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Friday, January 9, 2009

Controversy Week: AKC Registration

This is pretty American-centric, though it may apply to similar situations in other countries.

When you're looking for a puppy, one of the most common things you'll see is "AKC Registered". This means that the puppy has a registration from the American Kennel Club, certifying it as a pure breed with a listing of the parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. New dog owners proudly show me the puppy's "papers", giving its lineage for several generations. Prominently displayed are the letters "Ch", indicating that one or more of the ancestors was a champion in a dog show. This AKC stamp is heralded by breeders as the mark of quality, which the puppy's new human parents will also bring forward as meaning something. After all, if the puppy is AKC registered, it means that it's a great dog, right?

Nope. Or at least, not necessarilly.

Frankly, AKC papers are barely worth the ink they're printed with. The only thing it tells you is that the puppy is pure bred, but says absolutely nothing about the quality of the dog. You can have a puppy that has an overbite, an umbilical hernia, has excessively long legs for the breed, and has an unusual coat color, and it can be AKC registered just as much as a dog who wins the Westminster Dog Show. Getting AKC papers merely requires sending in a certification of the puppy's parents. And even that is based on what the breeder says. I have seen more than one dog who was supposedly a pure-bred puppy with AKC papers, and it really looked like a mixed breed to me. There is no exam of the parents or puppies, and no certificaiton or accreditation that the breeder must fulfil.

This isn't the fault of the American Kennel Club, and I don't hold them at fault. There also isn't anything wrong with AKC registration, as my own dog has her papers (though honestly I don't know where I put them). Just be aware when you get a puppy that there isn't anything special about an AKC registered dog versus one that doesn't have papers. That label doesn't really mean anything, and shouldn't be used as a factor in deciding whether or not to get a puppy.

Tomorrow....Controversy Week continues with the clients a vet dreads the most. And I know I'll ruffle some feathers with this one.

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