Puppy seekers should understand the purpose and importance of AKC registration.
“I don’t care about papers.”
“I don't need papers; I just want a pet to spoil.”
“I don’t want a show dog anyway. So why pay for papers?”
“I’ll love my dog no matter what, fancy pedigree or not.”
“Papers are a rip-off to charge more.” Even if you want a pet, you should care about papers. You’ve decided you want a corgi for a reason. So whether you buy or adopt, you want it to look and act a certain way (size, coat type, energy level, and personality). You’re more likely to get that from a dog with a known lineage and a breeder who understands that lineage.
What does it mean if a dog comes with:
Papers / Paperwork
Papers are a dog’s family lineage / heritage / ancestry / genealogy, recorded for generations. If the registry catalogs that history reliably, you can be confident a puppy from that family will look and act a certain way (size, coat type, energy level, instincts, and personality). Those papers are valuable and important only if the registry providing them is credible.
AKC papers are generally the hallmark registry. Paperwork from AKC is generally accurate and trustworthy. Other trustworthy registries include:
AKC: American Kennel Club
UKC: United Kennel Club (NOT UKC Universal Kennel Club, or UKCI United Kennel Club International)
CKC: CANADIAN Kennel Club (NOT CKC Continental Kennel Club)
FCI: Federation Cynologique Internationale (NOT FIC Federation of International Canines)
KC: The Kennel Club (UK)
NZKC: New Zealand Kennel Club
Some bogus registries are listed at the end of this post, and new ones will surely pop up. You’ll notice several disreputable registries attempt to have their acronym match that of other reputable registries. That should give you an idea of the level of honesty they conduct themselves with.
What is the value of having a dog with papers?
Papers are records of a puppy’s family tree for tens or hundreds of generations. Registries save and publish those records. The value of the information from a registry depends upon the trustworthiness of the registry doing the recordkeeping and the honesty of the breeders reporting those details.
Registration is valuable to the welfare of dogs as a literal paper trail of responsibility. Ethical breeders take responsibility for EVERY puppy they ever breed or own (including grand and great-grand puppies). Without papers, dogs can get lost, neglected, abandoned, passed around from home to home, bred, or overbred irresponsibly... The risk is multiplied exponentially over each successive generation (“only” one or two puppies sold in a litter goes on to be bred, and then only one or two puppies from the next generation are bred, on and on and on). There is no accountability for what happens to dogs without papers. There are many instances I’ve seen of a person needing help with a sick adult/elder dog and trying to find their breeder.
Accurate accounting of long-term family health is needed to track and hopefully avoid genetic conditions that aren’t possible to test for and may not appear until later in life. For example, a sire and dam are bred without the breeder knowing they each have siblings with epilepsy and could pass it on to their puppies.
If I find a puppy with AKC papers, that means the breeder is reputable, and the puppy will be high quality, right?
AKC papers are not always a guarantee of quality. A breeder can produce “hung papers,” meaning they lie about a dog's parentage. Some people are caught; others may get away with it. The truth will sometimes be revealed in future generations, such as dogs beginning to not look like their claimed breed. AKC is still the most reliable registry, but that doesn't automatically make an “AKC certified” dog a quality one.
Irresponsible breeders have discredited the value and importance of AKC registration with dishonest practices. All it takes is for an unethical breeder to get their hands on one AKC puppy or hang one dog’s papers to be able to say their dogs are AKC registered for generations. Yes, they might be able to “prove” their family tree, but it won’t prove the puppies are happy, healthy representatives of their breed.
What if the puppy I want is registered with CKC / ACA / APRI, not AKC?
Unfortunately, not all registries are honest. Some will register a dog with just a picture, so long as they get paid. These dubious registries are used to better market puppies but aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. For example, a shady breeder will advertise that one parent is AKC registered but not mention that the other parent is not, making those puppies ineligible for AKC papers. Utilizing bogus registries is a red flag regarding the quality of the breeder and puppies.
What if a breeder told me their dogs are purebred? They just decided not to register or get papers on the parents?
I really haven’t found a good reason not to register breeding dogs. A breeder may provide you several excuses for why they decided not to register their dogs before breeding: they don’t trust AKC, want their puppies to be affordable, lost the paperwork, ect. It should raise suspicion that a breeder might be hiding something they don’t want to admit.
As for “wanting puppies to be affordable,” it costs 25 bucks for a litter plus 2.00 per puppy, so easily less than 50 bucks total for most litters. That’s a low price for authenticity verification. If a breeder is cutting costs as small as this, what else are they skimping on to save money? This is also why it’s a red flag if a breeder offers papers for an additional fee - it almost always far exceeds the nominal fee to file.
Other breeders might say they didn’t get around to doing the paperwork. If they are too lazy to do simple paperwork, how can you trust they will put in the work required to raise a healthy litter or support you for the life of the dog? If they don’t see the value of paperwork, why are they trying to use that qualification to sell puppies?
A breeder told me their dogs are AKC registered, but the puppies cannot be AKC registered. What’s up with that?
A puppy can only be registered with AKC if BOTH parents have Full registration. There are a couple of different types of AKC registration: Full registration and Limited registration. Full registration means a dog can continue the family line/reported genetic history with an AKC pedigree. Limited registration still indicates proof of the dog’s identity, BUT its progeny cannot be AKC registered. This is meant to discourage people from breeding their pets.
A puppy with Limited Registration can do everything else with AKC, whether conformation showing or performance events like rally, herding, agility, etc. If you have any interest in breeding, please talk to your breeder before you purchase a puppy. It is possible to change a dog’s registration from Limited to Full, but a breeder’s opinion on whether or not a dog should be bred may not change after the dog matures.
Why should I care if the parents only have Limited registration from AKC?
A HUGE red flag is if an owner only received Limited registration from their breeder and chooses to breed the dog anyway. They may wave it away as, of course, they’re purebred; they don’t have papers. Or, it’s my dog, I’ll do whatever I want.
Somewhere, a breeder trusted this owner to give their puppy a happy life as a pet, and the owner instead decided they needed to profit (or “recoup their costs”) by breeding or decided their family and friends wanting a puppy was more important than the promise they made to the puppy’s breeder. This is a huge betrayal and shows dishonesty on the part of the breeder. If they’re willing to break trust in such a huge way, how can you trust them to be honest with you?
I want full breeding rights on the puppy I buy. Should I pay extra?
People will sometimes use the terms “full rights” or “breeding rights,” but the AKC term is Full registration. No, an ethical breeder generally won’t charge you more for Full registration. They don’t offer breeding rights to just any dog they produce or to just anyone who pays. They also don’t let their dogs end up in unsafe or irresponsible breeding situations - even if it’s not “their” dog anymore, they put their hearts into every puppy they produce and want a long, happy, healthy life for each of them.
A breeder will evaluate their puppies for appropriate temperaments and structure before determining which home each puppy will go to and which puppies should be considered breeding prospects. A puppy can be a perfect pet but have qualities that should not be passed on to the next generation. Those are the puppies that are sold on Limited registration.
The only “right” you don’t have when you have Limited registration is to breed the dog. The dog still 100% belongs to you in every meaningful way. Unethical people may breed on Limited registration anyway, but the deterrent to Limited Registration is the puppies cannot be AKC registered. It is basically a way to prevent people from stealing their kennel/family name. When people “don’t care about papers,” these people can get away with this unscrupulous behavior.
If you think you may want to breed, even just a smidgen, talk to your breeder. We need more responsible breeders, so if you’ve ever thought, maybe I’d breed my dog just once… find a mentor and research that path before you buy a puppy. “Changing your mind” and breaking an agreement, or lying about your intentions to breed a dog when you know a breeder won’t sell to you otherwise, is selfish, shameful, and only hurts the dogs.
So, I can’t wholly trust AKC paperwork to mean a breeder is responsible… what do I do now?
It’s important to interview your breeder to determine if you’re getting a dog bred with love and welfare prioritized or just a product made for profit. The only way to determine what your dog will be like is to know the parents and grandparents, and even further back in the family tree. Reputable breeders keep meticulous records - and can explain why they bred certain dogs (positive qualities to pass on and negative ones to improve upon). They know their family lines, the lines of other breeders, and whether or not those family lines pair well. They plan generations based on what improvements they wish to make and what strengths they wish to maintain.
Deciding “I don’t care about papers” is bad for the dogs. Your best friend deserves to be born with careful consideration by their breeder and given the very best odds to have a healthy life. Don’t settle for less.
Registries to Avoid:
AAPBA - All American Premier Breeds Association (All American Pit Bull)
ACA - American Canine Association
ACHC - American Canine Hybrid Registry
ACR - American Canine Registry
ANDR - American National Dog Registry
APBR - American Pit Bull Registry
APCA - American Purebred Canine Association
APR - American Purebred Registry
APRI - American Pet Registry, Inc.
ARU - Animal Registry Unlimited
BFK/BFKC - Bonafide Kennel Club
CCR - Canadian Canine Registry
CKC - Continental Kennel Club (do not confuse with the Canadian Kennel Club)
CRCS - Canine Registration and Certification Services
DBR - Designer Breed Registry
DDKC - Designer Dogs Kennel Club
DRA - Dog Registry of America
FIC - Federation of International Canines
IABCA - International All Breed Canine Association of America
IDCR - International Designer Canine Registry
KCGB - Kennel Club of Great Britain
NAMBR - North American Mixed Breed Registry
NAPDR - North American Purebred Dog Registry
NAPR - North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
NHR - National Hybrid Registry
NKC - National Kennel Club
SDR - Sporting Dog Registry
UABR - United All Breed Registry
UKC - Universal Kennel Club (do not confuse with the United Kennel Club)
UKCI - Universal Kennel Club International
WKC - World Kennel Club
WWKC - World Wide Kennel Club
Continue reading to help inform future choices for a healthier dog!