Opinions vary a lot in what matters in a pedigree. Most would agree it’s a package of different information.

In iwdb.org we are providing a whole lot of information on a dogs breeding. Established breeders will have known or seen a lot of the dogs for several generations back and also know of other animals in a pedigree. For them, the main pedigree listing will jog their minds and help them establish a mental picture of what they can expect from a planned breeding.

For those of us who don’t have 50 years experience in the breed and don’t know all dogs of interest in that period, here’s a quick list of what we think is worthwhile when planning a mating or checking a litter. It’s highly subjective, but we believe breeders should at least have a concious relationship to these :

  • Look for colours in the main pedigree listing. Coloured boxes means a dog is present several times, leading to inbreeding. The coloured boxes also often have the most influential animals in a dog’s pedigree, Look them up, try to find pictures and further info about them. Also check the Sires and Dams listed in Ancestors. It will show you the frequency of dogs and in which generation they show up.
  • Inbreeding levels and ancestor loss. Both of these are available on the Ancestors pane. For a prospective mating, various kennel clubs recommend to keep the inbreeding coefficient below the breed average. For 5 generations, that is 3.36%. Keeping the number of ancestors high means the genetic diversity gets higher as well. That’s normally a good thing for a dogs health.
  • Have a look at siblings and half siblings. If the litter has a lot of half sibling litters, the dog or bitch may be used more than what’s good for the breed. In the case of bitches, several kennel clubs have regulations stopping her from being exploited. Most breeders won’t breed a bitch more than three times, and certainly not more than five.
  • Check out longevity information in the main pedgree listing and in the ancestors-pane. We have date and cause of death for a number of dogs. You certainly don’t want to double up on diseases like osteosarchoma, DCM/Heart failure or pneumonia. Many recommend having the average lifespan of ancestors above breed average (currently 7.4 years)
  • Have a look at the reverse pedigree of both sire and dam. This will show you what they have produced and a complete progeny listing. One will often see excellent dogs producing progeny that are disappointing, and although you may not know the dogs themselves, you may know their progeny
  • Look at the vertical pedigree. It will show you all full siblings to the dogs in the pedigree. Even if you don’t know all the dogs, you may have known some of their siblings.
  • Have a look at the parents’ age at birth. Serious breeders will not breed a very young or very old bitch – if they do, there will be very good, public, reasons for doing so. Older males will normally be less fertile than younger ones, but not always, and using older males may have positive implications for longevity.
  • Look at the offspring of ancestors repeating in the pedigree. Some of them may be extremely influential in the breed. You will not do the breed any favours by increasing their influence.
  • A look at the sire and damline in Ancestors will give you a fairly good idea of how breeders in these lines have thought. If most dogs are from one or two kennels, there’s a big risk they are heavily inbred. You may well expect low genetic diversity, but dogs will be very similar. On the other hand, if the lines are spread out all over different kennels, you will probably get lots of variation in the offspring as well. Lack of other kennels in pedigrees are often an indication that kennel blindness has occured with the breeder.
  • Have a look at the breeders listed in the main pedigree. Are most of them people you feel comfortable talking with? Will they provide information on their dogs in the pedigree? Have they provided longevity information? It’s always a good idea to talk to breeders of older dogs to get an idea about temperament, longevity, diseases and what kind of dogs they really were. Be wary of breeders who either don’t know or don’t want to share their information. They may not have something to hide, but often they do.

Blog post written by Per Arne Flatberg. Opinions expressed are those of the author.