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What is The Kennel Club?

Written by Ella White


salukis in dog show

Whether we’re talking about the US or UK, The Kennel Club is a major institution in the world of dog breeding. It serves as a regulatory authority that oversees purebred dog standards and registrations. It was originally established to preserve and enhance dog breeds, and set guidelines for responsible breeding that ultimately ensure the health, temperament, and conformation of pedigree dogs. 

As such, The Kennel Club is integral to the pedigree dog community, and plays a vital role in maintaining breed integrity and promoting ethical practices. But it is not without its controversies. In this article, we’ll look at different Kennel Clubs across the world, why they matter, and explore some of the most common criticisms of these institutions.

Breed Standards and Recognition

Breed standards are the go-to guide in the dog breeding world, outlining the ideal characteristics for each breed. Created by international kennel clubs, these standards cover size, color, coat type, and temperament, offering dog breeders a reference point designed to help them maintain the unique qualities of each lineage.

However, these standards can vary between kennel clubs. The American Kennel Club (AKC), the UK's Kennel Club, and others may have subtle differences in how they see the perfect traits for a breed (or even if they recognize that breed at all). So, a pup of the same breed might look a bit different, depending on the standards followed in different regions.

There are also differences in the breeds and crossbreeds that each kennel club will recognize. Some clubs stick to the classic purebred route, while others are open to the idea of hybrid or crossbred dogs. This recognition can have an effect on which breeds are popular in different places.

While balancing tradition and the evolving world of dog breeding is a tricky area, it is the responsibility of kennel clubs to navigate this challenge to ensure the wellbeing and diversity of our furry friends.

The American Kennel Club (AKC)

Established in 1884, the American Kennel Club (AKC) is a comprehensive registry for purebred dogs in the USA that maintains the records and pedigrees for various breeds. The AKC is deeply involved in promoting responsible dog ownership, canine health, and well-organized dog events.

One of the main functions of the AKC is to establish and maintain breed standards, outlining the ideal characteristics for each recognized breed. These standards act as a benchmark for breeders, shaping the appearance, temperament, and health considerations for purebred dogs in the USA. 

The AKC's dedication to these standards helps to preserve distinct breeds and contributes to the overall health and wellbeing of the country’s canine population. It is also responsible for organizing many dog shows, competitions, and performance events in the US.

The Kennel Club (UK)

The Kennel Club, also known as The Royal Kennel Club (RKC), was established in the UK in 1873, and acts similarly to the USA’s AKC. It plays a major role in shaping the nation's dog culture, overseeing records and pedigrees, and safeguarding the integrity of purebred breeds in the UK. It is not just a registry and a standard-setter for breed characteristics. It also acts as a lobby group for issues relating to dogs in the UK.

As the oldest recognized kennel club in the world, The Kennel Club is not confined to national borders; its influence extends globally through collaborative work with international kennel clubs. These partnerships involve the exchange of insights and data relating to breed standards and the coordination of canine events. 

Functioning as a diplomatic force in the world of dogs, The Kennel Club ensures a shared global commitment to the appreciation and preservation of purebred dogs. From British Bulldogs to Scottish Terriers, The Kennel Club serves not only as a national authority but as a force that unites dog enthusiasts on an international scale.

FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale)

The Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) is the global authority in the world of dogs, bringing together national kennel clubs from different nations. In English, it translates to the International Canine Federation. Based in Belgium, FCI has 98 members and partners, each representing a country, including the USA and UK.

It is not a registry, and does not issue pedigrees, but the FCI does set breed standards and ensures the alignment of the practices and standards of kennel clubs worldwide. 

FCI's coordination with other kennel clubs helps to maintain high and consistent standards for dog breeding, welfare, and shows and exhibitions, and welfare. Essentially, it acts as a central force for global cooperation, uniting everyone with a shared commitment to responsible dog ownership and preserving different dog breeds.

Criticisms and Controversies

Despite their benefits, kennel clubs often face criticism. Critics often point to breed standards that prioritize appearance over the health of dogs, potentially leading to genetic issues among purebred populations. 

Some kennel clubs face controversy for resisting the inclusion of crossbreeds, which can limit genetic diversity and cause health concerns. Responding to these critiques, kennel clubs are working to improve standards, emphasizing the health of dogs. Some clubs are reconsidering traditional practices, thinking about including crossbreeds, and promoting responsible breeding. 

Education programs aim to inform breeders and the public about the importance of genetic diversity and ethical breeding. Despite ongoing challenges, these efforts show a commitment in the kennel club community to adapt and balance tradition with new ideas that will benefit the wellbeing and lasting health of our beloved pets.