The American Kennel Club (or AKC) is the most popular and largest registry of purebred dog pedigrees in the United States. Beyond maintaining its pedigree registry, the AKC also promotes events for purebred dogs, including the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, an annual event which predates the official forming of the AKC, and the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship.

Dog registration
The AKC is not the only registry of purebred dogs in the USA, but it is the most well known. For a dog to be registered with the AKC, the dogs parents must be registered with the AKC as the same breed, and the litter in which the dog is born must be registered with the AKC. Once these criteria are met, the dog can be registered as purebred by the AKC.

Registration indicates only that the dog is purely of one recognized breed; it does not necessarily indicate that the dog comes from healthy or show-quality blood lines. Nor is registration necessarily a reflection on the quality of the breeder or how the puppy was raised. In 2006, the Board of Directors of the AKC signed a contract with Petland pet stores to facilitate the registration of dogs sold by Petland and bred by the Hunte Corporation, the largest commercial dog breeder (sometimes referred to as a puppy mill) in the U.S. After a brief flurry of controversy, the AKC rescinded the Petland contract, but as AKC Chairman Ron Menaker notes ” the AKC has been registering AKC eligible puppies from Petland, and every other company selling AKC registrable puppies for the past 122 years.”

Registration is necessary only for breeders (so they can sell registered puppies) or for purebred conformation show or purebred dog sports participation.

Indefinite Listing Privilege Program
The Indefinite Listing Privilege Program (ILP) provides purebred dogs who may not have been eligible for registration a chance to register “indefinitely”. There are reasons why a purebred dog might not be eligible for registration; for example, the dog may the product of an unregistered litter, or have unregistered parents. Many dogs enrolled in the ILP program were adopted from animal shelters or rescue groups, in which cases the status of the dogs parents is unknown. Dogs enrolled in ILP may participate in AKC companion and performance activities, but not conformation.

Open foundation stock
The Foundation Stock Service (FSS) is an AKC program for breeds not yet accepted by the AKC for full recognition, and not yet in the AKCs Miscellaneous class. The AKC FSS requires that at least the parents of the registered animal are known. The AKC will not grant championship points to dogs in these breeds until the stud book is closed and the breed is granted full recognition.

The AKC sanctions events in which dogs and handlers can compete. These are divided into three areas:

  • Conformation shows
  • Companion events, in which all registered and ILP dogs can compete. These include:
    • Obedience trials
    • Tracking trials
    • Dog agility
    • Rally obedience
    • Junior Showmanship
  • Performance events, which are limited to certain entrants; ILP dogs of the correct breed are usually eligible:
    • Coonhound events (coonhounds; no ILP dogs)
    • Field trials (hounds)
    • Earthdog trials (small terriers and Dachshunds)
    • Sheepdog trials (herding tests) (herding breeds, Rottweilers, and Samoyeds)
    • Hunt tests (most sporting breeds and Standard Poodles)
    • Lure coursing (sighthounds only)