It’s All AKCs Fault

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 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.


15 thoughts on “It’s All AKCs Fault

  1. Victoria Corse

    Abso-freaking-lutely NAILED IT. 

  2. Patrick C Byrne

    Judges award too many poor or extreme specimens of any breed with Championship points. 

    Too little knowledge of pedigrees and standards by breeders is also a contributing factor.

    • I'm late to the party, but the judge has to work with only what is in front of them at any given show. They have to award a winner, if every specimen sucks but one is better than the others that's what gets the points. However, it's very very difficult to attain an AKC championship with a dog that is TRULY a terrible specimen. Hell, it's not that easy to get an AKC championship with a Malinois anyway, due to the points system. A terrible Malinois would NEVER get there. EVER. It's hard enough to get there with a good one. 

      However, competing with a dog that has a little something "extra" which sometimes seems "extreme" to outsiders, does come with more success. In a specialty show with dozens of breed specimens one can EASILY pick out the contenders. They have a little something-something that the others don't. It's kind of wild how it works out. 

  3. Marie Pletsch

    What about when AKC registers basterdized colors not in standard, knowingly making exceptions against protests from breeders in the standard.  They promote registration no matter what.

    • Barbara Donahue, AMSC Delegate to AKC

      AKC started as a purebred dog registry; I support the organization and it’s wonderful work. No other registry can compare. Yet despite efforts of numerous parent clubs, AKC continues to register dogs that obviously do not conform to breed standard, especially dog colors.

      • jamie coughlin

        AKC is registering dogs as purebreds, they are not in the business of determining quality as compared to a standard.  That is the function of shows (and hopefully breeders).  If a dog is registered that is of a color not in the breed then the breed club should gather proof and protest or sue.  I would be much more concerned with the puppy mill type breeders who keep their stock in horrid conditions.  If they have an inspection team it must be made of 2 people because nobody would pass the majority of those kennels.

    • Because the dog is still the breed it was born as. AKC makes no representation as to the quality/presentation of any given dog. Most dogs are registered while just weeks old; the idea that the AKC could sift through them all and find the good ones is honestly ridiculous. Off color or not, it's still it's breed. 

  4. Anne c

    But perhaps AKC could revisit how it allow registration of litters. 

    Surely programs could be developed that alert AKC if particular breeding is breeding > then 50 pups/year OR like it Europe, breeders have to agree to random checks of their kennels or vet records on their dogs.

    But Americans are reluctant to have any organization "mind my business."  

    So I  guess I dont know the solution to poor breeding, overloaded shelters and  breeder rights but it seems that the National AKC needs to be part of it

    • dantero

      AKC actually does do random checks at times of breeders.  The have an inspection and compliance division that does inspections of the dogs condition, proper housing, identification, record keeping, etc.  When issues are found they will do anything from just mentoring the breeder to fix minor issues, up to fining the breeder and suspending their registration privileges.  And if they feel it’s necessary, they will involve law enforcement.
      I’m not sure how they decide who to inspect, but I suspect the number of litters registered plays into it

    • Mlelliston

      Do you know ANYTHING about the AKC?  IT DOES ALL OF THESE THINGS, AND MORE. 

    • Lisa

      purebred dogs are not the specimens overloading shelters, period!

  5. Marylyn DeGregorio

    Bingo!  AKC registers what breeders and owners present to it as purebred.  AKC records titles earned by dogs entered by their owners and breeders.  AKC is a registry, not Big Brother.


  6. Jan Dykema

    ," breeders have to agree to random checks of their kennels or vet records on their dogs."  NO THANK YOU. AKC does checks. that is enough.. This article is great..

  7. It is key to understand that the AKC is a registry. As a registry it needs to follow its own rules of registration or a breed clubs rules of registration. 

    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.

    This paragraph places AKC in a position of oversight, like it or not, in the eyes of animal activists and advicates. Though it speaks only of registration it places itself in the position of parent to the breed parents. 
    The next best step is to continue the wonderful language shift started by AKC. They are purpose bred dogs and we are preservationist breeders. Then the AKC should invite breed clubs to learn ways to better get along with one another, their members and educating the public. 
    Welcome new breed owners into clubs and mentor them. This will prove key to dismantling misinformation. Can we do that as dedicated breeders? Time will tell. 
    Being defensive and derogatory to activists doesn't help our cause. There are breeders out there who do not meet breeder ethical standards set by the breed club. We need to educate and then kindly mentor puppy owners on why they may want our breed, why our breed may not work for them and helping them live successfully with our breed. 
    It's not the AKC's job to do the education on our breed. It's our job. 
    AKC Govt Relations does a great job at pushing back and defending pure breed dog owners. Now it is up to us to proactively educate, include and mentor the next generation. 
    Blame shame doesn't work. 
    Collaborative discussions that include taking responsibility for where we can do better will save our beloved breeds, sport and the registry. 

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