Using a pedigree to find your next hunting or competition dog
If you are looking for a new retriever puppy, there are a lot of ways to go about the search. But if you are looking for that puppy to be an incredible hunting companion or a fierce hunt test competitor, you should be referencing a pedigree before making the decision. While I know a dog does not need to be pedigreed to be an excellent dog, a strong pedigree can help you stack the odds in your favor. It will weight the scales that the dog will have the hunting or competition qualities you are looking for in your next dog. Here is how to read a retriever dog’s pedigree and how to use this tool to find your next hunting or competition dog.
Why should I care about my dog’s pedigree?
There are several things you can learn about your dog’s genealogy by referencing their pedigree. Here are the most important ones for someone seeking a great hunting or competition dog.
A pedigree shows proven trainability
One of the main reasons we care about a puppy’s pedigree is because we want to be sure that the puppy’s mom and dad were proven and trainable. This is shown on a retriever’s pedigree through the addition of titles before and/or after the dog’s name.
Example: HRCH Piddle Creek’s High Tide Hooligan MH
When dogs compete in hunt tests and field trials, they can earn titles that prove the dog can hunt or compete at a certain level. In the above example, the dog has competed in both UKC and AKC hunt tests at a very high level.
A pedigree shows breeder is breeding for right reasons
Being able to see the linage of a puppy can tell you a lot about the breeder. The best breeders are breeding for the betterment of the breed. They want to produce great dogs that have good genetics and personality traits.
A pedigree shows health certifications and genetic soundness
Under each dog on the pedigree is a listing of health certifications for that dog. These are important in showing that tests have been done to confirm the dog’s health and genetics. Tests can include hips, elbows, eyes, as well as genetic DNA testing for Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC) and Centronuclear myopathy (CNM). And you can see the testing done back generations, so you know that your dog is genetically sound.
How do I find out my dog’s bloodline?
A dog’s bloodline is the same as a pedigree. Tracing a dog’s bloodline is done by reviewing a pedigree of the past generations of the puppy.
You can find a Labrador Retriever dog’s pedigree by visiting HuntingLabPedigree.com. At this website you can do a search for a certain dog and many breeders will use this service to create a pedigree for their litter of pups.
How do I read my retriever pedigree?
When you look at a retriever dog’s pedigree, you want to concentrate on the first two or three generations. The further back you go on a pedigree, the more diluted it becomes. So, you should concentrate mostly on the parents and the grandparents.
Start with the parents. The sire is on top, and the dam is on the bottom.
- Look for hunt test or field trial titles.
Hunt test titles will vary depending on the kind of hunt tests the dog has run. For retriever breeds, you are generally looking for titles such as those I have listed below.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) hunt tests give titles of
- Junior Hunter (JH),
- Senior Hunter (SH) and
- Master Hunter (MH).
The United Kennel Club (UKC) offers 5 titles:
- Started Hunting Retriever (SHR),
- Hunting Retriever (HR),
- Hunting Retriever Champion (HRCH),
- Grand Hunting Retriever Champion (GRHRCH) and
- Upland Hunter (UH).
Field Trials titles are:
- Field Champion (FC),
- Amateur Field Champion (AFC),
- Grand Field Champion (GFC),
- Grand Amateur Field Champion (GAFC),
- National Field Champion (NFC),
- National Amateur Field Champion (NAFC) and
- Qualified All-Age 2 (QA2).
If you are wanting a pup to become an excellent hunter or if you are looking to compete your dog in hunt tests or field trials, these are the designations you should be looking for on a pedigree. And again, you want to see some designations in the parents and/or grandparents and preferably both.
Beware of dogs being sold as hunting dogs with a conformation titled in front of the name, such as GCH for Grand Champion or CH for Champion. These titles are show titles and are based on looks, not a dog’s working ability.
2. Underneath each dog’s name will be listed health clearances for that dog. If you do not see any health clearances, that is probably a red flag. Not all breeders are willing to spend the money to have the dogs they are breeding tested for various health and genetic conditions. But breeders that are working hard for the betterment of the breed will have these tests done.
Then move on to the grandparents and look at the same information. While the parents are the most important, it can be helpful to scan back another generation to see if the trends continue.
Is it important for a dog to have a pedigree?
A pedigree is not essential for all dogs. It really depends on what you plan to use your puppy for. I will be the first to admit that you can get a dog from a pound, and it can end up being a great hunting dog. You can also buy a puppy that costs several thousand dollars and has an awesome pedigree, and that dog can be a dud when it comes to hunting.
A good pedigree, by no means, guarantees that your dog will turn out great. It is simply a tool that you can use to stack the odds in your favor. Picking a puppy is always a gamble. When you pick up a 7–8-week-old puppy, there is no way to be sure that puppy will be a great hunter or competitor. That is why it is so important you do your homework and put as many things as possible in your favor.
What if the puppy I am looking at does not have a pedigree?
Some hunters keep records of how their dogs have done hunting. This could be a substitute for a pedigree if the hunter is very diligent in his/her recording. But you are still taking someone’s word for it. And just because someone says a dog can do something, does not mean that it can.
It is natural to remember the good things over the bad things. If the hunter does not record hunts religiously, but rather goes by memory, they may remember the birds the dog got, but forget that the dog whined all day long in the blind. Or they may remember the cripple the dog brought in but forget the dozen birds the dog busted when he got too far in front of you.
The point being, if there is no official pedigree, you are making your purchase based on someone’s word. If you are okay with that risk, go for it.
Final thoughts on How to read my retriever dog’s pedigree
A pedigree is a great tool that can help you navigate the purchase of your next hunting dog or competition dog. It can give you vital information that can help you in your decision and allows you to stack the odds in your favor. But there are no guarantees.
Once you have your new puppy, check out this post What age should I start training my Lab to hunt?
If you really want your retriever to grow and progress in his/her hunting this year but doing the training yourself sounds overwhelming or maybe your schedule is just too busy to get it done, I am here to help! You can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) or just give me a call (651-303-6459). I would be happy to discuss your goals for your retriever and tell you about the programs I offer.
Until next time happy retrieving.