of dollars for a mutt on the premise that the "breed" will soon be recognized. Since they are really just mutts, they will not come with legal registration papers.

There is always a new mix coming along that backyard breeders (the kind that always have puppies for sale on Kijiji, year-round) start breeding and promoting with cute names. Some of these include, but are not limited to, Benjis, all kinds of Poodle mixes (cockapoo, schnoodle, maltipoo, yorkipoo, doodle, peke-a-poo, Lhasa-poo and shih-poo are some of the most common), puggles, bugs, shih-pom, morkie, pugapom, shorkie, and more.

Two recent ones are boxmas (Boxer/Mastiff) and peke-tese (Pekingese/Maltese). There are always new crosses with fancy names being created to lure uninformed buyers.

Lhasa-Poo, a mix of Lhasa Apso and Poodle.
Lhasa-Poo, a mix of Lhasa Apso and Po...
Wikimedia Commons
A King Shepherd with a long coat.
A King Shepherd with a long coat.
Wikimedia Commons

Most of these puppies will come from parents that have never been tested for inherited problems like progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, heart disease, thyroid disease, hip dysplasia, and so on, all things that reputable breeders test for before any dog is bred. Some are from crosses that should never be made, such a short-nosed breed (Pekingese, Pug) bred to a long-nosed breed (Dachshund, Poodle). These ill-planned crosses often end up with misaligned and deformed jaws as a result. A recent ad on Kijiji offered pugador (Pug/Labrador) puppies, a bad idea if there ever was one.

Another thing to beware of is a real breed, maybe even purebred and registered, with a fancy tag added to it along with an extra high price. There is no such thing as a King Shepherd, a King Doberman or a Royal Standard Poodle. Words like "King" or "Royal" generally means the dog has been bred for a size that is far bigger than allowed under the breed standard. There is also no such classification as "teacup" for toy breeds like Chihuahuas or Yorkshire Terriers. It's just a ploy to get gullible people to think they are getting something out of the ordinary. Don't get conned!

As always, do your research. Sometimes something that sounds like a real breed is just a made-up name for a mutt. But occasionally, a really odd name can refer to an actual, registered, pure breed, although some might be rare or only found in a few countries. There really are Peruvian Inca Orchid Dogs, Karelian Bear Dogs, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Mexican Hairless, Canarian Warren Hounds, Little Lion Dogs and Louisiana Catahoula Leopard Dogs!

Updated: 05/28/2013, TerryMcNamee
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