Friday, October 22, 2010

An Introduction to United Kennel Club

By Sara Chisnell-Voigt

Established in 1898, the United Kennel Club is the largest all-breed performance-dog registry in the world, registering dogs from all 50 states and 25 foreign countries. More than 60 percent of its 13,000 annually licensed events are tests of hunting ability, training, and instinct. UKC prides itself on its family-oriented, friendly, educational events. The UKC has supported the “Total Dog” philosophy through its events and programs for over a century. As a departure from registries that place emphasis on a dog’s looks, UKC events are designed for dogs that look and perform equally well.

“Total Dog” Award   

The “Total Dog” Award is just one of many things that makes UKC so special, and illustrates that function is just as important as form. In order to win a “Total Dog” award, a dog must obtain a competition win in conformation, and must also earn a qualifying leg in a performance event (agility, obedience, weight pull, or a licensed hunt) at the same event. This rewards dogs that not only shine in the show ring, but are superb athletes as well.


UKC conformation events, or dog shows, are a little different from other registries. Since UKC is focused on family-oriented events, no professional handlers are permitted. This means the UKC show ring is much more beginner friendly, and more emphasis is placed on the dog rather than how the dog is handled and displayed. While I am not new to the dog world, I am new to the show world. However, I have learned a lot over the past year in showing conformation with UKC – the shows are very laid-back, and people are very friendly and willing to help. If you have any desire to try conformation, UKC is a great place to jump right in!

Altered Conformation

Another program I love that UKC added just this year is licensing Altered Conformation classes. This means if you have a purebred, pedigreed dog, but it’s spayed or neutered, you can still become involved in conformation. The dog can even earn an Altered Champion title. I started in conformation with my older GSP by competing in non-licensed altered classes at shows to get myself ready for my pup that I’m now showing. It’s a great way to become introduced to the sport – not everyone wants to have an intact dog, so this is a way to still enjoy the sport without that factor.

Performance Events

UKC is way more than just dog shows! More often than not, a performance event or two will be held in conjunction with the dog shows. Performance events include: agility, obedience, rally obedience, weight pull, terrier racing, and dock jumping. And then there’s hunting! UKC licenses hunting retriever tests, pointing dog trials, squirrel dog hunts, beagle hunts, and one of the largest programs at UKC: coonhound events.

Coonhound Events

Hunting with hounds is an American tradition that’s still immensely popular. UKC's competitive hound programs offer events for coonhound enthusiasts belonging to over 1,300 clubs throughout the United States and Canada. In fact, one of the UKC's series of events enters more than 17,000 coonhounds annually and ranks as the largest sporting dog event of any kind in the world! No longer restricted to down-on-the-farm family gatherings, today's competition houndsmen encompass all walks of life and professional venues. The fast-paced, head-to-head action of competition hound events provides plenty of excitement as the hound/handler teams battle it out in search of national recognition and titles. Not unlike the professional end of any sport, owners and handlers compete for thousands of dollars worth of prizes annually. In a similar fashion to the popular catch-and-release fishing tournaments, all game is left totally undisturbed to run another day.

Breed Recognition

UKC currently recognizes over 300 dog breeds. The UKC looks to the country of origin for breed standards in order to continue the vision for the particular breed. For example, I consider my “breed” to be German Shorthaired Pointers. In their country of origin, obviously Germany, black GSP’s have always been a factor in the breed, and are accepted. Other American registries consider black GSP’s a disqualifying fault, but as UKC follows the standard created and maintained by the country that created the breed, black GSP’s are perfectly acceptable. I have a black GSP that would be thrown out of the show ring in other registries but has finished his Champion title with UKC, and I’m grateful for that opportunity.

Single Registration

If you are interested in participating in UKC events and own a purebred dog registered elsewhere, you can register your dog with UKC through the single registration process. You must have proof that your dog is registered with a UKC-acknowledged registry, which varies depending on breed, but for the majority of breeds include the following: American Kennel Club, The Kennel Club (Great Britain), Canadian Kennel Club, and any FCI affiliated registry. Dogs that meet all requirements and registered through the single registration process enjoy all the same event and registration privileges as dogs born from UKC registered parents.

Limited Privilege Program

If you are interested in participating in UKC events, but own a rescue or non-registered dog, don’t fret! UKC encourages all dog owners to be active with their dogs, and in order to be all-inclusive, UKC started the Limited Privilege program 15 years ago. Limited Privilege enrollment is for purebred dogs without pedigrees or disqualifying faults, or rescue dogs and even mixed breeds. You simply complete an LP application and provide proof that the dog is spayed or neutered, and if you want the dog listed as a breed, then provide three pictures. LP dogs can enter any performance events except conformation. LP dogs are not classified separately and compete against purebred dogs in performance events. For more information, go to

Photo by Ellen Levy Finch


  1. I've always shown my dogs in AKC events, but I'm looking forward to trying out some UKC events now that I know more about them. I'm going to start with the Dock Diving title for my lab Breezie.

  2. I love that you choose to talk about the UKC. I too have always shown in AKC and others, but in the last 7 years i have been raising a Non-AKC breed and have been doing UKC. It's alot of fun, less stress and less politics. It's truly is family fun and GREAT for the kiddos. I recommend all novice handlers start in UKC!

  3. I have been to 4 or 5 AKC shows in the last several years, and I am getting ready for my first UKC show next week. Thanks for the confirmation that the UKC is a good route to go. I am really excited to be in the ring with other owner/handlers rather than all of the professionals. My dogs might have a chance for once!


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