If you’re a dog lover, you’ve probably heard of the American Kennel Club (AKC). And you may have talked to fellow dog owners who speak with pride about their AKC-registered dogs.
But bragging rights aside, what’s the big fuss about AKC registration for dogs?
Is it just a fancy label, or are there other benefits to officially registering your dog?
And does your dog meet the requirements to be registered with the AKC?
We’ll answer all these questions and more — keep reading!
AKC Registration Basics
What Does “AKC Registered” Mean?
The AKC is the USA’s oldest, most esteemed purebred dog registry. It verifies the lineage of registered dogs, giving owners, vets and breeders a way to trace the genetics and bloodlines of their dogs.
Put simply, a dog that is AKC registered has been given its own official branch on the canine family tree. The dog’s parents have been verified, the parents’ parents have been verified, and so on — sometimes going back hundreds of years!
Is AKC Registration Important?
Ask a community of dog lovers this question and you’ll get many different answers.
The gist of it is: it depends on what you plan to do with your dog.
If you intend to breed your dog, AKC registration is a critical step in establishing yourself as a quality, reputable breeder. Puppies with verified lineages are seen as more desirable than unregistered puppies, and registration demonstrates transparency and honesty on your part.
AKC registration is also a requirement for participation in AKC dog shows and events, such as obedience trials, agility trials and field events.
While not strictly necessary, AKC registration is still a good idea for family pets, emotional support animals or working dogs. Having a certified documentation of parentage can help you prepare for future health issues, understand your dog’s genetics and even connect you with the rest of your dog’s family.
Plus, your AKC registration fee supports the important work the organization does, such as performing kennel inspections and researching veterinary medicine advancements through the Canine Health Foundation.
Does AKC Registration Mean That a Dog Is “High Quality?”
Some sketchy breeders and misinformed owners claim that AKC registration means that a dog has exceptional genes, is suitable for breeding, or is otherwise superior to non-registered dogs.
But that simply isn’t the case.
AKC registration doesn’t mean that the AKC is vouching for a dog’s health, ability, virility or any other quality. It means only that a dog came from a registered litter produced by two registered dogs, with a confirmed lineage going back at least three generations.
Think of AKC registration like a genealogy service — it tells you who and where your dog came from, but puts no further value judgments on it. Matters of health and behavior are the territory of vets and behaviorists, not the AKC.
The AKC Purebred Registration Process
How Do I Register a Purebred Dog with the AKC?
For your purebred dog to be eligible for AKC registration, it must come from a registered litter. When you purchase an eligible dog, it will come with an AKC certificate detailing the dog’s parentage and displaying the dog’s unique registration number.
With your certificate in hand, go to the AKC dog registration page and fill out the online form. You’ll need to pick an approved name, provide photos and a pedigree, and pay the registration fee (starting at $33).
You can also mail in your registration documents, though there is a higher fee if you do so. The application form can be downloaded from the AKC website — print it out, fill it out and mail it to the address on the form.
What If My Purebred Dog Isn’t from a Registered Litter?
If your dog’s breeder didn’t register the parents and/or the litter with the AKC, your dog isn’t eligible for full AKC registration.
However, you can still enroll your dog in the Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program. This allows your dog to compete in AKC Companion and Performance events, even though its parentage can’t be confirmed.
To be enrolled in PAL, your dog must be spayed or neutered, and you’ll need to submit photos to the AKC to verify its purebred status. You’ll need to download the PAL registration form, fill it out and mail it in along with the photos and a $35 fee — no online registration is available.
What Benefits Does AKC Registration Give Me?
AKC registration permanently enters your dog’s information into the AKC database, giving you a verifiable record of ownership. Full registration also documents parentage and qualifies any of your dog’s purebred offspring to be registered as well.
When you first enroll your dog in the AKC registry, you’re given a free vet visit with an AKC-approved vet, as well as 30 days of complimentary pet insurance. You also get a frameable certificate and the ability to enter your dog in shows, competitions and other AKC events.
Mixed-Breed Dogs and AKC Registration
Can I Register a Mixed-Breed Dog with the AKC?
While full AKC registration is restricted to purebred dogs, mixed-breed dogs can be enrolled in the AKC Canine Partners program. All dogs, regardless of breed or lineage, are eligible as long as they are spayed or neutered.
Is AKC Dog Registration Necessary for My Mixed-Breed Dog?
Registering your mixed-breed dog with AKC Canine Partners isn’t necessary for all dog owners.
However, if you want to enter your dog in agility, obedience, hunting or sport events run by the AKC, you’ll need to register with Canine Partners.
Enrollment also grants you a lifetime membership in the AKC’s lost pet recovery service, a free office visit with an AKC-approved vet and a Canine Partners certificate.
How Do I Register a Mixed-Breed Dog with AKC Canine Partners?
You can enroll your dog in Canine Partners by filling out the online enrollment form. You’ll need to provide your contact information and some basic info about your dog, including name, color, pattern and date of birth.
The application form can also be downloaded and mailed in if you prefer.
What Is the AKC Registration Fee for Canine Partners?
Canine Partners registration costs $35. The fee is the same whether you apply online or by mail.
An additional $10 fee applies if your dog’s name exceeds 36 characters.
AKC Registration and Microchips
What Is a Microchip and How Is it Read?
A microchip is a tiny electronic device (about the size of a grain of rice) that’s painlessly implanted just beneath the surface of a dog’s skin, usually between the shoulderblades. The microchip contains a unique ID code that can be scanned by vets or shelters to identify your dog — think of it like a barcode on a bag of chips at the grocery store.
Your dog’s microchip doesn’t contain any actual information on you or your dog, just the ID code. The ID codes are managed by a virtual registry, which connects information like your name, phone number and address to the ID code.
When a vet, shelter worker or animal control officer scans a dog’s microchip, the ID code appears. The code is then submitted to the microchip registry, which then contacts the owner to notify them that their dog has been found.
This ensures that said information remains secure and can be easily updated without having to visit a vet or replace the microchip. No matter how many times you move or change your phone number, the ID code stays the same, so the microchip works for the lifetime of your dog.
If you’re concerned about tracking, spying or other potential downsides of electronic implants, don’t worry! Microchips aren’t tracking devices and remain powered off until they’re activated by a microchip scanner.
Why Is Enrolling a Microchip Important?
Because every microchip contains an ID code and nothing else, it’s useless unless the code is enrolled in a database with the owner’s name and contact info. Picture a driver’s license with an ID number but no name, address or photo — it proves nothing and helps nobody.
On the other hand, as long as your microchip is registered and the information is kept current, it’s absolutely invaluable in the event that your dog is lost or stolen. It’ll take just a few minutes for a vet or shelter to scan the chip and notify the registry, which will in turn let you know that your dog has been found.
Can I Enroll My Dog’s Microchip with the AKC?
The AKC operates the Reunite microchip registry, which links your contact information to your pet’s microchip. All pets and microchip brands are eligible, regardless of whether your dog is AKC-registered or not.
To enroll, visit the AKC Reunite enrollment page, where you’ll enter your contact info and your microchip ID code. The enrollment fee is $19.50, and enrollment lasts for the lifetime of your dog.
AKC Reunite’s recovery services operate 24/7/365. No matter what day or time your lost dog is located, you’ll be informed immediately.