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By Janine Adams
Dog World Puppy Guide 98

“Poodle puppies for sale, AKC-registered. Akita for sale, has papers.” You see words like these all the time in the newspaper classified ads and in pet shops. The use of “AKC” obviously is meant to demonstrate that the puppies for sale are high-quality dogs. After all, they’re registered. But what exactly do those words mean? Plain and simple, they mean the dog is purebred, its parents both were registered with the American Kennel club and someone has filled out some paperwork. The alphabet soup of dog registries and accompanying titles can be confusing to new dog owners. It adds a layer of complexity to an already complicated process for the buyer who wants to ensure he or she is getting a well-bred dog. But registries don’t have to be confusing. You just need to understand what they are – and aren’t – and what they can and can’t do for you.


Reputable registries such as the AKC, the United Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club exist to advance and promote the purebred dog. Toward this end they approve standards (i.e., what a breed ideally should look like), keep records of births of registered dogs born to registered parents and promote responsible dog ownership. Another important aspect of registries is their role in sponsoring or sanctioning dog events, such as conformation (which measures how well each dog conforms to the breed standard), obedience, tracking (in which dogs must recognize and follow a scent), hunting, herding, agility and other sports. At many of these events, dogs are judged and earn points toward titles, following an exacting set of rules established by the registry.

These events are an important way to evaluate a dog. While simply being registered is not an indication of quality, titles preceding or following a dog’s name do indicate the dog has been judged and earned something very specific. In the case of dogs registered with the AKC, whether Ch. (champion) appears before the name, indicating the dog has been judged to conform closely to the breed standard approved by the registry, or CD (companion dog) appears after the name, meaning the dog has done well in AKC obedience competitions, a title in the name of a puppy’s parent can be a good sign the father or mother is a high-quality dog. And high-quality parents, generally speaking, produce high-quality puppies.


Registries are not a guarantee of quality. Simply put, a registered puppy was born to registered parents. Registries rely on breeders to be honest when filling out the forms. A puppy does not have to pass any stringent tests to be registered. Nor does it have to be healthy or of healthy stock. Its temperament can encompass the worst of a breed and it still can be registered. No one from a registry examines the puppy or its parents before registration takes place.Registries also are not in the business of policing breeders. While a registry will investigate fraud if a breeder violates its regulations regarding registration procedures, registries do not regulate the quality of breeding stock or the conditions under which dogs are bred. In the United States, that falls under the purview of the Department of Agriculture. This lack of comprehensive policing is, in large part, the reason why papers are not a guarantee of quality. If poor conditions are found at a kennel that happens to be inspected by a registry, however, those conditions may be reported to local humane authorities.

Both the AKC and the UKC send inspectors to inspect any kennel that registers a large number of litters in a given year. The AKC sends an inspector if seven litters are registered, while the UKC inspects breeders of 10 or more litters. The AKC also conducts spot check inspections. In 1998 the AKC will be launching a DNA testing program, with a minimum of 20,000 DNA tests for proof of parentage, as part of their inspection program.

The UKC will revoke registration privileges to any kennel it deems a puppy mill, which it defines as “kennel operations that mass produce puppies for sale to pet shops.” The AKC reports cruel, unsanitary or inhumane conditions to appropriate agencies or humane authorities for action. Anyone convicted of cruelty to dogs is suspended from AKC privileges.



If your puppy is purebred and its parents are AKC or UKC registered, you should have received a partially filled-out form from the breeder for you to complete and return with a fee to the registry. If the breeder claims the pups are registered but fails to give you the proper forms, perhaps promising them later, it is a good sign the breeder is not reputable. Both the AKC and the UKC recommend you don’t buy a dog from such a breeder. An important note: In Canada, it is the responsibility of the breeder, not the owner, to register the dog with the CKC.If you acquired an unregistered adult purebred and you want to participate in certain dog sports, you may be able to register it in a special category that allows you to compete. See the individual registry listings below for details.

American Kennel Club Logo


Established in 1884, the AKC is the country’s oldest and largest purebred dog registry. A nonprofit organization, it maintains a purebred dog registry, sanctions dog events and promotes responsible dog ownership. The AKC registers 145 breeds and 1.2 million dogs a year. These breeds are divided into seven groups – Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting, Herding – plus a Miscellaneous Class.When you buy an AKC-registrable puppy, the breeder will give you a blue registration application to complete and send back to the AKC with a registration fee. You then will be sent a registration certificate.


If the breeder doesn’t believe a puppy is of breeding quality – although it would make an excellent pet – he or she may offer a Limited Registration. Dogs with Limited Registration may not be shown in conformation, but they may participate in other AKC events. However, no offspring of a dog with Limited Registration can be registered with the AKC. In this way, Limited Registration offers breeders a way to protect their breeding programs.


If you buy a dog already registered by the previous owner, the seller should provide you with the dog’s registration certificate. On the back of that certificate is a transfer form you should complete and send to the AKC along with the appropriate fee to transfer ownership.

Dogs with full registration may have their offspring registered (provided they have been mated with another registered dog of the same breed) and may compete in AKC events. The AKC sponsors a variety of events through their licensed and sanctioned member clubs.

These include:

  • Conformation dog shows;

  • Obedience trials;

  • Tracking;

  • Field trials for pointing breeds, retrievers, spaniels, Beagles, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds, which test their ability to perform the functions for which they were bred;

  • Hunting tests, open to retrievers, pointing breeds and spaniels;

  • Herding trials and tests;

  • Lure coursing for sighthounds, in which the dogs chase an artificial lure over a great distance;

  • Earthdog tests, noncompetitive events in which small terriers and Dachshunds track the scent of a rodent in a mazelike tunnel;

  • Agility, in which dogs negotiate an obstacle course with the help of their handlers’ verbal and hand signals; and

  • Junior Showmanship for young people between the ages of 10 and 18, who are judged on their ability to handle dogs in the conformation ring. To further educate youngsters, a National Juniors organization was established in 1997.


In addition, the AKC has established the Canine Good Citizen test for both purebred and mixed-breed dogs, which tests dogs to see if their training and manners are good enough to make them respected members of society. Almost 500,000 dogs have passed this test.


If you acquire a purebred dog not registered with the AKC, you can apply for an Indefinite Listing Privilege that will enable your dog to participate in non-conformation events. Your dog must be at least 6 months old and spayed or neutered to get an ILP. You will be required to attach two recent photographs of the dog to the application.


The AKC also offers an identification database to help in recovering lost animals. Called Companion Animal Recovery Program, this database, for a fee, records permanent forms of identification such as microchips and tattoos. A person who finds a lost animal can call an 800 number 24 hours a day to find out whether the animal is enrolled in the program. If it is, the AKC notifies the owners.


The AKC also has a legislative division that helps combat anti-dog legislation. In addition, it has developed children’s education programs to teach about responsible dog ownership. Its Canine Health Foundation supports research on canine health issues, with a special emphasis on genetics.

You can learn more about the AKC from its extensive, searchable Web site (see sidebar).

United Kennel Club Logo


The UKC is the second oldest and the second largest registry in the country. UKC founder Chauncey Bennett established the registry in 1898 in an effort to preserve working instincts in dogs, something he believed was lacking in the show-ring mentality of the day. Today, it actively promotes the concept of the “Total Dog,” striving for a dog balanced in looks, function and temperament. Its emphasis is on working breeds, such as hounds, retrievers and other sporting dogs. More than 60 percent of the 8,000 events licensed by UKC each year are specifically for working dogs.The UKC recognizes 287 breeds, registering more than 250,000 dogs a year. In addition to working dog events, the UKC sponsors conformation, obedience and agility. Its groups are slightly different than the more familiar AKC groups. UKC breeds are divided into the following eight groups: Guardian Dogs, Scenthounds, Sighthounds, Gun Dogs, Northern Breeds, Herding Dogs, Terriers and Companion Dogs.


The UKC offers competitions in conformation, obedience, agility, hunting Airedale, hunting Beagle, Coonhound and hunting Retriever. The UKC’s events tend to be more family-oriented than the more sophisticated AKC events. The UKC encourages owner-handlers as opposed to professional handlers and welcomes children at events. The organization prides itself on offering a relaxed atmosphere at its competitions.

Like the AKC, the UKC offers a Limited Privilege registration. All dogs accepted for Limited Privilege may enter agility and obedience trials. LP-listed purebred dogs of the Gun Dog Group are eligible for hunting Retriever events. LP dogs must be spayed or neutered. Mixed-breed dogs also are eligible for Limited Privilege registration.


In 1996, the UKC became the first all-breed dog registry to offer DNA profiling. Breeders collect sample material from their breeding stock using kits available from the UKC. The material is tested and the breeder receives a genetic profile of the dog. This information is kept in UKC’s database and the DNA is archived in a laboratory. The designation DNA-P is added to the UKC pedigree and registration certificate of DNA-profiled dogs. When puppies are born to DNA-profiled parents, the puppies’ DNA is compared with those of the parents and their pedigree is verified. Those puppies receive the special designation DNA-VIP (Verified Identified Parentage) on their UKC pedigree.


DNA profiling is not limited to UKC-registered dogs. Any purebred dog may be DNA profiled through the UKC. DNA profiling will allow pups from litters sired by more than one male to have their parentage established. If the fathers, mother and all puppies are profiled, each pup can be registered with the proper father and litter number. Much like its use in human paternity tests, DNA profiling can solve questions of a dog’s parentage. It also can resolve allegations of falsified papers.

Canadian Kennel Club Logo


The Canadian Kennel Club is Canada’s premier registry. It registers 160 breeds (with 137 additional breeds listed in the Miscellaneous Class) and registers 100,000 dogs every year. In addition to encouraging, guiding and advancing purebred dogs, the CKC includes in its mission “promoting the knowledge and understanding of the benefits which dogs can bring to Canadian society. "The CKC is incorporated under the Animal Pedigree Act, a federal statute. In Canada, all Canadian-born purebred dogs must be registered with the CKC at birth in order to be considered purebred. Only dogs imported from other countries can be registered with the CKC when they are adults.

According to the Animal Pedigree Act, all dogs registered with the CKC must be permanently identified, either by microchip or tattoo. The Animal Pedigree Act stipulates the seller or importer of the dog, not the buyer, permanently identify and register the dog.

The CKC operates a National Recovery Service for lost dogs, known as CANADACHIP, which registers dogs with both microchips and tattoos. Every microchipped dog registered with the CKC automatically is enrolled in the database.

About half the dogs registered with the CKC are issued a non-breeding certificate. Breeders and buyers agree the dog will not be bred until certain conditions are met. The conditions of the agreement vary with the individuals. But, a dog might not be allowed to be bred until it passes certain health tests, such as for hips or eyes, or until it attains certain levels in the show ring. Once the time limit has passed and both parties agree to lift the agreement, the CKC will issue a regular registration certificate.

Dogs registered with the CKC can participate in the many dog events sanctioned by the registry including conformation, obedience, junior handling for conformation and obedience, field trials for retrievers, working certificate tests, hunting tests for retrievers, Beagle field trials, pointing field trials, field dog tests, spaniel field trials, lure coursing trials and tracking tests. Dogs registered with the AKC or other foreign clubs recognized by the CKC can be issued an Event Registration Number allowing them to compete in CKC events without being registered with the CKC. Alternatively, dogs that reside in the United States can be registered additionally with the CKC if they meet the CKC’s registration requirements and proper documentation is provided.


A number of alternative registries have been started in recent years. Most of these registries have less stringent regulations than the mainstream registries. For example, some allow registration of dogs whose parents are not registered with them, making the registration even less of an indicator of the quality of the puppies. Some even will register cross-breeds on the road to creating new “breeds” such as the schnoodle (Schnauzer/ Poodle mix) or the peke-a-poo (Pekingese/Poodle mix). Many people in the dog world feel these lax standards give disreputable breeders an opportunity to register dogs that would be rejected by the established registries. While registries do not guarantee the quality of a given dog, they do provide an opportunity for dogs to prove their quality by earning titles. The major dog registries tend to offer eligibility in a far wider range of activities for dogs and their owners than do the alternative registries.

If you would like your dog to compete for titles in conformation, obedience or other sports, then obviously it is important your dog be registered. If you want to breed your dog, then registering your dog might make the puppies more salable (although, keep in mind breeding is not something to take lightly – it’s hard work, usually not profitable and should be done only to further the breed). But if your dog is a pet and your goals for it are less ambitious – say, simply to be a well-behaved member of the family – then registration probably will mean little more than some papers languishing in your filing cabinet. To make registries work for you, you and your dog must work in the ring, field or course.


Janine Adams is a freelance dog writer whose work appears in Family Circle, Dog World, the AKC Gazette and other magazines and websites. She is the author of You Can Talk to Your Animals: Animal Communicators Tell You How (Howell Book House, 2000) and 25 Stupid Mistakes Dog Owners Make (Roxbury Park Books, 2000).

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