Does "AKC" mean a quality dog?
A lot of puppy ads proudly proclaim that their puppies are "AKC" puppies. The
initials "AKC" stand for American Kennel Club. The AKC is the leading breed
registry in the United States of America. The assumption, often by both the
seller and the buyer is that if the puppy is an "AKC" puppy it must be of high
quality and healthy. It would be a wrong assumption, as the AKC explains on
their web site at https://classic.akc.org/vetoutreach/faqs.cfm
A "purebred dog" is a dog that comes from parents of the same breed - that
is all. In the USA if the sire is a German Shepherd registered with AKC and
the dam is a German Shepherd registered with AKC then the puppies can be registered
with the AKC. It has to do with lineage, not quality, not fitness, not health
- just the pedigree, the ancestry, the parentage of the dog. If both parents
are AKC registered and are of the same breed then the puppies are also eligible
for registration. They can be high quality healthy puppies, or genetic nightmares
- it doesn't matter just so long as the parents are registered and of the
same breed. At least one state, California, requires breeders to disclose
this to buyers. CALIFORNIA CODES HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE SECTION 122300-122315
Well, why can't the AKC guarantee quality?
The AKC is not a governmental agency. It has control over its registration policies,
but that control has been limited by legal challenges. Do I think there ought
to be more requirements before a dog is eligible for "papers"? Yes, absolutely.
Do I think it will ever happen? Nope, not in my lifetime. Too much politics,
plus greed, plus the American dislike/distrust of government control, plus too
much variation in opinion as to what is "doing right" by dogs all equals bloody
Some breed clubs have been able to achieve some improvements, with varying
success depending upon the breed club. The differences are most notable among
breeds that are not AKC recognized, but even there politics and disagreement
significantly interferes with achieving the goals. So we are left with education
about the system we have, and how to use it to best effect.
If the label AKC doesn't mean quality, then why bother?
A breed registry, such as AKC, provides a centralized location for maintaining
records on pedigrees. A pedigree is the ancestry of a dog. For many dogs the
pedigree is unknown. That makes it more difficult to predict the various qualities
in that dog. Keeping good records of a dog's pedigree allows better understanding
and tracking of both good and bad qualities that appear in dogs. In some cases
the appearance of a genetic defect can be traced to a single dog. Often genetic
defects do not appear until after the dog has matured and been bred. The ability
to trace pedigrees with some accuracy allows a better basis for breeding decisions.
OK, So then what do I look for to get a quality dog?
Dog shows and performance events are the primary means of evaluating the qualities
of the dog. Success at these shows is not a requirement before breeding, and
it is not a requirement to make the puppies eligible for registration.
Conformation shows evaluate movement, size, coat, color, dentition etc. Conformation
shows do not necessarily evaluate health, although there are plenty of health
problems that will result in being ineligible for the show ring. Understanding
what conformation shows can, and cannot, evaluate is important. They evaluate
far more than their detractors presume, and they evaluate less than their
proponents often believe.
Performance events help evaluate the abilities of the dog - depending upon
the kind of event - its ability to use its nose to track a scent, to jump,
to climb, to turn quickly, to swim, to run for long periods, to accept and
respond to instruction, and more. Performance events likewise do not directly
test for health, although again there are plenty of health problems that will
either make the dog ineligible or will seriously interfere with performance.
Success in both the conformation ring and in performance events tends to
reflect upon both good health and good temperament because both these qualities
enhance success in those cases. Nevertheless neither health nor temperament
can be presumed by success in competition. Participation in competition is
merely one piece of evidence that dogs being bred are being bred with care
and attention to health, temperament, and conformity with the expectations
of a person looking for that particular breed.
It is critically important that people be able to select breeds that match
their expectations. A person who is unwilling or unable to provide a Border
Collie what it needs may nevertheless be a excellent companion to a Basenji.
It is, therefore, important the qualities of the dog be predictable. A breeder
who is involved in competition is more likely to know what are the expected
qualities for the breed. And the competition itself helps both the breeder
and the buyer evaluate those qualities on a less emotional basis.
Well they are from "Champion Bloodlines". That's pretty good, isn't it?
Not really. When someone uses the term "champion bloodlines" it normally means
that the sire and dam of the puppies has never been shown at all. If the sire
and dam had been successful in either the performance or conformation arena
don't you think the breeder would be happy to mention it? Should this make a
difference to you? Is there any reason you should care if the sire and dam were
successful in competition? See above. Success in competition helps you evaluate
the health and temperament of the puppies, but is no guarantee. The main advantage
of looking to success in competition is that the qualities are evaluated by
a more neutral party than the breeder. If there is no objective evaluation you
will have to come up with another way of evaluating qualities that are important
Someone who uses the term "champion bloodlines" is suggesting that you should
be pleased about it. A knowledgeable breeder would know that it isn't very
meaningful and would explain how they have evaluated the sire and dam in the
absence of competition. Usually they will also explain why they have not been
The "champion bloodlines" might be of some help in evaluating the puppies
if most of the recent generations have such evidence of success.
The thing to know is that nearly all litters have at least some puppies that
make wonderful pets but can't be successful in competition. If you are looking
for a pet what you want to know is if it makes a difference to the health,
and temperament of your dog, or any other qualities that might be important
to you. Some parts of the breed standard don't affect the health of the dog,
others might. It isn't always obvious which is which. So if the breeder doesn't
know this information and you want one of their puppies it will be up to you
to know what is important and what is not.
Is there anything else?
Well yes, there are other things to think about. For example, as noted above
soundness of temperament and health can't be determined by AKC registration
nor success in competition. You, as the buyer, must become familiar enough with
the breed to know what genetic health problems may occur, and what the breeder
should be doing to try to avoid them. You may also wish to consider ethical
issues, such as whether the breeder is taking steps to avoid contributing to
the numbers of dogs killed every year because the owners are unable or unwilling
to provide what the dog needs to remain a member of the family. For more information
see the Breeder's Ethics
page, Registries offer
more than just papers
and the AKC Responsible Breeder,
Getting Started Series
. Also this excellent article on Kennel
Examples of some other breed registries
- Masters of Foxhounds Association
- Portuguese Podengo Pequeno of America
- Professional Kennel Club.
- National Beagle Club of America
- American Cesky Terrier Fanciers Association.
- North American Sheep Dog Society
- North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association
- International Cane Corso Federation
- International Foxhunters' Stud Book
- United Kennel Club
- Australian Shepherd Club of America
- Jack Russell Terrier Club of America
- American English Coonhounds
- Boykin Spaniel Society.
- American International Border Collie Association
- American Border Collie Association
- Rat Terrier Club of America
- Society for the Perpetuation of the Desert Bred Saluki
- National Greyhound Association
- Anatolian Shepherd Dog Club of America.
- Field Dog Stud Book
- The National Stock Dog Registry
- United States Bordeaux Corporation
- Canadian Kennel Club
Additional articles on selecting your dog and related
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Copyright © 1998-2003,
Created: January 2, 1998
Updated January 21, 2014