Most people who have owned a dog have heard of the AKC (American Kennel Club). The AKC is the only FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) recognized registry in the United States. So basically, for AKC recognized breeds such as the German Shepherd Dog, they should have AKC registration if they are being bred. Unfortunately there are very few rules and requirements to register with AKC, so this registration does not necessarily equal quality by itself. However, the AKC registration should be a bare minimum starting point when breeding or buying a GSD puppy. Do not forget to look at other very important factors in addition to registration such as health testing, temperament testing, working ability and structure.
While the AKC is the only FCI recognized registry in this country, there are many other all breed registries that have popped up or have been around for awhile. The only other one that deserves any respect is the UKC (United Kennel Club). Some non AKC breeds use the UKC as their sole registry. For the German Shepherd Dog, while you can register with the UKC, trial/show/compete in their events and even earn titles through the organization, it should always be done in addition to the AKC registration. The UKC is not recognized by the FCI or any other legitimate registry for the GSD breed. If you buy a UKC registered GSD without having AKC registration as well, you will never be able to go back and AKC register that dog or any progeny coming from that dog. This essentially means your dog will never again be part of the GSD gene pool. The UKC can be a great venue to compete in agility, obedience or rally with your GSD, some also enjoy showing their dog in UKC conformation, but it should never be used as a sole registry for your GSD. Some people will use UKC to register a litter when they are unable to register with the AKC for various reasons, often because one of the parents are on AKC Limited Registration.
For the GSD breed only, you may also hear of the USCA Registration. United SchH Clubs of America (USCA) has a registration program which is based on the strict rules and registry of the SV (German Shepherd Dog club of Germany). In order to register a litter of puppies with the USCA, both parents must have a passing hip and elbow rating, a working title and a show rating. They also have rules regarding ages for breeding and do not allow inbreeding. Again, because the AKC is the only FCI recognized registry, we also need to be sure to use USCA as an “addition” to the AKC registration and papers.
Other than the AKC, UKC and USCA, the other registries that you may come across or hear about are not legitimate registries. Most were created for people who were unable to register their dogs with the AKC but still wanted to sell “registered puppies”. The CKC (Continental Kennel Club) is one of the more common ones you may come across. This should not be confused with the Canadian Kennel Club (also called the CKC) in Canada which is the equal version of our AKC and is their legitimate FCI recognized registry. You may also see puppies registered with APRI (American Pet Registry), ACA (American Canine Association), or others. Sadly, these registries will basically register any dog or litter with very little information. There is no real proof that these dogs are even purebred and they are definitely not coming from good breeders. A good breeder would never even think about utilizing one of these irresponsible registries. You will often see puppies in pet stores which are registered with these types of registries.
The thing to remember is that if you are breeding German Shepherd Dogs or buying a GSD puppy, AKC registration is a very important requirement that should not be overlooked.