Breeder's Notebook

An Eye on the Fancy: What changes can breeders make to raise low AKC registration numbers?


Formed in 1884, the American Kennel Club is the second oldest amateur-sport-governing body in the United States. It did not register dogs for the first few years, but acquired a privately held registry soon after. It took until 1935 before the AKC registered its one-millionth dog, a Shetland Sheepdog.

Annual registrations rose from less than 2,000 in 1885 to top 10,000 in 1907, 20,000 in 1915 and 50,000 in 1925. Annual registrations remained in that vicinity until about 1944, when they began to rise steadily, reaching about a million per year around 1970 and hovering around there for the decade, then again increasing until they reached their peak of 1,528,329 in 1992. After that, registrations began to drop. In 2010, the AKC registered only 563,611 dogs (source: AKC 2010 annual report) – similar to the numbers in the early 1960s. What happened?

All good deeds...
The AKC itself made several well-meaning moves that came back to bite it. In response to dog owners’ concerns about puppy mills, the organization tightened its inspection process and, most notably, required DNA testing on frequently used sires (dogs that sire more than seven litters) to check paternity. Large-scale breeding operations protested the added expense, and declined to register their litters with the AKC, instead creating their own registries. These breeders discovered that most of the puppy-buying market who shopped at pet stores didn’t care which registry a puppy’s papers came from. Although many dedicated dog owners might say, “Good riddance,” the AKC lost the income from these registrations.

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