- Choosing a Labrador
Are you bringing home a new puppy soon? Most puppies come with an assortment of paperwork! In this article we will let you know what you can expect to find in your puppy pack. Including standard puppy paperwork, puppy contract information, puppy microchipping and other certificates that your breeder will provide, such as AKC registration documents
Your Puppy Pack
When you take your new Labrador puppy home, your breeder will give you a puppy pack. This will contain all the paperwork related to your puppy, and you might be surprised to find that there are some serious documents to be considered and acted upon. It can all seem a bit confusing, but it is really important that you check these documents carefully. Preferably when you first visit the litter, and not on the day you bring your new friend home.
Although it is tempting to leave checking the documents this until the day that you collect your puppy, giving them an initial look through will safe you time, help you to understand what you will be given and potentially save you from making a mistake when choosing a litter.
Puppy Health Certificates
The future of Labrador health is dependent upon responsible breeding practices. Your breeder should have tested your puppy’s parents for diseases which are known to be an issue in this breed of dog. It is normally the parents of the puppy that will have been tested, rather than the puppy himself.
It is important that you ask about the results of these tests before visiting the puppy. And very important that you see these certificates and check the information in them before agreeing to purchase the puppy. The fact that your puppy’s parents are registered pedigree dogs is not a guarantee of health standards
Health Certificates For Dogs
The absolute minimum health certificates you should be shown for Labrador parents are eye tests and hip scores. Here are the following tests we highly recommend that you see health certificates for:
- Clear eye test (dated less than 1 year ago)
- PRA (clear or just one parent a carrier)
- Hip Scores (lower than 12)
- Elbow Scores (0)
The following dog health test certificates are also important:
- CNM (clear or just one parent a carrier)
The additional health tests are particularly helpful if you are thinking of breeding from your dog in the future.
The Best Time To Look At Health Certificates
The best time to see these dog health certificates is on your very first visit to the breeder, or even ask for scanned copies of them to be emailed to you before you visit. This is then out of the way. No reputable breeder will ever mind being asked for certificates, most will have them ready for you when you visit.
Many breeders nowadays will give their puppy buyers a written contract when they collect the new puppy. A good sales contract should be fairly brief and clearly laid out. It may include an undertaking by the breeder to take your puppy back at any time in the future should you be unable to care for it.
It will also set out the conditions under which the purchase price of your puppy could be refunded, and recommendations for you to have your puppy checked out by your vet shortly after purchase. Most importantly your contract must include information about any endorsements that have been placed on your puppy’s registration. If this information is not provided for you the endorsements are likely to be invalid.
Puppy Pedigree Endorsements
When you buy a pedigree puppy it may come with ‘endorsements’ on its pedigree registration. These are stipulations that the breeder has made regarding any attempts YOU may make to breed from your dog, or to register your dog with a foreign kennel club. The purpose of these endorsements is to give the breeder some control over what happens to puppies that she has bred, with regard to ensuring the health of the breed and the long term welfare of her puppies.
The only person who can place an endorsement on a registration is the owner of the puppy at the time the endorsement is placed. And with certain exceptions, only the person placing the endorsement can lift it.
The breeder cannot prevent you from breeding from your puppy but if you disregard the endorsements on your puppy’s registration, and breed from your puppy without fulfilling the conditions set down by the breeder you may be unable to register his or her progeny with the Kennel Club.
What does the endorsement mean?
The breeding endorsement sets out certain criteria which you must fulfil in order for the endorsement to be lifted. These criteria are usually refer to health standards which you will need to prove your female dog has met. Once you have met the conditions of the endorsement it will be lifted by the breeder.
Where disputes arise over endorsements, the Kennel Club will adjudicate and may in certain circumstances cases lift the endorsement without the permission of the breeder. This probably sounds more onerous than it is, normally all you will have to do to get the endorsement lifted is have your female dog’s hips and eyes tested before breeding. Something you would want to do in any case.
AKC Litter Registration
Your breeder will register her litter of puppies with the AKC or Kennel Club in the UK, who will send the breeder a registration certificate for each puppy. The puppies are all registered as belonging to the breeder and you will need to send off the certificate signed by her, in order to transfer the puppy into your own name. This is an important document and is not the same as the ‘pedigree’ which simply illustrates your puppy’s ‘family tree’.
In many countries a national Kennel Club is the body that maintains a register of all pedigree or pure-bred dogs. But what does that registration mean for you, the dog owner? And does it matter whether or not your puppy is AKC registered? We’ll go behind the scenes and take a quick look at the history of the world’s great Kennel Clubs first. These are the bodies that control the registration and record keeping for all pedigree dogs.
The Kennel Club
The original Kennel Club was founded in 1873 by a group of twelve British men about fourteen years after the very first dog show took place in Newcastle-on-Tyne in north west England This new dog enthusiast’s club kept ‘stud books’ or lists of dogs of each of the most popular breeds of the time.
In the early days, dogs of one breed were often mated to dogs of another breed. Usually in the search for some extra quality of temperament or appearance. This cross breeding meant that new genetic information was regularly being introduced into each breed, helping to keep it healthy.
Over time, the Club members became increasingly in favor of breed purity. It is after all, a great way to ensure consistency in breed type and temperament. Mating between different breeds began to be frowned upon and eventually prohibited. In order to prevent cross-breeding, one by one, the registers for each breed were closed. And from that time new puppies could only be registered (with the Club) as belonging to that breed, if their parents were too.
The implications of limiting dog gene pools in this way was not widely understood at the time. But essentially, all the genetic information and variety in any given dog breed could never be increased after that point. In fact a process of diminishing genetic material was set in motion, for each breed. That link explains it very clearly
The American Kennel Club
The American Kennel Club was founded in 1884 by another group of twelve men on the other side of the atlantic ocean. Just like the British club, the AKC members were dog enthusiasts. And each represented a different local dog club that held dog shows or organized field trials
At first the AKC mirrored it’s English equivalent but gradually over the years, has developed a distinct set of rules and unique breed standards. But not everyone agreed with them, and in 1898 a second Kennel Club was formed in North America
The United Kennel Club
Like the AKC the UKC keeps registers of each breed of dog and holds dogs shows and tests of hunting and retrieving ability. The UKC registers a much wider range of breeds than the AKC and it’s sporting dog titles are widely respected.
When it comes to conformation, the UKC show is often considered to be a less formal affair than those put on by the AKC. And it’s probably fair to say that most consider AKC registration to be more important when it comes to our most popular pedigree breeds. And some view the UKC as more of an ‘activity’ register. So, what does AKC registration actually tell you about your dog? And how does an AKC registered or KC registered dog differ from a dog without registration papers?
AKC Registration Identity
First and foremost AKC registration tells you that your dog’s parents were registered with the American Kennel Club, as were their parents before them. If your puppy is a Lab it also tells you that your Labrador is a breed of dog recognized (along with over a hundred other breeds ) by the American Kennel Club. In some breeds records go back over a hundred years.
In principle, AKC registration should guarantee that your dog is pure-bred, in other words that his bloodlines contain only genetic information from other dogs of his breed for as far back as records exist. It should be a statement of ‘identity’. In practice this may not necessarily be the case. That is because it is theoretically possible to cheat the system, and unscrupulous breeders have probably been doing so for generations.
If the breeder owns two stud dogs and there were no witnesses to the mating, you only have the breeder’s word for it as to which of the two dogs is the father of your puppy. Until the advent of DNA testing it was not possible to prove the parentage of a puppy. And it is still not obligatory for a breeder to do so. Much relies on trust as it has always done.
No doubt at some point all pure-bred puppies will be DNA profiled but for the time being it is important that you trust the breeder of your puppy. Assuming that your dog’s identity is genuine, AKC registration gives you some information that is important with regard to your puppy’s future health. In practice this information is still fairly limited.
Kennel Club registration and your dog’s health
KC registration in Britain tells you that your puppy is not the result of a mating between brother or sister, or of a mating between mother and son or father and daughter. This ban on very close breeding was introduced only recently and is an important one for the health of our dogs. Puppies resulting from very closely related parents are more likely to inherit genetic diseases.
KC registration in Britain also tells you that your puppy was not born to a female dog under a year old, or to a female dog over eight years old, or to a dog that had already more than the maximum number of litters permitted by the Kennel Club. These regulations are more relevant to the health of the mother dog than your puppy but are important for the overall welfare of breeding dogs.
In America under AKC rules there is less protection for female dogs and a female dog may be bred from 8 months up to 12 years of age. And there is no rule against inbreeding, so mating brother to sister, or father to daughter etc is still permitted. This is a great shame as very close mating such as these not only greatly increase the risk of ill health in the resulting puppies, but also compromise the genetic health of that dog breed.
What AKC registration does not tell you
In some countries a Kennel Club gives you quite a bit more information about the health of your puppy’s parents. In the USA and in the UK at the moment this is not the case.
Although the AKC and KC have a raft of important health tests which they recommend for each breed of dog, they may still register puppies from untested dogs or from parents that have been tested and have poor results. For example, in the UK at the time of writing KC registration does not guarantee that you puppy’s parents have been hip scored, and if they have been hip scored, the KC will register the puppies even if the parents hip scores are terrible.
It is entirely up to you, the buyer, to check the results. And so many people seem to be unaware that this is the case. It’s also very important that you are aware that both Kennel Clubs also register puppies born in puppy mills in just the same way as they register puppies bred by responsible and caring breeders. I frequently meet people that think their purchase of a dog with a pedigree is some kind of quarantee that the puppy was responsibly bred. It isn’t
Your puppy’s ‘Kennel Name’
Each AKC or KC registered dog is given a registered name. The first part of the name is normally the Affix registered by the breeder, all puppies registered by this breeder will have this name. The second part of the name is unique to your puppy, and again is usually chosen by the breeder. This formal name is usually referred to as the Kennel name. And is different from the family name that you will choose for your dog.
We have a huge collections of dog names on this site by the way if you are at that point!
Sometimes in the UK, especially if the litter of puppies is a ‘one-off’ and the breeder does not intend to breed regularly, he or she will not register an Affix. In which case the puppies will be registered with the Kennel Club’s own Affix. This changes depending on the year, but always begins with ‘Ken’.
So if you see the name Kenmilfore, Kenmillix etc you will know that these are puppies bred by a breeder that does not own their own Affix and is probably a ‘casual’ breeder. The KC will for a fee also choose the second part of the name if the breeder does not wish to do so. Affixes are usually important to a breeder and are a part of their reputation. Enabling their puppies to be identified as bred by them at any time in the future.
Different types of registers
Some people are very disappointed to find that the dog they registered with the Kennel Club is barred from certain events. This can happen because the English Kennel Club also run an Activity Register for mixed breed dogs whose owners want them to compete in KC events such as Agility competitions, and a Companion Dog Register.
These registers are not the same as the Breed Register for purebred dogs. If your dog is registered on these other registers it does not mean that you can claim your dog is ‘KC registered’ in the way that most people understand this to mean, i.e. belonging to the Breed Register.
Be sure that you know which register your puppy belongs to. He must be registered on the Breed Register in order to compete in conformation dog shows, or Field Trials (gundogs). Unlike the breed register, the Activity Register, and Companion Register are not evidence of a pedigree, only the Breed Register is evidence of a dog’s ancestry.
Your AKC Certificate
When you purchase your pure-bred Labrador puppy your breeder will probably give you a five generation pedigree certificate. This is a pretty, genealogical document showing your puppy’s immediate ancestors. You can also purchase these from your Kennel Club when you transfer ownership of your dog. You might want to read our article on Puppy Paperwork to find out more about the certificates and documentation that come with a new puppy.
What is AKC registration – a summary
AKC registration is a statement that your puppy comes from a long line of dogs that all belong to the same breed. An AKC registered puppy will have a fascinating pedigree – which is a family tree or history dating back over many generations. The AKC aims for the dogs to be pure bred within each register and outlaws breeding between dogs of different breeds.
Purity cannot always be guaranteed by a standard AKC registration certificate however, and the system can be cheated unless DNA evidence is available. Purebreeding is a double edged sword as it increases consistency of appearance and temperament but also increases the risk of poor genetic health. Many breeds are prone to a range of inherited diseases and there are tests for many of these diseases.
Registration does not necessarily imply that these tests have been carried out, or if they have been carried out that the dogs has scored well. Nor does it imply that the puppy comes from a reputable source
When is registration important?
Kennel Club registration is still relevant and important for many dog owners today. Your puppy’s registration certificate is important if you wish to take part in activities provided by your national Kennel Club and he or she may be excluded from them if not registered. Registration is also important if you wish to breed from your dog and register their progeny. It is difficult and often impossible to register puppies if one or both of the parents is not registered themselves.
Most Kennel Clubs use some of the money they raise through puppy registrations for research and activities that benefit canine health and welfare. Many people think that canine health would benefit greatly if registration were dependent on good health test results.
When your breeder gives you your registration, it will come with a tear-off strip to return to the Kennel Club. This will transfer ownership from the breeder to you.
What To Do If The Breeder Doesn’t Give You A Registration Certificate
Some breeders are quite slow about registering their puppies and may not have the registration certificate ready for you when you collect your pup. This is not ideal and you will need to decide whether you are prepared to take the puppy ‘on trust’. I recommend you do not do this unless you know the breeder very well.
Be very wary of taking a puppy home without a registration certificate. If you do decide to take the puppy before his registration certificate is available for you, you should ask for copies of the pedigree certificates of both parents .
You should also be very confident that the female dog has not had more litters than permitted by the Kennel Club and is not outside the age limits that the KC sets on breeding female dogs. These limits may change over time and are published on the Kennel Club’s website.
If the breeder has failed to fulfil these KC requirements, or mated two dogs which are too closely related (brother to sister, parent to child) your puppy may be permanently denied registration, no matter how illustrious her parents are. It happens, so take care.
Puppy Microchip Information
In the UK it is now a legal requirement for the breeder to have all their puppies microchipped before they leave her. An important part of your puppy pack will be a slip giving your pup’s individual microchip number, and a reference number that will allow you to go online and change the ownership to you.
When you take your pup to the vet for their first checkup, they will scan this microchip. Bring your paperwork with the reference number along, as it is easy for the breeder to mistake one pup for another and you want to be sure that the chip in your dog is the one attached to the paperwork in front of you.
Puppy Information Pack
Finally, your breeder will provide you with an information pack when you collect your puppy. This should contain comprehensive advice on caring for your puppy, including information on feeding and training your Labrador. Many pedigree puppies come automatically with six weeks free insurance. This information should be in your pack. If your breeder is a member of the KC accredited breeder scheme you should also have a feedback form to fill in and return to the KC.
Leave nothing to chance when it comes to your puppy’s paperwork. Checking paperwork and asking ‘potentially difficult’ questions, often in someone else’s home, can be very stressful. Be it could also save a lot of heartache further down the line. It is a really good idea to get the whole paperwork issue sorted as early as possible so that nothing is left to chance.
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References and Resources
- History of the Kennel Club
- What’s in the Gene Pool? The Institute of Canine Biology
- History of the American Kennel Club
- History of UKC
The Labrador Site Founder
Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.
She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program
Pippa’s online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website