The American Kennel Club (or AKC) is the largest registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. The AKC registered just over 920,000 dogs in 2005, of which the largest numbers were for retrievers, both labrador (137,867) and golden (48,509). Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, this kennel club also promotes events for purebred dogs, including the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official forming of the AKC, and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.
The AKC is not the only registry of purebred dogs, but it is the one with which most Americans are familiar. 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. Once these criteria are met, the dog can be registered as purebred by the AKC.
Registration indicates only that the dog is purely of 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, the largest commercial dog breeder (sometimes referred to as a puppy mill) in the U.S. After a brief flurry of controversy, the AKC rescinded the Petland contract, but as AKC Chairman Ron Menaker notes the AKC has "been registering AKC eligible puppies from Petland, and every other company selling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.
More information on registry can be found at the official AKC website.
Indefinite Listing Privilege Program
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 "indefinitely". There are various reasons why a purebred dog might not be eligible for registration; for example, the dog may the product of an unregistered litter, or have unregistered parents. Many dogs enrolled in the ILP program were adopted from animal shelters or rescue groups, in which cases the status of the dog's parents is unknown. Dogs enrolled in ILP may participate in AKC companion and performance activities, but not conformation.
Open Foundation Stock
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.
The AKC sanctions events in which dogs and handlers can compete. These are divided into three areas:
- Conformation shows
- Companion events, in which all registered and ILP dogs can compete. These include:
- Obedience trials
- Tracking trials
- Dog agility
- Rally obedience
- Junior Showmanship
- Performance events, which are limited to certain entrants; ILP dogs of the correct breed are usually eligible:
- Coonhound events (coonhounds; no ILP dogs)
- Field trials (hounds)
- Earthdog trials (small terriers and Dachshunds)
- Sheepdog trials (herding tests) (herding breeds, Rottweilers, and Samoyeds)
- Hunt tests (most sporting breeds and Standard Poodles)
- Lure coursing (sighthounds only)
As of October 2004, the AKC recognizes only 157 of the hundreds of dog breeds known around the world, and another 51 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 October, 2004:
- Sporting Group: 26 breeds developed as bird dogs. Includes Pointers, Retrievers, Setters, and Spaniels.
- Hound Group: 22 breeds developed to hunt using sight (sighthounds) or scent (scent hounds).
- Working Group: 24 large breeds developed for a variety of jobs, including guarding property, guarding lifestock, or pulling carts.
- Terrier Group: 27 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.
- Non-Sporting Group: 17 breeds that do not fit into any of the preceding categories, usually larger than Toy dogs.
- Herding Group: 18 breeds developed to herd livestock.
- Miscellaneous Class: 6 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: 51 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.
Other AKC Programs
The AKC also offers the Canine Good Citizen program. This program tests dogs of any breed or type, registered or not, for basic behavior and temperament suitable for appearing in public and living at home.