Thursday, February 14, 2008

What's wrong with the CKC?

(This blog originally posted on 7/23/2006.)

CKC, or Clueless Knaves Confounded

It's fast growing, popular and the most derided dog registry in the country. No, I'm not talking about the Canadans (Canadian Kennel Club), I'm talking about the Continental Kennel Club - CKC.

"Ooohh" said the knave, "That's the registry puppymillers and irresponsible breeders use. They'll register any dog, all you have to do is send a picture and some money."

Some detractors even set up a website (only the archived version is now available) listing all their grievences against CKC, which they proceeded to label as gospel since CKC never deigned to dignify their clueless confusion with a response.

Well, Ms. X doesn't think anyone should be confounded in this day and age, so she charged up the truthlight and has it aimed directly at this shadowy web.

Open registeries aren't for children. Someone said once that children were born nazis. Meaning, that they crave and thrive in the security of a tightly controlled environment. That's why adults run the world and secure the liberty mankind as a whole thrives in. Dog registeries are the same way. Children crave security of a closed registry with arm length pedigrees, stamped and certified. This puts boundries on the the decisions they have to make as breeders, limiting their responsibility while it limites the capabilities and genepool of a dog breed.

What follows are exerts from the knaves attempt to discredit CKC, and what Ms. X 's truthlight reveals.

1) Open Registry The open registy maintained by CKC registers a dog for whom photographic evidence as belonging to a particular breed has been submitted. This evidence is submitted along with affirmations that the dog is indeed that breed. The evidence is subject to CKC approval, and if approved, the dog is admitted as "foundation stock".

2) "Breeding to much broader standards" A frequently levied complaint is that CKC doesn't have any standards. Why this is a complaint, Ms. X can't figure out. Most registries maintain a set of standards, and none of them are exactly the same. And none of the standards are the same as the standard that was written when the breed was first recognized. Instead, all these differend standards conflict with each other in what is allowed and what isn't (colors, for example), what the size and structure of the dog should be... So finally a registry DOESN'T throw yet another set of standards into the mess, but rather gives its breeders leeway to use what they feel is best for the welfare of the breed. And this is a bad thing?

On the contrary, this is the best approach to keep breeders from focusing on extremes in appearance and constantly changing the standard to keep up with the showring.

3) Services from CKC v. Other Registries Why is "non-profit" a service? The bad thing about non-profits is they don't come with a focus on competitive business practices, and customer service. No Conformation Shows? Ms. X doesn't think any registry should hold these. Conformation shows should be the function of the breed club, and participation dependent upon the competitive goals of the breeder.

CKC does sponser competitions like obedience trials and weight pulling.

4) Why are conformation shows important? They're not. Unless you think all pet buyers are stupid and all breeders have their heads up their u-know-whats. Contrary to the claims of the knaves, the best way to make sure a Golden Retriever looks like a Golden Retriever is to educate the puppy buyer to read a standard and learn about structure. Period.

Likewise, proper genetic testing doesn't do much to ensure the parents of a puppy are healthy. On the contrary, improper obsession about genetic tests can result in less healthy, inbred dogs.

I love this quote: "Responsible breeders can examine pedigrees to determine what defects may exist in a particular line..." I think somebody has found a way to smoke dog poo. A pedigree says nothing about any health or genetic abnormalities in a dog. You find this out by talking to the breeder. The information any breeder gives you about a dog is only as good as the integrity and memory of the breeder you talk to. The other way to get information is to look at publically available test results from places like OFA.

Then the knaves drag out the myth of hybrid vigor. Uuggh.

6) What is a responsible breeder? The clueless trot out a truely tired and inaccurate list. Keep reading this blog, we'll take each one on in separate posts.

7) What is a puppymill? A puppymill is NOT a "volume producer of puppies, who sell to a wholesaler." That is a commerical breeder, who is licensed and inspected by the USDA. The USDA has some strict standards for these breeders. A puppymill is an extremely substandard facility where the level of care qualifies as abuse. These are rarely USDA inspected facilities.

The knaves then list a large number of "signs" of a "puppymill advertisement":

-> "Call for prices and availability". Why is there disapproval of a breeder who wants to talk to someone before telling them prices and when a puppy might be available? Price is extremely important to puppy buyers. Most don't want to pay thousands of dollars for a long list of champion parents when the pup will have allergies, cancer, diabetes, and be brainless and hyper! Acknowledging the customers interest is a good customer service, a hallmark of an ethical breeder.

-> "No specifics of health tests done prior to a clear sign of a puppymill". Hhmmm. And a clear sign of an unethical breeder is no mention of the COI of the pups in the ad. Please. Advertising is geared to puppy buyers, not peers. An early screening tool is seeing how knowledgeable a buyer is by the questions he asks. If you play your hand before the game starts, you're going to lose.

-> "Puppies available year-round" This may very well indicate the kennel is self sufficient enough to hire help when the owners are out working their dogs. Certainly it is better for the health of the bitch to breed her on every cycle.

-> "We produce appleheads and deer heads". Uh-Oh. "Deer heads" don't conform to the AKC standard. Puppymiller! Complaining about this is an unethical breeder warning flag. "Appleheads" cause a lot of problems for chihuahua mothers, resulting in a lot of C-section births. A "deer head" allows a dog a better chance at whelping naturally. But these knaves care more about the prestige of an "applehead" dog.

-> "Selling expensive poo-mixes". Designer dogs (hybrids) are an idea whose time has come. And the AKC-ites have no one to blame but themselves.

8) "Are most CKC breeders irresponsible"? Bad data leads to bad conclusions. Ms. X's furry readers are well aware of that.

9) "Why do people use Continental Kennel Club"? People use CKC to prevent their breeds from falling into the same pits as the Basenji, Dalmations, etc. An open registry is a good choice for breeders who are primarily interested in the function of their dog, because of the relative ease of importing and outcrossing to a good working dog that may not happen to have a long pedigree of AKC recognized ancestors. With an open registry it is easier to bring in crucial genetic diversity and add working ability to lines.

A breeder that knows what they are doing, has the guts to make the best choices to benefit their breed and act in their own best interest, has an invaluable asset in CKC.

(Update: the bolded words were originally linked to posts that have not made it out of the archives. The links will be re-established as those posts are re-aired.)


  1. Thanks for writing this post. I've been learning so much lately about the purebred dog world since I bought my first (non working) dog this Feb... I had always heard CKC was 'worthless', but learning more about the problems with a closed registry system like the AKC makes me not really believe that they're that much 'better'. I feel really badly for all working-dog lovers who watch their breeds abilities die on the AKC 'beauty only' altar.

    Blogs like yours and Terrierman's Daily Dose have really rounded out my perspective on dog breeding. Most of the stuff out there is kind of insulated and biased -- hearing people on the opposite end of the spectrum is invaluable.

  2. Another question though: The UKC is another 'alternative' registry that's popular with working dog breeders, and doesn't have the same stigma as the CKC... wouldn't it be better for reputable people who don't want to be associated with the man Millers that use the CK, to go with them, instead?

  3. Sure, if your primary breeding goal is to avoid "undesireables",
    UKC or AKC is probably your first choice.

    In fact there are many reasons why someone might choose UKC, such as a desire to participate in some of the events they sponsor. If they want to do conformation and avoid the stigma of AKC, UKC is a good choice.

    UKC however, like AKC and APRI, has closed studbooks. At some point, the ancestors of every dog in those registries was registered with the AKC or it's foreign counterparts like FCI.

    My opinion is there is far too much breeding done by group think and fad, based solely on the breeders desire to fit in with her peers.

    Dogs don't need more of that. Dogs need intelligent people who can do their own research, think for themselves and not submit to peer pressure or politics.

    So while there are many reasons a breeder might choose UKC, a simple desire to avoid association with the "undesireables" has got to be one of the worst.

  4. I was talking about this issue with some other dog folks a while back, and I'm still thinking it all over. But here's what they said (and I largely agree with them):

    "As arguments against the AKC and UKC, sure, [that rationale is] reasonable. Beyond that, the ConKC doesn't just have open studbooks; they have no standards at all. There is no basis on which, according to the rules of the ConKC, any breeder's decsion to breed any dog can be criticized. There is no set of eyes other than the breeder's own judging the quality of their dogs. If a breeder loves their dogs, then it's really valuable to have the opinions of people aren't as personallly enamored of those particular dogs. And if they don't love their dogs, if they regard them as simply livestock to bring in as much profit as possible--well, we know how that goes, as far as producing healthy dogs, don't we?

    Where do breeders go if they aren't happy with the AKC and UKC, and don't want to support the puppy mill registries? One choice is to do the hard work of reforming the AKC. It won't happen overnight, but the breed clubs have had some successes. They defeated the deal with Hunte. Some breeds have been successful in incorporating new foundation stock. It's not clear to me why pushing further on that is such an obviously stupid idea.

    There's nothing about the faults of the AKC and UKC that requires reasonable people to fall for the argument that, in order to support any breeders, we have to support and protect the worst breeders."

  5. pai, let me first give you kudos for even thinking about this subject.

    Now I have elaborated on their points, I hope this make sense to you.

    "There is no set of eyes other than the breeder's own judging the quality of their dogs"

    This comment is completely subjective. What quality are they referring to? A working dog breeder measures quality by how the dog performs in his field. He doesn’t need another breeder to stop by and say, “ well, I think Fido could have run a little faster." Fido either performs or he doesn’t. If someone is selling dogs for housepets, their efforts are critized by their customers. If the breeder is focusing on agility, or weight pulling or some other sport, then his breeding stock will prove itself by its own accomplishments and the accomplishments of it’s offspring. In fact, it is only in breeding for the showring that the opinion of other breeders becomes so critical, and easily becomes breeding by ‘group think’ or fad.

    " If a breeder loves their dogs, then it's really valuable to have the opinions of people aren't as personallly enamored of those particular dogs"

    This is a really interesting comment when you stop to think about it. This sounds like a person who probably only has a couple dogs, has a lot of money invested up front and totally buys into the theory that you can spot a good breeder by how much money he loses. In other words, emotionally and financially they can’t afford to cut their losses and start over. Do I even have to say that is not an ideal breeding operation? If you can’t objectively evaluate your own stock, it’s probably because you have no standard – no function to measure their value to their breed and your ideal, whether it is work, sport or the happiness of children.

    "And if they don't love their dogs, if they regard them as simply livestock to bring in as much profit as possible--well, we know how that goes, as far as producing healthy dogs, don't we?"

    The problem in the showring world is lack of function. Up until about the 1990’s, many (most) of the top show breeders had huge kennels, made huge profits, and sold to pet shops. Their dogs/breeds performed no function except winning lots of ribbons, they inbred everything and launched the plethora of genetic problems today’s purebred dogs suffer from. So if you look at this statement from a historical context, the comment is dead-on accurate. But this person wasn’t talking about the history of showdogs in the AKC, was she?

    "Some breeds have been successful in incorporating new foundation stock."

    The Basenji eventually was, but not before a lot of dogs suffered. Needlessly. The Dals never were. And these breeds were simply trying to fix HUGE health problems, not improve function.

    "There's nothing about the faults of the AKC and UKC that requires reasonable people to fall for the argument that, in order to support any breeders, we have to support and protect the worst breeders."

    A rather wise man named H.L. Mencken once said “The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one's time defending scoundrels.” You may never see me supporting AKC, but that is because they are moving out of the private sector and trying very hard to become a governmental policing agency.

  6. The reason this argument resonated with me is because I've been thinking about toy breeds (since I'm a new owner of one), and what their 'function' is... which is to be pets.

    So then I started wondering why someone who bred a toy breed primarily as 'pets' would be considered unethical/irresponsible by most show breeders. Isn't being a cute companion a toy breed's primary function? Then why is creating them for their original purpose considered wrong by so many people? That common opinion struck me as kind of illogical.

    I mean, otherwise you're just creating dogs for the sole purpose of winning dog shows, and that just doesn't seem right to me.

    If someone wants to personally only breed to the closest possible examples of a breed standard, and compete in conformation shows, that's totally their right. But to demonize every breeder that doesn't do that, who is happy creating 'non-show quality' examples of a breed? That just seems unfair. Especially since, to the majority of laypeople who are drawn to a certain breed, the difference between 'show' and 'non-show' quality is usually indistinguishable.

    People just want a healthy dog that looks and acts the way the breed should. If a breeder is ensuring that to the best of their ability, more power to them, in my opinion.

  7. I'm new to the puppy world and bought a puppy I fell in love with. I wasn't set on having to have a purebred, but the lady that sold us our puppy said he was. For several reasons, I think she's not being honest and would like to find out for sure. If I have the puppy's parent's CKC numbers, is there a way to find out their breed for sure?

  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

  9. You can get a copy of the pedigree from the Continental Kennel Club

    No matter what the registry, if you want to be 100% certain of your pup's ancestry, get a DNA test. Google "breed DNA test".

  10. Thanks for writing this post. I am a pom breeder I have been breeding dogs for 30 years I started out breeding akc but now use Ckc. The reason being I have found that papers don't make the puppy :o)
    There are good breeders and bad in ALL kennel clubs. To get a quality puppy you need to know what you want out of a breed, what is you like, then meet the breeder some breeders want to better a breed, others are trying to make the bucks and really care little about the breed. One of the best things you can do is look at the puppies parents, are they what your looking for in a dog? Do the puppies look like the breed your looking for? Any breeder can put papers on a puppy, or for that fact a pig just because it has papers wont make it a certain breed. I like CKC because I can breed to dogs for what they have to offer outright and I am not limited to what the papers say they are. YES some of my dogs were AKC before listing them with CKC. I breed for quality not papers. Best advice is know the breed and know the breeder papers don't really make the dog.

  11. All registries are only as good and honest as the breeder!!! The Breeder has to be honest for any of it to work!!

  12. Same w/ukc&abkc just hang papers&send money . dont care if two blackdogs throw all white puppies. Its all about the $$$$. the best thing is study& familierize your self with the breed u desire

  13. Ok. Min Pins. A toy breed that is actually a close to being a working dog, because they are active little ratters at heart. AKC tells us that Min Pins should be 10 to 12.5 inches at the shoulder. So, technically, all good AKC breeders should be trying to produce dogs who are 10 to 12.5 inches at the shoulder. Probably no one disagrees with this. I mean, that's the standard and there is some leeway to it.

    Except that in my area at least, breeders advertise pups they claim won't get any bigger than 5 or 6lbs as an adult. I found one breeder who boasted that her pups wouldn't be larger than 3lbs as adults. Nearly all of these tiny Min Pins are AKC registered. I believe the breeders of these dogs estimate weight rather than height at the shoulder to confuse people who do read the AKC standards but may not be savvy enough to try to figure out what height the puppies will be.

    10 inches doesn't sound all that big, after all and "at the shoulder" might be confusing for some, but when you find out that the 10 inch dog should be, at around 8 or 9 lbs healthy weight, suddenly you realize something about these 5-6lb AKC Min Pins. (I don't even want to know about the 3lb guy, though I think that was false advertising because the breeder claimed he was 2 lbs at 12 weeks and wouldn't get bigger than 3 lbs--likely her claim of final size was exaggerated to the small side due to a perceived demand.)

    In this case, I'm pretty sure that these breeders are using AKC registration as a cover for poorly bred dogs. I would worry that these Min Pins (pet quality Min Pins, though the breeders will show pictures of their grand champion dogs) would be subject to severe health issues. In cases where they show pictures of the parent dogs, I see dogs that barely look like Min Pins. Body structure is weak, heads are misshapen (you *do* want a deer head on a Min Pin, not an apple head)--I would be afraid to allow one to hunt rats, quite honestly. And these dogs are being sold under the AKC umbrella. I have seen more CKC Min Pins around (mainly nearer to Georgia than I am) who meet AKC conformation standards.

    If you get the feeling that a lot of Min Pin breeders don't like talking to me, you're right. A number have tried to "educate" me or tell me that our dogs have to be mixed breed to be as big as they are. (We prefer our pet quality dogs to be a little bigger than breed standard and have fewer health problems. Seizures aren't pretty.)