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Dog Papers: How Important Are They?

By Aviram K.
December 15, 2021
5 min read
Dog Papers: How Important Are They?
✏️ This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.
🏥 The information in this article is not a substitute for professional help.

You’ve finally made up your mind; you’re ready to get a dog!

After weeks of researching breeds and chatting with friends, you think you’ve finally figured out the perfect pup for you.

Just when you think you’ve learned all you need to know, you get hit with something new: the topic of a dog’s “papers.”

It’s brought to your attention that some dogs come with papers documenting them in an official database, and others come with no papers at all. They’re essentially “off the record.”

You start to wonder:

How important is it to buy a dog with papers…and what does this all really mean?

It is legal and totally okay to buy a dog without papers. However, a dog without papers may be more of a gamble since you can’t trace their history. Also, papers are required if you would like to show your dog or have them compete.

In this article, I will explain exactly what it means if your dog has no papers, whether it is okay to buy a dog without papers and discuss the pros and cons of dog papers.

I also will touch on the financial aspects of a dog’s papers and uncover whether you can register your dog to the Kennel Club without papers.

Lastly, I will shed light on how to tell if your dog is purebred without papers.

Sounds complicated?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ll keep this really simple.

Let’s get into it!

Table of Contents
What Does It Mean If a Dog Has No Papers?
Is It Ok to Buy a Dog Without Papers?
A Dog with Papers vs. a Dog Without
How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Purebred Without Papers?
Remember, Papers Aren’t Everything!

What Does It Mean If a Dog Has No Papers?


Maybe you’re brand new to this whole “papers” thing. It may sound intimidating, but it is actually pretty simple:

Your pup’s papers (also referred to as their pedigree) are sort of like the canine equivalent of a birth certificate. Your dog’s papers are records that officially register them with the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), and other similar organizations.

This certificate will usually list a few of your dog’s important stats, including but not limited to:

  • Your dog’s birthdate
  • Their parent’s names
  • Their breed
  • Activities or events they may have participated in
  • Special training or education

So, if a dog has no papers, this type of background information is simply not on record for them. An undocumented dog’s history, bloodline, and family tree are essentially huge question marks.

Is It Ok to Buy a Dog Without Papers?

Now that you know all that is normally listed on a dog’s papers, you may be wondering if it’s okay to buy a dog without papers.

That’s a tough one.

It is technically okay to buy a dog without papers, as in, it is totally legal and moral to do so.

However, when we buy anything in life, whether a refrigerator, car, computer…or a living breathing animal, it’s always reassuring to have the most information possible.

If your dog doesn’t have their papers, you miss out on many facts about them.

This can be concerning.

On the other hand, any “facts” reported on your dog’s papers are only as good, honest, and reliable as the humans who registered them.

Sometimes even a fully registered dog’s information can be inaccurate.

As a side note, always keep in mind that a dog without papers cannot be shown or compete. So if you feel like you may be even remotely interested in showing your dog, you may wanna stick to a pup with papers.

A Dog with Papers vs. a Dog Without


When comparing a dog with papers to one without, it can be helpful to contemplate the pros and cons.

Pros of a Dog with Papers

  • A dog with papers is virtually guaranteed to be a purebred
  • Papers give buyers quick and easy access to vital information about the dog
  • There is no need to register a dog to the Kennel Club yourself since it’s already been done
  • Dog’s with their papers may be seen as more legitimate or credible than those without
  • Having a dog’s papers enables you to show them or have them participate in competitive events

Cons of a Dog with Papers

  • Purebred dogs can be more prone to health problems and shorter life spans. But, unfortunately, dog papers don’t tell you anything about how healthy the individual puppy really is; they only give a general picture of it
  • Dogs with papers tend to be more costly than those without
  • The information on your dog’s papers may be inaccurate or falsified
  • A dog with papers is likely to have been bred with other dogs from their own bloodline, which to some may feel like “playing God”

Is a Dog with Papers Worth More Money Compared to One Without?

Although it can feel harsh and cold to determine a dog’s worth based on their papers, this can sometimes make or break the cost of a dog. Sometimes people like the added assurance and will pay more for a dog with a paper trail.

People have been known to pay top dollar, up to a million in some cases, for certain purebred dogs with papers.

It may feel slightly elitist, but people often want to know a dog’s family history for very practical reasons.

Knowing a dog’s genetics and history helps an owner to know what health problems, life expectancy, and behavioral tendencies a dog may be likely to have.

Can You Register Your Dog with the Kennel Club Without Papers?

The short answer is no.

A dog without papers cannot be registered into the Kennel Club.

One of the main benefits of a dog having papers is that the history of their family tree is traceable.

On the other hand, a puppy with no papers is a mystery…there’s no history available to track!

But you don’t have to lose heart.

If you are trying to register your dog without papers, it is always best to try your hardest to see if your dog actually _does _have papers. Reaching out to the person who sold you your dog or tracking down the original breeder is the best starting point.

Each organization is slightly different but generally, if both of a dog’s parents are not registered, their offspring can’t, unfortunately, be registered either.

How Can You Tell If Your Dog Is Purebred Without Papers?


As I stated earlier, all of the information on record about your dog is only as truthful as human reporting can be.

Papers or not, maybe you want to be sure of your dog’s origins or be certain they are purebred.

Thankfully, there are ways to do this. Some of these ways include:

Compare Your Dog to AKC Standards

The American Kennel Club has specific perimeters of what specific dog breeds normally look and act like. These standards include the details of a specific breed’s temperament and appearance.

You can look at these lists yourself and see how your pup measures up in comparison to the standard of what’s usual for their breed.

Take Your Pup for a DNA Test

There are several different DNA tests for dogs, and it’s best to see which one your vet recommends for your dog.

DNA tests for dogs aren’t always 100% accurate. Still, they can be another piece of the puzzle when you’re trying to determine your pup’s origins.

See What Your Vet Thinks

Your vet may be able to give you a good idea of what the lineage of your furry friend may truly be.

Aside from seeing zillions of dogs throughout their career, your vet will also be familiar with what health problems each dog typically has.

Any physical issues your pup presents with may clue you and your vet into your dog’s true identity.

Remember, Papers Aren’t Everything!


All of this talk about your dog’s papers may have you feeling concerned:

Should my dog have papers? Does it truly matter? Is my dog even who I think they are?


This may feel like a heavy and complex topic but rest assured, as long as you love and adore your pup, their papers are the least of your worries.

Your dog’s papers matter most only if you want to show them or have them compete in any way or if you’re looking to become a breeder of a specific dog breed.

Your pup’s papers can also help you clue into helpful details of their past. But for the average dog owner, a dog’s papers are nowhere near as important as their heart.

It’s like the Backstreet Boy’s classic hit “I Want it That Way” says:

“I don’t care who you are,
Where you’re from,
What you did,
As long as you love me!”

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