Should I Register My Purebred Springer?

Question and answers on whether or not registering a pup is necessary

How important is gun dog registry to this pair?

Question: I have a purebred springer spaniel pup, but I was told I can't "register" him because his mother wasn't registered. He's smart and is learning well and with some training should make a good hunting dog. But I'm wondering if it will be a waste of time to train him since I can't get the papers on him. Did I make a mistake paying only $85 for him when all the other ads I saw wanted $350 to $600 for a puppy. (Iowa)


Answer: I'm assuming you are a hunter who appreciates a good gun dogÂ'¦not somebody who is "into" dogs in one way or another as a means of making a living. If you were, you wouldn't have asked this question. For pros and semi-pros, registration of their dogs has become a must, although some minor canine business is transacted with unregistered dogs.

For most hunters, however, registration with a major registry is an unneeded expense unless (for whatever reason) they plan to breed, or compete in trials, tests and shows sanctioned by the registries. While a case can be made for mixed-breed dogs I'm not advocating "mongrelization" any more than I'm trashing the major dog registries in the world--although some seem to have strayed from the original goal of improving various breeds through selective breeding practices.


Pure breeding is important, particularly when it's a matter of prestige. More people will be impressed when you brag "he's purebred" than if you can say he's "registered," except pros who know that dogs with registered ancestors bring higher prices than those from perhaps equally pure parents (sire and dam of the same breed). Only registered dogs are eligible to compete for ribbons, honors, money and other accoutrements sought by some owners of purebred, registered canines.


Just in case there is any confusion, let's put often misunderstood breeder terminologies into understandable context: Pedigree: If you know the dog's sire and dam (pa or ma) you've got a start on a recordable pedigree. All dogs have a pedigree--that listing of ancestors telling who begot whom.

Purebred: A puppy can be called purebred as long as its sire and dam were representatives of the same breed of dog. But without a pedigree there is no way of knowing for how many generations this purity existed. In the past there were, and still are, a few private breeders who honestly kept their own records and maintained lines as pure as those in the public registries.

Registered: Ideally, dogs are registered with an agency (The American Kennel Club, The United Kennel Club and The Field Dog Studbook are the major registries), and contests are conducted under their auspices in an effort to preserve and improve the various breeds of purebred dogs. Practically, they serve as referees or policemen in order to maintain a semblance of order and honesty in the dog game. Anyone can claim his dog is purebred. Registration verifies those claims.

So, while registration is vital as far as many dog owners are concerned, you and the large numbers of sportsmen who hunt with their dogs do not necessarily make a mistake but get a bargain out of either a pup or trained dog "without papers" at a steeply discounted price.

Before serious breeders protest this outrageous advice, it doesn't ignore an added risk taken by hunters who buy from "backyard breeders" or other sportsmen who have their dogs produce an occasional planned or accidental litter. Top flight, conscientious breeders have their own market niche. Those sportsmen really into dogs want the best and are willing to pay for it.

I'm telling it like it is because there are a lot of nice guys out there who would like a good dog but just can't afford the high tariff. More importantly, there are "puppy mills" which get the same high price for trash that scrupulous breeders do. Mass-breeder dogs are registered...expensive pups far inferior to purebred but unregistered discount bargains. For more on money and allied questions check out the next few questions and answers.

Do I practice what I preach? I have in the past and have done so just recently; particularly with "low-market" breeds and since I'm no longer breeding and competing as either amateur or pro. Even pro trainers, who couldn't make a living were it not for owners to whom papers and registration are marks of prestige, can pick up an extra buck or two utilizing an old business practice--buy low and sell high by picking up purebred bargain pups, putting the training on them and selling them at a good profit to hunters who want a useful gun dog, not some papers that go with him.

Question: What about this "penalty fee" the AKC socks us with when we delay sending in an individual registration. They've hiked their fees. But with computers and all that to keep instant track of everything, why soak me if it takes a while to decide whether or not the dog I bought is worth registering?

Answer: As noted in the answer to the previous question, I'm no longer as concerned with AKC policies, rules and regulations as I had to be in my youth. But if allowed to hazard a guess, what you're talking about has something to do with money.

A similar penalty billing came my way a few years back, and I wrote the American Kennel Club requesting an explanation "because there are two sides, maybe three (yours, mine and the truth) to every story. I certainly would be interested in hearing what the AKC's reasons, answers or arguments are regarding my concernsÂ'¦" After well over two years, there has been no acknowledgement of my complaint but several inquiries similar to yours and mine have hit my desk. So let's excerpt from my letter, giving other AKC patrons a "heads-up" and saving lot of paperwork.

"Your organization cashed my check in the amount of $8 and then sent me an explanatory letter dunning me for a $30 penalty fee (the dog's to-be-registered name was misspelled). Thanks, but no thanks. Please reimburse me as soon as possible."

It was questionable whether the registration of a spayed Labrador bitch out of two wedded Labradors of no particular distinction was worth $8. It certainly was not worth $38.

It must have occurred to AKC officialdom that by "rushing" registration it could increase the numbers of individual registrations received and economize in the registration process by setting a deadline. This bulks up the bottom line--perhaps a matter of business policy. It also demonstrates a disregard about the purpose for which studbooks and registries exist, an out-of-touch ignorance of the realities of serious dog breeding and a deep distrust of a membership the AKC is supposedly dedicated to serving and guiding.

Registries exist, ostensibly, for breed betterment, through intelligent and controlled breeding of purebred stock. Accrued profits from the business are desirable, but the goal is the promulgation of better-bred, better-performing dogs. This "penalty" for delayed registration is an example of the AKC's all-too-frequent emphasis on the bottom line.

The AKC is bound to penalize serious breeders among its members who "hold back" on registrations until they can ascertain whether the dogs they register for breeding or for sale are representative and worth enrolling in a program of breed betterment. It appears that, rather than respect and trust serious breeders laboring under the apparent delusion that registered animals should represent the most desirable breed qualities, devoting AKC efforts to sheer-numbers registration encourages breeders and buyers to roll the dice on everything that is whelped.

I'm sure that you could not, in conscience, tell any owner of an altered dog or bitch that registration of such an animal is worth anything. Which also leads to dog buyers asking the rhetorical question, "Since I'm not going to use my dog for breeding and am not interested in competitive events, should I pay a fee to register him (or her)?"

After all, a registry exists to supervise and promote the production of top-quality dogs. More power to the AKC if it can convince dog buyers that registration of any eligible dog is a mark of distinction in which great pride can be taken or offer the possibility that any puppy purchased may become a champion.

But when you oppose some of the basic tenets of successful dog breeding, careful selection and sensible--even ruthless--culling by penalizing your members who expect support and guidance from their registry as they adhere to its avowed purposes, you are violating good faith and talking out of both sides of your mouth.

Question: I look forward every month to your department in GUN DOG, but the reason I am writing now is in regard to an article you wrote in the April/May 1997 issue titled "Brownie and Curly Revisited." I had just purchased my American water spaniel in October, 1996 and was very excited to see you write an article on such a rare breed. I later learned you were a long-time owner and promoter of the breed.

As a first-time retriever owner I joined a hunting retriever club, and after participating in several training days I was immediately hooked on the game and began to run my AWS throughout the southeast U.S. in Hunting Retriever Club sponsored events.

Your article inspired me to participate in these events, which ultimately led my dog to becoming the first AWS to earn a "Hunting Retriever" title. At this writing I'm one pass away from also earning the new "Upland" title before moving into the "Finished" category. So, I'd like to thank you again, and my plans are to purchase two additional American water spaniels to continue running in HRC/UKC events. (Florida)

Answer: So much mail deals with puzzling negative stuff that it's a pleasure every now and then to include one of you "day-makers" who don't really ask for an answer.

You've hooked up with a good outfit for hunters interested in gun dogs if the United Kennel Club's Hunting Retriever Club testing hasn't regressed too much since its formative years back in the 1980s.

While I didn't pour any foundations, I helped build the basement when Omar Driskell, Andy Johnson and Bill Tarrant were doing the groundwork, writing for the UKC publication and serving as a judge during the time it was difficult to find arbiters broadly experienced in both hunting and field trials.

From my last in-the-field contacts with the hunting retriever testing and following others' accounts of this "by and for hunters" retriever movement, it seems it has succumbed to some extent to the inevitable and become more "field trially" as far as training and testing goes. But it was the first organized effort to offer hunters an opportunity to train and test for something closer to actual hunting requirements than the high-powered conventional retriever trials and win recognition for their dogs. From the start, it offered any breed the opportunity to demonstrate that individual dogs can be good retrievers even if not officially classed as one of the retriever breeds. The North American Hunting Retriever Association and the AKC hunt tests for retrievers were sequential offshoots of the UKC/HRC.

As you may have discovered as you've become deeply involved with your favorite breed, your good opinion of me is not shared by a number of other American Water Spaniel fanciers. Some took offense to the article you said inspired you.

While my mail ran about 4 to 1 on the side of "right on" and "a needed wake-up call," some friends and defenders also advised that the Internet was clogged with attacks by breed-club officers. I managed to survive while maintaining my lifelong respect for the little brown spaniels, if not for some of their erstwhile supporters. It seems logical that the AWS organization would affiliate with the UKC, which in 1920 was the first registry to recognize the breed and provides an avenue for owners to field test their dogs' ability under the sane standards other breeds in their class must meet. The smaller of the two AWS organizations, the American Water Spaniel Field Association, has been making overtures to the UKC and, by the time you read this, may have something going for the breed's benefit.

Meanwhile, the larger American Water Spaniel Club, an official affiliate of the AKC, continues to refuse to "classify" the breed as either a spaniel or a retriever, thereby making it ineligible to run in AKC hunt tests or field trials which are restricted to flushing or fetching "specialists." Calling, its breed "unclassified" and inferring that their unique talents put Americans at a different level than the other spaniels and retrievers, ASWC movers and shakers invent their own standards and testing procedures.

The AM1's attitude toward such shenanigans is as puzzling as the ASWC is illogical. The backbone of the ASWC is conformation shows, not field trials or tests, and the AKC has already designated the breed as a spaniel--not only by official name but by putting it in the sporting group and classifying it as a spaniel for show purposes. To be logical, since the "show element" in the AWSC contravenes the wishes of the "field element" in their efforts to promote the hunting qualities of the breed, the AKC should be petitioned to put Americans in the miscellaneous class for show competition.

Meanwhile, with the two internal groups at loggerheads, a capable and useful gun dog breed (one of the few of U.S. origin) remains obscure and its public image deteriorates. Show entries are comparatively small, and it's rare for an AWS to attain a group win after besting a small handful of its own kind for best of breed. Because of resistance to classification status and installing a weak substitute for AKC field-testing procedures, field dogs are virtually unknown and their abilities sorely unappreciated by the public. The AKC has evolved into the world's largest combination dog service and governing body with a responsibility to

all its affiliates large or small. If the push-and-pull foolish strife were going on in Labrador or golden-retriever parent clubs, the AKC would have hopped in long ago to provide guidance. As the two most popular breeds in the U.S., Labs and goldens represent big money. Orphan breeds like American water spaniels do not. Thus, it might be concluded that the AKC isn't prepared to require adjustments. For hunters and field dog American owners like yourself, be thankful that other organizations offer you a chance to see how your fine little gun dogs stack up in relation to other breeds afield.

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get the top Gun Dog stories delivered right to your inbox.