Should I Register My Dog with a Kennel Club?

If you've recently brought a new dog into your home, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about registration. First, you need to understand that you can register your dog only if he or she is a purebred, or the offspring of two dogs of the same breed, who have been previously registered. The purpose of registration is to create a pedigree, hopefully assuring that each subsequent breed pair will enhance the breed, producing puppies who are as close as possible to the breed standard, or ideal specimen.

A.K.C. Dog Show
Fully registered purebred dogs can compete in conformance shows.

What dog registration clubs are there?

In the United States, the biggest registry is the American Kennel Club or AKC. The Canadian Kennel Club serves Canada, while the United Kennel Club registers dogs in all fifty American states and 25 other countries.

If you plan on breeding your dog, you will need registration papers in order to sell your puppies as purebreds. You can expect to receive top dollar for your puppies only if both parents of a litter are fully registered. However, if you plan on your dog only being a companion, rather than a breeding resource, you may be happy to have only a limited registration, which is cheaper to purchase.

A limited registration shows that your dog is a purebred, but it does not allow you to register any offspring as purebred. Aside from bragging rights, a limited registration allows you to enter your dog in kennel club events such as field trials, agility competitions, and obedience events. Under AKC rules, dogs with limited registrations are not permitted to compete in conformance AKC dog shows.

Each registry has its own benefits associated with registering, such as handbooks on puppy care, eligibility for events, free or reduced cost veterinary care, and a certificate suitable for framing. You should know that your registration fee also goes to support the registry and its goals.

Depending on which registry you choose, you may or may not agree with the goals of the organization. Your registration money will be used to support the registry's political goals, as well as to fund research and public education efforts. It's a good idea to check with the registry before you send in your money so you know exactly what you are supporting.

How do I register my puppy?

When you buy your puppy from a reputable breeder, the breeder will give you a dog registration application, showing your dog's pedigree which will prove his or her eligibility. You simply fill out the buyer's portion of the application and submit it to the registry with the required fee.

If your seller promises to provide papers "later", make sure you get enough details on the bill of sale to properly identify your puppy and to support the seller's claim that the puppy is eligible for registration.

According to the AKC, your bill of sale must include the following information:

  • Breed of dog
  • Date of birth
  • Sex of the dog
  • Color and markings
  • Registered name and number of both of the dog's parents
  • The AKC litter number, which your seller should have obtained by registering the litter
  • Name of the breeder
  • Date of sale or delivery
  • Signature of the seller

If you are buying a dog and the seller cannot or will not provide all of the above information, you are likely not getting a dog that is eligible to be registered. If registration is important to you, don't buy from a breeder who doesn't provide all of the information.

Under AKC rules, registration of each puppy must be completed within twelve months of the date when the litter is registered by the breeder in order to avoid late registration penalty fees.

What is not included in dog registration?

Registration speaks only to the pedigree or ancestry of your puppy. It says nothing about a particular breeder's business practices or breeding practices. An AKC registration is no guarantee that you are not dealing with a puppy mill or with a disreputable person. You should still interview breeders carefully, check with several different breeders, get recommendations from people you trust, and make sure you personally see the conditions under which the puppies are kept before you put a deposit down on a dog.

Each breed has a standard that spells out such details as size, proportions, color of fur, eyes and nose, tail length, type of fur, and temperament. Serious breeders take into consideration the genetic traits of each of their dogs when matching dogs for breeding, with the idea that each pairing will produce only puppies who meet or come as close as possible to the breed standard.

Conformance Dog Show
Not all purebred puppies will be show-quality dogs.

However, not all puppies born to purebred parents will be show dogs. Even though they can be registered as purebreds, they may not have inherited the correct genes to win any shows. These dogs can generally be purchased at a lower cost and often make fine companion dogs or even competitors in events other than conformance shows.

Simply being eligible for registration doesn't mean that your dog should be used for breeding because if the correct genes aren't there, you will not be able to produce show-quality puppies from your dog, either. If you are planning to become a breeder, make sure you buy only dogs that are of show-quality, even if you don't plan to show your dogs.

What do I use my registration for?

If you plan on having your dog compete in any registry-sponsored events, you will need to provide proof of registration, i.e. the dog's registration number from the certificate you received soon after you filed your application. A kennel club is interested in producing dogs who perform and look like the ideal specimen of each individual breed. Therefore, only those dogs who are certified as being a pure specimen of each breed are allowed to compete in their events. This assures that the dogs who appear in the competitions are good representatives of the breed.

If you plan on breeding your dog, his or her registration papers form the basis on which you will be able to register the litters produced. The owners of any possible mates will want to see registration papers to assure that your dog's offspring will meet the breed standard and can bring top price because they will themselves be eligible for registration.

Dog in agility tunnel
Purebred Alternative dogs can still compete in performance events.

What happens if I don't register my puppy?

There is no problem with not registering your puppy, especially if you don't plan on breeding him or her. If you are simply looking for a companion animal and you happen to like a particular breed, there's no harm in having an un-registered purebred. If you subsequently change your mind, you can register your dog with full registration by paying a late fee.

If you have lost the application provided by your breeder, or if the breeder failed to give you an application, you can apply to the AKC for inclusion in the Purebred Alternative Listing, which gives people who have purebreds without papers the opportunity to compete in events sponsored by the registry. Although dogs registered in the alternative listing are not eligible for conformance events, they can compete in many of the performance events such as Earthdog, Lure Coursing, and Herding Trials.

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