WHAT IS A "REGISTERED" DOG?
When a pup is born, if both parents are "registered" dogs with the same registry, then the pups are eligible to be registered as well. Being registered allows your dog to partake in events put on by that kennel club. You may also order a pedigree, which is a listing of your dog's ancestors. Understand, of course, that a pedigree is only as accurate as the people who have bred your dog's ancestors. It is not uncommon for papers (slang for a pedigree) to be faked. This happens in all breeds, but is particularly common in the pit bull breed. A registered dog is a dog whose ancestors have been registered in an unbroken line back many generations.
WHAT KENNEL CLUB EVENTS ARE OPEN TO RESCUE OR UNREGISTERED DOGS?
American Kennel Club (AKC):
Obedience - Novice, Open and Utility
Rally - Novice, Advanced, Excellent and Advanced Excellent
Tracking - Tracking Dog, Tracking Dog Excellent and Variable Surface Tracker
Agility - Novice, Open, Masters, Preferred (there are many, many, many agility titles, they can't all be listed here)
United Kennel Club (UKC):
Obedience - Sub-Novice, Novice, Open and Utility
Agility - Level I, II and III
Weight Pull - United Weight Puller (UWP), United Weight Pull Champion (UWPCH), United Weight Pull Champion Excellent (UWPCHX), United Weight Pull Champion Versatile (UWPCHV), United Weight Pull Champion Outstanding (UWPCHO), United Weight Pull Champion Supreme (UWPCHS)
Protection Dog - this program is such an ill thought out idea, and so detrimental to our breed, I strongly discourage any pit bull owner from participating in this UKC event. The UKC simply wants to jump into protection dog sports without understanding the safeguards which need to be in place. Those interested in this kind of dog sport would be much better off to participate in schutzhund or French ring sport - legitimate sports in place for those with the commitment to "do it right". All this UKC title does is encourage owners to teach their leashed pit bulls to lunge at people. It is ridiculous. Sadly, there has been a proliferation of "backyard" attack dog titles and organizations catering to those who can't "run with the big dogs" in schutzhund and ring.
ARE SOME REGISTRIES BETTER THAN OTHERS?
Frankly speaking, yes. Some registries have been around a long time and have proven themselves. Examples are the American Kennel Club (AKC) which registers American Staffordshire Terriers and the United Kennel Club (UKC) which registers American Pit Bull Terriers. Both these registries can be considered "bona fide", and offer dog shows and sporting events for dogs registered with them.
Both the AKC and the UKC also offer "limited" registrations for purebred but unregistered dogs which have been spayed or neutered. That means that if you are interested in showing in AKC obedience trials, rally O, tracking or agility, you can get a "limited" registration which will allow your dog to do so. The UKC allows this too, for entry into their obedience, weight pulling and agility. Obviously, you will not receive a pedigree, as no one knows how your dog was bred or the papers were not in order. However, if you want to play, and your dog looks enough like an American Staffordshire (AKC) or American pit bull (UKC) to pass as one - you are in! It is quite easy to do.
There are a few other registries. The American Dog Breeder's Association (ABDA) has been around since the turn of the century and is a private, family run registry. They offer a "limited" registration, but it does not allow dogs to compete in sanctioned events, so, there really isn't any reason to do it! As well, most pet owners with well mannered pit bulls will not be comfortable with the "atmosphere" at some ADBA shows. Recently, some new people are reported to be trying to turn the ADBA shows around (and thumbs up to them) but at some shows, owners can still be seen encouraging their dogs to be aggressive and to act "out of control" to give an image of "gameness".
The National Kennel Club is primarily a coondog registry, but also offers papers and weight pull events for pit bulls. An owner can register an unpapered dog with this organization. NKC events are only for dogs registered with their organization. I'm looking into whether of not altered dogs can compete.
The Continental Kennel Club (CKC - not to be confused with Canadian Kennel Club) is one of a number of "basement" registries which offer papers for pure or mixed breeds. An owner can register an unpapered dog with this organization. CKC events are only for dogs registered with their organization.
All American Pit Bull Association (AAPBA) is another "basement" registry. An owner can register an unpapered dog with this organization. AAPBA events are only for dogs registered with their organization. Because the AAPBA allows dogs of no known pedigree to be registered, rescue dogs could compete.
To be polite, it should be noted that if a person is offering dogs for sale from NKC, CKC, AAPBA or other "basement" kennel clubs, it should be understood that the dog's papers will not be accepted as legitimate by mainstream dog people or establishments (with the exception of coonhound breeds registered by the NKC).
HOW DO I "REGISTER" MY RESCUE DOG?
It is pretty simple. Contact the kennel club you want to register your dog with. Fill out the form, take some photos and get a certificate proving that your dog is altered (for AKC and UKC). Send it in and hope for the best! If your dog resembles an Am Staff or pit bull even remotely, you should be OK. Be aware of the different breed standards, however. For instance, the AKC Am Staff standard does not allow "red nose red" coloration (although it can occur) and they discourage black and tan or solid white dogs. Dogs with this coloration may find it more difficult to gain registration. But just try it and see what happens.
Once you receive your "limited" registration papers, you are ready to show in the sport of your choice! Use the internet to find clubs near you and go have fun! Be sure and tell people that your dog is a rescue dog - especially when you win!
See you ringside!
Diane and Dirk, FR Brevet, SchH I at a Schutzhund trial.