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If you are a dog owner in the United States you have probably heard of the American Kennel Club, or AKC.
This is the national body in the U.S. that defines the standard for individual dog breeds and maintains a registry of purebred dogs in the country. Not everyone knows what that AKC registration means, though.
If you are a purebred dog owner, you may have been encouraged to register your dog with the AKC.
If so, how do you do it, how much does it cost, and what is the benefit to you of registering your dog with the AKC?
Read on as we answer these questions and more.
What Is The AKC?
The AKC is the American Kennel Club, and it is the oldest and most respected dog registry in the United States.
There are equivalents in other countries such as the Kennel Club UK, the Canadian Kennel Club, Dogs Australia (previously the Australian National Kennel Council), and the Societe Centrale Canine in France.
The American Kennel Club determines the national standards for different dog breeds, including size, weight, color, and other physical characteristics.
Only dogs that meet the characteristic requirements established by the AKC can be registered as purebred, and only these dogs are eligible to compete as these breeds in dog shows.
The AKC is not a government body but rather a charity organization. It was founded by dog enthusiasts in the late 19th century to maintain the purity and beauty of dog breeds.
It started many of the dog shows that are now popular across the country and partners with most.
As well as publishing breed definitions and maintaining a registry of purebred dogs, the AKC engages in charity work.
This includes kennel inspections to ensure that puppies are being bred responsibly and cared for in appropriate conditions.
They fund important canine research, public information dissemination about dogs, and lobby relevant government bodies on behalf of pups and their owners.
How Many Dogs Are Registered With The AKC?
The American Kennel Club registers approximately one million dogs per year under 200 different recognized “pure” breeds.
Among the newest breeds are the Hungarian mudi and the Russian toy, both of which were registered in 2022.
You can find a complete list of AKC-certified dog breeds here. Breed definitions include physical trails, social behavior, and personality traits.
These tend to be consistent across purebred dogs that are bred specifically for these characteristics.
They are less predictable with crossbreed dogs, which is why mixed breeds, even popular mixed breeds such as Labradoodles and cockapoos, are not supported by the registry.
Both physical traits and personalities are much more difficult to predict.
Why Register Your Dog With The AKC?
It is necessary to register your dog with either the American Kennel Club or the Foundation Stock Service, which is a branch of the AKC for newer breeds, for them to be eligible to compete in Conformation events.
Conformation is the official name for dog shows where dogs are judged based on their conformation to their breed specifications.
Conformation dog shows award points based on how well each dog matches the standard for its breed, as defined by the American Kennel Club in the United States.
There are also Obedience shows that show off how well a dog can obey and perform. Many Obedience shows also require AKC registration, but not all.
In addition, many breeders will register their breeding stock with the American Kennel Club as a quality assurance measure.
This gives them a document they can point to that verifies the quality of the dogs they are breeding and the puppies they are selling.
How To Register Your Dog With The AKC?
If you buy a purebred puppy from a breeder, they should already have begun the AKC registration process.
When a litter is born, they will register the litter with the AKC with the details of the parents for a fee of $20. The club will then send a blue slip of paper with this detail to the breeder for each puppy.
When you purchase your puppy you will receive this slip of paper, which you can then send to the American Kennel Club to register your dog for a $10 fee.
This registration can be done online using the registration number on the paper provided.
When you fill out the online form you will have to give your dog an AKC-approved name.
Names must be no longer than 50 characters, and there is a fee if you choose a name longer than 36 characters.
You can only use English letters in your name, with no numbers, accent marks, or special characters. There are also certain words that are excluded.
These are mostly derogatory terms, but also a few breed-specific terms such as stud, sire, champion, etc.
Of course, you don’t have to call your pup by their full name at home, but this official name will be used in shows.
There are a few additional naming rules. If you are importing a dog into the United States and registering them, they must use the same name they were registered with at their previous kennel club.
There is also a limit of 37 dogs with the same name within any breed.
If you are registering a dog from outside the United States, you will need to complete a separate Foreign Dog Registration Application, which can be downloaded from the AKC website, and also send photocopies of the existing certificate of registration and 3-generation Certified Pedigree.
You must also send two color photos of the dog standing, one from the side and one from the front, for assessment.
It is worth noting that receiving a blue slip with your puppy does not guarantee the quality of the dog.
Once a breeder is established with the AKC they do not have to send evidence regarding the parentage of each new litter.
Further, when new owners register their puppies purchased from these breeders in good faith, they are also not required to provide images or other evidence to evaluate the dog.
Consequently, dogs that do not meet the breed standard do make their way onto the registry.
What Are The Benefits Of AKC Registration?
First let’s talk a little about full vs limited AKC registration
Full vs Limited Registration
The main reason most people get a AKC Full Registration is if they plan on breeding their dog. A Full Registration means any litter your dog produces with another Full Registered AKC dog is eligible for registration
On the other hand, Limited Registration means your dog is registered but no litters produced by your dog are eligible for registration.
Here’s more information about AKC Limited Registration.
There are a variety of other benefits as well.
- You receive an AKC registration certificate with your dog’s name and details that you can use as evidence of your dog’s AKC status.
- You can choose to get your dog an AKC collar tag that will facilitate recovery services if your dog is lost.
- You receive a one-year subscription to the AKC Family Dog magazine, which can later be renewed for an additional fee.
- You receive 30 days of pet insurance coverage with AKC Pet Insurance, which can be beneficial for new puppy owners as they look for the best insurance for their dog.
- A complimentary first veterinary office visit at one of the registered AKC vets to check in on your new puppy’s health.
Your registration fee also supports the American Kennel Club in its non-profit work, which includes inspecting kennels to ensure that puppies are being bred responsibly and properly cared for.
This money is also used to support important canine research, provide public education about dogs, and lobby government departments responsible for canine protection.
Funds also support the AKC Museum of the Dog in St. Louis, Missouri.
Alternatives To AKC Registration
If you don’t have a registration number for your dog, provided by the breeder or an international kennel club, you can’t register your dog officially with the AKC.
The kennel club recognizes this as a problem, though, and so has opened a Purebred Alternative Listing program.
This requires a $35 application fee and you must send two color photos of your dog, one from the front and one from the side, with your application for assessment.
This registration gives your dog access to a more limited range of Companion and Performance events.
The American Kennel Club also has a Canine Partners program for mixed-breed dogs to participate in performance events such as scent work, obedience, and agility. This is another $35 registration.
The American Kennel Club also runs the Canine Good Citizen test and registration which ensures that dogs know how to behave around others.
What is the purpose of the AKC?
The American Kennel Club is a non-profit organization that works to maintain the integrity of dog breeds by defining the characteristics of different pure breeds and maintaining a registry.
They also engage in charity work such as kennel inspections, canine research, and government lobbying.
Should a dog be AKC registered?
It is not legally required for dogs to be AKC registered, but there are benefits to registering purebred dogs.
Are AKC-registered dogs healthier?
There is no guarantee that AKC-registered dogs will be healthier.
The registration only certifies the puppies’ birth date and that they are from a known sire and dam. It does not take into account questions of controlling for genetic diseases or other considerations.
Taking the time to engage with the AKC can be a sign of a breeder’s commitment to their work, but many shoddy breeders will also complete AKC registration so they can use it as a marketing tool.
What is the number one AKC breed?
More Labrador retrievers are registered with the AKC than any other breed, and they have been at the number one spot since 1991. This suggests that loveable Labs are the most popular dogs in the United States.
After 32 years there’s a new champ atop the AKC top dog breeds. The French Bulldog is now number 1 pushing one of our favorite breeds down to the first runner up position.
Should You Register With The American Kennel Club?
Even if you adopt a purebred dog just because you want the perfect addition to your family, and you have no intention of entering them into shows or breeding them, it can still be a good idea to register your dog with the American Kennel Club.
The first reason is that you don’t always know what the future holds. It is quick and cheap to register a new puppy online if you receive a blue slip with them.
Fill out an online form and pay a $10 fee and you are done.
If you lose that blue slip, it can be very challenging to register your dog later.
The second reason is some of the benefits that you receive with your membership. An AKC registration on their collar can make it much easier for anyone who finds your dog to find you.
This increases the chances of your dog being returned to you rather than ending up in a shelter if you get separated.
Benefits for puppies such as a first vet visit and one month of insurance are also great benefits, as they cover you in the first few weeks while you are still sorting everything out.
Finally, your small fee can make a big difference, as it lets the AKC do important work such as kennel inspections and supporting canine research that might not otherwise be done.
The question is, if you can register your dog with the AKC easily, why not do it?
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