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History of the American Kennel Club

History of the American Kennel Club

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Our Beginnings

On September 17, 1884, a group of twelve dedicated sportsmen, responding to a “meeting call” from Messrs. J. M. Taylor and Elliot Smith, met in the rooms of the Philadelphia Kennel Club in that city. Each member of the group was a representative or “delegate” from a dog club that had, in the recent past, held a benched dog show or had run field trials. This new “Club of Clubs” was, in fact, The American Kennel Club.

The next meeting of the group, on October 22, 1884, was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. At that time, a Constitution and By-Laws were adopted and Major James M. Taylor became AKC’s first president. With no official headquarters, meetings were held in several different cities, principally New York, but also Cincinnati, Boston, and Newark, New Jersey.

By 1887, a room was rented at 44 Broadway, furnished with a desk, filing cabinet, a couple of chairs, and occupied by Alfred P. Vredenburgh, the AKC’s third secretary. In 1888, August Belmont, Jr. became the AKC’s fourth president. This was the beginning of the long Belmont/Vredenburgh reign that lasted well into the twentieth century. During this period, it became apparent that the club had to have a reliable stud book. Dr. N. Rowe, starting in 1878, had already assembled three volumes of The National American Kennel Club Stud Book, and subsequently offered these three initial volumes gratis to the AKC. In 1887, the AKC acknowledged this gift in the fourth volume of The American Kennel Club Stud Book.

The following year, Belmont put the wheels in motion to produce a “gazette” by guaranteeing against any of the magazine’s losses for five years with his own personal security of $5,000 per year. In January 1889, the Gazette made its first appearance; survived those first five years without needing even a penny of Belmont’s support; has been published without interruption for over a century; and is one of the oldest dog magazines in existence.

Timeline Highlights

Sept 17, 1884: The first meeting of the AKC was held.The Constitution and Bylaws and Dog Show Rules were created, and Major James M. Taylor was elected as the first president.

1886: Our first office opened at 44 Broadway in New York City in a 15×20 room. Dr. N. Rowe wrote the first three volumes of the National American Kennel Club Stud Book.

1888: Veterinarians started being required at all events.

1889: The first issue of The AKC Gazette was published, and would continue without interruption for over a century. It is now one of the oldest dog magazines in existence.

1905: By this time, there were now 110 member clubs and 500 associate members. A rule was passed stating: “The Superintendent of any show cannot exhibit or officiate as a judge at that show.” Dog show classes start to include Puppy, Novice, Limit, and Open.

1905-07: A point system for all-breed dog shows was established.

1911: A rule went into effect that gave sole privilege to the member club that had held the first show in a given area. That same year, definitive rules for classified and unclassified “special” prizes were established. A classified special prize was one offered in a single breed, somewhat similar to an award for best of breed (although the AKC did not record such a win). An unclassified special was a prize offered in classes involving multiple-breed competition similar to the present groups and best in show.

1914: A reciprocal agreement with The Kennel Club (England) was made. We also helped overturn an NYC ordinance that all dogs be muzzled in public.

1917: Applicants for judges and superintendents started being accepted.

1924: Comprehensive new rules for Groups and Best In Show judging were adopted. All breeds (except for those in Miscellaneous competition) were separated into five groups: Group 1 – Sporting Dogs, which included at that time all Hound breeds; Group 2 – Working Dogs; Group 3 – Terriers; Group 4 – Toy Breeds; and Group 5 – Non-Sporting Breeds. These Best of Breed winners in each group were then judged together to determine the best dog in that group and, finally, the five group winners met to decide the best dog in the show. The Westminster Kennel Club was the first to include judging for Best In Show under the new format. Later in the 1920s, the groups were expanded to six, as Hounds became a separate group.

1929: The first edition of Pure-Bred Dogs was published. Nine years later, the book was renamed The Complete Dog Book. To date, it has sold more than 2 million copies.

1931: The Professional Handlers Association launched.

1932-33: The first book of AKC rules was presented in the November 1932 issue of the Gazette and was subsequently published as a separate booklet. That same year, the first Children’s Handling Classes were held, and breeds were divided into 6 groups: Sporting, Sporting Hounds, Working, Terriers, Toys, and Non-Sporting.

1934: AKC Library was established.

1936: The first official regulations and standards for obedience test field trials were published, based on the work of Helene Whitehouse Walker. That same year, the first licensed obedience trial was held in New York with 18 licensed tests and 200 dogs entered. The following year, Mrs. Walker and Blanche Sanders toured America in a Buick with a 21-foot trailer, introducing the new sport of Obedience.

1939-44: During World War II, dog shows, obedience trials, and field trials continued, but rules loosened generously. To comply with wartime attempts to conserve paper, The American Kennel Gazette was reduced in size. We also worked with Dogs for Defense to mobilize dog owners to donate quality animals to be trained to help American troops.

1946: Professional judges formed the Professional Dog Judges Association, which included many of the top all-breed judges of the time.

1947: Tracking, formerly part of Obedience competition, was made a separate class.

1950: The Indefinite Listing Privilege program was established to allow dogs not registered with the AKC to participate in select events. The Bred-By-Exhibitor class was also created.

1951: A new rule restricted judges to 20 dogs per hour, and show-giving clubs had to indicate any limitations on their premium lists.

1956: The 5-millionth dog was registered, a Collie named Lassie the Golden Glory.

1971: Junior Showmanship class was officially recognized.

1973: All-breed clubs banded together to address the fuel shortage situation by holding their events at the same location on consecutive days, called Cluster Shows.

1974: The first women delegates were admitted: Mrs. Carol D. Duffy to represent the Mid-Hudson Kennel Club; Mrs. Gertrude Freedman to represent the Bulldog Club of New England; and Mrs. Julia Gasow to represent the English Springer Spaniel Club of Michigan.

1977: The practice of licensed handlers ends, placing all handlers in the same category as exhibitors so that anyone could handle a dog for a fee.

1981: The 25-millionth dog was registered, a Scottish Terrier named Belgair’s Duke of Rock Hill.

1982: The Dog Museum of America opened in New York City. Frank T. Sabella forever holds the distinction of being the first contributor of art with his gift donation of several paintings including a charming oil on canvas of a longhaired terrier painted by the well-known artist George Earl as well as an elegant portrait of a Newfoundland by English artist Horatio Henry Couldery. It would ultimately move to St. Louis, Missouri and be renamed The American Kennel Club Museum of the Dog.

1983: Herding breeds split from the Working Group.

1984:The American Kennel Club celebrated its 100th Anniversary with the Centennial Show in Philadelphia. A German Shepherd Dog won Best in Show.

1985: The first woman director of the AKC was elected, Dr. Jacklyn Hungerland, a delegate of the Del Monte Kennel Club.

1989: The first Canine Good Citizen tests were conducted. AKC Herding Tests and Trials were established.  The AKC National Junior Organization was developed to assist with the needs of Juniors in the sport.

1991: AKC established Lure Coursing tests and trials in July 1991.

1992: The first AKC National Invitational Dog Championship was held.

1994:  The sport of Agility was established. That same year, AKC-licensed Earthdog tests debuted in October. is launched.

1995: Judith V. Daniels became the first female president. That same year, the Companion Animal Recovery program, now called AKC Reunite, was launched and the AKC Canine Health Foundation established with a $1 million AKC grant.  The American Kennel Club created the Foundation Stock Service® (FSS®) to answer the needs of today’s rare breed fanciers.

1996: Beginning May 1st, 1996, the AKC began awarding special medallions to breeder-owners who place championships on their dogs and to members of the fancy who have made a long-term contribution to the sport of purebred dogs.

1998: The Canine Good Citizen® program was established. AKC relocated various departments to Raleigh, N.C. In that year alone, there were almost 2 million dogs competing in over 15,000 licensed and sanctioned events. Also in that year, more than 1.2 million dogs and 555,000 litters were registered. DNA testing was instituted for parentage verification and genetic identity.

1999: Lifetime Achievement Awards are given for the first time. Rachel Page Elliott receives the award for conformation. The AKC headquarters in New York moved to 260 Madison Avenue.

2000: was redesigned. The first AKC Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) were distributed, and recipients included the legendary NYPD K-9 Apollo.

2002: The first Breeder of the Year award was given to Wendell S. Sammet.

2004: The Registered Handlers Program was established.

2005: AKC Rally competition began.

2006: We supported the federal Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Act (PETS) to require that pet-owning households are included in emergency-preparedness plans. It passed in Congress that same year, and was signed by President George W. Bush.

2008: We supported Georgia’s signing of an anti-dogfighting legislation that made it a felony to own a dog for fighting, to bet on a dogfight or to allow a dogfight on one’s premises. It also made it a misdemeanor on the first offense and a felony on the subsequent offenses to be a spectator at a dogfight. That same year, the AKC Humane Fund launched to unite a broad spectrum of animal lovers in promoting the joy and value of responsible dog ownership through education, outreach, and grant-making. Also, the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program launched with more than 12,000 puppies completing the six weeks of training classes.  The name of Purebred Alternate Program was changed from ILP to PAL.

2009AKC Canine Partners launched to allow ­mixed-breed­ dog­ owners ­to­ participate­ in­ AKC Agility,­ Obedience,­ and ­Rally ­events.

2010: AKC Breeder of Merit program launched to honor core AKC breeder-exhibitors, recognizing their many years of dedication and commitment to breeding programs and AKC events.

2011: The AKC Therapy Dog title was instituted to reward dogs and owners who have provided ongoing community service to improve the well-being of others.

2012: The AKC Humane Fund gives grants to 11 “pets allowed” women’s shelters to provide a safe haven to women with pets from domestic violence.

2013AKC Search and Rescue–Wilderness (SAR-W) was established to acknowledge dogs who use air-scenting or tracking abilities to locate missing persons in a non-urban setting. That same year, the GoodDog! Helpline® launched to give dog owners live telephone support from knowledgeable trainers.

2014AKC Pet Disaster Relief presented its first-ever Disaster Relief Trailer to Cleveland-Bradley County, Tennessee, to serve as temporary homes for pets in the aftermath of declared disasters.

2015: Bred with H.E.A.R.T. program launched. September 19 was declared Responsible Dog Ownership Day. That same year, the AKC Marketplace relaunched to better help potential dog owners find the right dog.

2016: AKC Shop opens. Junior Showcase events are introduced. AKC Canine College launched. The AKC Canine Health Foundation kicks off a tick-borne disease initiative to educate dog owners and to find better diagnostics, preventatives, and therapeutics.

2017: becomes the number one content site for dogs as reported by ComScore, the industry’s leading tracking source. The AKC Marketplace expanded to include Groomers as a helpful resource to dog owners. The AKC S.A.F.E (Safety, Assurance, Fundamentals, Education) Grooming Program also launched to support the grooming industry’s self-regulation effort through education.

2018: The American Kennel Club’s headquarters moved from Madison Ave to 101 Park Ave.

2019: The AKC Museum of the Dog moved from Missouri back to New York City to the AKC’s headquarters at 101 Park Avenue. The museum opened to the public in March.