A Dog Buyer's Guide to Acronyms From AKC to UD

by TerryMcNamee

Learning to "CERF" the bewildering world of canine abbreviations takes a little research. What is OFA, what is a CDX, and what do PRA, HD, CERF and BIS stand for?

By Terry McNamee © 2013

All of these acronyms (and many more) are common in the purebred dog world. If you want a healthy, registered, smart, purebred puppy, you should learn what these letters stand for before you buy, otherwise when a breeder says proudly, "The sire of these puppies is OFA Excellent, has his CDX and TDX, is CERF cleared and went BIS last week!” you won't have a clue what all this means. Some of these abbreviations are very important, because they show that the breeder is doing all the proper health clearances on his or her dogs before they are used for breeding. Of course, even healthy parents sometimes produce a puppy affected by a genetic disease, but ensuring that the parents and grandparents are cleared of the major disorders common in that breed increases the likelihood that the puppies will be healthy, too.

Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Ch. Rosewood Air Marshall CDX WC TT with his obedience awards.
Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever Ch. Rosewood Air Marshall CDX WC TT with his obedience awards.
Photo © Terry McNamee

Registry Names and their Acronyms

In North America, most breeds are registered by the AKC (American Kennel Club), CKC (Canadian Kennel Club) or UKC (United Kennel Club). Former racing greyhounds are usually registered with the NGA (National Greyhound Association).

There are a few other breed-specific registries for Border Collies, Beagles, Foxhounds, bird dogs and Coonhounds. Some dogs may be registered with more than one: for example, with both the NGA and CKC, or both AKC and UKC.

Elsewhere, there is an international dog organization called the FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale). In the British Isles, dogs are registered with the KC (The Kennel Club). Many countries also have their own national kennel clubs (and their own list of acronyms).

Sometimes, you need to be careful. UKC refers to the United Kennel Club, a recognized registry that is more than a century old. But the Universal Kennel Club also uses UKC, and this "registry" is not recognized by any of the national kennel clubs and registries. Similarly, the Continental Kennel Club has usurped the letters CKC, but it too is completely unrecognized and has no relationship at all to the Canadian Kennel Club.

A Papillon named Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being won BIS at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1999.
A Papillon named Ch. Loteki Supernatural Being won BIS at the Westminster Kennel Club in 1999.

Titles and Awards Earned in Conformation Dog Shows

Purebred, registered dogs can compete for many different conformation titles and sometimes travel to different countries to earn additional ones. These titles are earned by being judged on how close they are to the ideal of their breed, how well they move and their overall quality. "Conformation" refers to how they conform to the ideal for the breed.

A dog that has earned enough points or certificates to meet the requirements of a Champion gets CH or Ch. in front of its registered name. The title may specify where it was earned. For example, Can. Am. Ch. is a Canadian and American Champion. An SUCH is a Swedish Conformation Champion. Dogs also can earn a Grand Champion (GCH) in some countries.

An important win at an individual show may include BB or BOB (Best of Breed), BOS (Best of Opposite Sex to Best of Breed), BIG (Best in Group), BPIG (Best Puppy in Group) or BIS, BPIS or BISS (Best in Show, Best Puppy in Show, Best in Specialty Show). Some awards are for a specific year — for example, a dog with WW-91 in front of his name was the World Winner (Best Male or Female in Breed) at the annual FCI World Dog Show in 1991.

Another award is Select, often abbreviated as SEL, or Award of Merit (AOM). This means that, while the dog was not chosen by the judge as the best overall in its breed at a particular show, it was recognized as being of excellent quality. Select and Award of Merit designations are usually given at specialty shows or at prestigious shows like the Westminster Kennel Club.

Dogs also can be tested for temperament and earn a TT (Temperament Tested), a CGN (Canine Good Neighbour) or CGC (Canine Good Citizen).

Border Collie and Kelpie competing in a sheepdog trial in Australia.
Border Collie and Kelpie competing in a sheepdog trial in Australia.
Wikimedia Commons

Obedience and Working Titles

These titles have changed over the years, with new ones being added regularly. Some of the basic obedience titles includes CD (Companion Dog), CDX (Companion Dog Excellent), UD (Utility Dog),  UDX (Utility Dog Excellent) and OTCH (Obedience Trial Champion). Some countries also offer a Master Obedience Trial Champion title, abbreviated as MOTCH.

When a dog has the highest score of all dogs entered in an obedience trial, he has won HIT (High in Trial). The highest score in class is HIC. Tracking dog titles include the basic TD (Tracking Dog) and TDX (Tracking Dog Excellent). A dog with a UD that also has a TD title can use UDT after his name.

Additional competitions open to any breed capable of doing the work include weight pulling, water rescue, protection (Schutzhund and RingSport), search and rescue, lure coursing, agility, Rally-O, flyball and scent hurdle racing. There are many more working titles specifically for herding dogs, setters, spaniels, retrievers, pointers, hounds, terriers and sled dogs. Check with specific breed clubs or dog sports organizations to find out more, because a whole page would be needed to explain the acronyms for all these titles! Some individual dogs have so many titles in different sports that it takes two or three lines to list them all.

For a list of the many conformation, sport and working titles available, just Google any of the major kennel clubs mentioned previously.

A Golden Retriever clears a jump in an agility trial.
A Golden Retriever clears a jump in an agility trial.
Photo by Marlies Kloet/Wikimedia Commons

Canine Health Acronyms

Two of the most common ones are OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) which records the names of dogs that pass certain health clearances (most commonly hip and bone x-rays and heart tests) and CERF (Canine Eye Registration Foundation) which keeps records of eye examinations. Both track inherited diseases in dogs.

Common genetic health problems include HD (hip dysplasia) and eye problems like PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), cataracts (CAT) and CEA (Collie Eye Anomaly). Others are more rare or breed specific, ranging from epilepsy and heart disease to thyroid disease and even systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

When you buy a puppy, you should always ask to see certificates showing that the parents have been certified clear of any inherited diseases known in that breed for which tests and certification are available. Most of these diseases need very specific testing and cannot be diagnosed by a regular veterinarian, so a simple health check is not enough.

More information is available at the OFA web site or from individual breed clubs.

More Information

Here are some books that will help you learn more about the various dog sports you can enjoy with your dog and what the various titles mean. There are many more available on every sport from retriever training to dancing with your dog (freestyle obedience).

The Simple Guide to Showing Your Dog

A comprehensive, how-to guide that demystifies dog shows and makes showing fun and winning possible. Divided into sections comprising: * What is a Dog Show? * The Breeds, The Gr...

View on Amazon

It's a Dog Not a Toaster: Finding Your Fun in Competitive Obedience

Learn to love competing in obedienceMost books on competitive obedience focus on the training and ring skills you need to be a winner with your dog in the ring and that s great....

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The Ultimate Guide to Rally-O: Rules, Strategies, and Skills for Successful Rally Obedience Compe...

Combining elements of obedience and agility, rally-O (also known as rally or rally obedience) is the fast-growing new dog sport that is sweeping the nation. Navigate your dog th...

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Agility Training for You and Your Dog: From Backyard Fun to High-Performance Training

Based on the innovative, positive training methods this practical training book explains how to get your dog started in the exciting sport of dog agility.

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Herding Dogs: Progressive Training

Herding Dogs: Progressive Training is the only book of its kind to guide the owner toward training the complete herding dog. Whether you are involved in farming or ranching, or ...

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Tracking Dog: Theory & Methods

Johnson presents the basics of tracking work, and leads the reader step-by-step through a planned, easy to follow program, which has resulted in 100% success for his students. T...

View on Amazon

Updated: 08/28/2013, TerryMcNamee
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