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Learn About - Kennel Clubs

What's a Kennel Club?
For the most part, Kennel Clubs are registries. The terms are often used interchangeably. There are also local dog clubs also called kennel clubs, who are not registries. These clubs are usually affiliated with one of the registries, and are the groups that put on dog shows and trials. One example of this is the Westminster Kennel Club, who is affiliated with the AKC.

So, if all a registry does is record information, why are there so many?
What's the difference?

Some registries are stricter than others as to what dogs they will register, and some promote the welfare of dogs better than others. Some registries seem out for a fast buck from ignorant puppy buyers and breeders. They will register dogs for breeders who have been suspended from other registries (usually for record keeping violations), or will register dogs that other registries won't. Some breeders work with multiple registries, and even charge differently for pups depending on which registry the pup is recorded with. There is no honest reason for this. These lesser quality registries are sometimes referred to as paper mills for puppy mills.

At the very least, you should be able to expect that a registered dog is the breed he's supposed to be, and of the parents and ancestors he's supposed to be. Unfortunately, this isn't always true, and the information can be inaccurate or misleading if the breeder is not responsible. For instance, there have been enough problems with inaccurate or falsified pedigrees that the AKC now requires DNA testing on some dogs. United Kennel Club has been promoting DNA testing for several years. But all registries will still usually just take a breeder's word that a pedigree is accurate, and this sometimes leads to inaccurate or fraudulent papers on a dog. Good registries will take action for inaccurate records, such as fines or suspension.

Some registries will allow the registration of designer mutts, sometimes called "new rare breeds", for breeding purposes. Puppy buyers are sometimes fooled into paying pay hundreds of dollars for a "registered" mutt. Being a registered mutt does not make a dog any different from a similar one sitting in a shelter, and it certainly does not turn a mutt into a purebred. Any registration can often cause the price of a mutt to skyrocket, when the paper it's printed on may only be worth using for housebreaking.

The better kennel clubs have gone beyond their original recording function, and will also provide means to show and trial dogs, promote education, health, and the general welfare of dogs. I strongly feel that some dog registries are not in the best interest of the dogs involved. They often make it much easier for irresponsible breeders to sell their puppies. This leads to thousands of dogs being killed annually in shelters, or suffering from preventable genetic problems. None are saints, but some kennel clubs are worse than others. Puppy millers and other irresponsible or ignorant breeders count on registration as a selling point. Even the AKC makes millions from registering these puppies. (My own dogs are registered with AMBOR, United Kennel Club, and AKC, all are limited registrations for trialing purposes only, not for breeding). Irresponsible breeders take full advantage of the public perception that registration means more than it really does. Only the public's education can change this.

Buyer Beware!
Soon, you may start seeing more dogs from registries other than AKC in pet stores. The Missouri and Oklahoma commercial dog breeder's association members are unhappy now that AKC's got stricter rules, and is requiring a DNA profile in stud dogs that produce 7 or more litters in a lifetime. Many of these breeders are breaking away from AKC and now registering their pups (often found for sale in pet shops nationwide) with other, less restrictive, registries. Regardless of where you get your pup, if your pup is registered with anything other than AKC or United Kennel Club, the chances of your pup being bred by an irresponsible breeder rises dramatically. It's up to you, the potential puppy buyer, to educate yourself and to avoid being part of the puppy mill/ backyard breeder problem. Do not put your money into the pockets of irresponsible breeders under any circumstances. The only thing they'll feel is getting hit in the wallet.

You can do much of your homework on the internet. If a kennel club is not on the internet (those are few), you can usually at least find an address on the internet and write them for information. Avoid any kennel club on which you can't get any information at all.

Please be aware of what you are really getting when you buy a registered dog. As you can see, registration often means nothing or worse. But if a pup is backed up by a good pedigree, health screened parents, and a caring, honest, and responsible breeder who takes pride in the pups he produces, then you can also take pride in what your dog's papers represent!

Some of the things to look for when looking at a registry/kennel club site:

  • Encouragement of health testing (beyond just a vet check), screening for genetic defects (such as OFA, CERF, etc..), and DNA profiling for breeding stock.

  • Different levels of registrations available, such as various limited registrations.

  • That every breed have a standard, a "parent" breed club who sets that standard, and that the club consists of more than a couple of breeders.

  • Encouragement of spay and neuter for mix breeds and purebreds who do not meet their breed or working standards.

  • That breeders be encouraged to prove their dogs meets their standards in the conformation or trial ring.

  • That the kennel club has or sponsors shows and trials where the dog's qualities can be proven, for all breeds.

  • That breeders are encouraged to carefully plan breedings, sell pups to only carefully checked and appropriate homes, and participate in rescuing at least dogs of their own breeding and breed.

  • Has a code of ethics, or encourages breeders to join breed clubs that have a code of ethics.

  • Emphasizes improving the breeds, not just selling dogs
    The atmosphere is about the welfare and enjoyment of dogs, not classified ads and money.

    Red Flags!!!!! Be careful of kennel club/registry sites that have:

  • Recognizing mixed breeds (such as Cockapoo) for breeding purposes.

  • Been founded around a single new breed that someone has recently "created", often not even set in breed type or has vague standards - that can mean the breed isn't "breeding true".

  • No competitions to prove the dogs' qualities (or links to competition pages that go nowhere and the site is not very new).

  • No suggestion or education about OFA type health testing/screening, and none or very few of the breeders seem to know what it is.

  • No limited registrations available.

  • Advertising sections for breeders, and most ads don't mention health clearances beyond a vet check if at all.

  • Listing private breeders as "breed clubs", or breed clubs are composed of a very small group of just a few breeders.

  • Breed standards missing or have very, very broad descriptions - can cover up the fact that the dogs are really mutts. Multiple breed standards recognized by single registry, for a single breed, can cover up lots of problems too.

  • Clubs that have same or similar initials to more reputable clubs (to confuse people who haven't done their homework). UKC can be United Kennel Club or Universal Kennel Club, CKC can be Canadian Kennel Club or Continental Kennel Club, FIC can easily be confused with FCI, etc....

  • Supported mainly by a pet store, pet store chain, or other special interest groups who's interest may not be the welfare of dogs, but the welfare of their wallets.
    Clubs and registries who have emphasis on what the registration certificate looks like ("includes a gold seal for only $5 more")

Resources - Kennel Clubs/Registries

Australian Cattle Dog Clubs


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