A dalmatian dog, sitting on a black background, is purebred.

How to Tell if a Dog is Purebred


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How to tell if a dog is purebred… is that a tough one? It’s actually 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 (concerning dog DNA tests, too). So how do you really know if a dog is purebred? Is there a quick and easy way?

Pet parents with breeder-bought purebred dogs sometimes think about it also, 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
To discover if a dog is purebred like this Weimeraner dog, you can take the dog DNA test route.

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. For example, 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.

The title ‘pedigree’ is the guarantee that your dog is 100% a particular breed and you’ll get papers to prove it.

If the actual registration doesn’t matter to you and you’re just looking for a dog with a certain look and temperament, like a lively Labrador or a gentle Golden Retriever, you might find them at a shelter or rescue organisation. If they have a bit of this and that in them but are obviously the vast majority of one breed, does it really matter?

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.

1. Discover if a dog is purebred via breed standards

So how to know if your dog is purebred or not? 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 foolproof. 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. So, there might be a dog who is very obviously a purebred Scottish Terrier, but who isn’t a papered and pedigreed one.

While these dogs likely won’t have papers, they can still offer all the love in the world.

Before you jump right in and start looking for breeders, it might be worthwhile considering adopting a dog. If you go that route, we’ve a dog adoption checklist for you.

Sitting Dalmatian purebred dog looks at the camera; who should have papers to tell if he is pedigreed

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. For more info on checking their papers, read this ‘Dog Papers: The Why, What, and How‘ article.

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 on getting one? Search the ANKC website to determine 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. That way, you definitely know you have a purebred dog. 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 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:

  • 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.
The last way to tell if your Australian Shepherd is thoroughbred is to do a dog DNA test.

Quick tips for finding an ethical breeder

Adopting a dog from a breeder can be an exciting and rewarding experience, but it’s important to find an ethical breeder who care about their dogs’ health and welfare. This means you’ll be much more likely to purchase a puppy without physical or behavioural health issues.

To ensure the best possible experience, here are some tips for finding an ethical dog breeder in Australia…

Are they registered with an ethical breed club or reputable association?

One of the best ways to find an ethical dog breeder in Australia is to do the right research.

For example, check online for reviews and ask your friends and family who have adopted dogs in the past for their experiences and breeder recommendations.

You can also look for breeders who are associated with organisations such as the Australia National Kennel Council or the Australian Association of Pet Dog Breeders, RightPaw, and Ethical Pet Breeders Australian Registry. These organisations have strict rules and regulations in place to ensure that all breeders are ethical and responsible.

Visit the breeder

It’s also a good idea to visit the breeder in person to get a better idea on whether your potential dog is purebred or not. Look at the papers they’ll have for the pup. Talk to them about their breeding and puppy care methods to make sure you’re comfortable with their practices. Ask to see where the puppies are kept and watch how the breeder interacts with them. Make sure the puppies are healthy and properly cared for.

When choosing a breeder, it’s important to ask questions too. Find out where the puppies come from, how long the breeding pair has been with the breeder, and if all have been socialised and vaccinated. Ask about the health tests undertaken of the parents and puppies, too. Find out whether the parents have any hereditary conditions that could be passed on.

Also, check if the breeder offers any kind of health guarantee. For more info on hereditary conditions in dogs, check out this ‘What’s the Difference with Hereditary and Congenital Conditions in Dogs?‘ article.

Do they have all of the necessary paperwork?

Finally, it’s essential to make sure the breeder is a responsible seller. They should provide all the necessary paperwork, such as registration papers and a health certificate. They should also be willing to answer any questions you have and be transparent about their practices.

Finding an ethical dog breeder in Australia doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By doing your research and asking lots of important questions, you can find a breeder who’ll provide you with a healthy and happy puppy.

3. Dog DNA tests

So how to know if your dog is purebred or not? The last way to tell if your dog is purebred is to do a dog DNA test. You can buy these from Orivet, Advance Pet, and Embark amongst others. Read about what’s involved in our article ‘Dog DNA Test: How It’s Done and What to Expect‘.

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

What’s involved with DNA reporting

Along with helping you tell if your dog is purebred by reporting on its genetic makeup, some dog DNA tests offer a comprehensive report.

This gives you information about your dog’s health needs. As you probably know, some breeds are more prone to certain illnesses, diseases, and conditions. If you’ve just done a DNA test or want to know what your pup might be predisposed to, read our article on dog health problems by breed. We also take a closer look at the common belief that mixed breed dogs have fewer health problems than purebred dogs.

Some dog DNA 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.

Discover if this Akita dog is thoroughbred via breed standards.


Are all purebred dogs inbred?

When it comes to purebred dogs, one of the most common questions people have is: are all purebred dogs inbred? The simple answer is: no, not all purebred dogs are inbred. However, many dog breeds are to an extent inbred. Inbreeding is the mating of closely related animals, usually within the same family.

Inbreeding can lead to a number of health issues. For example, inbreeding can lead to a decrease in genetic diversity, which can lead to a greater risk of genetic disorders and weakened immune systems. Some of the traits that are bred into purebred dogs can cause health problems, such as short snouts in pugs and bulldogs which can lead to breathing difficulties.

For more info on breathing difficulties, check out this ‘Brachycephalic Breeds: Health Conditions in Flat Faced Dogs‘ article. In addition to health issues, inbreeding can also lead to a decrease in a breed’s fertility and an increased risk of birth defects.

Are purebred dogs healthier?

The answer is not a simple yes or no, as there are many factors that come into play when determining the health of a particular dog breed.

First, let’s look at the health of purebred dogs in general. Breeders have bred purebred dogs over time to be more uniform in size, shape, and temperament. Having all of these characteristics in a single breed can result in smaller gene pools and, in turn, higher incidences of genetic disorders.

The key is to do your research

However, it’s important to note that purebred dogs are not necessarily unhealthy. The key is to do your research before bringing a pup home and to ensure that Fido is coming from a reputable breeder. Reputable breeders will have health certificates and will be happy to answer questions about the health of their dogs.

Another important factor to consider is the specific breed of dog. Some breeds are known to be more prone to certain health issues than others. For instance, the Toy Poodle is known to be prone to Cushing’s disease, while the Shih Tzu is prone to eye problems like corneal ulcers. Knowing the health issues common to a particular breed can help you make an informed decision.

Finally, a dog’s lifestyle and diet largely determine its overall health. Just like with humans, a healthy diet and regular exercise 🐾 can go a long way in keeping a dog healthy. Read this ‘What is a Pet Body Condition Score and Why is it Important?‘ article to understand why a pet body condition score is important and how it can help you ensure doggo is healthy, happy, and able to enjoy their best life. Regular checkups with the vet and vaccinations can help prevent many illnesses and should not be neglected.

Purebred dogs can be healthy, but this depends on the specific breed and the lifestyle that the pup is exposed to.

Are purebred dogs better?

Ultimately, the decision of whether purebred or mixed-breed dogs are better is up to you. The best choice for one person may not be the best choice for someone else. It’s important to consider all the factors when making a decision and to remember that the most important thing is finding a pup that will be a loving companion. Remember that your pup will by mutts about you 24/7, 365, purebred or not.

Check out these informative articles to learn more about our furry pals 🐕:

  1. Yes or No – Can Dog DNA Testing Prevent Hereditary Dog Diseases?
  2. Dog Papers: the What, Why and How
  3. Should You Adopt a Rescue Dog with Trauma Issues?
  4. Technology to Keep Pets Safe, Healthy and Trackable
  5. True or False: Grass Seeds Can Cause Severe Infections in Pets
  6. Neuter and Spay: Desexing Your Dog Explained

Dog insurance for purebreds and bitzers alike

We don’t mind whether you have a designer dog, a pedigreed or purebred pup, or anything else. We don’t even mind whether you know if your dog is purebred or not. Many of us don’t! Regardless, 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.

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