The Old Trainer: Are 'papers' worth it?

March 24, 2012 

Dear Old Trainer: Our kids are grown and my husband and I have decided to get a dog. We travel a lot and want one to go with us in the car and be with us all the time. Our neighbor said we should get a registered dog with papers. Is that important, and do you have a suggestion for the breed that would fit us?

-- Alicia, Fort Worth, Texas

A: When breeders use the term "papers," they mean a piece of paper that purports to list the family tree of the dog in question. It has no value except as another way for the good folks in the dog-selling business to make a buck.

The paper tells you nothing about a dog and should never be a consideration when choosing a pet. For one thing, anyone can go online and print out a fake pedigree. Breeders do it all the time. For another, there is no way to know if the printed paper even goes with the dog they are trying to sell you.

Everything comes with "papers" these days. Buy a new pair of Nikes and there is a card attached saying, "These shoes are made from the finest materials by trained craftsmen following a tradition of blah, blah, blah ..." No one takes the time to read it because it has no value.

Go to any dog park and ask people if they have papers for their dogs. They will laugh at the idea that a dog needs papers, unless it is old newspapers to put on the floor when you are house-training a puppy.

Every shelter in the country is full of "registered" dogs once sold with "papers." If you want a specific breed, there's no logical reason to pay a breeder 10 times what you will pay for that same breed at a shelter, merely because the breeder includes a piece of paper.

I love all dogs so I never recommend any particular breed, Alicia. Instead, visit your local shelter and tell them what you're looking for. Spend time with the dogs they recommend.

Think about what is important in a dog. Is she smart? Is she loving? Does she like to play? Will she fetch a stick? Will she take a nap with you? Does she like to ride in the car? Which one of them is trying to catch your eye and tell you she is the dog for you? I guarantee that one of them is trying her best to talk to you.

You judge a dog by how she responds to you -- and you will never learn that from a piece of paper.

The only possible value of "papers" is if you want to be a breeder. Then you can try to hustle people into paying more for puppies by selling them a piece of paper that is a copy of the paper you paid more for. And those people can go home and toss that paper into the trash next to the paper from their new Nikes.

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