On a regular basis I see people making the comment "AKC is ruining my breed". This is tossed out on social media posts, in face to face conversations, blog articles, etc. And every time I see or hear it, my reaction is "really, how?".
What the AKC is
First, let's talk about what AKC is. A lot of this information is directly from the AKC website. AKC, or the American Kennel Club, a not-for-profit organization, is the nation's oldest, largest, and most esteemed purebred dog registry. Founded in 1884, the AKC is the largest purebred dog registry in the world. Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership.
The AKC at A Glance:
- We are the world’s largest and oldest not-for-profit all-breed registry, with more than 190 recognized breeds and counting.
- We have more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and affiliated organizations.
- We receive more than 3 million entries to 22,000+ sports and events each year.
- We are the number one content site for dogs, as reported by ComScore, the industry’s leading tracking source, with over 7 million visitors to AKC.org every month.
- Almost 50,000 Canine Good Citizen certifications are awarded each year.
- The AKC Canine Health Foundation allocates millions of dollars in health research funds to study nearly all of the top diseases in dogs, including cancer, epilepsy, thyroid disease, hip dysplasia, allergies, heart disease, progressive retinal atrophy, and cataracts, among others.
- The AKC Rescue Network is the largest network of dog rescue groups in the country, with more than 450 groups participating.
- Over 5 million micro-chipped or tattooed pets are enrolled in the AKC Reunite program, and over 470,000 pets have been returned home to date.
- AKC Museum of the Dog is home to the largest collection of canine art in the country.
- AKC Library is America’s most comprehensive collection on the subject of domestic dogs with more than 18,000 volumes.
So AKC spends millions of dollars on health research, actively lobbies to protect owners' rights, offers a wide variety of events for people to compete their dogs in, and works to educate the public. But nowhere in that list of things that AKC does, did I see that they breed, sell, train or compete dogs.
What the AKC isn't
- AKC does not breed dogs
- AKC does not sell or place dogs
- AKC does not enter dogs into conformation or performance events
- AKC does not train dogs
- AKC is the parent organization for each breed club, but the breed clubs, made up of owners and breeders, decide what they want the standard to be, what health tests are important for a CHIC, what titles they prioritize for ROM, etc.
People blame AKC for the downfall of their breed, and refuse to either understand or believe that when it comes to our dogs, AKC isn't the one making the decisions.
It's the breeders who make the decision on what to breed, how often to breed, and the buyers who decide which breeder to purchase from. If you don't like the direction your breed is taking, then look to the breeders who are producing the dogs. AKC simply registers whatever those breeders produce when the offspring are eligible. The breeders are the ones making the decisions to breed Rover to Fluffy, AKC has no input into that. Those same breeders are the ones who are selling/placing the resulting puppies into their new homes. Whether the new buyer has to go through a process that includes a 62 question interview, a credit and home check, a life history that goes back 3 generations, interviews with at least 14 non-family members who recommend them as a future owner or a process that's as simple as "does the check clear", is all up to the breeder. The same is true for what type of contract, if any, the new owner is required to sign. Replace the word "breeder" with "rescue", "rehomer", "resaler", etc and the same still holds true. The person with the dog, is the one making the decision on if the new owner and home are appropriate or not and what sort of contact or involvement they will have after the sale/placement. AKC is not making this decision.
It's the owners who decide what dogs to enter into conformation shows. The judges can only select from what's in front of them. Breed standards are written in such a way that they can allow a fair amount of personal interpretation. A standard might say "moderate stop" but who defines what "moderate" is? If the standard said "1/2 inch" then it would be fairly black and white. But moderate to some is excessive to others, and minimal to others. The breed clubs, made of owners and breeders, decide what they want for their standard, and what changes to propose in the future. Those same clubs are involved in the judge's education programs. This is where the judges are educated on what is important to the breed fanciers when judging their dogs. If you don't like the direction your breed is going in the conformation ring, have you entered your style of dog so the judges have options on which type to put up? Have you worked within your breed club to encourage the judge's education to go a different direction and reward those traits you value? AKC records the results of conformation shows, and issues titles based on those results. But they aren't the ones making the decision on what dogs to enter.
Since I mentioned breed clubs, I will also point out that a breed club moves in the direction it's members, AKA the owners of that breed, want. If the primary focus of the breed club membership is conformation and performance events, then that is what the breed club is going to focus on. If people want breed clubs to make working ability a priority, then those people need to join the breed club, volunteer for working oriented commitees, vote for working oriented events, etc. If you aren't a member of the breed club, then complaining about what the club is doing doesn't make much sense. You can only initiate change from within.
It's also the owners who decide which performance or working events to enter their dogs in. AKC provides a number of performance events people can enter their dogs in, such as obedience, tracking, herding, agility, nose work, etc. Beyond providing registration, which is used by many working and performance organizations to issue a scorebook, AKC isn't involved in many of the other working and performance sports or organizations such as Schutzhund, Ringsport, Barn hunt, AHBA and ASCA herding, multiple agility organizations, UKC events, etc. If you have a working or performance breed, and are upset because the bulk of the dogs being produced are simply being kept as "show dogs" or pets, look to the owners who purchase those dogs then choose not to compete in working or performance events, not AKC or the other organizations that offer those owners an opportunity to compete with their dogs. AKC briefly dipped their toe into Schutzhund, and has offered to recognize working titles such as FR, MR, etc. If people don't support these programs, they can't turn around and complain that AKC doesn't support working venues.
And finally, it's the owners who make the decision to abandon their dog when it turns out they didn't do enough research prior to purchasing it, didn't properly train it and don't want to deal with the fall out, or they simply decide it's no longer convenient to own. AKC isn't dumping these dogs at the pound, into rescue, or along the side of the road. The owners are.
AKC doesn't ruin breeds. The people involved in the breeds are the ones responsible for their success or ruin. AKC just makes a good scapegoat to place the blame on, when the owners and breeders don't want to step up and take responsibility.