Susan F. Mechem - copyright 1994
This article won first prize in the CompuServe DOGS Forum writing contest in 1994.  It has been publsished in both the Tibetan Terrier Club of America JOURNAL and the Tibetan Terrier Association (England) Annual YEARBOOK.


The dog breeder is like the matchmaker of the old European and Asian cultures; it was her job to research family backgrounds, values and financial status to establish a compatible alliance between both bride and groom and their families.  Similarly, the dog breeder should research the background of the dog(s) to be bred for physical and mental qualities that  will  enhance the characteristics of the breed.  The pedigree, a family tree of your dog's immediate ancestor's,  is the breeders'  major research tool.


When you purchased your dog, you should have received and filled out his AKC Registration papers.  You probably also received a copy of the dog's pedigree; the TTCA GUIDELINES FOR RESPONSIBLE BREEDERS recommends breeders furnish one.  You can also  obtain a certified PEDIGREE from the AKC, 5580 Centerview Drive, Raleigh, NC 27606. Enclose a check or credit card information along with your dog's registered name, date of birth and registration number as shown on his registration. Prices (in 1994) are:

· 3 generations  (plain) $15.00  (with coat colors) $20.00
· 4 generations  (plain) $25.00 (with coat colors) $32.00
Neither registration papers nor the pedigree guarantees a dog's quality. The registration merely means your dog's records are kept on file with the AKC; the pedigree is essentially a copy of those records as received from the owners of the ancestors of your dogs.  AKC -- and other registry bodies -- assumes the records they have received are correct.


As you look at a pedigree, you should first confirm the name of the dog, his date of birth (also called Date whelped), color, gender, registration number and breed. If the pedigree is for an adult dog, you should look for any championship titles and OFA or CERF information. In a pedigree from AKC this information can be found at the top of the form. Other pedigrees may show this in a block at the bottom or on the left.

The body of all pedigrees consists of groupings of dogs' names. On the far left you will find a column of two names; the sire's (father's) will be the upper name and the dam's (mother's) will be the lower name. Any titles (conformation championship or obedience titles) are normally included as part of the names.  The column to the immediate right will contain four names. The first two will be the sire (on top) and the dam (second) of your dog's sire; the second two will be the sire (third name down) and the dam (bottom name) of your dog's dam. In other words, the first two names in the second column are your dog's paternal grandparents and the second two names are your dog's maternal grandparents.  Each column to the right shows the previous generation.


Beauty, Brains and Achievements

Do you see "CH" preceding many names on the pedigree? If so you know that many dogs in the family have been conformation champion "show dogs." This does not mean they are necessarily top specimens.  It does mean that the owners have had the fortitude and finances to complete the championships and that the dog was probably a reasonably good representative of the breed.  Unless you are familiar with the dog’s show career and the competition he showed against you cannot tell how good he is or was. The dogs without titles may have been as good as - even better than - the ones who became champions, but it will be harder to learn about them.

Initials following the dog's name are often titles relating to training. Most commonly they are Obedience titles: CD, CDX, UD, TD, and UDX. NAD, OAD, ADX and MAX are titles in the new field of Agility. Some breeds can also earn special titles relating to their function such as herding, field work, etc.

Pedigrees from a breeder may also show titles awarded by organizations other than the AKC. The TTCA recognizes breeding accomplishments by adding ROM (Register of Merit) to the name of a male who has produced five champions or a bitch who has produced three champions. The Versatility Award is a club title for a Tibetan who has earned the ROM, a conformation title and an obedience title.  CGC stands for Canine Good Citizen and shows the dog and owner passed a test developed by AKC proving responsible ownership including basic training and "good manners" in public. TDI shows certification by Therapy Dog International; the dog must pass a test similar to the CGC test and show he can negotiate, without upsets, infirm people, wheelchairs, walkers, crutches and other obstacles. A certified "Therapy Dog" is welcome to visit patients in many hospitals, nursing homes, child care facilities and the like. Similar to TDI are the ThD of Love on A Leash and the AAT (Animal Assisted Therapy) of the Delta Society.


Registry organizations have no way of knowing your dog’s health. However, AKC does receive information from the OFA and CERF on dogs who pass exams and are, at the time of exam, clinically clear of hip and eye problems and include the information on the pedigrees if it has been submitted. Many breeders put this information on pedigrees as well. Remember, though, a dog who is clinically clear may still be able to produce those problems

Type of Breeding

You can tell if your dog is inbred, linebred, or outcrossed. If you see the same dog's name several times in pedigree and he/she has been bred to brothers, sisters, parents or his own offspring you are looking at the pedigree of a dog who is INBRED.  If the same dog appears several times but has been bred to half-siblings, grandparents, grandchildren or cousins then the dog is considered LINEBRED.  If no names appear more than once, the dog is considered OUTCROSSED.  The more common ancestors you find in a pedigree, the greater the chances are that the genes will have "doubled up" and will not only be evident in the inbred dog but s/he will more likely be dominant for these characteristics. This can be good if you are trying to develop consistent size, coat, personality or other desirable traits; however you may also be "doubling up" on undesirable traits such as PRA, crooked teeth or other traits that will be brought to the surface instead of remaining hidden.


My own preference is to work with a pedigree that shows at least five or six generations. It is helpful to have a lot paper for note-taking; although I store a lot of information in my computer, I find it much easier to do this project on paper.  In order to a pedigree I take the largest blank pedigree form  I can get and fill in the names. Then I make notes about all of the dogs. Some characteristics I note in a personal "shorthand" and others are just short phrases. Everything, good and bad, is included. At the very least I will have hip and eye information. Some things I look for include: size,  jaw closure, missing or scrambled teeth, color and markings, coat volume and texture, comments on general structure and movement, personality,  show records or special awards, known siblings or offspring and pertinent facts about them, and whether I have personally seen the dog. Often I end up having a least one additional sheet of paper for some dogs or putting the information on note cards that I spread out on a table the way a pedigree is set up.

Finding the Information

What do you do if you do not have the dogs in your house to look at? Ask questions of the person from whom you got your dog. Talk to the people who own(ed) and/or bred the parents and other ancestors and ask about your relatives. Look at dogs in the ring and make notes. Although there are not many books on the breed, those that we do have are full of photos and many descriptions of the dogs who may be in your pedigree. The TTCA JOURNAL now has photos and pedigrees of the dogs who finish conformation or obedience titles during the year and lists the dogs passing OFA and CERF.  The TTCA YEARBOOKS from present and past years are available from the club sales agent. Videos from past and current specialties are still available for purchase. Look at show catalogs or other pedigrees carefully to find possible relatives of your dog.  Write to people who may have information they would be willing to share. Look in the AKC GAZETTE which lists all new champions with the sire and dam and periodically prints the OFA and CERF updates for all breeds.

You may find information in surprising places. Talk with people you don't know if they have a Tibetan in tow or are standing ringside watching judging. My vet will casually palpate hips and check under the fall when she treats a TT and would alert  me as well as the owner if anything looks suspicious. She takes mental notes and tells me things about the few Tibetans I bred that she has for clients that the owners would either not know about or think to tell me. For example, I learned the half-brother to a dog I lost under anesthetic was himself very slow to come out when he was neutered.  An inquiry about Tibetans on a computer bulletin board generated responses from a couple of pet owners. One turned out to own a pup my male sired in an outside stud service and I am finding out what characteristics of my line are showing up in a pet 600 miles away that I will never see. The other was a granddaughter of a dog I had used as stud and I was able to add to the list of X-rayed and clear-eyed offspring for that dog.

Using the Information

Write down everything you have learned in your research. Be sure to indicate if the information is absolute fact, is based on first-hand observation,  is your personal opinion or is facts or opinions obtained from outside sources.
Now your real work begins!  Look for qualities, favorable AND unfavorable, that endure from generation to generation. You will find that some characteristics will dominate for several generations or among close relatives while others crop up very rarely.

 If you are studying your own dog’s pedigree you will be able to get an idea of what your dog is likely to produce or carries the potential to produce.  If you are studying the pedigree of someone else’s dog, you can intelligently guess the same about him/her. Of course this is helpful if you are looking for a mate for your dog as you can look for pedigrees containing dogs who have produced qualities you seek  to add, intensify or avoid. It is just as helpful if you are looking to acquire a new addition as you will be aware of the traits apt to show up in the families of dogs you may be considering.

To become a real student of the breed do not limit your study to just a few pedigrees. You will be surprised at what you can learn by researching the pedigrees of other dogs.  What is behind your competition’s stock -- find out and you may learn the strong and weak points of your competition.  (If they have great rears and not so good coats, you know to be competitive your dog must have a great rear and will have an advantage if he has a nice coat.)  What is behind dogs who were great winners or known as great producers in the past -- find out and you may find their descendants in unexpected places. (Did you know CH. Luneville Prince Khan, the foundation of the Luneville line, was sired by a Lamleh dog?) Do you wish you could use a dog for breeding who is not available to you -- research his pedigree and you may be able to find close relatives that may carry the traits you admire. (CH. Kyirong’s Shadrach of Camelot is no longer available for breeding but his owner continues to breed his descendants and has placed them in many parts of the country.)

Happy researching! And remember, if you are studying pedigrees with thoughts of breeding, the number of champions in any dog's pedigree is the last thing you should consider. The most vital considerations are the quality, temperament, and health of the dog, his parents and grandparents and all their littermates.