What Does It Mean When a Dog Is AKC Certified?

Your dog must be AKC-certified to compete in many dog shows.
i Apple Tree House/Lifesize/Getty Images

There are different ways of registering and/or certifying your dog with the American Kennel Club, but the most longstanding definition regards tracking his lineage. Getting your dog AKC-certified is like making him a family tree, but not just any dog can do it -- he has to qualify first.

Getting Certified

Typically, you need to have certain documentation to certify your dog with the AKC -- it's like when you need your driver's license to apply for a credit card. You have to be able to document things such as his birth date, the size of his litter, the date you purchased him, his sex and more. You also have to provide information about his parentage, so contact your breeder and request the information if you don't have it.

What Certification Means

An AKC-certified, registered dog is simply one with a documented and approved family history -- the distinction has no bearing on his show quality.


Not all dogs, even purebreds, are qualified for AKC certification. Even if you know that he is purebred, you have to be able to provide documentation that proves it. This means that undocumented dogs, like rescues or those without sufficient breeder paperwork, are ineligible for AKC registration. Registering your dog with another organization, like the Continental Kennel Club, the United Kennel Club or the North American Purebred Dog Registry also may disqualify him for AKC membership.

Alternative Certifications

While AKC registration depends on your dog's lineage and paperwork, the organization offers alternative certifications, as well. For example, dogs that pass a test of training and manners are eligible for the AKC's Canine Good Citizen program, which encourages responsible ownership and training. You also may register your dog with the AKC Purebred Alternative Listing/Indefinite Listing Privilege, which is a form of certification that dogs disqualified from standard AKC membership may be qualified for. While dogs with this certification are not qualified for the same events as AKC-certified animals, they are nonetheless registered as a member of an AKC-recognized breed.

the nest