Breed club (dog)

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For breed clubs in other species, see Breed club.

A dog breed club is an association or club of fanciers of a single, specific breed of dog.

Breed clubs define the breed with which the club is associated in a document called a breed standard, although there may be multiple breed clubs for the same breed, each defining the breed in a somewhat different manner. Breed clubs are not scientific organisations, nor are breed standards meant to be scientific descriptions of a breed. Any fancier or group of fanciers may start a breed club and write definitions to suit themselves.


Dog breed clubs exist to "support the preservation and protection" of the club's breed.[1] Each club defines for itself what exactly the club will do for the breed, depending on the use of the particular breed that is advocated by the breed club.

Breed clubs write the standard for their breed, and independent breed clubs maintain their breed's stud book (other breed clubs are affiliated with a national kennel club, which maintains the stud books of a great many breeds in a central location.)

Breed clubs provide information to the public about their breed. Club members agree to a code of ethics overseen by the club and a list of breeders is usually available to help people find a reputable breeder. Breed clubs also sponsor dog shows for their breed, hunting trials for their breed, and other events related to their particular breed.

Breed clubs promote the benefits and well-being of their particular breed and often offer events to discuss showing, training, breeding, and hereditary health issues. Clubs might also provide judging seminars to train dog event judges, and show clubs might maintain judging lists. Most breed clubs also schedule dog shows or competitions in various dog sports specifically for the breed, and raise funds for research on breed-specific health issues.


Breed clubs for agricultural stock breeds became popular social clubs in England in the late 18th century and early 19th century. The first breed club for chickens, for example, was formed in 1815 as an elite and expensive activity.[2] By the mid-19th century, dog shows were becoming a pastime in Victorian England, and the bulldog was a popular pet. In order to make the bulldog breed smaller and more gentle, crossbreeding with pugs and other types of dogs was being done, leading to the formation of the first breed club, the Bulldog Club, in 1864, to write a breed standard to prevent what the members felt were undesirable changes to the breed.[3] The club only lasted three years. More breed clubs were formed in England after the founding of the Kennel Club in 1873, starting with a new bulldog breed club in 1875 in London.[4]


Membership in a breed club is usually done through an application, in which the prospective member explains his or her interest in the breed, and supplies recommendations from other members. Most individuals join breed clubs in order to participate in the club-sponsored activities. Hobby breeders join breed clubs for access to records and information about the breed, and sign the breed club's code of ethics in order to provide puppy buyers with some assurance of the quality of the puppies from members of the club. However, the breed club has no control over the practices of individuals who are not members of the breed club.

Individuals may belong to breed club for different breeds, although belonging to more than one breed club for the same breed is usually frowned upon since the goals of different breed clubs for the same breed may vary. Most breed clubs prohibit mass sales of puppies to brokers and pet shops, so large commercial puppy producers do not belong to breed clubs, although they may register their puppies with a national kennel club. Purchasers of puppies and dogs should research the background and affiliations of kennels.

Forming a breed club[edit]

In general, when a newly created "rare" breed or newly rediscovered landrace or natural breed becomes popular enough, groups of breeders will join together in a club or association, and write a breed standard for their breed. In the standard the club members will define the breed's eternally observable appearance, often in great detail. The standard may also include the breed's observable temperament, and some history of the breed. If members of the breed wish to join a national kennel club, they will write the standard using the national kennel club's format, and will go through an application process (see the Affiliation or independence? section below.) The breed club will obtain or compile the stud book for their breed, which details the descent of all known members of the breed. In addition, members will usually create a code of ethics that will specify details of breeding requirements for member-breeders (although there is no way to make such an ethical code binding on non-members.)

With the advent of the internet, a breeder can create a "breed club" by putting up a web page to advertise their kennel and their newly created "rare breed". There are also many internet based "kennel clubs" that will accept such "rare breeds" with little or no proof that they fit any of the definitions of the term breed, or without any proof that the "breed club" exists for anything more than to advertise a kennel.

Local and national clubs[edit]

Some breeds of dogs have only one breed club. If the breed club does not belong to a national kennel club, the breed club will maintain all records for the breed, especially the stud book. A breed's stud book is the record of all registered dogs of the breed, going back to the breed's foundation stock.

For many breeds, there is one national breed club and multiple local breed clubs. The local clubs are members of the national breed club, which in turn may be a member of the national kennel club. Most countries have one national kennel club, which maintains the records of the breeds (stud books) of member clubs in a central location. The national kennel club also trains judges and organizes multiple breed dog shows and other activities.

When a breed club writes or changes the standard for its breed, a club which is a member of a national kennel club will submit the standard to the national kennel club for the breed club's country. When the kennel club accepts the standard it is said to be a standard of that national kennel club, but it is originally written by the breed club.

Types of breed clubs[edit]

Working and hunting breed clubs[edit]

Working and hunting dog breeds have breed clubs that define the appearance of the breed, but emphasize working or hunting ability in the selection of breeding stock (although the dogs must not vary too much in appearance from the breed standard, or they will not be registerable.).[5] The emphasis is placed on hunting ability in the selection of breeding stock. In addition, inbreeding may be regulated. The Jack Russell Terrier Club of America code of ethics specifies that "a terrier will be rejected for registration if the inbreeding coefficient is more than 16 percent"[6] in an effort to lessen hereditary disease in the breed. Independent working and hunting breed clubs sometimes maintain an open stud book.

Pet and show breed clubs[edit]

Dog breeds that are primarily kept as pets may be registered with breed clubs that have competition in dog shows and the breeding of showdogs and pets as their primary purposes. Most of the clubs have a closed stud book. Many dogs that are bred for show and pets are inbred, in order to make them as uniform in appearance as possible.

Close inbreeding, called linebreeding, has only recently been recognised as problematic; generations of breeder manuals have recommended close inbreeding to produce a dog that is highly standardised in appearance.[7] Today, testing for genetic defects before breeding is required by most breed clubs' code of ethics (but not all dog breeders belong to breed clubs, and breed clubs cannot enforce their code on non members, even when the non-members are raising the breed club's breed of dog.)

The Scottish Terrier Club of America's code of ethics directs breeders to "breed only Scottish Terriers of characteristic type, sound structure and temperament... producing dogs in conformity to the AKC Standard."[8] There is no work or hunting requirement or inbreeding prohibitions in this breed, which is primarily kept as a pet and showdog.

Affiliation or independence?[edit]

The emphasis on breeding only for appearance in many pet breeds, combined with competitive pressure to breed show-winning dogs, has led in some breeds to extremes in appearance and a loss of working or hunting instincts.[9] For this reason, many working and hunting dog owners will not join breed clubs associated with national kennel clubs, preferring to maintain their breeds and stud books independently. A disadvantage to this approach is the loss of access to the many events and activities that the national clubs can afford to sponsor. Unless the independent breed club is very large, it can suffer from a lack of funding and lobby support that the national kennel clubs can provide, especially with the issue of breed-specific legislation posing a threat to many breeds.

Breed club members that oppose kennel club acceptance may find their breed accepted into the national kennel club when a minority of members and other breeders break away and form a separate club, and then apply for kennel club acceptance through the new club. In the United States, the Australian Shepherd Club of America, the Jack Russell Terrier Club of America, and the United States Border Collie Club opposed recognition of their breeds by the national kennel club, the American Kennel Club. However, separate breed clubs were formed by some fanciers and breeders for each of these breeds, and then those new clubs applied for membership with the AKC and were accepted. The original breed clubs have continued to maintain their own stud books despite the existence of the new breed clubs which have joined the national kennel club. This has created two separate stud books for these breeds, and has divided the breeds.[10] The kennel club recognition has been compared to a hostile takeover in a Mergers and Acquisitions deal, as national clubs are eager to register popular new breeds. However, there is no way for a breed club to enforce its regulations and code of ethics on non-members of the club.

Other breed organizations[edit]

Other dog clubs encompass multiple breeds of the same type, such as the Hunting Retriever Club for retrievers.[11] Such a club is not usually referred to as a breed club. Crossbred portemanteu-named designer dogs may have affinity groups and clubs that might be called breed clubs, although the dogs are not actually a breed of dog, but are a crossbreed of two breeds. The UK based, Cockapoo Club of GB, has raised standards of ethical breeding by ensuring that Approved Breeders adhere to a Code of Ethics.[12] In the United States, AMBOR is a very active club which organises activities for mixed-breed dogs only.[13]

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