For people new to the world of dog breed clubs, associations and registries it can all be a bit confusing as to what is what and the benefits of each type of organization. In reality the type of breed club, association or registry that you can belong to has a lot to do with the type and breed of dog that you have.
Since registries are usually the most clear cut it is relatively easy to define a registry. A registry is a listing, kept by an accredited or recognized body that registers or records purebred dogs. This means that mixed breed dogs, puppies from unregistered parents or puppies or dogs from mixes between two registered parents are not included in traditional types of registries. In other words, to have your dog "registered" he or she must be from two purebred dogs of the same breed that are also both registered. The most widely known purebred registries include the American Kennel Club, the Canadian Kennel Club, the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom, as well as Kennel Clubs in Australia and New Zealand.
Registering your dog with a purebred registry such as the Kennel Clubs or the Federation Cynologique Internationale will help to ensure that you are following the national breed standards and the ethical guidelines for breeders. The FCI is the international governing body to which other Kennel or Breed Clubs can belong. There are always individuals that choose not to follow ethical guidelines even though they may be members of these registries, and not all registered dogs are going to be show champions or outstanding dogs within their given breed.
There are an increasing number of "registries" that are now registering any dog, including mixed breeds and dogs of unknown lineage. Typically these registries have several levels of registration from "pet quality" through to purebred. Registering your dog with one of these groups does not mean that FCI or the national Kennel Club or even a breed club will necessarily accept the registration.
Breed clubs, by contrast, are groups of individuals that focus on a specific breed of dog, but they may include mixed breed dogs that are striving to become a recognized breed. Breed clubs often keep the stud books for the specific breed within their geographical area. Breed clubs also typically work very hard to promote their breed, but also to educate breeders and prospective owners about the breed. Most clubs are staffed by volunteers that are either breeders or owners. They are also involved in preserving the qualities of the breed that make it unique.
Most breed clubs are non-profit organizations that often are associated with breed rescues, animal shelters in the area or even in supporting dog events and shows on local, state and national levels. With breeds of dogs that have a specific skill, breed clubs may be very active in training programs and demonstrations, plus maintaining both the physical and skill levels of the dogs within the breed.
Breed clubs will have a set of by-laws by which members of the breed club agree to follow. These by-laws may include issues on selling puppies, ethics in breeding and selling, as well as restrictions designed to prevent any genetic conditions that may occur in the breed from becoming more prevalent. This can include requiring all the dogs to be tested for hip dysplasia or eye problems before they are used in breeding programs. In some breed clubs it is now required that dogs be DNA tested for a wide variety of recessive genetic conditions or to prove lineage. Individuals that don't follow the breed club by-laws and guidelines are removed from the club and they can be banned from participating in breed club sponsored events.
Some breed clubs are exclusive to purebred, registered dog while others are more open in their registration. Some breed clubs offer limited participation and membership to mixed breed dogs as long as one of the parent dogs was a registered member of the breed club. Sometimes mixed breed owners band together and form their own breed clubs, especially if they are trying to establish the hybrid mix as a breed on its own. This is true for the popular hybrids that are now being crossed as F2 and onward crosses. This means that the original two parent breeds are no longer being used in breeding and the hybrids themselves are being mated to produce litters that are standard in appearance to the original hybrid cross. This "breeding true" factor is important in establishing that the dog breed is, in fact, a distinctly different dog that has the ability to continue to produce offspring that can meet the standard for the new hybrid breed. Examples of these potential "breed in the making" clubs include the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever and Poodle), the Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever and Poodle) as well as the Puggle (Pug and Beagle). Others that are often considered to be their own breed even though they haven't received breed status yet include the Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle) and the Schnoodle (Schnauzer and Poodle).
Breed associations and breed clubs are terms that are sometimes interchanged, depending on where you are located. Breed associations tend to be more common for groups or types of dogs that have specific skill sets. For example you may have a herding dog association that would promote several different types of herding dog breeds including the Border Collie, Corgi, Sheepdog and Australian Shepherd breeds. Often these associations are less strict about purebred versus mixed breed and are more focused on the skills and abilities of the dogs rather than their lineage.
Regardless of the type of club, association or registry you are considering it is important to understand their philosophy and ethics when it comes to breeding, training and showing dogs. This information should be clearly posed on the website or into the information provided to potential members. In addition be sure to verify they are recognized by the Kennel Club or national registries or breed clubs in your area before paying your membership dues or getting involved in their programs.