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What Are the Differences Between the AKC, CKC and UKC Breed Registries?

The American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club and Continental Kennel Club differ in the way they register dogs. We look at the pros and cons of each.

Karen Dibert  |  Apr 5th 2017

If you have a purebred dog, you’ve likely been asked if they are AKC registered. I find that many people who ask this really mean, “Is your dog purebred?” These are actually two different questions. Let me explain.

“Purebred” means that both of the dog’s parents are of the same breed, and neither is a cross with any other breed. The dog is a “pure” strain, with no mix of any other breed in their ancestry.

A dog registered with the AKC means that they are purebred, and have papers through an organization called the American Kennel Club to prove that the ancestry has also been registered with the organization.

While this sounds like the same thing, the difference is that a purebred dog can be unregistered, or registered with any number of other organizations. Having a dog with AKC papers doesn’t make them more or less valuable, or a better or worse companion than a purebred dog without papers, or a dog with papers from another registry, or a mixed breed for that matter. So what do these different registries offer, and what are the pros and cons of each?

Louie wonders what his pedigree actually means. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

The American Kennel Club (AKC)

Pros: They will only allow a dog to be registered if both of the dog’s parents are also registered with the organization. This is an attempt to ensure that your puppy will be purebred and not mixed with another breed.

Cons: Not allowing any dogs to be registered if their lineage hasn’t previously been registered with the organization does not allow in new blood, and inbreeding can happen due to a lack of available AKC registered dogs. AKC has begun transferring some registries from other countries, however, which greatly helps with this. Sometimes inbreeding can cause genetic defects and/or health problems in a puppy, so breeders want to avoid this.

The Continental Kennel Club (CKC)

Pros: The CKC will register a dog without their parents being registered, as long as two witnesses verify validity of the breed and three photos are submitted (from different angles) to show conformation. If the photos show that the dog does not meet breed standards, they will not be registered. I like that this allows for expansion of the gene pool, while still maintaining the breed’s qualities. It also ensures that all dogs adhere to breed standards, based on the photos.

Cons: Allowing dogs to be registered in this way can (and will) allow in mixed-breed dogs who look fully like one parent and not at all like the other. While it’s not evident in that particular dog, if that dog is bred, the other breed’s genes may be more evident in the next generation. While a mixed breed-puppy is every bit as good a companion as a purebred, if you’re purchasing a purebred for particular character traits or looks, you may not be getting what you expect. You may end up paying top dollar for a Frenchie, for instance, and not getting what you wanted.

Margo is registered with the CKC. She’s a perfect companion for her boy. (Photo by Karen Dibert)

United Kennel Club (UKC)

Pros: In addition to registering dogs whose parents are on record with the UKC, the organization will use DNA testing to prove a dog’s parentage and issue papers to a dog with unregistered parents. This is a better way to ensure that the dog being registered is purebred, while also allowing expansion of the gene pool.

The UKC also promotes the “whole dog,” and places great emphasis on working dogs performing to their breed’s abilities rather than simply looking good. This ensures that herding or hunting dogs will do their work well, when needed. Farmers still rely on herding dogs, and many hunters need pointers or retrievers while in the field.

Cons: They can sometimes change the standards of a breed listed with them. This is only a problem if you’re showing a dog who conformed to the old standard, and now will never become a champion. It in no way affects the quality of a companion.

All registry companies simply keep track of registration information and pedigrees, and while they inspect kennels and conduct random DNA testing, it’s nearly impossible to catch everything that is illegally happening. Larger kennels must be licensed with their respective state, and are subject to USDA and that particular state’s regulations. (Each state has their own set of rules and regulations, as well as what size kennel constitutes needing to be registered with them.) If someone is raising one or two litters of puppies per year, they do not fall under any regulations, and registries do not monitor every single breeder; their main job is to keep records.

The bottom line is that a dog registered with one organization vs. another isn’t really going to matter. What matters is finding a breeder that you can trust, and a dog that you are willing to love until the day they die.