Yes (sort of)
To be eligible for AKC titles, club awards,, and other things, your dog has to be registered with the AKC as a German Shepherd in one of two ways.
If you bought your dog from a reputable breeder, you will get AKC registration papers with your dog. This indicated that your dogs parents are registered German Shepherds and that your dog is in fact a German Shepherd with, hopefully, a long family tree of registered german Shepherds.
Often though, people get their dog from a rescue group or animal shelter and, if the dog had papers, they have been lost, and family history is, therefore, not known or provable. You can still register your dog with the AKC as a German Shepherd and compete in all the official competitions, except for AKC Breed Conformation Shows, and be eligible for titles and awards. This is called the AKC Purebred Alternative Listing (PAL)
That being said, if you have a German Shepherd that is not registered and you don’t want to register it at this time, you can still hang out with us at our many events. We have had members start this way and some get hooked on something and, at a later time, get a PAL number so that they can get more involved. Contact Josie, our Vice President, for more about this.