We were walking through the Wonderopolis park the other day when we overheard a couple of dogs having an interesting conversation:

Poodle: Excuse me! Do you have papers?

Mutt: Papers? What papers? Newspaper? Do you have to go potty or something?

Poodle: Of course not! I wouldn't think of going potty in front of all these other dogs!

Mutt: What do you need papers for then? You want to draw or something?

Poodle: No, not drawing papers! Pedigree papers. I was curious about your breed.

Mutt: Little old me? I'm 100% pure mutt and proud of it!

Poodle: A mutt? Don't you wish you were a purebred poodle like me?

Mutt: Not if I had to wear my hair like that to the park!

The mutt has a point, but there are many dog owners who care a lot about papers. What kind of papers? Like the poodle said, pedigree papers!

A pedigree — sometimes referred to as a dog's “papers" — is simply a document that details a dog's ancestry. Ideally, it would contain the name of the dog, its registration number, and the same information for its parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on.

Of course, a dog's complete lineage is not always known. A pedigree might contain very little information, or it could contain information for generations upon generations. A pedigree tells a dog's owner a lot about its breed and the kind of animals it came from.

This information can be important when choosing a purebred dog. Ancestry information can tell a potential owner whether a dog can be expected to be healthy or whether there might be genetic problems to be aware of.

People purchasing a purebred dog to breed or as a show animal will want to examine its pedigree very closely. The offspring of show dog champions might be rightfully expected to follow in the footsteps — pawsteps? — of its parents.

Having a particular pedigree is no guarantee of a dog's quality or value, though. Just because its parents were champion show dogs doesn't mean their offspring will be the same. Likewise, having extremely healthy parents doesn't mean that a puppy won't have health problems.

In fact, you can go to any animal shelter around and find dogs who aren't purebreds — dogs with mixed ancestry (sometimes called mutts) or of unknown lineage — who will make perfectly healthy and maybe even show champion quality pets. If that's the case, why would you want a purebred dog?

Some people like particular breeds because of the way that they look. Others know that particular breeds are very good with children or are awesome hunters. If you're looking for a particular breed of dog for certain qualities, a dog's pedigree will be important to you.

If you're just looking for a faithful companion, though, you don't need a dog with a pedigree. You can find great pets just waiting to be adopted at local animal shelters. So don't forget to give these dogs a chance to win your heart when choosing a new family pet.

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