Oshi, a Miniature American Shepherd (MAS) from McGrath, Alta., won big at the 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last month.
The puppy, officially known as the Alta Ocean Symphony of the Seas, won the Best Opposite Sex Award in the Best Breeds category at the prestigious competition in New York City.
Valerie Nilsson, owner and breeder of the Alta Miniature American Shepherd, says that perfecting a pedigree and securing a title at Westminster requires a lot of hard work and years of breeding.
“You want to come up against good dogs and if you can beat good dogs, that’s saying something,” Nilsson said.
This is Nilsson’s first Westminster Champion title and he has had four other dogs in the past.
“It has been very exciting and rewarding,” said Nilsson, who has been a breeder of champion MAS for over a decade.
“We’ve had this breed in our family since I was a kid, but they weren’t the cute animals I’m raising now.”
She started breeding Toy Australian Shepherds but soon found a love for the slightly larger Miniature Australian Shepherds. The problem was that the breed was not registered under the American Kennel Club (AKC) and could not compete or take its category at shows.
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From 2011 to 2015, she was involved in getting them AKC registered. It renamed Miniature American Shepherds to go through certification.
The Canadian Kennel Club has not recognized the breed, but they hope that recognition will come soon so they can compete on home soil.
Her dogs have won over 48 titles since starting the competitive circuit in 2011 and can be seen winning awards in South America, the UK, Europe, Russia and the United States.
“It’s telling me that my breeding program is going in the right direction,” Nilsson said. “If they weren’t winning, I guess I would have to improve the whole program.”
“I’m very proud of my dogs.”
Nilsson plans to retire in five years and hopes to find someone who is equally passionate about handling her operation.
“You have to understand your lines and how to breed, and I think I have to build some confidence that someone will take it and go with it,” Nilsson said.
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