AKC symbol

The American Kennel Club (or AKC) is a registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes and sanctions events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official forming of the AKC, the National Dog Show, and the Eukanuba National Championship. Unlike most other country's kennels clubs, the AKC is not part of the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (World Canine Organization).

Dog Registration Edit

The AKC is not the only registry of purebred dogs, but it is the one with which most Americans are familiar. An example of dogs registered elsewhere in the U.S. is the National Greyhound Association which registers racing greyhounds (which are legally not considered "pets").

For a dog to be registered with the AKC, the dog's parents must be registered with the AKC as the same breed, and the litter in which the dog is born must be registered with the AKC. If the dog's parents are not registered with the AKC or the litter is not registered, special registry research by the AKC is necessary for the AKC to determine if the dog is eligible for AKC registration. Once a determination of eligibility is met, either by litter application or registry research, the dog can be registered as purebred by the AKC.

The top 6 dogs registered for 2007 are the same as 2006:

Registration indicates only that the dog's parents were registered as one recognized breed; it does not necessarily indicate that the dog comes from healthy or show-quality blood lines. Nor is registration necessarily a reflection on the quality of the breeder or how the puppy was raised. In 2006, the Board of Directors of the AKC signed a contract with Petland pet stores to facilitate the registration of dogs sold by Petland and bred by the Hunte Corporation. After a brief flurry of controversy, the AKC rescinded the Petland contract, but as AKC Chairman Ron Menaker notes, the AKC has "been registering AKC eligible puppies from Petland, and every other company selling AKC registrable puppies" "for the past 122 years."

Registration is necessary only for breeders (so they can sell registered puppies) or for purebred conformation show or purebred dog sports participation. Registration can be obtained by mail or online at their website.

History Edit

On September 17, 1884, a group of twelve dedicated sportsmen, responding to a "meeting call" from Messrs. J. M. Taylor and Elliot Smith, met in the rooms of the Philadelphia Kennel Club in that City. Each member of the group was a representative or "delegate" from a dog club that had, in the recent past, held a benched dog show or had run field trials. This new "Club of Clubs" was, in fact, The American Kennel Club.

The next meeting of the group, on October 22, 1884, was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. At that time, a Constitution and By-Laws was adopted and Major James M. Taylor became AKC's first President. With no official headquarters, meetings were held in several different cities – principally New York, but also Cincinnati, Boston, and Newark, New Jersey.

By 1887, a room was rented at 44 Broadway, furnished with a desk, filing cabinet, a couple of chairs, and occupied by Alfred P. Vredenburgh, the AKC's third Secretary. In 1888, August Belmont, Jr. became the AKC's fourth President. This was the beginning of the long Belmont/Vredenburgh reign that lasted well into the Twentieth Century. During this period, it became apparent that the Club had to have a reliable Stud Book. Dr. N. Rowe, starting in 1878, had already assembled three volumes of The National American Kennel Club Stud Book, and subsequently offered these three initial volumes gratis to the AKC. In 1887, the AKC acknowledged this gift in the fourth volume of The American Kennel Club Stud Book.

The following year, Belmont put the wheels in motion to produce a "gazette" by guaranteeing against any of the magazine's losses for five years with his own personal security of $5,000 per year. In January 1889, the Gazette made its first appearance; survived those first five years without needing even a penny of Belmont's support; has been published without interruption for over a century; and is one of the oldest dog magazines in existence.

Early 1900's

Early American shows followed precedents set in England with respect to the championship title and required three first place wins in the Open Class, which was generally divided by sex. Several changes were made in 1900, and a point scale emerged, based on the total number of dogs at the show; ranging from one point at all-breed shows with under 250 dogs, to the five point maximum at all-breed shows with 1000 dogs and over entered. The number of dogs in each breed was not considered. This schedule had obvious inequities. In all instances, regardless of show or entry, an accumulation of ten points was required for the title of champion. All member club specialty shows were rated at four points, while non-member specialties were given a two point rating, regardless of the size of entry.

Under a special charter granted by the Legislature of the State of New York on May 18th, 1908, the AKC was granted its third articles of incorporation. The new Constitution and By-Laws were approved January 5, 1909. On January 10, 1910 new Rules Governing Dog Shows eliminated the Graduate Class; substituted an American-Bred Class, and changed the prerequisite for a championship title, requiring fifteen points, under three different judges, three points having to be won at one show.

In 1911, a rule went into effect that concerned territorial protection. In large cities there was a trend toward developing several clubs, often formed by dissident groups. The new rule gave sole privilege to the member club that had held the first show in a given area.

Also, in that year, definite rules for classified and unclassified "special" prizes were established. A classified special prize was one offered in a single breed, somewhat similar to an award for best of breed (although the AKC did not record such a win). An unclassified special was a prize offered in classes involving multiple-breed competition similar to the present groups and best in show. Competition for this prize was by representatives of several breeds in a single class. "Special" prizes were offered at most shows; dogs could be entered for "Specials only" and this practice is the origin of our present day use of the word referring to champions as "Specials", or "Specialing" a dog.

The dog show superintendent had been a fixture at AKC events from the very beginning. In August 1905, a rule was passed that "The Superintendent of any show cannot exhibit or officiate as a judge at that show." Then, in April 1917 a notice appeared in the Gazette "Applicants desiring to officiate as Judges and Superintendents at shows held under American Kennel Club Rules can now obtain at this office application forms to act in either capacity." Initially, these applications were approved by the License Committee. (In 1931, this authority was given to the Board of Directors.)


In 1920, sanctioned matches were begun. They provided useful training exercises for more formal events and they made dog owners more aware of correct show procedures.

In 1923, AKC barred interbreed competition except in the Miscellaneous Class. Comprehensive new rules for Groups & Best In Show judging were adopted effective 1924. Under the new rules and judging procedures adopted at that time, all breeds (except for those in Miscellaneous Competition) were separated into five groups: Group 1 - Sporting Dogs, which included at that time all Hound breeds; Group 2 - Working Dogs; Group 3 - Terriers; Group 4 - Toy Breeds; and Group 5 - Non-Sporting Breeds. These Best of Breed winners in each group were then judged together to determine the best dog in that group and, finally, the five group winners met to decide the best dog in the show.

By 1924, the new group alignment was in general use. The Westminster Kennel Club was the first to include judging for Best In Show under the new format. Later in the 1920's, the groups were expanded to six, as Hounds became separate group.

In 1929, the first edition of Pure Bred Dogs was published. Nine years later the book was renamed The Complete Dog Book.


The 1930's witnessed many significant changes and additions. The AKC decided to require licenses of persons who exhibited dogs for a fee. This led, in 1931, to the formation of the Professional Handlers Association. The first book of AKC rules was presented in the November, 1932 issue of the Gazette and was subsequently published as a separate booklet. The first Children's Handling Classes were held at the Westbury Kennel Association Show in 1932. This class designation was changed to Junior Showmanship in 1951. In 1934, the AKC decided to establish a Library.

In the mid 30's, Helene Whitehouse Walker was instrumental in establishing obedience tests. She submitted a pamphlet of procedures to the AKC in December 1935, and three months later the Board of Directors approved it in principle. In April 1936, AKC published the first official "Regulations and Standard for Obedience Test Field Trials".

During the 30's, a change in the rules went into effect concerning breeds with varieties. The rule stated that variety winners should be judged to best of breed. This move reduced the number of group representatives for the breeds involved and caused considerable controversy among exhibitors for several years. The matter was not resolved until 1953, when all variety winners were again permitted into the group, and the best of breed award was eliminated in the breeds with varieties at all-breed shows only.


During the War years in the 1940's, the continuation of dog shows, obedience trials and field trials was a triumph of American ingenuity and was greatly aided by The American Kennel Club's flexible reaction to the difficulties that arose. Long-standing rules and regulations were interpreted more loosely and, in many instances, disregarded altogether. Shows were approved to be held in the same building on consecutive days; the number of unbenched shows increased and geographic restrictions were relaxed. To comply with wartime attempts to conserve paper, The American Kennel Gazette was reduce in size to a format of 9 1/2 by 6 1/2 inches. In the middle of the 1940's, professional judges formed the Professional Dog Judges Association, which included many of the top all-breed judges of the time. On October 1, 1947, a judges' directory entitled "Licensed Judges" was issued.

An important postwar move was the January 1946 appointment of Leonard Brumby, Sr. to the post of full-time field representative. In 1947, Tracking was made a separate class. Until that time, it had been part of the Utility Dog obedience test.


About the same time, early in 1950, the Bred-By-Exhibitor class came into being, as the Limit Class was dropped. This action confined the entry of imported dogs to the Open Class. Another important change enacted about 1950 involved the long-standing registration of a kennel name, or prefix, giving sole use of the name to the owner, with no time limitation. The change limited the exclusive use of a kennel name to a five-year term, with renewal available upon application and payment of a fee.

With one-day shows becoming more numerous and daylight hours for outdoor events being reduced in the early Spring and late Fall, a rule went into effect in January 1951 that restricted judges to twenty dogs per hour. This was subsequently modified to twenty-five with the total number of dogs per day not to exceed 200 (which was changed over thirty years later to 175 at all-breed shows and 200 for independent specialty shows). Also rules were instituted to require show-giving clubs that had limited entries to indicate the limitations on their premium lists. One of the most controversial issues to be addressed surfaced at the December 1950 Delegates' meeting, when an attempt to seat women delegates was made; the motion failed for want of a second.

In 1950, amendments were made to the rules which stipulated that no show could extend for more than two days unless specific permission from the AKC was obtained. Also, in 1950, a nominal recording fee of twenty-five cents was imposed on each entry.


Over the years, as the Club grew and the office force expanded, there had been a succession of moves to increasingly larger quarters. In 1919, the Club had settled at 221 Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue) and remained there until it was again necessary to expand. In 1964, AKC moved to 51 Madison Avenue, occupying space spread out over several floors.

In 1967, the independently judged Best of Winners class was eliminated. A system of judging Best of Winners during the judging for Best of Breed/Variety breed was adopted in its place. Also that same year, the condensed premium list was first approved. In January 1969, new, streamlined obedience rules went into effect. An important new approach to approving conformation and obedience judges was enacted in November 1969, when the provisional judging system appeared. New applicants with adequate breeding and exhibiting experience were permitted to officiate at three shows, after which the Board of Directors reviewed their performance and the provisional judge was either approved as a regular judge or required to gain further training and experience.


The most significant accomplishment of the 1970's was the admission of women as delegates. On March 12, 1974, a motion to allow women to serve as delegates was seconded and carried by a vote of 180 to 7. At the June, 1974 meeting of the AKC, the first women delegates were elected: Mrs. Carol D. Duffy to represent the Mid-Hudson Kennel Club; Mrs. Gertrude Freedman to represent the Bulldog Club of New England; and Mrs. Julia Gasow to represent the English Springer Spaniel Club of Michigan. They attended their first Delegate's meeting in September, 1974.

It was during the 1970's that Cluster shows became popular. Due to fuel shortages, all-breed clubs banded together to hold their events at the same location on consecutive days. It was believed that clusters minimized travel while offering additional shows with greater convenience for the exhibitors. It was also felt that clusters help shows offer educational experience to local population while assuring the financial stability of show-giving clubs.

In 1978, AKC ceased licensing professional handlers. This change placed all handlers - or agents, as they would become known - in the same category as exhibitors and anyone could then handle a dog for a fee.


The Dog Museum of America was established in June 1980, and formally opened in September, 1982 at 51 Madison Avenue. Five years later, it moved to its present location in St. Louis, Missouri and subsequently changed its name to The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

The large Working Group was split in 1983 with some of its breeds making up the new Herding Group.

On November 17th and 18th, 1984, The American Kennel Club celebrated its 100th Anniversary with the Centennial Show in Philadelphia.

Dr. Jacklyn Hungerland, delegate of the Del Monte Kennel Club, was elected as the first woman Director of the AKC, March 5th, 1985. Hunting tests were inaugurated in 1985. The following year there were several judging guidelines enacted. Also, in 1986, rules for registering litters conceived by Artificial Insemination from Fresh, Extended and Frozen Semen were established. The Performance Events Division was formed with Directors for Obedience, Field Trials, Hunting Tests and Coonhound Events.

In 1988, the Events Calendar was separated from the Gazette; and in 1989, the Gazette celebrated its 100th Anniversary.


Earthdog tests began in 1994. The 1990's saw the beginning of Herding tests and Lure Coursing. Four years later, Agility came under AKC umbrella and is quickly gaining in popularity. The Canine Health Foundation was established and initially funded by the AKC. It still receives substantial support from the AKC every year. The Canine Good Citizen program was established, and in 1995, the Companion Animal Recovery program initiated.

Early in the 1990's, another milestone was reached when the AKC made the decision to relocated various departments to Raleigh, N.C. This gradual process was complete in 1998, and in November, the AKC headquarters in New York moved from its home of 34 years at 51 Madison Avenue to its new location at 260 Madison Avenue. The AKC operations in Raleigh now occupy the entire building, which has been renamed the American Kennel Club Building.

In 1998, as more events type were being made available to fanciers, Agility, Obedience, Tracking and Canine Good Citizen became a separate division within the AKC. The remaining Performance Division consists of Field Trials, Hunting Tests, Lure Coursing, Herding, Earthdog and Coonhound events. Conformation continued to benefit from a steady growth on participation. In that year alone, there were almost 2 million dogs competing in over 15,000 member, licensed and sanctioned events.

Also in that year, AKC registered more than 1.2 million dogs and 555,000 litters. DNA rapidly gained acceptance not only by fanciers who embraced the new technology, but also by AKC who saw its promise as a tool to ensure the integrity of the kennel club's registry.

AKC entered the cusp of the Millennium embarked on an ambitious project of bringing its computerization into the 21st Century. Its website, which had been initiated in the fall of 1994, underwent a total redesign with an introduction for the first time of various e-commerce canine information products, goods and services online and interactive.

AKC Health Edit

Even though the AKC supports some canine health research and has run advertising campaigns implying that the AKC is committed to healthy dogs, the AKC's role in furthering dog health is controversial. Temple Grandin maintains that the AKC's standards only regulate physical appearance, not emotional or behavioral health. The AKC has no health standards for breeding. The only breeding restriction is age (a dog can be no younger than 8 months). Furthermore, the AKC prohibits clubs from imposing stricter regulations, that is, an AKC breed club cannot require a higher breeding age, hip dysplasia ratings, genetic tests for inheritable diseases, or any other restrictions. Parent clubs do have the power to define the looks of the breed, or breed standard. Parent club may also restrict participation in non-regular events or classes such as Futurities or Maturities to only those dogs meeting their defined criteria. This enables those non-regular events to require health testing, DNA sampling, instinct/ability testing and other outlined requirements as established by the hosting club of the non-regular event.

As a result, attention to health among breeders is purely voluntary. By contrast, many dog clubs outside the US do require health tests of breeding dogs. The German Shepherd Club of Germany, for example, requires hip and elbow X-rays in addition to other tests before a dog can be bred. Such breeding restrictions are not allowed in AKC member clubs. As a result, some US breeders have established parallel registries or health databases outside of the AKC; for example, the Berner Garde established such a database in 1995 after genetic diseases reduced the average lifespan of a Bernese Mountain dog to 7 years. The Swiss Bernese Mountain Dog club introduced mandatory hip X-rays in 1971.

For these, and other reasons, a small number of breed clubs have not yet joined the AKC so they can maintain stringent health standards, but, in general, the breeders' desire to show their dogs at AKC shows such as the Westminster Dog Show has won out over these concerns.

Contrary to most western nations organized under the International Kennel Federation (of which the AKC is not a member), the AKC does not discourage docked tails and cropped ears in its standards, a practice most countries now condemn outright.

The Club has also been criticized for courting large scale commercial breeders.

Purebred Alternative Listing Program / Indefinite Listing Privilege Program Edit

The Purebred Alternative Listing Program (PAL), formerly the Indefinite Listing Privilege Program (ILP), is an AKC program that provides purebred dogs who may not have been eligible for registration a chance to register alternatively (formerly indefinitely). There are various reasons why a purebred dog might not be eligible for registration; for example, the dog may be the product of an unregisterable litter, or have unregisterable parents. Many dogs enrolled in the PAL and ILP programs were adopted from animal shelters or rescue groups, in which case the status of the dog's parents is unknown. Dogs enrolled in PAL/ILP may participate in AKC companion and performance activities, but not conformation. Enrollees of the program receive various benefits, including a subscription to Family Dog Magazine, a certificate for their dog's place in the PAL, and information about AKC Pet Healthcare and microchipping. Dogs that were registered under the ILP program keep their original numbers.

AKC National Championship Edit

The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship is an annual event held in both Tampa, FL, and Long Beach, CA. The show is by invitation only. The dogs invited to the show have either finished their championship from the bred-by-exhibitor class or ranked in the Top 25 of their breed. The show can often be seen on major television stations. As the name indicates, its primary sponsor is Eukanuba, a high-end brand of dog food. Over 3,000 dogs from all over the world come to compete, by invitation only, but only seven go to best in show.

The first National Championship was held in Orlando, Florida in 2001. The 2002 show was also in Orlando. The next show was held in 2003 and was in Long Beach, California. The 2006 and 2006 shows were held in Tampa, Florida. The show recently switched from being held in January to being held in December, which explains why there were two winners in 2006.

Open Foundation Stock Edit

The Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an AKC program for breeds not yet accepted by the AKC for full recognition, and not yet in the AKC's Miscellaneous class. The AKC FSS requires that at least the parents of the registered animal are known. The AKC will not grant championship points to dogs in these breeds until the stud book is closed and the breed is granted full recognition.

Activities Edit

The AKC sanctions events in which dogs and handlers can compete. These are divided into three areas:

    • Conformation Show
    • Junior Showmanship
  • Companion events, in which all registered and PAL/ILP dogs can compete. These include:
    • Obedience Trials
    • Tracking Trials
    • Dog Agility
    • Rally Obedience
  • Performance events, which are limited to certain entrants; PAL/ILP dogs of the correct breed are usually eligible:
    • Coonhound events (Coonhounds; no PAL/ILP dogs)
    • Field Trials (Hunting Dogs)
    • Earthdog Trials (small terriers and Dachshunds)
    • Sheepdog Trials (herding tests) (Herding Dogs, Rottweilers, and Samoyeds)
    • Hunt Tests (most dogs in the Sporting Groups and Poodle Standards)
    • Lure Coursing (Sighthounds only)
    • Working Dog Sport (obedience, tracking, protection. German Shepherds, Doberman Pinschers, Rottweilers and Bouvier des Flandres )

AKC policy toward working dog sport events that include protection phases, such as Schutzhund, has changed according to prevailing public sentiment in the United States. In 1990, as well-publicized dog attacks were driving public fear against many breeds, the AKC issued a ban on protection sports for all of its member clubs. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001, Americans began to take a more positive attitude toward well-trained protection dogs, and in July 2003 the AKC decided to allow member clubs to hold a limited number of protection events with prior written permission. In 2006 the AKC released rules for its own Working Dog Sport events, very similar to Schutzhund.

In 2007, the American Kennel Club accepted an invitation from the Mexican Kennel Club to participate in the Fédération Cynologique Internationale World Dog Show in Mexico City.

Recognized Breeds Edit

As of July 2009, the AKC fully recognizes 175 breeds with 12 additional breeds granted partial status in the Miscellaneous class. Another 63 rare breeds can be registered in its Foundation Stock Service.

The AKC divides dog breeds into seven groups, one class, and the Foundation Stock Service, consisting of the following (as of July 2009):

  • Sporting Group: 28 breeds developed as bird dogs. Includes Pointers, Retrievers, Setters, and Spaniels.
  • Hound Group: 26 breeds developed to hunt using sight (sighthounds) or scent (scent Hounds). Includes Greyhounds and Beagles.
  • Working Group: 28 large breeds developed for a variety of jobs, including guarding property, guarding livestock, or pulling carts. Includes Siberian Huskies and Bernese Mountains.
  • Terrier Group: 28 feisty breeds some of which were developed to hunt vermin and to dig them from their burrows or lairs. Size ranges from the tiny Cairn Terrier to the large Airedale Terrier.
  • Toy Group: 21 small companion breeds Includes Poodle Toys and Pekineses.
  • Non-Sporting Group: 19 breeds that do not fit into any of the preceding categories, usually larger than Toy dogs. Includes Bichon Frises and Poodle Miniatures.
  • Herding Group: 25 breeds developed to herd livestock. Includes Rough Collies and Belgian Shepherds.
  • Best in Show: over 150 breeds.
  • Miscellaneous Class: 12 breeds that have advanced from FSS but that are not yet fully recognized. After a period of time that ensures that good breeding practices are in effect and that the gene pool for the breed is ample, the breed is moved to one of the seven preceding groups.
  • Foundation Stock Service (FSS) Program: 63 breeds. This is a breed registry in which breeders of rare breeds can record the birth and parentage of a breed that they are trying to establish in the United States; these dogs provide the foundation stock from which eventually a fully recognized breed might result. These breeds cannot participate in AKC events until at least 150 individual dogs are registered; thereafter, competition in various events is then provisional.

The AKC Board of Directors appointed a committee in October, 2007, to evaluate the current alignment of breeds within the seven variety groups. Reasons for the action included the growing number of breeds in certain groups, and the make-up of breeds within certain groups. The number of groups and group make-up has been modified in the past, providing precedent for this action. The Group Realignment Committee completed their report in July, 2008.

The committee recommended that the seven variety groups be replaced with ten variety groups. If this proposal is approved, the Hound Group would be divided into “Scent Hounds” and “Sight Hounds”; the Sporting Group would be divided into “Sporting Group – Pointers and Setters” and “Sporting Group – Retrievers and Spaniels"; a new group called the “Northern Group” would be created; and the Non-Sporting Group would be renamed the “Companion Group”. The Northern Group would be populated by Northern/Spitz breeds, consisting of the Norwegian Elkhound, Akita, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky, Samoyed, American Eskimo, Chinese Shar-Pei, Chow Chow, Finnish Spitz, Keeshond, Schipperke, Shiba Inu and Swedish Vallhund. In addition, the Italian Greyhound is proposed to be moved to the Sight Hound Group, and the Dalmatian is proposed to be moved to the Working Group.

Other AKC Programs Edit

Main article: Canine Good Citizen

The AKC also offers the Canine Good Citizen program. This program tests dogs of any breed (including mixed breed) or type, registered or not, for basic behavior and temperament suitable for appearing in public and living at home.

The AKC also supports Canine Health with the Canine Health Foundation

The AKC also is an affiliate of AKC Companion Animal Recovery (AKC CAR) the nation's largest not-for-profit pet identification and 24/7 recovery service provider. AKC CAR works in conjunction with HelpMeFindMYPET, an independent pet recovery service serving Canada, the United States, and Mexico.

Legislation Edit

The AKC tracks all dog related legislation in the United States, lobbies lawmakers and issues legislative alerts on the internet asking for citizens to contact public officials. They are particularly active in combating breed-specific legislation such as bans on certain breeds considered dangerous.

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