Many people thing that it would be nice to breed from their dog, without realising the responsibility and often heartache that goes hand-in-hand with Dog Breeding.
First Time Breeder
Visitors to the site have asked about breeding. I do not consider myself a qualified expert, but I have bred a single litter. I've decided to post a summary here and hope that it proves helpful to people thinking of breeding for the first time. Elsewhere in this section we will post articles from more experienced breeders which we hope will prove informative and helpful.
In 1987 I sought to buy in a third Afghan from a successful kennel. I already had a bitch and a dog from another leading kennel carrying very close/similar family bloodlines to those of the new dog I was seeking. When asked why I wanted one of their dogs, I responded honestly by stating that their breeding was the line I liked and I might want to breed at a later date. Back came the question "why do you want to breed?"
I remember thinking at the time that that was an impertinent question, why should I have to explain to this kennel my reasons for potentially becoming a breeder? The dialogue continued, uncomfortably for me, because I wasn't expecting or prepared for the kennels challenge to my breeding ambitions. Eventually they agreed to "put me on the list". In the event, I never heard anymore until, one day at a show, the breeder of my other two Afghans approached me and said that such and such a kennel had a super Afghan available and they knew I would like him. So I telephoned them, reminded them that they said they would "put me on the list" etc. They apologised and stated they had lost the list. Anyway, I visited them and their kennels and duly returned with the puppy (and bloodlines) I had originally sought. Just to complete this story, the puppy had in fact been reserved/ordered by a well known exhibitor, who changed their mind.
Although I still do not like the challenge, years on, and wiser, I can perhaps better understand why the challenge was made. Incidentally, these particular breeders are very responsible, they register their Afghans with "endorsements", such as not allowed to breed from (in fact my dog from them was registered with that endorsement, not a problem as I have no plans to breed from him), and not allowed to export etc. They always take back their stock if the owner is unable to continue to own and care for it. In one instance, they went to enormous expense to go overseas, to buy back and bring back home one of their Afghans that had ended up in an unsatisfactory situation. Thus, these breeders, deservedly, have my respect.
In 1989 I bred my first, and to date, only litter. Why did I breed? Because I liked the type of Afghan my bitch represented and I wanted a daughter from her that I could both exhibit and potentially breed on to continue the line. Why didn't I buy in? Because I wanted to breed, I wanted to act God (i.e. decide the mating, create Afghan Adam and Afghan Eve), I wanted to produce a successful show dog, not just as exhibitor, but as a breeder. I believed I had a good, honest reason and purpose for wanting to breed.
Was I prepared for breeding? Absolutely not! Of course, at the time, I thought I was prepared. I read up on the subject, I spent weeks searching for the Sire-to-be and studying pedigrees, I consulted with friends who had bred, I knew what equipment I needed, whelping box etc, I involved my Vet from beginning to end. Sounds good - what wasn't I prepared for? I didn't expect to make three trips to the stud dog, first time he was not interested, second time success, third time to re-mate just in case the first one was a day or so out. I didn't understand why when the puppies were born I had trouble keeping them warm (despite a breeder's heat lamp over the whelping box). The explanation was that the bitch's milk did not come down until 24 hours after she whelped. I of course called the Vet early, who described my prize Afghans as "looking like rats" (friendly statement), and equipped me there and then with little feeding bottles and feed. I didn't expect to have to keep up 2/4 hour feeds, round the clock for the next 10 days (and still go to do a job of work, devoid of sleep).
I didn't realise just how quick they grow, how their feeding needs change. I fussed like hell, drove my bitch mad who started to ignore the puppies and me in an attempt to get some peace and quiet.
I didn't "book" any sales in advance, response to the advertisement was poor. I ended up keeping 4 of the 7 puppies. I did find three good "Afghan" homes for the three I sold. I was warned by friends about these considerations, but my enthusiasm (determination) to breed perhaps caused me to not fully consider the wisdom of their words. At the end of the day it worked out, and whilst I have more Afghans than I would like in the house, I would not be without any of them now. Did I get what I wanted from the breeding? Yes, I got a good bitch, but she does not enjoy showing, so was retired early. As a bonus I got an exciting silver dog which I still show. And I have the bloodlines if I ever decide to breed again.
Will I breed again? I don't know. Over a year ago I wanted a bitch to show (noting my own bred bitch doesn't like showing), and after my experience of breeding I decided to buy in again. All I do know is that any future breeding will be a long considered decision, and hopefully, involve better preparation.
So You Want To Breed
The first question you should perhaps be asking yourself is, "WHY do I want to breed?"
There is much more to having a litter of puppies than just putting two dogs together. Everybody knows there are breeders and then there are breeders! A responsible breeder will ensure that they raise healthy, well-adjusted puppies which will eventually go to good loving homes. But if you have never bred before - where do you start?
Many people contact a breeder and ask for help in looking for a stud dog for their pet bitch. I expect many receive quite a blunt reply? "DonÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢t!" Although this is not a very helpful reply, it is understandable when you realise these knowledgeable and experienced breeders are tired of rescuing the dogs and hearing about the problem and unhealthy dogs bred by people who breed for what they consider the "wrong" reasons.
"For the money"
Breeding responsibly is expensive. First you have the cost of the health tests to ensure the bitch is fit and healthy and not prone to hereditary diseases known in that breed. Then you have the stud fee, the vet's bills, the extra food for mum and the food for the pups, the worming, the time off work (if you work) to care for the mum and pups, Kennel Club registrations, all the extra washing of bedding. Then of course there's the equipment - the whelping box, special heating if it's cold, play pens, etc. And that's only if everything goes smoothly. If there are problems at whelping you are then likely to incur extremely large vet bills. Have you looked into the cost of a caesarean? Have you thought what would happen if you lost the mum and had to hand rear the puppies? Or you might go to all these expenses and lose all the puppies. Then there is the cost of advertising the puppies when they are ready to leave.
Some breeds are vaccinated BEFORE they leave home which is yet more money. All pups should be health checked by the vet, some breeds require eye and heart checks in particular. And remember these days, if you sell an unhealthy puppy you can get sued by the new owner.
"Our child wants to see the joys of birth"
Seeing the miracle of birth isn't always all it's cracked up to be. It's messy, bloody and usually happens throughout the night. There could be complications meaning several trips to the vets, a possible caesarean, there could be dead puppies and at times even the bitch can die.
There are videos and books available to show children what birth is like without the responsibility and expense of raising puppies.
"I want another dog just like Suzy"
There's no guarantee that there will be "another Suzy" in the litter and your puppies have a 50/50 chance of all taking after the sire! Suzy is unique and there will never be another dog exactly the same but you do have more chance of getting a dog similar to Suzy by returning to the breeder to see if she will be doing a repeat mating between Suzy's sire and dam. It will also be a lot cheaper and far less hassle to buy one!
"All our friends want one"
You'll be amazed at how these friends evaporate when the puppies are born. Just wait until your litter of ten or more puppies is ready to go to their homes and watch all those people back out with excuses such as "The kids aren't old enough"; "The kids are too old now to be bothered with caring for a dog"; "We are going to have a baby"; "The rug is too new"; "The house is too small"; "We'll be moving in 3 months"; "Grandma doesn't like dogs"; "Our old dog hasn't died yet"; "It might not get along with the cat", and the list goes on!
"Suzy will be so much better if she has just one litter"
This is an old wives tale. A bitch's health is not improved by having puppies and it could even have the opposite effect, putting her at risk of mammary cancer or pyometra and of course a complicated whelping process. Neither will it settle a hyper-active bitch down.
Other considerations are:
Are you squeamish? As mentioned whelping can be very messy with a lot of blood. Could you cope with life-threatening problems that can't wait for a vet? Could you help with a breach birth? Or revive a puppy by a "swinging" method? Do you panic easily?
What would you do if the mum refuses to clean or even feed the puppies? Have you got enough space ? where will the bitch have the puppies and where will they be when they are 5+ weeks old, running around creating havoc? Do you realise just how much mess puppies of that age make?! Larger breeds will quite often have 10 or more puppies - what would you do if you can't sell them? Or if the new owner comes back 6 months later saying "I don't want him any more, you'll have to take him back"?
While having a litter of puppies can bring some wonderful times, such as watching a litter of healthy, fat pups suckling from their healthy mum, or the marvellous sweet aroma of puppy breath, these are very small consolations to all the hard work and heartbreak that goes into the breeding of most puppy litters. Before breeding you must also remember that thousands of dogs end up in a rescue kennel, and many are euthanased because there are simply not enough homes for all of them.
So, after considering all the above you feel that your reasons for breeding are good enough, and that you have the time and money to do it, where do you start?
Your next question should be "is my bitch really good enough?" To find out, read our article "The Brood Bitch"
The Brood Bitch
If you are serious about breeding, and wish to do so responsibly and to a high standard, then there are a number of factors that must be taken into consideration. These standards apply to all breedings, especially those of puppies intended to be "just" pets (or in other words, life-long and very important members of a family).
One of the first considerations is whether or not your bitch is good enough to breed. What does that mean? Your girl looks lovely and has a wonderful temperament, she is always getting compliments from everybody who meets her so she MUST be good enough to breed from! Well, not necessarily.
Even if you are not trying to breed a dog that can win in the show ring, you should still wish to breed puppies which are true to their standard in respect of appearance, physical ability and behaviour (if you don't then you should not be breeding). This is an official standard issued by The Kennel Club, to which all dogs are judged against. If bitches and dogs that do not conform to the standard are used in a breeding programme, very soon the quality of the breed will be lost, and with it the breed you originally fell in love with. Therefore the first place to start is to learn the breed standard and to understand it. This knowledge is best learnt around the show ring. You don't even have to show if you don't want to, but sit around the ring, watch the dogs being shown, try to see and understand why the judge has placed the dogs in the order he did. Talk to other people sitting around the ring, you might strike lucky and happen to be sitting next to a very experienced breeder!
Another place to learn is through one of the official breed clubs. They will be able to give you advice and information and also put you in touch with a local experienced breeder.
The next step is to have somebody experienced evaluate your bitch. If she originally came from a responsible breeder, then that is obviously the first place to start. However, if this is not possible, you must find an experienced breeder/judge who is willing to evaluate her and give you an honest opinion. The important thing is to listen to this opinion, even if it is not what you wanted to hear! If you don't understand anything they say, then simply ask them to clarify what they mean or why they say it. Be sure you understand what they say and why they say it. If you do not like their opinion, or do not agree with it, do not simply ignore it and breed anyway - get a second opinion! But if that second opinion agrees with the first, then, please, do NOT breed from your bitch. If you are intent on breeding you should try to find another bitch, one that IS suitable for breeding.
So, you have had your bitch evaluated and was told that they believed her to be a good representative of the breed. What next?
Next come the tests! The majority of breeds have defects which are inherited, such as hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, etc., within the breed. It is not possible to tell if a dog is a carrier (one who does not show the defect but carries the gene and can therefore pass it on to its progeny), but the goal of responsible breeders is to try and prevent serious genetic diseases and defects. They do this by having their veterinarian perform tests their breeding dogs and only breeding from those with favourable results.
To find out what problems are common in your breed, which tests are usually run, and at what age they are done, contact the breed club or an experienced breeder.
Finally, you must decide WHEN to breed her. Bitches must not be bred before they are mature enough. At what age they mature tends to differ greatly between breeds. Toy breeds often mature quicker than large breed, but whatever your breed no bitch should be mated before it is one year old. With medium and larger sized dogs it is usually after two years of age. Once again ask either the club or an experienced breeder which is the best time to mate your bitch.
So, you have had your bitch evaluated by an experienced person who has intimate knowledge of your breed, and had all the necessary health checks done, and she has "passed" with flying colours, she is in excellent condition, fit and healthy, and mature enough to breed from - now you must find a stud dog which is suitable for her!
The Stud Dog - Fame, Fortune or Responsibility?
Owners of male pedigree dogs can become involved in stud dog work by choice or chance, but either way the responsibility is great. Some owners believe that owning a stud dog is a ticket to fame and fortune - a lucrative income for little effort plus a boost to the ego by becoming well known.
The reality is often very, very different.
Although the breeder of puppies should assume responsibility for all puppies they have sold, some turn their back once the puppy has left the premises. The owner of the sire is therefore second in line of responsibility for these pups. Why should breed Welfare or Rescue pick up the pieces when it was a JOINT decision to create puppies? Although some stud dog owners successfully dodge the issue, the responsibility is still there and needs to be taken seriously no matter how many excuses are offered.
Obviously, any dog used for breeding should have quality, and be typical and sound in both mind and body. However, soundness of mind is not always judged correctly. Just because a dog allows a judge to inspect it at a show does NOT indicate that the dog has a good temperament. Behaviour outside the ring and on home ground is far more revealing. Anyone who has attended a show will have witnessed male dogs `taking off` with their owners when the owners least expect it. This is usually in pursuit of a totally innocent passing dog, and is unacceptable and very embarrassing. How often these owners excuse the behaviour as due to a bitch in season in the vicinity. Far from being good stud dog material, these are the least desirable breeding stock. Unruly behaviour from males may well be evident because of lack of training, but it also indicates a stubborn and wilful character. Would you really like this trait passed on to puppies?
Quite apart from the temperament anomalies they may pass on, these dogs are clearly NOT A GOOD ADVERTISEMENT FOR THE BREED.
The decision to use a dog at stud can have far reaching consequences for the owner, the dog concerned and the breed.
Pedigree dog owners sometimes evolve into novice breeders as a natural progression of their interest in the breed, But make no mistake - allowing, or promoting, the use of a dog at stud is a serious business. The prospect of earning stud fees as a welcome additional income, plus the added bonus of achieving a higher personal profile within the breed circle is tempting. Breeding dogs should be a natural and easy process, but that is not always the case. Stud owners very quickly wake up to the stark reality of breeding. The stud fee is small recompense for inconvenience, complications and general hassle.
Although dogs cannot be expected to act like robots, a booking made for a stud dog is an agreement to provide a service (in more ways than the obvious!). The stud owner is expected to give some degree of assurance that his dog is capable of an efficient mating - sometimes to a difficult bitch - at the optimum time. This means last minute arrangements, the provision of hospitality for the visiting party if things don`t go according to plan and a businesslike professionalism for what you thought was a simple hobby.
The health status of the stud dog must be beyond question to ensure that his fertility is confirmed and the risk of passing infection between visiting bitches is avoided. Even when all this is in place many things can go wrong. The dog may be disinclined or incapable of mating a particular bitch, whereby the `fortune` of the expected stud fee doesn`t materialise despite the time and effort invested. If a mating doesn`t take place due to fault or error by the stud, then the bitch owner has to wait 6 months before trying to mate their bitch again with the same or alternative dog. Don`t expect that breeder to be happy about the lost opportunity. Fame can quickly turn into infamy! Both owner and failed stud dog may just as well crawl under the nearest stone, Male dogs with more than a passing interest in any four legged creature which comes within sight are often considered ideal candidates for stud work. How wrong this is. An uncontrollable, oversexed male dog is no good to anyone, and certainly does no favours to the breed. Some male dogs experience the `joys of sex` with few changes to their character,behaviour and manageability, but many undergo changes which their owners regret.
Indeed, some dogs think of nothing else and constantly exhibit inappropriate sexual activity which can be directed at dogs, people or anything else that takes his fancy. It is not just these dogs which suffer stress and frustration - the owners suffer to an even greater degree and there is NO going back. The damage is done - your male dog will NEVER be the same again. If you own a perfect companion who is well mannered, totally under control and a joy to live with then he certainly has something desirable to offer the breed. But, if your life with him is so good, do you really want to risk upsetting the perfect relationship and a change in his priorities? Allowing your dog to mate a bitch, even if it is just once, is a decision which MUST be right. Look at your dog honestly and try to think of the implications.
You may happen to own a pedigree dog with outstanding qualities and he may go on to be in demand as a potential suitor to a regular succession of amorous, visiting bitches. Unfortunately, the sad truth is that very, VERY few dogs attract a constant stream of girls to keep him satisfied. It is unfair to introduce a male dog to sex only to leave him frustrated and confused when his sexual needs are unfulfilled. It really is fairer to keep him in a state of semi-ignorance. You have to make the right decision for your dog.
Don`t consider what YOU will get out of the deal, be realistic about what HE will gain. Pressure to use the dog, perhaps by a friend or influential breeder, is difficult to resist but be assured ONCE IS NEVER ENOUGH to satisfy the dog! Above all, assess his temperament and your control over him and if you think his attitude is wrong DON`T USE HIM.
Any and ALL pedigree breeds will thrive and improve only by careful selection of breeding stock. An in-depth knowledge of pedigrees and bloodlines, and the recognition and recording of faults and virtues is not a reserved activity for a special few people. There is a wealth of information out there if breeders and stud owners are interested enough to look, listen and ask. And they SHOULD be interested to look, listen and ask! Everyone involved in breeding needs to be more selective about which dogs and bitches are bred from, and stud owners have often been criticised for accepting any bitch offered to their male dog. Doubtless many owners are flattered that their dog is the chosen one, some may feel awkward and embarrassed about refusing a bitch whilst others are focussed only on the stud fee. It is widely accepted that too many inferior canines are bred from, and stud owners could make a significant difference to the future of the breed by adopting a selection process for bitches accepted for mating.
A trend has developed over the past few years for some stud owners to offer special deals to bitch owners. A ploy which seems solely for the purpose of attracting more `business` - use the stud dog now and pay the stud fee when the puppies are sold is akin to high street credit offers which encourage people to live and spend beyond their means. Breeding pedigree dogs and rearing a litter is an expensive indulgence and breeders are not well advised to cut corners or do it on a shoestring. Welfare and Rescue often have to provide help because too many breeders cut corners and cannot finance a back up service for the dogs they breed. Delaying payment of an initial expense only entices more people (bitch owners) to breed when they may otherwise have avoided breeding because of the financial burden and risk.
Another increasingly common occurrence is for the stud owner to loan out his male, for days on end, to anyone who wants to get their bitch mated with the least effort. This may be seen as a generous act of convenience between friends, but it happens all too often between owners who are at best acquaintances across the showring and at worst all but complete strangers. Clearly, some owners are unconcerned at the disruption and varied levels of care and accommodation offered to their `prized canine asset` when away from home. A canine `Club 18 - 30 holiday` it sure ain`t! A few unfortunate dogs seem to be handed on from breeder to breeder, spending precious little time at home for weeks on end. With seemingly little attachment and commitment to their own dog, these owners may not care too much about the future of the breed either.
A healthy future for pedigree dogs will only be assured if ALL of us involved in our chosen breeds adopt and maintain high standards of care and welfare of our own dogs AND constantly upgrade our selection process and breeding practises.
The Stud Dog - Slip Matings, Substitutes and a Steak Aphrodisiac!
Offering your dog at stud, or promoting a stud `service` may seem a simple and straight forward enough activity, but it can be laced with problems and pitfalls. Many times things DO according to plan - nature has a way of ensuring the future of the species and most dogs are (not surprisingly!) capable of procreating without human interference (although breeders will undoubtedly describe their involvement as help!)
Most breeders would describe a "good" mating as one which achieves a "tie". The male dog has a gland at the base of his penis - the bulbus glandis - and when the aroused male penetrates the bitch during copulation and achieves a full erection, the gland enlarges to the size of a golf ball (in a Labrador sized dog). The muscular walls of the bitch's vagina grip the swollen bulb, so preventing the dog from withdrawing and maintaining the tie. The tie can last for just a few minutes up to an hour or so.
The ejaculate of a dog is passed in three fractions. The first fraction of clear fluid is virtually sperm free. The second fraction is richest in sperm, and is released immediately after thrusting. The third fraction is a larger quantity of prostatic fluid containing some sperm, and this is delivered as an intermittent 'drip feed` which helps transport the sperm to the oviduct. Whilst most breeders would feel happiest if their bitch and chosen stud achieve a tie, a tie is not essential for conception. Many litters are born from slip matings and some stud dogs never, ever, achieve a tie yet consistently sire litters.
There are many reasons why a tie does not occur. Sometimes it is sheer inexperience on the part of the male dog, the bitch, or even the owners/handlers who are present to oversee or help with the proceedings! Occasionally a bitch may be found to have a stricture - a narrowing within the vagina which prevents deep penetration by a male. Most commonly a failure to tie is because the bulb at the base of the dogs penis swells outside of the bitch so preventing deep penetration, or the bitch fails to stand still long enough to allow the 'mechanics' of the tie to take place.
Some bitch owner's are disappointed when one or more slip matings are all that is achieved after numerous mating attempts. As ovulation in the bitch occurs for just a few days there is a time element involved in obtaining a mating during that most fertile time. This has led some owners to embark upon a course of action which is, at best, sheer recklessness and at worse a confirmation that they are prepared to resort to desperate measures to try to ensure a litter, any litter!
Despite the slip matings achieved between their bitch and the chosen stud, some owners have taken their bitch off to 'liaison' with a second stud dog in the hope that the dog chosen from the "substitute's bench" will achieve a tie before ovulation ceases.
Some owners of bitches may believe that a slip mating cannot be classified as a mating at all. That is untrue.
Any interaction between the male dog and the bitch which involves his penis penetrating her vagina, is a mating.
Some owners of bitches may believe that a slip mating, even a momentary slip mating, does not involve the "delivery" of any sperm. That is untrue.
Even unsuccessful attempts at mating usually involve partial ejaculation by the male and so any subsequent attempts which achieve penetration ARE likely to introduce sperm into the bitch.
Any penetration of the bitch, by a male dog, MUST be counted as a mating and therefore it must be viewed as unethical to mate the bitch to a different male during the same season. Quite apart from the question of paternity, there is a very real risk of passing on infection.
The Kennel Club Form 1 Application for Litter Registration by the Breeder clause 16 states: "If a bitch has been served by more than one dog in the same heat the name of all dogs must be given when the litter is being registered unless there is scientific evidence identifying a single sire".
Although the provision to name two possible sires is available, it is impossible to comprehend that any conscientious, ethical dog breeder would want to risk the validity of their pedigrees nor damage their "breeder credibility" by organising the canine "three partner liaison" let alone putting two names down as sire(s) of a litter. Canine DNA tests are now available to determine parentage, and although some breeders have used this test to unravel a dual partner mating conundrum, it does NOTHING to enhance the reputation of the bitch owner nor the owner of the second choice, second service stud. Most of us would want to believe that it is highly unlikely that any true breed enthusiast would knowingly participate in such a complicated and highly criticised action, yet, undoubtedly, some long established (and less experienced) breeders and stud owners have engaged and condoned this unusual and frowned upon practise.
It is, indeed, an act of desperation When numerous attempts for a mating between the bitch and chosen stud fail, all sorts of advice and "old wives tales" emerge. Many ideas are not practical, some are downright ridiculous, and quite a few are hilarious (but that's a whole new article!). One piece of advice I heard recently is, however, potentially fatal, and therefore must be mentioned. The inexperienced owner of an inexperienced stud dog was becoming increasingly embarrassed when her male managed to achieve a few slip matings but not a tie, despite numerous attempts made over 2 days to mate a maiden bitch. After another session of unsuccessful attempts, advice was sought. The stud owner was told to feed her large breed male dog a pound of raw steak, wait 20 minutes and then encourage him to mount the bitch and try yet again.
Anyone who owns a breed known to be at risk from Bloat (sometimes known as Gastric Dilatation, olvulus or Torsion) should be aware that allowing their dog to exercise with a full stomach MUST ALWAYS be prevented. Any exertion and excitement should be avoided for a few hours before and after the dog is fed. This, of course, includes mating. A stud dog with a stomach full of food, or even half full of food is not likely to be at his best and the likelihood of gastric torsion being brought on by the sexual activity, the mating "dance", is a very real, very high risk, danger. No mating is so important that a dog should be put at risk of losing its life.
What is a Pedigree?
Most people are justifiably proud of that large, mysterious piece of paper with a list of strange sounding names, some of them printed in red ink. What exactly is this paper that seems so impressive? What does it really mean?
Very simply, a pedigree is a record of your dog's ancestors -- sire (father), dam (mother), grandsire, granddam, great grandsire and so forth. Every creature, animal, plant or human, has a pedigree, but unless someone takes the trouble to write it down and keep track of it, the information is lost in the mists of memory and time.
The Kennel Club's registration system keeps track of pedigrees, recording your dog's name and details such as registered name, age, breed, sex, colour, sire and dam.
What a pedigree doesn't tell you is very important! Any pure-bred dog who meets The Kennel Club's requirements for registration may be registered and receive "papers". The papers can't tell you if the dog is of good quality or if it even looks like the breed it is supposed to be.
All it can tell you is that the dog is registered and his records are kept on file. Most people misunderstand this important point! Many, many poor quality dogs are AKC registered. You can't judge a dog's quality from looking at only his registration papers or pedigree.
With this in mind, you now know that a pedigree can only tell you who your dog's ancestors were - it can't tell you if they were of good quality, what they looked like or whether they may have had inherited health or temperament problems that they passed on to their descendants.
If your dog serves you well as a pet and companion, you may not care about finding out more about his family. However, if you intend to breed or show your dog, then getting accurate information about his background is crucial! You'll need to do much, much more than just memorise the names on his pedigree.
To find out more about the dogs in the pedigree, you should see his sire and dam firsthand. The breeder should be able to tell you where to find your dog's grandparents as well. For information on dogs further back in the pedigree, you may have to resort to books and magazines about your breed. Contact the breed club to find veteran breeders who can give you the history on dogs now deceased. Pictures can only give you part of the story. You need to talk to people who have first hand knowledge of what the dogs were really like.
What does CH mean? CH is the abbreviation for Champion, a title that makes everyone's heart beat a little faster! A pedigree filled with champions, their names written in red ink, is an impressive sight indeed.
A champion is a dog who has defeated other dogs at Championship shows to win the required number of "Challenge Certificates" to achieve the title. It can be easier to achieve the title in some breeds than others. Is a champion a dog of exceptional quality? Sometimes, and sometimes not. A champion is only as good as the competition he beats. Having the title doesn't tell you whether he actually deserved it.
A championship title can't tell you if the dog was good breeding stock or if he/she had inherited defects that were passed on to its puppies. Only first hand knowledge from people that actually knew the dog can tell you that.
In short, a pedigree is a tool to help breeders produce better dogs. It is a starting point for research. A pedigree by itself doesn't mean much. Without knowing what the dogs in the pedigree were really like, a pedigree is just an impressive list of names!
References: Based on an article by Vicki Rodenberg, Chairman of the Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee.