How to Tell If a Dog is Purebred

purebred dog schnauzer close up of face

How to tell if a dog is purebred… it’s not as complicated as you may think but it does take insider knowledge. If you’ve observed the increase in pedigree pups bounding around you’ll understand why there’s a rise in related Google searches.

Pet parents with purebred dogs sometimes think about it too, wondering if they can really be sure. And it’s not surprising – some pay thousands of dollars for a well-bred puppy. Others might get their purebred dog from a shelter (yes, this does happen!).

Dog breeding is an industry like any other. Sadly, this can result in puppy scams from unscrupulous breeders and puppy mills that don’t operate ethically. The inbreeding involved can also mean problems like health issues with some puppies.

But we digress. So how do you know for sure if your dog is purebred?

Three ways to tell if your dog is purebred

There are three main ways to tell if your dog is purebred. Depending on how important it is to you, you may want to follow all the steps, or just one.

  1. Compare your dog with the official breed standards
  2. Check their pedigree papers
  3. Do a dog DNA test

Purebred vs pedigree

When discovering if a dog is purebred, the first thing to recognise is that purebred and pedigree aren’t the same thing. You can have a purebred Border Collie who isn’t a pedigree Border Collie.

While purebred refers to the dog’s breeding, pedigreed refers to the recorded and documented history of that bloodline with a recognised breed registry.

If a Labrador has, for instance, one Golden Retriever great-grandparent in their bloodline, then a recognised breeding register wouldn’t accept them. But you might consider your dog pretty much a purebred Labrador (despite the tiny bit of Retriever!).  

If the actual registration doesn’t matter to you, and you’re just looking for a dog with a certain look and temperament, you might just find them at a shelter or rescue organisation.

Check out our article on the pros and cons of purebred dogs to help yourself decide whether pedigreed or purebred is important to you. And if so, why.

Lying down Dalmatian purebred dog who should have papers to tell if he is pedigreed

1. Discover if a dog is purebred via breed standards

Your first step to tell if a dog is purebred is checking them against the official breed standards.

These formal guidelines set out the ideal characteristics of each dog breed including their physical appearance, temperament, and genetic criteria. It also comes with a picture or illustration, so you can use these guidelines or markers to assess whether your dog meets them.

Of course, this is far from a foolproof method. Some purebred dogs don’t meet the full set of breed standards because they formed a little differently in utero for some reason. And of course, you might have a mixed breed who looks exactly like a purebred.

Adopting a purebred dog

It might surprise you to hear that shelters often have purebred dogs and puppies up for adoption. However, you probably won’t get a pedigree dog as shelters are less likely to have the genealogical history of that particular dog.

While these dogs likely won’t have papers, they can still offer all the love in the world. So before you jump right in and start looking for breeders, it might be worthwhile considering adopting a dog. If you go that route, here’s a dog adoption checklist for you.

2. Check their papers

The second way to tell if a dog is purebred is to check their papers, as we’ve said. If they have them.

A pedigreed dog will definitely have papers and if you’re buying from a breeder, it should be very easy to prove their breeding.

Australian National Kennel Council

If you want a pedigree dog, then your first step is to find a breeder who’s registered with the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC).

Already have your puppy or about to em-bark? You can search the ANKC website to find out if the breeder is registered. If they are, you should be able to obtain the papers from them.

The breeder will register the pup, and once the dog is yours, those papers should show you everything including their date of birth and their family tree. Maybe they even have a fancy registered name!

Must-do research with purebred dogs

If you need to tell if a dog you own or want to adopt or buy is a purebred, make sure you do your research first.

We suggest following the below steps to get some solid background information before following our puppy buying step-by-step checklist further on:

  • Read our article on puppy scams.
  • Search Google and social media for the name of each business or breeder you’re considering buying a purebred dog from. Thoroughly check out their website, social channels, and any other resources you find. This can help you to avoid puppy mills and find a reputable breeder.
  • Pay particular attention to online reviews from previous buyers or people who’ve encountered them before, especially if they’re somewhere other than the breeder’s website.
  • Find the local breed society for the dog’s supposed (or suspected) breed. If you’re looking to verify information or find out how to track down a dog’s possible parentage, they may be able to guide you.
Purebred Weimeraner dog close up of face

3. Dog DNA tests

The last way to tell if your dog is purebred is to do a DNA test. You can buy these from Orivet, Advance Pet, and Embark amongst others

However, they’re mainly for your own interests. The dog DNA testing industry is still new and largely unregulated. So getting a test done isn’t a guarantee, and doesn’t mean that you can use it to register your dog.

Still, if you’re just curious to see what your dog’s genetic makeup is, DNA testing can be really interesting. And maybe even reveal some surprises about your dog’s parentage.

In addition to helping you tell if your dog is purebred, some dog DNA tests offer a comprehensive report. This gives you information about your dog’s health needs.

Some tests even offer the option to meet your dog’s immediate relatives if they’re also on the database. A doggie family meet up – how fascinating would that be? Especially for dogs of unknown origin.

Dog insurance for purebreds and bitzers alike

We don’t mind whether your dog is pedigreed, purebred, or anything else. Our dog insurance covers a wide range of dogs because we love them all and at the time of writing we’ll give you one month free if you buy online.

Choose a plan according to their needs, and rest easy knowing your beloved dog is well protected.

How would you, like to proceed?

How would you, like to proceed?