History of The Kennel Club

Dog stood on board room table
Rachel Oates © / The Kennel Club

Where it all began

The Kennel Club was founded on 4 April 1873 by S.E. Shirley and twelve other gentlemen. They wanted to have a consistent set of rules for governing the popular new activities of dog showing and field trials. It was the first national kennel club in the world. The Kennel Club's first home was a three-room flat at 2 Albert Mansions, Victoria Street, London and since then, we have moved house 10 times.

The need for a kennel club

The founders of The Kennel Club wanted to ensure that all dog shows and field trials were run fairly and honestly and with the welfare of the dogs in mind, so they set up The Kennel Club to govern these events across the UK. In 1874, the first Kennel Club Stud Book was published. It listed the results of all dog shows and field trials since 1859 and included sets of rules for running dog shows and field trials. The Kennel Club Stud Book has been published every year since and provides a record of results for all championship dog shows, field trials and other dog activities, such as obedience and agility.

The Kennel Club's timeline

View The Kennel Club's key milestones
  • 1874 – The first Kennel Club Stud Book was published, listing the results of the dog shows and field trials since 1859
  • 1880 – The first monthly register of dog names was printed in the very first issue of The Kennel Gazette
  • 1939 – The Kennel Club acquired the world famous Crufts dog show (originally founded in 1891)
  • 1949 – The Kennel Club began investing in veterinary and scientific research project to ensure the improved health and welfare of dogs
  • 1985The Kennel Club Charitable Trust was founded
  • 1985 – The Young Kennel Club was established, helping young dog lovers aged 6-24 to join a community of dog lovers and learn new skills
  • 1988 – The Kennel Club published the Canine Code
  • 1992The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme was set up to promote responsible dog ownership
  • 2009 – The Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the Animal Health Trust was launched

Discover more of how The Kennel Club's work began

Dog health and welfare

As well as ensuring that dog shows and other events were properly managed, The Kennel Club was also concerned with the health of dogs. Of the 10 rules for running a dog show published in the very first stud book, two were concerned with health, stating that a veterinary inspector should be present at shows with over 200 entries and that dogs must be withdrawn from the show if they have any contagious disease. HRH The Prince of Wales (later H.M. Edward VII) was The Kennel Club's first patron and was a staunch supporter of the movement to prevent the cropping of dogs' ears.

Dog showing and activities

Dog showing

The Victorian love of both dogs and hobbies meant that dog showing and activities became very popular in the 19th century. The first conformation dog show was held in the Town Hall, Newcastle-on-Tyne in 1859 and the next 14 years saw explosive growth in this new and fashionable hobby. The first organised field trial took place at Southill in 1865 and this discipline also gained a large following.

As dog showing became more and more popular, The Kennel Club needed to ensure that the number of shows held was kept under control so that high standards could be maintained. Therefore, in 1900, a system of show licences was developed with each show management undertaking a guarantee to hold the show under strict Kennel Club rules.

In 1939 The Kennel Club acquired the world famous Crufts dog show (founded 1891) following the death of its founder, Charles Cruft. Since that time, Crufts has been The Kennel Club's flagship event and is the biggest dog show in the world. Today, The Kennel Club licenses over 4,000 dog shows and events every year. 

Dog activities

The very first discipline recognised by The Kennel Club was the discipline of field trials, which tests the skills of working gundogs. Other opportunities arose for working dogs to show off their skills and compete with the development of the disciplines of working trials (1920s), obedience (1950s) and agility (1970s), all of which are governed by The Kennel Club. Since the 1990s, both flyball and heelwork to music have become hugely popular with the British public and the new disciplines of canicross and rally are gaining a dedicated following.

Dog registration

Another important task for the newly formed Kennel Club to undertake was to have a register of dogs, so they could be identified properly. In 1880, the first monthly register of dog names was printed in the very first issue of The Kennel Gazette. These registration records ensured that each dog could be uniquely identified. Over the years they have provided the source of pedigree information for every dog on The Kennel Club's Breed Register. Today, we register over 200,000 dogs each year.

The Kennel Club today

We now represent the interests of all responsible dog owners to ensure that dogs are welcome throughout society. In 1988, we published the Canine Code and in 1992 The Kennel Club Good Citizen Dog Scheme was set up to promote responsible dog ownership, to enhance our relationship with our pets and to make the community aware of the benefits associated with owning a dog.

The Young Kennel Club (YKC) was established in 1985 to help young dog lovers aged 6-24 years learn new skills, build confidence and make new friends. Today, the YKC makes sure that our future dog owners, exhibitors, trainers and judges are ready to take on the challenge of ensuring all dogs get to live happy, healthy lives with responsible owners.

Become a part of The Kennel Club

We offer four different membership levels at The Kennel Club. Learn more about the benefits of each, and find a membership tier that's right for you.

Discover more about our recent work