Getting a new dog comes with many considerations — one of which is whether he or she comes with “papers.”

But what do registration papers really mean?

AKC registration papers

Brandi H. Munden, vice president of PR and Communications for the American Kennel Club, says the AKC is a registry body, responsible for tracking the lineage of dogs representing 200 different breeds.

Registering a dog through the AKC includes a one-time registration fee for the lifetime of the dog, says Brandi. Registration is confirmed once the AKC Registration Certificate is issued in the names of the recorded owners and identifying the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, and of a recognized breed.

More specifically, the AKC Registration Certificate records you as the official owner on record for the dog and includes the dog’s registered name, registration number, the dog breed, the name of the dog’s sire and dam, the sex, whelp date, the breeder and owner’s name.

“AKC registration means that breeders dealing in AKC-registered or AKC-registrable dogs must open their kennels to AKC inspectors, who review care and conditions to make sure the dogs are bred in a safe and comfortable environment,” Brandi says.

She says when you get a dog represented as AKC-registrable from an AKC-registered litter, you follow this simple two–step process:

  1. Request an AKC Dog Registration Application
  2. Submit your application with required fees

AKC will process your registration and you will receive an AKC Registration Certificate. But you can also go through the process online at

Can I register my dog with AKC?

To register your dog, he or she must be an AKC-recognized breed and be the offspring of an AKC-registered litter — or from an acceptable domestic or foreign registry with documented lineage, says Brandi.

That means mixed breeds — even those with purebred parents of different breeds like Oodles — cannot get registered. And there are purebreds who are not recognized, as well.

“Mixed breed dogs are not eligible for traditional AKC registration, but as we always say, ‘If it barks, it’s AKC!’” says Brandi. “Our Canine Partners program is available for any dog who is spayed or neutered and allows them to participate in the AKC fun and tradition such as our companion and performance sports like agility, obedience, rally and Fast CAT.”

Brandi says for pet parents who have a purebred dog not eligible for AKC registration and want to participate in breed-specific sports, the AKC has a Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL) program.

“PAL dogs must be at least six months of age and spayed or neutered,” Brandi says. “Both programs welcome all dogs to our AKC family — because all dogs belong here.”

What should I ask the dog breeder about registration?

Ask whether the litter is already AKC-registered and whether they have a litter number.

“Be wary of excuses such as ‘AKC didn’t send the papers yet,’” Brandi says. “Your dog’s AKC Registration Application should be readily available to you when you pick up your dog. Buyers should also request a signed Bill of Sale from the seller.”

As you’re researching breeders, you might also come across terms like “limited registration” and “full registration.” Brandi says limited registration means that the dog is registered with the AKC, but any future puppies that dog may produce are not eligible for registration.

“This type of registration protects a breeder’s breeding program,” she says. “However, dogs with limited registration can participate in many AKC events including obedience, rally, agility, tracking, field trials, hunting tests, herding, lure coursing, Earthdog, Fast CAT, CAT, scent work, Junior Showmanship, Trick Dog and CGC.”

Is registering your purebred dog a good idea?

Brandi says it has its benefits.

“You become a part of the AKC family when you register your dog,” she says. “From competing at the highest levels of AKC competition to enjoying your dog’s companionship — registering with AKC means you’re becoming part of something great. Once you register, you can access packages, which include helpful resources for all your dog’s life stages.”

Of course, there’s more to getting a new dog than his or her breeding status. Ultimately, the most important thing is to find a dog you and your family connect with and then figure out the right activities for your new pet. There are many activity options available through the AKC and elsewhere no matter what kind of dog you have — mixed breed or purebred.