It's often said that a dog is man's best friend, but the reverse is also true: For dogs to thrive as healthy, well-socialized, beloved pets and welcome members of society, it takes countless individuals and organizations who love them back - people with knowledge and commitment to bring out their canine best and assure their continued presence in our world.
These individuals, businesses and organizations are our dogs' forever friends. Without these devoted advocates – the dog trainers, behaviorists, breeders, health professionals, shelter and rescue workers, and the many organizations and businesses that foster and support them – few Americans would be able to maintain a relationship with their best friend.
These links lead you to some of America's most prominent contributors to dog welfare and the human-canine bond. We invite you to add to this list of our dogs’ forever friends.
The American Kennel Club (AKC)
According to its mission, "The American Kennel Club is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its Registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Founded in 1884, the AKC and its affiliated organizations advocate for the purebred dog as a family companion, advance canine health and well-being, work to protect the rights of all dog owners and promote responsible dog ownership.”
Since its founding, AKC has evolved into much more than just a registry and event sanctioning body for purebred dogs. Today it is the leading organization for dogs and dog owners in the United States. Not only does it sanction more than 17,000 events a year for purebreds and mixes alike, it provides major programs that support responsible, humane and successful dog ownership.
AKC and nearly all of the clubs that hold events under its banner are not-for-profit organizations. AKC uses its revenues to:
- record and maintain an accurate registry for each of the 160 breeds it registers;
- oversee events, grant titles and record awards;
- promote responsible dog ownership;
- protect dog owners' rights to responsibly keep and breed dogs;
- improve breeding by educating breeders and by inspecting kennels;
- fund canine health research and scholarships; and
- create and fund several affiliate organizations to help dogs and dog people in more specific ways.
Local AKC not-for-profit clubs provide camaraderie for dog enthusiasts, host events and use their revenues for the betterment of dogs in their communities. Some clubs are organized for all breeds, some for a single breed and others are organized around a specific activity such as dog shows, obedience, agility, field trials, lure coursing, go-to-ground trials and others. Local single-breed clubs are members of the AKC recognized parent club organized for that breed. Breed clubs educate their members about their chosen breed, fund research to cure canine diseases and rescue their breed. Nearly all clubs host shows and trials. In addition some offer dog training classes, host microchip and health clinics, and promote responsible dog ownership in schools using AKC programs such as Best Friends or Canine Ambassadors. These dog shows bring wholesome family fun and tourism dollars to their communities. If the shows are successful and there is money left over, these not-for-profit clubs donate their profits to causes that help dogs. AKC clubs like Westminster Kennel Club have such illustrious histories they are famous in their own right, while others that are located in smaller towns like Rogue Valley Kennel Club make important contributions as well. AKC oversees nearly 5,000 clubs nationwide.
Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT)
The Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) is a professional organization of individual dog trainers. Their mission is: "Promoting caring relationships between dogs and people by educating trainers in canine behavior and emphasizing professionalism and reward-based training.". Their goal is to offer individual pet dog trainers a unified voice in the dog world and helps raise awareness about dog-friendly training techniques.
APDT offers superb national conferences presented by experts in dog-friendly, scientifically sound training methods. They also offer their members a Code of Professional Conduct and Responsibility and a set of position statements covering many current issues
Canine Companions for Independence (CCI)
CCI's website says, "Canine Companions for Independence provides highly-trained assistance dogs for children and adults with disabilities, free of charge. The most advanced technology capable of transforming the lives of people with disabilities has a cold nose and a warm heart!"
Canine Companions for Independence was founded in 1975 and is now the largest assistance dog organization in the world with 5 campuses and hundreds of volunteers nationwide.They train 4 types of assistance dogs, service dogs, skilled companions, hearing dogs and facility dogs. CCI added a puppy raising program for prisons 13 years ago, which has expanded to 12 facilities throughout the US since then. The puppies not only provide independence to a disabled person, but in the process of their training, they benefit the inmate participants too.
CCI is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Dogs trained at CCI are placed free of charge with qualified applicants.
"The mission of Delta Society is to help lead the world in advancing human health and well-being through positive interactions with animals. We help people throughout the world become healthier and happier by incorporating therapy, service and companion animals into their lives."
Delta Society was founded in 1977 by Leo Bustad, DVM, Michael McCulloch, MD and William McCulloch, DVM, leaders who recognized the healing power of pets in people's lives. There was little in the scientific literature at the time to support their beliefs, however, so the founders pushed for research to test their theories. Because of their vision, studies now exists that prove that pets lower blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and extend life expectancy for people who've suffered heart attacks.
Delta is widely recognized today as laying the foundation for the animal-assisted therapy movement and they are best known for their therapy work. Delta's Pet Partners program, which trains volunteers and health-care professionals in animal-assisted activities and therapy work, visits thousands of hospitals assisted living facilities and schools each year. To see a video of their work, please click here.
Although Delta Society works with many species, they rely on dogs for many of their programs.
According to its website, " 4-H is a community of more than 6.5 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills ... 4-H members participate in fun, hands-on learning activities supported by the latest research of land-grant universities that are focused on three areas: healthy living, citizenship, and science, engineering and technology. Youth can experience 4-H by becoming a member of a 4-H club, attending a 4-H camp, or joining school-based or after-school 4-H programs. 4-H members can compete with their projects in contests at the local, state, regional or national levels and also attend conferences and events."
The purpose of the 4-H Dog Project is to help 4-H youth develop leadership skills, experience the responsibility of caring for a dog, develop a greater love for animals and to prepare for citizenship responsibilities by working in groups and supporting dog projects in the community.
4-H offers many programs for youth in fourth grade or older. Their national 4-H curriculum for dogs includes guidance in basic care and training, health and nutrition, and offers youth the opportunity to explore responsible breeding, careers related to training, services dogs and other professional roles. 4-H presents seminars on interesting subjects ranging from grooming to clicker training, showmanship and other competitions as well as exhibitions on search and rescue, police dog demonstrations and an introduction to showing in AKC events. They also offer dog shows where youth can compete in showmanship obedience, agility and other events, exhibiting a dog that they have trained. They also learn elements of show set up and management.
International Association of Canine Professionals (IACP)
The International Association of Canine Professionals is an organization established to maintain the highest standards of professional and business practice among canine professionals. Its aim is to provide support and representation for all professional occupations involved with any aspect of canine management, health, training and husbandry. The International Association of Canine Professionals commitment is to develop professional recognition, communication, education, understanding and co-operation across the wide diversity of canine expertise and knowledge.
IACP offers many services, resources and educational events, including an annual conference. The IACP website offers a listing of canine experts, professionals and services by region.
National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA)
NAIA was founded in 1991 to provide a balanced and reasonable voice in the animal welfare debate, a debate that is often monopolized by radical voices. NAIA is a 501 c 3 non profit organization with hundreds of volunteers working across the US to support NAIA's mission. The mission of NAIA is to promote the welfare of animals, to strengthen the human-animal bond, and safeguard the rights of responsible animal owners. Read NAIA's values statement here.
NAIA is dedicated to increasing understanding and raising awareness about important animal issues. Before problems can be solved, they need to be understood, and that's NAIA's role. NAIA researches issues so that effective solutions can be devised and problems solved. NAIA works with other groups and individuals who are also committed to solving problems.
NAIA hosts outstanding conferences, conducts studies and maintains programs like the NAIA Shelter Project, which gather and share critical information with the public. NAIA offers model legislation and position statements on many facets of dog ownership and breeding. The majority of NAIA's members are dog enthusiasts and many of the projects NAIA undertakes support responsible dog ownership and improved care and treatment of dogs..
The Paws of Life Foundation
Paws of Life Foundation (POL) is a non-profit organization established in 2003 to educate, coach, and provide working dogs to K9 handlers. To accomplish their mission POL uses experienced SAR handlers to provide seminars, and coaching to agencies and K9 teams, and provide dogs to K9 handlers who utilize them in searches for missing children, Alzheimer patients who walk away from their care facility, lost hunters and hikers and others who need help.
Project Pooch, is an organization that is dedicated to helping youth who are incarcerated in MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility and dogs in shelters overcome their problems. It was founded in 1993 and since then Pooch has become a model for similar programs all over the US. Their mission statement says: "Project Pooch, Inc,. provides opportunities for youth in correction to develop the personal and vocational skills they will need to become responsible, productive members of the community. The program accomplishes this by teaching youth to care for and train shelter dogs for adoption."
Joan Dalton, who is now executive director, founded Project Pooch while serving as vice principal of MacLaren's Lord High School starting with one dog and one youth. Since then Project Pooch has changed and saved the lives of hundreds of youths and dogs. By establishing relationships, emotional support and mutual respect, the youths learn self-confidence. For some students and dogs, this is their first experience of unconditional love.
Throughout the program, youth grow in leadership skills and improve their ability to work with others. Students who demonstrate responsibility, show patience and success in training their own dog are given additional opportunities to train dogs for the pubic. When the dogs leave the program they are ready to be good pets.
United Kennel Club (UKC)
The mission of the United Kennel Club "...is to be the world's best registry of purebred dogs, to offer our customers the most efficient and creative services possible, to use our data to help our customers breed the best dogs in the world, and to create a wide spectrum of performance and conformation events in which those dogs can prove their instincts and heritage."
The UKC was established in 1898 and prides itself on being a registry for working dogs. Nearly 60% of its events are tests of hunting ability, training and instinct. UKC's events include but are not limited to obedience and agility trials, weight pulls, Terrier races, dock jumping, Juniors, night hunts, bench shows and events for Beagles, Coonhounds and others.
UKC also holds conformation events, which are designed to emphasize the breeder-owner-handler. A distinguishing characteristic of these events is that professional handlers are not eligible to exhibit dogs for others at UKC events.