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What’s in a Kennel Name?

Is there prestige in having a well-known kennel name today, as there was in the days of the big, grand kennels? Are kennel names as important to hobby breeders and dog show people today as they were to fanciers of old?

I remember when I was just a girl, raised with Cairn Terriers, learning that Mildred Bryant’s ‘Milbryan’ kennel prefix was registered with the American Kennel Club. Oh, I thought that she must be a very accomplished breeder to have a registered kennel name! She was, but the truth is that registering one’s kennel prefix was much more common prior to, say, the 1970s and 1980s than it was in later decades.

The very first kennel names registered with AKC were published in the January 1889 “Gazette,” and they were Blemton, Fordhook, Kilmarnock and Maizeland.  Many of the rules that were adopted from 1903 onward pertaining to registered kennel names are still in place today. Indeed, AKC rules still include this clause: “The protection of kennel names registered between March 1, 1934, and October 1, 1948, shall depend upon their continuous use by registered owners. Neglect by the recorded owner of a registered kennel name to use such name in the registration of dogs for a continuous period of six (6) years or more shall be considered such an abandonment of the name as to justify the American Kennel Clun in refusing to protect its use…”

Today it seems that, with AKC’s encouragement, fanciers are again registering their kennel names in greater numbers. Dozens of notices of applications to register kennel names appear in the AKC’s online “Gazette” each month.

The process of having your kennel name registered with the AKC isn’t complicated, but there are several points of interest that are worth reviewing. These essential rules govern AKC registered kennel names today*:

      • Once your kennel name is registered, AKC will not allow anyone to use it in any dog’s registered name without your written permission.


      • One can only enter a dog at an AKC dog show using a kennel name as the “owner” if that kennel name is registered with AKC.


      • To apply to register your kennel name, you fill out the AKC application and pay its fee. If the board of directors approves your kennel name, it grants you use of it for five years, after which you have first right of refusal to an additional five years’ use. Of course, you must reapply and pay the renewal fee.


      • When someone who has a registered kennel name dies, his or her legal heirs or executors may continue to use the kennel name for the balance of a five-year term. They then get first right of refusal to renew the kennel name’s registration if they wish to do so.


    • Kennel names registered after October 1948 can be transferred to a new owner by the present owner for the unexpired balance of a term by applying with the AKC. Those granted prior to 1948 can only be transferred to another party by its present owner with special consent from the AKC Board of Directors. If two people own a kennel name, one can transfer full ownership to the other.

Each AKC registered kennel name only applies to one breed. However, you can apply to have your kennel name registered for multiple breeds as long as you meet all the requirements for each of those breeds.

What are the requirements?  You must have a “documented background” of having participated in AKC events and be a breeder in good standing with AKC. You must have bred and registered dogs in compliance with AKC rules and policies, and you must either have bred at least five registered litters in the last five years, or owned sires that have produced at least 40 registered litters in the past 10 years. (AKC rules use the plural “stud dogs,” but one assumes that if you had one dog that had sired more than 40 registered litters you would meet that requirement.)

A breeder who has bred at least one AKC-registered litter “may be granted a registered kennel name on a five-year provisional basis.” The breeder must then meet the above requirements during those five years in order to be eligible to renew the kennel name.

Here are a few additional guidelines:

      • No more than two people can own an individual kennel name.


      • The kennel name must be unique and may contain only two words and a maximum of 15 characters and spaces.


      • If at all, the name must have been used no more than “incidentally and rarely” in naming dogs of that breed over the past 10 years.


      • Words that look or sound like the name of a breed, an AKC title, the name of a city, corporation or trade name, and/or names of famous and “universally recognized” people are not allowed, nor are “derogatory or discriminatory” words.


    • Applicants for registered kennel names must not have any interest or ownership in a pet store or “dog dealership.”

Once you decide that you’d like to register your kennel name and you’re satisfied that you meet these requirements and guidelines, you simply fill out the application to register your kennel name, which includes an “Event Participation Worksheet.” You submit this application with a non-refundable fee of $100 for each breed you’d like to register the name for.  After receiving your application, AKC will publish a notice in the AKC “Gazette” (now only available online) announcing submission of your application and inviting readers to send any letters regarding the application to AKC Executive Secretary James Crowley. Typically, after 60 to 90 days, you’ll receive notice that registration of your kennel name has been approved.

Now your beloved kennel name is official! At least for the next five years…

*As found in AKC’s “Rules Applying to Registration and Discipline,” Chapter 3, Sections 9-14, amended to April 1, 2012.


Written by

Christi McDonald is a second-generation dog person, raised with a kennel full of Cairn Terriers. After more than a decade as a professional handler’s apprentice and handling professionally on her own, primarily Poodles and Cairns, she landed a fortuitous position in advertising sales with the monthly all-breed magazine ShowSight. This led to an 11-year run at Dogs in Review, where she wore several hats, including advertising sales rep, ad sales manager and, finally, editor for five years. Christi is proud to be part of the editorial team for the cutting-edge Best In Show Daily. She lives in Apex, N.C., with two homebred black Toy Poodles, the last of her Foxfire line, and a Norwich Terrier.
  • Mark J Bekel MarBer October 14, 2013 at 11:11 AM

    Really enjoyed Article………..Remember when in late 70’s tried to register my MarBer kennel name and was told couldn’t as Marberlane was used and registered by Kerry blue terrier people………………I still use MarBer even on dogs I own if I can. I no longer breed and MarBer has been on Pointer, Borzoi, Saluki. Poodles, ETS. IG’s and of course Japanese Chin…………………….Is it Important today, depends on the Person. Thanks again Christie for a good article. Remember most of Kennel names you listed.

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