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Evolutionary Steps Lead to AKC’s New Mixed Breed Program

Voices were raised across the U.S. with surprise and joy at the recent announcement by the American Kennel Club (AKC) of its new program for mixed breed dogs. This program, launched on October 1, 2009, offers numerous benefits to mixed breed dogs and their owners.

The AKC was established in 1884 as a registry for purebred dogs and has maintained this role as its primary mission for 125 years. But over the years, the AKC has added more events and programs, including many that serve all dogs — both purebreds and mixed breeds.

The new AKC Canine Partners Program for mixed breed dogs builds on those services. As of April 1, 2010, mixed breed dogs listed in the program may compete in the AKC Companion Events of Agility, Obedience and Rally. See the comments from four canine enthusiasts about the new mixed breed program in the box below.

Today, there are approximately 31 million mixed breed dogs (40% of all dogs) in America. In a recent American Kennel Club survey, 38% of AKC registered purebred dog owners also included a mixed breed dog in their family. Even in the ‘Fancy’ (those fans of purebreds active in breeding/showing and/or canine sports) 76% said they own or have owned a mixed breed dog.

So, although the recent launch of the AKC Canine Partners program for mixed breeds surprised some people, for many others it was a natural step in the evolution of AKC activities over its 125 year history. For many years thousands of mixed breed owners have been participating in annual training events through AKC clubs. Until now, a mixed breed star of Agility or Obedience could not go on to compete in AKC trials for these sports.

AKC Canine Partners is simply an extension of services that have already been provided to mixed breed owners for many years. Some of the many fundamental services and products that the AKC has offered all canine owners, regardless of breed, include:

  • Rights to own, train and enjoy activities with your dogs: The AKC has long campaigned for canine legislation, health and welfare matters for the benefit of all dog owners and for all dogs. Its qualified and passionate Government Relations Department monitors hundreds of proposed canine legislative bills that are under discussion at any one time across the U.S. They also advise and counsel clubs and owners on changes and what to do to ensure that all dog owners can maintain sensible rights about owning and enjoying their dogs. By opening its doors to mixed breed owners, the AKC officially represents all dogs when talking to federal and state governments to protect owners’ rights or develop better canine legislation.
  • Protection, health and welfare issues: Dog training initiatives such as the AKC S.T.A.R. Puppy Program and Canine Good Citizen Program (CGC): Have always been available to both pure and mixed breeds, helping all owners to ensure their dog achieves safe and socially acceptable behavior.
  • The AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF): They have allocated more than $24 million over the years to many different canine health research projects, to benefit all dogs. CHF also works closely with clubs and breeders in many ways to improve breeding practices, to identify and reduce health issues and improve the outlook of many different breeds.
  • Lost or missing pets: The AKC Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) includes mixed and purebred dogs and cats (as well as a sprinkling of exotic and zoo animals) in its recovery database of four million animals. CAR’s microchips are inserted by veterinarians into pets of all types, helping to reunite them with owners when they are lost.
  • Other valued AKC services: The AKC Pet Healthcare Plan and the AKC Credit Card are available for purebred and mixed breed owners alike.

(Photo courtesy of Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club)

Onward and upward

To date, over 2,000 mixed breed dogs have been enrolled in AKC Canine Partners in the first four months since the new program was launched. In addition, AKC clubs have already announced they will be offering mixed breed owners the chance to compete in more than 1,300 events, starting in April 1, 2010.

Benefits of Enrolling in AKC Canine Partners

Mixed breed owners listing their dog(s) with the Canine Partners program can look forward to receiving many benefits for their listing fee of $35, including:

  • A Complimentary 60-Day Trial AKC Pet Healthcare Plan — activation required*
  • A year’s subscription to the award-winning Family Dog magazine (six editions a year) full of news, information and tips on training, health, breed information and products for canines and their owners
  • Eligibility to compete in AKC Agility, Obedience and Rally events, starting April 1, 2010
  • Lifetime enrollment in AKC Companion Animal Recovery (CAR) pet recovery service.
  • A Certificate of Recognition for your dog and an AKC Canine Partners decal

For more information on how to enroll in AKC Canine Partners, visit:

For more information about activating the Complimentary 60-Day Trial AKC Pet Healthcare Plan from PetPartners, Inc., the exclusive provider of the AKC Pet Healthcare Plan, visit: or call 1-866-725-2747.

Four Canine Enthusiasts Tell Their Side
(Click on individual names to read each story; photos are courtesy of individual owners unless otherwise noted.)

  • Suzanne Belger: Suzanne is Director and Trainer, Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club, Idaho Falls, ID and says “This is a great opportunity to introduce more dog owners to AKC events and breeds.”
  • Sally Barron and Taji: Obedience and Rally training will help Sally develop a Service Dog so she can better cope with her disability.
  • Kathy Turk and Dunstan: Kathy is “overjoyed” to hear about AKC Canine Partners and the opportunities for her.
  • Ann Dahlin, with Penny, Boe and Peanut: Competing with friends at AKC events is something Ann Dahlin is looking forward to.

Providing the Motivation to Excel — a Training Club’s Perspective
With over 50 years in offering dog training classes, the Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club (USRVDTC) in Idaho Falls, ID knows a thing or two about working with owners of all kinds of dogs. It was one of the first clubs to announce its intention to include classes for mixed breed owners in its events from beginning in April 2010. (Photo courtesy of Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club)

The USRVDTC is an active, not-for-profit club. They offer training and events in Agility, Obedience and Rally, with nine trials and five training sessions a year, for all dog owners in the community. “Over 50% of our clients have mixed breed dogs,” says Suzanne Belger, board director and trainer. “This program is a great opportunity for our club. Until now, any owner with a mixed breed dog doing well in one of our training classes would get hooked on the sport but then they had to stop when they got to a certain stage. “Sorry, that’s it for you,” we’d have to say. Now they can go on to get better at their event and look forward to competing in the same ring as the other canine students. It’s a great motivational tool.”

Suzanne also sees a wider opportunity in terms of her club helping dog lovers to know more and do more. “Mixed breed owners can use our resources and AKC’s to find out about how to raise dogs and what they can do with their dogs for family fun. Seeing different breeds in class educates them about those breeds. I started training with mixed breeds when I was just 11, and later on, I became interested in different purebreds and researched them carefully before choosing a Belgian Malinois. I also got into Herding and Obedience. My first love is Agility, but I also enjoy other events.”

In this way, AKC Canine Partners can help clubs attract more mixed breed owners to their training classes, with the added motivation of competing in Agility, Rally and Obedience trials, as well as exposing those owners to the wider world of the AKC and all of its resources.

For more information about the Upper Snake River Valley Dog Training Club, visit:

Taji – Playful Puppy Today, Service Dog Tomorrow

Sally Barron is excited about the new AKC program for mixed breeds and plans to enroll her new dog, Taji. She would like Taji to learn Obedience skills and wants him to train as a service dog for her. Over the last three years, Sally has experienced problems with her back; she’s hoping Taji will help her regain some independence by assisting with some everyday activities. Here’s Sally’s story and why AKC Canine Partners caught her eye.

An owner of German Shepherds and Border Collies through the years, Sally’s last German Shepherd passed away a year ago. She did not expect to get another dog for a while. Then she noticed Taji’s photo in her local shelter. “Something in his face just drew me to him,” Sally recalled. “So I adopted Taji, a Lab mix, and quickly realized I needed to direct his lively, intelligent, loving and playful temperament to having a job.”

Over the last three years, Sally’s back problems have limited her movements. She decided to train Taji to pick up and fetch things for her. “He’s doing very well but is still a work in progress, as he wants to throw something at me that he’s picked up. He’s still a playful puppy in many ways. For instance, after I’ve been grocery shopping, he loves to carry cans — one at a time — from the car to the kitchen — or drag the package of bath tissue to the kitchen. I’ve got to persuade him not to throw a can into the kitchen! The next thing will be to train him to “Go get” something for me — he will be such a help, given my physical limitations.”

Taji has already passed his CGC test. He and Sally also attend classes with a dog trainer to work on more detailed Obedience and Service work. Sally’s trainer will help owners prepare their dogs for AKC competitions too, if that is what interests them. Many of the dogs in their class are mixed breeds so the AKC Canine Partners Program will open up more classes and trials for them.

Sally plans to try Rally training with Taji so she can enter AKC Events with him if it works out. “In spite of my back problem, I think I will be able to cope with doing Rally trials, and it will be good for Taji. Now that my children are grown, I have more time to spend on my dog for my own pleasure and to make certain he’s good around children. So far he is doing great with kids — he loves the attention so he’ll just sit and let them pet him. Of course, he will have to learn different skills when he is working as a service dog. I’m enjoying spending time with him. Dogs are everything to me — they complete one’s life!”
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Overjoyed at Hearing about AKC Canine Partners!

Kathy Turk has owned both purebred dogs and mixed breed dogs. Her story illustrates how having fun while competing with a special dog and making friends at events is what is important to her. Here is her story.

“Back in 1988, in Cleveland, OH, I had a champion purebred Smooth Collie, CH Shy Lady Lace of Mayo, HC TT. We also became involved in herding at that time, along with pet-assisted therapy. We moved to Georgia, and then my husband’s job moved us to Vienna, Austria and our pets moved with us. By that time we had a rescue cat and a rescue Papillon mix, along with Shy. Shy was much older so competing was out of the question. She passed away just before our return to the U.S.

Upon our return, I became involved with the Humane Society of Cobb County, GA, where we met and adopted Tripod, a three-legged Standard Poodle. Due to his physique, he couldn’t compete in any AKC events but he did pass his CGC test. I took him to the MerryMac Training facility for Obedience training. It was there that I was introduced to some Agility equipment. You wouldn’t believe how he could fly through the tunnel and maneuver around the weave poles! The teacher used him as an example that any dog can do it. He became a pet-assisted therapy dog with Happy Tails Pet-Assisted Therapy. He was proof to me that Poodles are resilient as well as brilliant.

As much as I loved Tripod’s work in pet-assisted therapy, I really missed going out on the weekends with friends and competing in the dog world. I started searching for a black female Standard Poodle. Instead, I found Dunstan, a mixed breed, from Atlanta Pet Rescue in 2005. He also passed his CGC. We moved to Ohio in 2006, and I found a great Agility facility within a ten-minute drive called Unleashed Agility, in Cincinnati. Dunstan is receiving Agility training there and is ready to start competing in the ring.

Unleashed Agility is a small club that does not host events on its own. They announced the new AKC mixed breed program to all of their classes. The club is very supportive of the many AKC-sponsored events that we are fortunate enough to have around us. They are also very active in encouraging students with mixed breed dogs to participate in AKC trials that will include mixed breeds when they are available in 2010.

I was overjoyed when I heard about AKC Canine Partners! It has taken me a long time to find a dog to compete with. Now I can get involved in Obedience or Rally as well. The bottom line is that you meet some very nice people ringside while competing. I still have friends from the time I was showing Shy back in the late 80′s. We shall see where all of this will lead both Dunstan and me. He’s kind of the ‘class clown’ but he’s pretty fast and smart. If I get my skill set down, I know we’ll do exceptionally well. Who knows, maybe I’ll find another dog — mixed or purebred — to compete with as well!”
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New Opportunities, New Advancements

In the past, Ann Dahlin trained and competed with her mixed breed dogs in events with the Mixed Breed Dog Club of America (MBDCA). This club has been very supportive of the AKC’s new Canine Partners program and she is excited about the extra opportunities she now has to compete. Ann has many plans for the future to keep she and her dogs busy enjoying both training and competing:

“I have three wonderful mixed breed dogs. The oldest is my twelve-year-old McNab/Border Collie mix, Penny’s A Fast One (Penny). Next is eleven-year-old Mr. Boe Jangles (Boe), a German Shorthair/ Pointer mix. Finally, the youngest is Blue Tick Peanut (Peanut), a two-year-old Australian Cattle Dog mix. All three of my dogs have earned a Rally Excellent title through the MBDCA; members earn titles by attending AKC workshops and being judged by approved AKC judges. In addition, Penny also earned her MB-Companion Dog Obedience title.

Having earned titles with the MBDCA, I already know that I enjoy the challenge of training and showing dogs in Obedience and Rally. I am looking forward to the increased showing opportunities that will come with the AKC Canine Partners program. Several dog training clubs where I live in San Jose, CA have already decided to accept mixed breed entries at their AKC trials.

My instructors and fellow students have been very supportive of me and my mixed breed dogs — many have told me that they are really happy about the new AKC program and that I will be able to participate at AKC trials. This will be so nice.

I have some big plans for my dogs! In the first year I would like to work with Penny toward the AKC Rally Novice and AKC Companion Dog (CD) obedience title. Depending on how much longer she can comfortably jump, as she ages, I may also try for advanced titles with her in both events. With my youngest dog, Peanut, I would like to focus on novice titles in Obedience and Rally in the first year and then look toward advanced titles. My middle dog, Boe, broke his hind leg when he was young and he has some arthritis in that leg. Right now his main jobs are to go on long walks and hikes and to chase the neighborhood cats and squirrels out of the backyard!”

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