Border Collies have gained recognition by major kennel clubs, including just recently the American Kennel Club (AKC), much to the chagrin of devoted working dog owners and breeders.
The Border Collie is an old breed of dog that has been a reliable farm and ranch hand dating back centuries. It is also a very loved and popular breed of dog kept as a family pet. It might come as a surprise to the general public, then, that the Border Collie has only recently gained full recognition by the AKC and other major kennel clubs.
Up until 1994, the Border Collie was placed in the AKC's "Miscellaneous" group, which allowed the dog to compete in obedience trials and performance events, but kept the dogs out of the conformation show ring where they would be judged based on appearance only. Many Border Collie owners and breeders, especially those dedicated to the breed as only a working dog, had little or no problem with this, as they disdained having a working dog judged on its looks.
When the AKC moved to remove stagnated breeds from its Miscellaneous pool, it required Border Collie owners to either register their dogs with them or be banned from AKC sponsored competitions. This created different camps within the Border Collie community.
Those devoted to the Border Collie's working history shunned any registration or association with AKC. The AKC argued that no one was required to register with them, and owners could make their own decisions. The U.S. Border Collie Club (USBCC) continued to oppose any registrations with the AKC because they believed that dogs would be bred more to meet the appearance of the conformation standard, and as time moved on, the working abilities of the dog would be lost. The position of working dog breeders, owners, and trainers maintains that the dogs should be selected more for their proven working abilities than for their looks.
Some owners did welcome the addition to the formal AKC ranks; primarily, these were the owners and breeders interested in conformation training, and many did import dogs into the U.S. that were bred in New Zealand, Australia, and the UK for conformation.
There also exists a middle ground of ownership; these owners welcome AKC recognition, and believe Border Collie clubs should impart their influence to ensure the working abilities are more highly prized in all Border Collie showings, and that with enough emphasis on obedience and performance trials, the breed can maintain its working integrity while still being welcome in conformation show rings.
The controversy continues on today despite the fact that the USBCC admits it has little control over the AKC. Instead, the USBCC and its devotees hope to maintain breed quality and integrity through education and proliferation of the working breed.
For potential Border Collie owners, it is worthwhile to know the history of the controversy concerning the working Border Collie community and the AKC; having this information gives Border Collie owners a chance to choose to assert their influence (or not), but it can also help owners understand that just because a dog may not be registered with the AKC, it does not mean that dog is not a prime Border Collie specimen, and having the full picture is one more way buyers can make informed and effective Border Collie buying choices.