AKC Breeders of the Year 2019

AKC Breeders of the year 2019


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Pictured Above (clockwise from top left) Lisa Weiss, Lobuff Labrador Retrievers… Andrea “Andy” and Jack McIlwaine, Aberdeen Otterhounds… Renee and Jim Pope, Geistvoll Standard Schnauzers… Aileen & Richard Santo, Paxon Kerry Blue Terriers….  Jeff Bazell and Jeff Kestner, St. Johns Brussels Griffon…. Elizabeth and Daniel Karshner, Little Ponds Bulldogs…. Patricia Princehouse, La Brise Pyrenean Shepherds.

Congratulations to the following hard-working, dedicated breeders for international recognition courtesy AKC. We wish all breeders everywhere great success in the years to come.

The American Kennel Club® (AKC®) is pleased to recognize breeding programs from the Sporting, Hound, Working, Terrier, Toy, Non-Sporting and Herding groups as 2019 AKC Breeders of the Year group honorees.

“The breeders honored with this award have made important contributions to the sport and future of purebred dogs,” said Dennis Sprung, AKC President and CEO. “They are truly committed to excellence, consistency, breed standard and type, and dogs bearing the honorees’ kennel names are a testament to their fine breeding programs.”

The 2019 AKC Breeders of the Year award will be presented during the show at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin on Saturday evening, December 14, 2019.

A canine portraitist will be commissioned to commemorate a prominent dog from the Breeder of the Year’s kennel, and their name will be added to the perpetual trophy. All group recipients will receive a medallion in recognition of their achievements.

The group honorees are:

Sporting Group: Lisa Weiss, Lobuff Labrador Retrievers

Hound Group: Andrea “Andy” and Jack McIlwaine, Aberdeen Otterhounds

Working Group: Renee and Jim Pope, Geistvoll Standard Schnauzers

Terrier Group: Aileen & Richard Santo, Paxon Kerry Blue Terriers

Toy Group: Jeff Bazell and Jeff Kestner, St. Johns Brussels Griffon

Non-Sporting Group: Elizabeth and Daniel Karshner, Little Ponds Bulldogs

Herding Group: Patricia Princehouse, La Brise Pyrenean Shepherds


  1. How do you feel about the current quality of your breed? Your Group?
  2. Changes you’ve seen in your time involved with your breed?
  3. Any particular challenges you fact in our current economic climate?
  4. Do you use a handler or prefer to show yourself? Why?
  5. How many dogs do you normally maintain?
  6. When do you pick a show prospect? What’s the most important attribute in your choice? Did you ever make a mistake (like selling a pet pup that turned out to be spectacular!)?
  7. Do you have trouble placing pets? Show prospects? What means do you use to advertise available pups?
  8. Who was your most impactful Mentor? What was the most valuable piece of advice you ever received?
  9. What advice would you give the newcomer?
  10. Lastly, for a bit of fun: What’s the funniest thing that you experienced/heard about that happened at a dog show?
  11. And please add anything you’d like to share with us. The future of the sport needs all the help it can get, and you’ve managed to make it to the top through hard work and dedication. We thank you for that.


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Lisa Weiss

Weiss began breeding and exhibiting in the 1960s. Lobuff’s first litter by Ch. Gunslinger’s Tawny Boy, a Ch. Lewisfield Gunslinger son out of Ch. Spenrock’s Cognac (a Ch. Spenrock’s Banner WC daughter), produced Lobuff’s first homebred champion, Ch. Lobuff’s Dandy Lion, in 1971. All three dogs won many Bests of Breed and, Weiss says, “accompanied us on many family dog-show adventures up and down the East Coast.” Cognac produced two important dogs for the Weiss breeding program, Ch. Lobuff Seafaring Banner (Banner) and Ch. Lobuff’s Tequila Sunrise (Kiki).

Most of today’s Lobuff dogs go back to Cognac through either Kiki or Banner, including top-winning and -producing Ch. Lobuff’s Bare Necessities (Baloo), Ch. Lobuff’s Turtle Dove, and her daughter Ch. Lobuff Hollyridge Puffin, the top-winning Labrador female in the breed’s American history. All three dogs were Best of Breed winners at the prestigious Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac show.

In the 1990s, Beth Sweigart and the “Green Team” guided Baloo’s show career. “Baloo adored Beth and she him,” Weiss recalls. “They had many wonderful wins and we had lots of fun. Beverly Shavlik and Sally Sasser co-owned Baloo with Emily Biegel and me for a while and traveling to the shows was always an adventure.”

Lobuff Labs have won countless specialty JAMS, WD, WB, and Best Puppy and Best Veteran honors as well as many Best in Sweepstakes and more than 35 specialty Bests of Breed. A Baloo son, Ch. Aquarius Centercourt Delight, holds the Best in Show record for Labrador Retrievers.

I think the quality of my breed is very strong at specialties. At our Potomac Specialty in April (the largest single breed show in the world) the quality is very deep. The quality at your average all breed show for the most part is unremarkable , often dogs are lacking in type. Lab breeders prefer to show under breeder judges—most all round judges don’t draw majors or entries where you’re going to see a lot of quality—there’s always the exception of course. There are several sporting judges who do draw and do a great job with the breed, mostly successful breeders of their own breeds who have taken the time to learn the essence of Labradors. I’d love to name them but they know who they are.

I think the sporting group is very competitive right now. I’d like to see more typy Labs place in the group. So often when Labs have a breeder judge at an all breed show they’re one of—if not the largest entry. That breeder sends a really good one to the group only to have it be overlooked completely.

Changes I’ve seen in my time involved with my breed? I’ve seen the overall quality (and again I’m speaking of specialties) improve greatly. If you’re judging at a specialty with a nice entry you sometimes wish you had eight or ten ribbons to give out instead of four, especially when you’re doing a class of 30 open black bitches or the Bred By class.

Any particular challenges I face in the current economic climate? Well we don’t have those big breeders with big kennels housing 40 or more dogs, sending 12 or so off with their handlers anymore. I think that’s the case in most breeds and the sport in general. I have a friend who jokes that she’s always robbing Peter to pay Paul to do all the shows she wants to do.

Do I use a handler or prefer to show myself? I have used handlers from time to time but not in recent years. In the 90s we had a dog called Ch. Lobuff’s Bare Necessities CD JH, Co-owned by Emily Biegel. He won Westminster twice and was the #1 Lab in the country ’94 and ’95—he was shown by the very talented Beth Sweigart. I bred Labs and Goldens for Guide Dogs for the Blind for over 20 years—“Baloo” as he was known was actually bred in the Guide dog program and was the sire of more than 50 working Guide Dogs. I showed most of my own dogs in the 70’s and 80’s but was a bit busy having children in the late 80s early 90s (3).

Labradors are a very owner oriented breed and most of the competitors are owners or “breeder/owner handlers”. Today I co-own dogs with and work closely with Kaki and Bobby Fisher of Frakari Labs. They’re always at the top of their game! Both have incredible hands on a dog. They have some exciting youngsters coming up of their own and are able to give their clients their all.

How many dogs do I normally maintain? Usually about eight, never more than 12. Labs need a lot of exercise and attention—they want to be with you doing a job and that takes time—now that my kids are grown I have a bit more time. I also have two other co-owners Julie Quigley Smith of Hollyridge (we’ve been partners for over 20 years now and have had many specialty winners) and Juan Carbonell from Mexico of Loretta Labs. We own several dogs together and he’s a dog show maniac! Never gets tired of the travel does an amazing amount of it as he primarily shows in the U.S.

When do I pick a show prospect and what is most important? The most important thing to me is the total package! Balanced from head to toe—not extreme in any characteristic. I watch the puppies from day one: pay close attention to them as they develop, make a cut so to speak at seven or eight weeks of age…so I can let the pets go to their new homes and then run on two or three that I like. I’ll do some DNA testing and that may weed some out. I usually decide who I like the best by about six months but sometimes keep more than one until they’re about a year and I can do some preliminary x-rays on them. I’ve been breeding for over 50 years and I think anyone who breeds enough has guessed wrong at one time or another and let a good one slip through their fingers.

Do I have trouble placing pets or show prospects? I don’t have any trouble placing pets—I usually have a waiting list of people—I don’t breed that much anymore and I breed for myself first so I don’t have many to sell. I get inquiries through my website. There are always new breeders looking for show prospects.

Who was my most impactful Mentor? Mrs. Curtis (Joan) Read, Chidley Labradors—was my most influential mentor. I knew her as a youngster when I was riding ponies, she was involved with dogs and Pony Club. I had my first Labs from a good friend of hers—Anne Carpenter—also a breeder and a judge. Joan took me under her wing and taught me the ropes. Her philosophy was not to go for the biggest or smallest but that middle of the road puppy , if it was balanced and had adequate bone, coat and substance with a pleasing head and expression. She always said “those come on”.

Of course I couldn’t have gotten to a single show without my parents! My dad (Col. Jerry Weiss) drove me up and down the eastern seaboard until I was old enough to drive myself. Despite all the travel our first dog never won a single point but we stuck with it—bought a good bitch bred her right and continued on. My dad became a judge in ’75 and I in ’92—we’ve been lucky to have shared this hobby for more than 50 years.

My mom (Lee) also played a huge part in the success of Lobuff Labs—she was there to whelp our first litter and still enjoys that part of it. She babysat dogs and puppies that stayed home while Dad and I traveled—later she babysat my two legged babies so that I could continue to show and judge. It was teamwork!

What advice would I give the newcomer? To find a mentor!! Maybe it’s the person you get your first dog from or maybe it’s an old timer that you befriend. A good mentor is worth their weight in GOLD. Don’t dive in head first and start collecting dogs! You need to get a good bitch and have your mentor help you find the right stud dog for that bitch. Have your mentor and fellow breeders help you grade your litters. It takes a village! Do that and you’ll be off to a good start.

In time, become a mentor—it’s good to give back to the sport.

The funniest thing that ever happened to me wasn’t funny at the time—I was about 20 and had a beautiful black and white Springer I was showing and doing well with. I had him snowy white on a rainy day at Trenton Kennel Club which used to be a big show. I was carrying him and on my way up to the ring I slipped and fell in the mud—I was covered in mud and so was he. Billy Gilbert the photographer was standing there and took our picture—it’s always been one of my favorites.

I think that being kind to newcomers and fellow competitors is really important. I also think that encouraging the next generation of enthusiasts is vital to the sport. If you get a chance to take a kid under your wing or give them a leg up—do it! I met a young girl a few years back and she wanted to get started in the sport—her parents had no experience what so ever in the dog world—they had gotten her a dog but he wasn’t competitive in the breed ring and he didn’t have the attitude to be a juniors dog. I lent her a champion bitch for Jrs and to fool around with before I bred her. She had fun—made it to the Garden—did some winning in the breed ring and really soared. Ten years later—she’s a top assistant for a top handler and has a bright future in the sport.

The other thing I say is if you judge and you like kids—get involved and judge Jrs—they’re the key to the future of our sport!


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Andrea & Jack McIlwaine

Andy McIlwaine has been involved in the world of purebred dogs since the age of 12, when she and her mother purchased their first show dog, a Samoyed. Andy participated in many venues with this dog, including Junior Showmanship and sled-dog racing and breeding under the Ijsbear prefix. They produced many champions including a top-10 Samoyed.

Andy met her husband, Jack, while in college. Together with their son, Jason, and daughter, Jamie, they have devoted their lives to Otterhounds. Andy’s mother, Nancy Dorian, gave them their first Otterhound, Ch. Chaucer’s Sunflower in 1982. In 1985, the McIlwaines imported a dog from England, Ch. Boravin Quarryman. These dogs were the foundation of Aberdeen Otterhounds. They have since produced over 75 champions, including several top-winning BIS and BISS winners.

In 2013, Jack and Andy successfully campaigned GCh. Aberdeen’s Under the Influence (DUI) to multiple Bests in Show and to Best of Breed at the Otterhound Club of America national specialty.

The McIlwaines have worked with many all-breed clubs and have been co-chairs for the Ravenna Kennel Club shows along with Max and Lee Riddle. They have also hosted three Otterhound national specialties and will be hosting their fourth in
October 2019.

Andy is president of the Otterhound Club of America, Inc., and has served on the club’s board of directors. She is an approved breed mentor who has presented to numerous judges’ education groups and published articles on judging the Otterhound.

In her “other” life, Andy is a Clinical Liaison for the Cleveland Clinic. Jack is the owner of the Beach City Market and BBQs in California and Caveman’s Kitchen, which specializes in gourmet catering at dog shows. Jason apprenticed for many top handlers and is now out on his own. He has campaigned the four BIS, BISS Otterhounds bred and owned by him and his parents.

How do we feel about the current quality of our breed and group? Given the number of Otterhounds receiving group placements, I would say that our breed is in much better shape than it was when we first became involved in 1980. We just returned from our National specialty. In years past, we were hard pressed to find many dogs in the classes that were, what we consider, worthy of a championship. This year was much different—there were some excellent hounds in the classes, and the specials were truly special.

As for the hound group—I do feel that it is extremely competitive and has the greatest depth of quality, especially in the midwest.

Changes we’ve seen in our time involved with our breed? Most of the changes have been very positive—coats, which are so important in our breed, have improved greatly. It’s been years since we’ve seen a soft coat. Bites have also improved. Tail carriage is still a problem, but, it too, has improved.

Many have expressed concern about the number of dogs in our gene pool-roughly 800 Otterhounds worldwide. WE ARE NOT ENDANGERED! This has not changed much since we first became involved. In the early 2000s we did see some issues with popular sires and repeat breedings, which further limited our gene pool, but more breeders have made a concerted effort to broaden our horizons. My greatest concern, though, is that we are going to lose breed type.

Any particular challenges we face in our current economic climate? I think we all face great challenges. It is impossible for us to keep large numbers of hounds and find good homes. The current “Doodle craze” has significantly impacted our breed.

Do we use a handler or prefer to show ourselves? We’re so fortunate to have a talented handler in the family. Jason shows all of our dogs.

How many dogs do we normally maintain? We have about eight Otterhounds living with us at any time—from young puppies to senior citizens.

When do we pick a show prospect and what’s the most important attribute in our choice? Selecting puppies starts early in the whelping box. We look for that one that always seems to stand out. Then, as they get up on their legs, we watch for that one that always moves freely and easily in the yard and shows great confidence. We generally make our final pick at seven to eight weeks. After that time, we find that they become too clumsy and awkward with quickly growing bones and body weight.

We’ve made several mistakes along the way—probably the hardest part of breeding. People make promises that go unkept, and the ugly duckling sometimes turns into the beautiful swan. The most heartbreaking, is the phenomenal male, that ends up with only one testicle—this is an ongoing problem in our breed.

Do we have trouble placing pets and show prospects? We have plenty of good show homes waiting for puppies—I just wish that every puppy in a litter is what we consider to be a show prospect. We are extremely discriminating and want to make sure that serious show homes have serious show dogs.

Who was our most impactful Mentor? I’ve been so fortunate to have many mentors along the way. My first mentors were the late, great Max Riddle, Chuck Herendeen, and Capt John Bell-Irving. I’ve also learned so much from my great friends, Terry Miller and Bob Urban. There are so many others that have helped us along
the way.

Best advice I’ve ever received was from Chuck Herendeen, “trust your eyes—if a dog is well-balanced, you’ll notice it right away.”

What advice would we give the newcomer? Read, Read, and reread the standard. Watch and listen. Realize that your dog is the best friend you may ever have, but, conformation-wise, there is no perfect dog.


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Renee & Jim Pope

Renee and Jim Pope have been members of the Standard Schnauzer Club of America since 1971. They are AKC Breeders of Merit who together have bred 100 AKC champions bearing the Geistvoll kennel name. The Popes have also bred eight Canadian champions, an English/Irish champion, and a
Finnish champion.

Renee served on the SSCA Board of Governors from 1980 to 1983, 1990 and 1991, and 2007 and 2008. She also served as the club’s second vice president in 2017 and 2018. She has kept the Champion and Grand Champion records for the SSCA since 1985 and has been the club’s Annual Review chairman for since 2006. Jim has served the SSCA as treasurer.

Geistvoll sires have contributed to 100 SSCA Leading Producers, and Geistvoll dogs represent 204 titles among the SSCA Hall of Fame producers. The Popes have had 32 specialty winners, both national and regional, and 32 titles in performance and tracking have been earned by a Geistvol Standard Schanuzer.

We first started showing in 1971 when we lived in Fairbanks, Alaska. Shows were 200 dogs if we were lucky and entry fees were $8. Shows consisted of Conformation and Obedience only. Today there are still a few small shows but generally shows are over 1,000 dogs and shows can include Conformation, Obedience, Rally, Agility, Barn Hunt, Herding, Lure Coursing and Dock Diving. Today we can see entry fees of $25-$35. Showing is more costly these days but there are so many things we can do with our dogs. Standard Schnauzers excel at all of these activities.

We encourage new owners to try different activities with their dogs and get involved. Currently we are not seeing as many families interested in Conformation showing but many are interested in performance activities. We believe that families should join the National Breed Club or All-Breed Local Club as well so they can gain even more knowledge of our breed and what is offered.

As breeders we strive to produce dogs that are sound of mind, body and health and to be good family members capable of doing any task asked of them. The established Breed Standard is the guideline for all breeders. We are all responsible for breeding to the breed standard to preserve our breed. We prefer to show our own dogs and show in the Bred By Exhibitor Class as we are very proud of what we have produced.

It is an honor to be selected as one of the 2019 AKC Breeders of the Year to represent the Working Group.


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Aileen & Richard Santo

Aileen and Richard Santo established their Paxon hobby kennel in 1968 with the arrival of their first litter of Miniature Schnauzers. The two puppies they retained completed their championships
in 1970.

After breeding and successfully showing the Minis, the Santos fell in love with the Kerry Blue Terriers they met at shows. A neighbor had a well-bred champion-producing bitch; arrangements were made to purchase a show prospect from his next litter. The rest is history!

Ch. Blu Star’s Kerri Dancer arrived on January 1, 1979. She finished her championship at 16 months with a 5-point win, owner groomed and handled, at the prestigious Montgomery County Kennel Club terrier show. She went on to become a multiple group winner, with many additional group placements, and was the top-producing Kerry bitch of her day, with 15 champion offspring.

Kerri Dancer produced many top winners, but most notably the son from her first litter, Ch. Paxon’s Dancer’s Image. He went on to become a multiple group and specialty winner, again all owner conditioned and handled. As a producer, he sired 30 U.S. champions and numerous others in Canada and overseas. He was the first Kerry to produce puppies using frozen semen, siring two litters in Sweden. The Paxon U.S. champions now total 118, with numerous more overseas.

Many Paxon dogs have served as foundation and breeding stock for breeders in America, Europe, and South America and can be found in the pedigrees of many contemporary Kerry Blues.

The Santos have been members of the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club and the Empire Kerry Blue Terrier Club since 1979. They are charter members of the Garden State All Terrier Club, maintaining their membership for the past 25 years. The Santos have served as officers of the Empire Kerry Blue Terrier Club, with Aileen as the current president, and continue to breed Kerry Blues and enjoy active participation in the world of dogs.

How do we feel about the current quality of our breed and group? I feel that the quality of the breed is in very good shape—many fine dogs in the Group as well!

Changes we’ve seen in our time involved with our breed? There seem to be fewer breeders and not too many young people coming in. Grooming is greatly improved.

Any particular challenges we facc in our current economic climate? I think the expense showing dogs has led to much lower entries.

Do we use a handler or prefer to show ourselves? We show our own dogs as we like to keep them with us, but in the past on occasion we have used a handler.

How many dogs do we normally maintain? Four to six.

When do we pick a show prospect and hat’s the most important attribute in our choice? After 50 years, of course we’ve made mistakes but have been fortunate to have been able to show and breed some of these dogs. I usually pick my show prospects at 9-12 weeks.

Do we have trouble placing pets and show prospects? Being in a small breed the puppies are usually reserved before they are born. Most sales are word of mouth but I do have a website which helps let people know if there are puppies available.

Who was our most impactful Mentor? It’s hard to name one, but probably the people I got my first Kerry from. Their greatest advice was patience.

What advice would we give the newcomer? Patience.

The funniest thing that we’ve experienced at a dog show? Many years ago, at a National Specialty weekend one of the handlers took a life size stuffed Airedale in the ring under a retired handler/now judge and was not noticed until it was time for the stuffed dog was to be examined.


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Jeff Bazell & Jeff Kestner

Bazell started in dogs in the mid-1970s with a Brussels Griffon from Nigel Aubrey-Jones. He became a parent club member in 1979, during the Iris de la Torre Bueno years. Bazell has served the club as president, show chair, and specialty coordinator, and for 16 years he was publisher of the national breed magazine. He currently serves as the parent club historian and archivist and has amassed one of the largest collections of breed-specific items known among all breeds. He has judged parent club specialties on four occasions including the national and has judged Griffon specialties and club shows worldwide and is an AKC multi-group judge. He has been an approved breed mentor since the program’s inception and has presented the breed both here and abroad on many occasions.

Kestner has been active in the breed for the last 15 years and maintains a vast Griffon breeding-record collection and database worldwide. He is approved to judge the breed along with half the Toy Group. As an active parent club member, he has served on constitutional revision committees and is a parent club–approved mentor and presenter. He has also judged sweepstakes at the
national specialty.

Together the Jeffs have bred and/or owned 102 AKC champions as of mid-2019, bred another 64 champions in the United States and Canada, and owned or sold another 90 champions internationally. St. Johns exported the first American Griffons to Australia, where they earned multiple group and Best in Show placements. The Jeffs also helped reestablish the breed in its homeland during the mid-1980s. The breed had nearly died out in Belgium and the Netherlands before St. Johns Griffons revitalized the breed on the European continent. Dogs of St. Johns breeding have sired many champions internationally, and St. Johns is behind many of the world’s successful breeding programs. Performance titlists are important to St. Johns, with 20 AKC-titled dogs and an additional 18 internationally.

Bazell and Kestner are proud AKC Breeders of Merit whose stock is health tested on a generational basis. St. Johns has been an AKC-registered kennel for many years.

How do we feel about the current quality of our breed and group? As a teenager I became involved with Griffons and this year makes my 50th year with this enchanting breed. Over that time I’ve watched the breed go through the ups and downs typical of all breeds. We currently are at an apex in our breeding program but it takes many things to get there—devotion, time, money, diligence, but most importantly passion. Presently, I find the breed in general at an ebb, there are some outstanding individuals but generally balance is off, few dogs stand under their withers as they should, long loins are becoming more prevalent and coats and color are dyed in and product enhanced with few judges either not noticing or caring. Let me say, rich color is one of the easiest things in this breed to conquer, but it will never be done if dyeing is the new norm. The breed is truly in trouble around the world as standards have been changed, supposedly to clear health issues, but these standards describe something very different than what the founders of this breed wrote in the original standards of this purpose bred dog. It angers me that people with little or no experience with this breed took it upon themselves to change time honored standards with no reference or studies to show a relationship between those standard points and skull structure.

As a frequent and long time toy group judge I find the group to be one of the stronger groups. Often I have walked into a group anywhere around the country to find eight or nine dogs that I have given other strong groups to previously.

Changes we’ve seen in our time involved with our breed? Positive changes in the breed include generally pleasant heads with good expression, better overall grooming at the breed and group level, and one I am passionate about—a better understanding about the health of the breed. Some things need some work—breeders need a better understanding of structure and adhering to the words of the standard (ie: moderate does not mean an open shoulder with a short upper arm with head sitting on top of shoulders), extreme dyeing with known carcinogenic materials and dearest to my heart—the nickname of the breed is Griffon, never Brussels.

Any particular challenges we face in our current economic climate? Entry fees, hotel and travel expenses are raising quickly so we all have to work harder to support our “habit.” We all do what we do because we love it! Anyone taking the time to read this understands completely.

Do we use a handler or prefer to show ourselves? Jeff and I agree that we should limit our showing in the ring ourselves but have always exhibited because we love it. I also think that every judge should be required to show occasionally in some manner because it reminds us of the stress that exhibitors have on a daily basis with parking/crowds/running behind in your day etc. It makes you patient and kinder to both the dogs and the exhibitors.

How many dogs do we normally maintain? We are very fortunate in that we have some wonderful people involved in the St Johns breeding program. They are like family to us and we all work together for a common goal of bringing happy, healthy Griffons into the world. In order to maintain a successful breeding program with health tested dogs and maintain some genetic diversity it is necessary to keep a number of dogs. That being said, we place and co-own many dogs that are necessary so they will be in loving show homes. We pay to health test these dogs, pay their entry fees and any medical expenses and the folks that they live with provide the TLC and daily maintenance. Jeff and I typically keep between eight to ten at our house that we are currently showing. Evelyn Hole is absolutely the foundation of St Johns and Homestead. She is an 81 year old wonder of nature! Evelyn is one of the finest animal husbandry people that we’ve ever met. She catches things other folks would not notice. Evelyn maintains a daily log of what happens with each dog that is abnormal. She whelps and raises our puppies then when we decide which we are keeping they come to stay with Jeff and I for training. We do not breed puppies to sell and typically have not ever bred a bitch more than twice in her life. These girls are then placed in loving homes for the price of a spay and enjoy retirement as a special dog for a special person. We maintain 12-15 adults with Evelyn’s great care.

In addition to this we currently have dogs with Anne Jahelka, Pam Hicks, Jane Handschumaker, Polly Girard, Jeff Crouse and several other friends that we can use to expand the gene pool.

We are fortunate to have formed a great relationship with Susan Depew while showing specials for us and we look forward to bringing out a new special soon.

When do we pick a show prospect and what’s the most important attribute in our choice? Jeff, Evelyn and I start evaluating puppies at about four weeks. If they do not grow steady and even they are out of consideration and that we evaluate at four weeks. At six weeks we start measuring upper arms and watching how the puppy uses themselves, how they naturally move etc. We also start looking for dominant out going puppies at this age. At eight weeks we are watching for head pieces and how the face is filling in and this is the best age to look at eye shape—if it is not very large/very round and very dark it goes as a pet.

We are honored that we have made several so called mistakes and those dogs have gone on to be specialty and group winners for other people. One of my mentors used to say “a good breeder breeds champions and a great breeder shares them.” I Iike that.

Do we have trouble placing pets and show prospects? We have no trouble placing puppies and have never had to advertise. We do not believe in accepting deposits and if people care to wait we will notify them when we have something that might interest them.

Who was our most impactful Mentor? Judie Donaldson of Kingsmark Greyhounds took me under her wing and taught me how to be a breeder. She taught me husbandry and ethics. She taught me how to be kind to people. Nigel Aubrey-Jones taught me to love Griffons. Kitty Drury taught me how to judge dogs and I think of this every morning I step in a ring, “listen to me kid—you’re not saving lives in here you’re evaluating dogs—look for what looks like it all fits together and appeals to you and don’t overthink it. Point your boney finger, smile a lot, be sweet to the dogs and try not to cuss at the people showing the dog.”

What advice would we give the newcomer? Breathe. I say it to newcomers in the ring all the time. Griffons can be a heartbreak breed. They require round the clock care the first three weeks, they are a high maintenance breed their whole lives but we love them. If a person’s temperament cannot deal with stress, drama and heartbreak this is probably not the breed for them because they are difficult to raise.

The funniest thing that I’ve experienced at a dog show? Let’s get this right, I didn’t find it at all funny at the time but everyone that witnessed it found it hilarious. I was judging a big French Bulldog entry and had just awarded BOB, BOW and BOS. The final dog to leave the ring pauses as it passes my ivory panted legs at the judges table, I hear an audible rumble and belch and it shoots diarrhea all over my legs. I looked at the woman showing the dog and said “I guess he didn’t like my decision.” Yuck!

The successful showing of dogs is an evolutionary process. When you start it is human nature to like the gossip, the stories and the back biting. It is intriguing and so different than anything you’ve ever experienced before you either love it or hate it right off the bat. This works fine until you become the brunt of the gossip which usually occurs after you and your dog become a threat at the breed level. You stay home and lick your wounds awhile and then you either miss it or you quit. If you miss it and go back then you don’t share those awful stories any longer. After awhile you need a bigger fix and you start specialing a dog and another evolutionary step is reached. Just like anything, if you stay with it long enough you will view things just as they are—you will be thrilled when you win and be kind and congratulatory when you lose and you will have learned one of life’s greatest lessons—humility.

That being said, the dog show world is just like a big family, there’s some you love, some you’d rather not be related to but are, some you can be ashamed of and some that you’d follow into hell. The point is though, just like a family, we are there for each other when things get rough and we do stick together.

Jeff and I are very humbled for receiving this honor and thank the fancy for being so supportive of us through the years.


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Elizabeth & Daniel Karshner

Little Ponds Bulldogs is home to Bulldog Club of America national-specialty Best of Breed, Best in Show, and specialty-winning Bulldogs. Since 1977, Elizabeth and Daniel Karshner have concentrated their efforts on breeding correct conformation married with health, temperament, and soundness. They are the proud breeders of 100 champions to date. Their sires have produced 290 champions, including many specialty winners. Ch. Little Ponds Chief holds the Top Sire record, with 152 champions.

The Karshners have owner-handled their dogs to over 160 Best in Specialty wins. They are AKC Breeders of Merit and BCA members. Elizabeth has served multiple terms on the BCA Board of Governors and is an AKC-approved judge who has officiated at the BCA national and BCA backup national, as well as many specialties abroad. She will judge Bulldogs at the World Bulldog Federation in conjunction with the 2020 World Dog Show.

The Karshners are BCA Hall of Fame breeders, and many of their bred-by dogs and bitches are BCA Hall of Fame producers. One of the greatest rewards for the Karshners is seeing Bulldogs they’ve bred complete their championships, owned and handled by newcomers in the breed.

Overall the state of our breed is doing well! There are currently multiple Bulldogs being campaigned that are winning groups and Best in Show awards. They are excellent representatives of correct breed type, temperament and soundness.

Our National breed club along with many of the newer as well as younger generations are placing a higher priority on health testing with special emphasis on using this tool along with all the other considerations when making future breeding decisions. This certainly bodes well for the future for our fancy as we are facing so much of the current anti-dog sentiment of
the moment.

I think the financial factor looms large as younger families of dual working parents are dealing with the cost of living as well as time allocated for all the children’s activities, etc. A campaign on media social sites to make the public more aware of what the all wonderful sport of dogs has to offer families including exhibiting, agility, obedience, tracking, working and field trial events. Something for all the family to experience together.

How to select a show puppy?! We look for the package of balance, conformation, movement and the “look at me” temperament then we watch and wait as they mature. Of course this is no exact science (still searching for that crystal ball!) and sometimes we later realize that have placed the better show prospect in a wonderful pet home—which has its own special rewards for us as well.

We usually have between six to ten dogs and have one or maybe two litters a year. We are fortunate to have successive generations of families coming back for another pet when they are ready. Our Bulldog Club of America breeder referral program is another excellent resource. We never advertise puppies on our website or in newspaper classifieds.

The advice I got early on from an old time breeder was to start with a female puppy. Like most newcomers I resisted that idea but I took their advice and that is the same advice I give to new people. ‘One size doesn’t fit all’ but I believe that starting with a show prospect from a well bred background will be a solid building block for the future because that is the foundation for the future.

As for a humorous show event it would probably be the time that one of our male specials took down the entire ring fencing in his efforts to capture the ball of fur that was blowing around on the other side of the ring. Although it certainly was not funny at the time!


AKC Breeders of the Year 2019 – Patricia Princehouse

La Brise is simultaneously the top producer of performance and companion event Pyr Sheps and the top producer of champions, group placers, group winners, BIS, and BISS dogs. Princehouse set out from the beginning to maintain true breed type, including the working and performance ability of her talented little dogs. “This little dog can do it all,” she says, “so why not do it all with them!”

A second-generation dog person whose first love was the Great Pyrenees, Princehouse discovered the Pyrenean Shepherd as a 14-year-old exchange student in France. She spent much time in France in her formative years, and the breeding stock she acquired there would form the basis of the breed in America.

Princehouse was instrumental in her breed gaining AKC recognition, and to date the La Brise Pyr Sheps have earned over a thousand titles across a wide range of dog sports organizations, with many top wins. “It is a small breeding program, but most pups end up competing in one venue or another,” she says. “Indeed, the number of titles earned far outstrips by many-fold the number of
pups produced.”

Pricehouse was the Pyrenean Shepherd Club of America’s inaugural Hall of Fame breeder, responsible for over 20 Top Producing, Hall of Fame, and Register of Merit sires and dams, including both the top producing sire and dam in breed history. As one of the world’s leading figures in her breed for many years, Pricehouse’s accomplishments are too numerous to list here in full. A partial list includes the first AKC group-placing, group first, and BIS dogs in the breed; 24 national-specialty winners; a World Agility Champion, three AKC National Agility Champions, and more than 50 Master Agility Champions; more than 100 AKC conformation champions, and scores of titles in obedience, rally, tracking, agility, coursing, and herding; and 35 PSCA Versatility awards.

In her non-dog life, Princehouse is a paleoanthropologist and science educator with a Ph.D. from Harvard. She is associate director of the Institute for the Science of Origins at Case Western Reserve University. How do I feel about the current quality of my breed and group? Today we are graced with a good half dozen Pyrenean Shepherds of extraordinary quality currently being shown in the US—especially cool since they are of several colors and coat types! You can see in them a bridge from the outstanding dogs of the past and a good crop of young up-and-coming dogs. Many of the young dogs are of varied colors and there are a few really top notch Smooth-Faced dogs as well as the more common
Rough-Faced fawns.

At the group level, in the Herding Group (and Working) I’m seeing a lot of dogs of many breeds who lack reach and kick their hind feet out behind them to avoid interfering. I worry many judges mistake the kicking for length of stride. They need to look through the voluminous hair of many breeds to make sure that all that apparent extension is taking place over the ground, and not up in the air behind the dog where it does no good. I also see grooming converging more than ever toward a “generic American show dog” look. Many breeds should not look fluffy and spiffy. Many should have a coarse, sparse, flat-lying, haystack coat. Many breeds are not inherently glamourous. Sometimes glamour is a fault.

Changes I’ve seen in my time involved with my breed? The Pyrenean Shepherd breed is at a crossroads. In the breed’s homeland of France, the old breeders with ties to the original, unregistered stock from the high mountains are all either retired or deceased. The newer crowd, wishing to distinguish themselves, have developed a new look for the breed—and altered the FCI standard to match! The AKC standard remains closer to what was in place from 1923-2002 in France. The correct dog should be small, light-boned and racy to sweep fast from one side to the other in steep mountain valleys. The head must be triangular with full fill under the eyes and a short-muzzle for the stereoscopic vision that allows the breed to run straight at the side of a cliff, gauge the distance without slowing down and leap onto boulders without breaking stride. The body should be long, with a marked rise over the loin and long let-down to a very short hock. This extreme angulation in the rear should be matched in the front and all that reach and drive should work together to produce a double suspension gallop and a flying trot.

But the current fad in many places is toward heavier dogs with coarse heads and pushing the upper height limit of an already generous standard. In going for this look they’ve sacrificed not only head and eye, but also movement. These chunky dogs lack the energetic flying trot that “shaves the earth” with the traditional “Allure Pyreneenne”. I worry some of these folks are much more interested in producing a splash with extreme characteristics than with safeguarding the future of the breed. If “anything goes” then why breed purebred dogs at all?

A truly typey dog is necessarily sound, but a sound dog is not necessarily typey. The only extreme that should be rewarded is “extremely” typey.

Any particular challenges I face in our current economic climate? I do feel it is harder for the average owner to compete these days due to lack of disposable income. I go to great lengths to encourage kids and new people—including many performance people—to show in conformation. I don’t want to see any split arise between working dogs and show dogs as has happened in so many breeds. Our breed is built the way they are because of the unique job they did as wilderness herders. The double-suspension gallop and ability to scramble over rough terrain pre-adapted them for agility. Their alertness and wariness are what make them so fast, so responsive in so many performance events, so ready to change course and think at high speed while working with their human partners. And why they tend to bond to their family to the exclusion of others outside their pack. When novices spend so much in travel costs, etc just to have their exhibit dismissed for correct breed-specific behavior and correct rustic appearance, they quickly become disillusioned and go back to more familiar territory, or simply go home. It’s a vicious circle because the fewer novice/ordinary people compete, the more the judges see only professionally presented dogs or those presented by very experienced breeder/owners, so the higher the bar gets for how slick a dog has to look to compete. I see this not only in the US but in France as well where I’ve seen several super typey dogs in recent years showing only in agility. When I ask why the dog isn’t in conformation, they say they’re not interested in throwing money away.

Do I use a handler or prefer to show myself? This is the first year since breed recognition that I haven’t campaigned a dog with a handler. Usually I have at least one out since I can’t get to enough shows. But I do like to go see the dog shown fairly often and this year I’ve spent almost as much time out of the country as in and gave it a break! I do enjoy seeing a dog in his prime so well presented! And of course it’s a pleasure to see them do so well in higher competition! Though I have won the occasional Group myself, everyone knows handlers are more likely to achieve top honors—and not only for political reasons but because they are gifted at bringing out the dog’s best qualities both physically and behaviorally.

I enjoy showing my own dogs and am often in and out of the ring with at least half a dozen at any given show, but the dogs that live with me just aren’t trained to give that extra performance it takes to compete at the highest levels. I also do enjoy presenting them in the traditional manner where the dog isn’t baiting but is at the end of the lead looking alertly off into the distance in any direction—often with one rear foot further back than the other, which adds to the rise over the loin. That gives the true look the breed should have. But it does look a bit hodge-podge to judges less versed in Pyrenean lore. I feel I’m always doing a bit of judges education every time I take a dog in. I was so gratified to win BOB at Westminster this year showing my own dog and the highly respected herding breed expert judge specified “she’s not the best “show” dog, but she’s the best dog!”

How many dogs do I normally maintain? I usually have about 15 at the house but I’m lucky to have been able to work with many others to help cultivate a kind of consortium of people working together to maintain quality in the breed over the past 30 years. A substantial effective breeding population size is required to produce the variation needed—not just to address health issues but so you can maintain quality though selectively breeding to dogs that are typey and produce well. Not only conformation people participate but performance and even pet people. I frequently retain the right to breed even to dogs placed in pet homes if they are of high quality. I often place otherwise top show quality dogs in pet homes where they will have undivided attention, etc. Why keep a dog for four years just to breed it one time. That way they live great lives and bring so much joy to people and yet aren’t lost to the gene pool.

When do I pick a show prospect and what’s the most important attribute in my choice? Perhaps one of the best individual dogs I ever bred went to a pet home and was neutered. When the people brought him to visit at age four, my jaw hit the ground. But I can’t complain, he had a great life. And I’m lucky enough to have plenty more where that came from! The littermates were nearly as good. If it ever comes down to one single dog being the saving grace of the breed’s future, then that future is not to be. (And for that reason I have stopped freezing semen as well.)

I generally pick top show prospects at birth. The national specialty winner kind of dog that exudes type and is built the way they should be with head and neck and shoulder and length of body. After that it’s a waiting game to see if they grow up the way they should, which they generally do. Another important moment for me is five weeks. If they don’t look absolutely super at five weeks, then they move on. Not necessarily out of the gene pool, but they don’t need to live at my house.

Do I have trouble placing pets and show prospects? I’m spoiled. I don’t have much trouble finding good homes for pet and performance dogs but I do go to a lot of trouble to vet the owners. As for show, I would rather place a lovely dog in a pet home than have it go to a show home I feel doesn’t have their priorities straight. I do make mistakes but I’m content to err on the side of caution. I have a website and also maintain both a personal FaceBook page and one for the kennel—which has 2,000 followers. I also put the occasional ad on AKC Marketplace. But mainly it’s word of mouth and owners who come back for multiple dogs.

Who was my most impactful Mentor? In the US, Whitney and Nancy Coombs. I’ve been so lucky to learn so much from them. Not only about dogs but about caring for the sport. They opened their home and hearts to this breed early on and that has made all the difference. I may not always achieve it but their message is loud and clear: have a plan and follow through. The most memorable moment was rather Socratic. I remember it like it was yesterday. In a quiet moment the day after I won my 10th National Specialty, Nancy named off the three most spectacular dogs I ever produced, and she asked in her solemn, searching way “How are you going to follow that? Where do you go from here? What exactly are you going to do next?” I felt humbled. I had to admit I simply didn’t know. When it came down to brass tacks, I had no plan. Those dogs were widely acknowledged internationally as nearly perfect. There was no room to go up, only lots of room to go downhill. It was scary. And that moment galvanized my resolve to maintain that level and expand it to more dogs and share them more widely. To not let that quality slip.

My primary mentor, the man I got my foundation stock from and have probably thought about nearly every day of my life since I was 14 years old, is Guy Mansencal in France. Now 90 years old, he was at one point one of only six FCI all round judges in France. But more than that he is a world treasure. Someone who really understands the essence of breed type as an abstract concept. I have probably learned as much from hearing him discuss the unique type qualities of other breeds as in our discussions specific to Pyr Sheps. Early on, while I was still a teenager, he began refusing to give me specific advice or help me choose breeding stock and puppies. At least beyond the occasional “ah oui?” with an eyebrow cocked when he felt I may have been making an important mistake or he’d sometimes offer a rare hardy endorsement—long after the fact—of decisions he felt were particularly sound. But even today his main mode is to press me to make judgements and articulate my thoughts. Every time I speak with him, he always asks me to describe what I saw at the most recent show I went to. What did I like, what’s out there of value looking to the future? I am honored that several dogs of my breeding—both rough and smooth-faced—are among the small complement of photos he keeps to educate judges on what the breed should look like. I was shocked, honored, even a bit dismayed to find out that a couple years ago he sent out a photo far and wide of one of my bitches, challenging French breeders to produce such a dog in their own breeding programs and asking why the best dogs are now found in America! Probably the most valuable advice is how you must look at the entire dog “globally” as one organism with all its parts in place and typey, with the correct temperament and attitude as well as style, movement, head, head carriage, let down of hock, etc working in universal harmony. All of it must be taken as one whole dog. The individual parts are of less concern. You can part out a dog all you want but once the harmony is gone, the symmetry is broken, you’ll never get it back.

From my very first bitch, he has bequeathed me a genetic legacy of stunning, sublime dogs. I didn’t create this bloodline, it has been my privilege to inherit it from the breeders who went before. My job has been to not mess it up, and for whatever reasons I’m one of the few who has managed not to thus far. I try always to bear in mind what Mansencal once said to me “This breed is not the work of man. It was made from the wind, and the rain, and the mountain.”

What advice would I give the newcomer? Believe In Your Dog! Whether you’re in show, performance or everyday life, believe in her and she will believe in you. Keep trying! I tell them yes, nobody wins more than I do, but nobody loses more either.

The funniest thing that I’ve experienced at a dog show? I heard about a high flying young dog that went into the BIS ring. The judge checked the testicles and said, “Um, there’s three…”

I’d also like to share:

1) I will talk directly to judges here. Remember that every time an owner handler walks into your ring, they have poured their heart and soul into the dog at the end of that lead. That deserves your utmost respect in this day and age of negative attitudes toward purebred dogs—even if you don’t like the dog at all. Assume that exhibitor has a living room full of breed-specific art and antiques and photographs and breed history the nature of which you can’t begin to imagine. Any time you feel dismissive of a dog who isn’t well groomed, or isn’t behaving well, or looks like an adolescent string bean on roller skates, there’s a reason he’s there and he is the future of that breed. We are graced with an inordinate number of outstanding dogs, but not every dog can be outstanding. And yet they matter. The average dog you see in the ring is the starting place for the next generation of this very rare breed. Most have useful qualities important to the breed when bred judiciously. If you withhold a ribbon on a newbie, assume that person will drop out of dog shows forever. I see it happen several times a year. I’m serious. Several times a year. It’s ruining our sport. If you can’t see the dog’s qualities, it’s probably behavior. Don’t give them handling lessons, back off and give them a little extra time. They’re nervous and that goes right down the leash. And be patient with yourself as well. This is a very difficult dog to judge and an even more difficult dog to breed. You’re going to make mistakes. I know I do. Even as a breeder-judge. But try to err on the side of inclusiveness. When you see one you don’t like, bear in mind, that I, as a breeder, I challenge you to try to breed a better one. This breed is complex. It takes years to mature. They look their best at age five or six or even seven. An outstanding dog of 18 months just isn’t going to look like that. They should look like an 18-month-old dog and should be judged that way. And remember that DQs are your friends. They alleviate the need to make tough decisions when a dog does lack some basic element of correct type despite maybe having other excellent qualities. DQs let you concentrate on what matters—after all, sorting out a ring full of typey dog is the most challenging task you face but also the most rewarding. It’s where the joy of judging comes in!

2) I take advantage of extensive health testing and genetic resources now available. These are in no way the be-all and end-all of breeding. But it is a mistake not to make judicious use of them. Good dogs need to be kept in the gene pool, but every dog carries several deleterious recessives. It’s like a puzzle. New tests come out every month that allow breeders to keep dogs in the gene pool while avoiding doubling up on unsuspected recessives that could produce needless health problems. And tests are now coming out that identify good traits as well. Breeders should educate themselves. Use these advisedly, but do use them.

3) Raising puppies is hard work. Mine are exposed to noises and surfaces from birth. We do super puppy exercises. My pups run loose around the house with tolerant adult dogs. They are vaccinated at five weeks so they can go to my local dog club and be safely handled by strangers. Maybe some breeds have trouble with vaccinations but not mine. They do great and live healthy lives into old age. (In fact, I feel too many genetic problems are blamed on vaccines as a scapegoat). I feed a sensible dog food (Bil-Jac) that’s locally made with quality ingredients (liver, steamed corn) even though they aren’t the fad ingredients of the day (no pea pollen and turtle tails or whatever.) Again, they do great and live healthy lives into old age. Many of my puppy people feed raw but getting a raw diet right takes serious study and I’ve seen it go awry—though I do admire its effect on teeth.

4) This hobby has so much to offer! Travel. Sightsee when you go to dog shows. Learn about different places and people. Visit your breed’s place of origin if you can—whether it’s Asia, Africa, Nova Scotia or Louisiana. And while you’re at shows watch unfamiliar breeds. Learn something new. Talk to people different than your usual friends. It is a rare opportunity to mingle with people from all walks of life competing on a pretty level field. What a terrific sport!

“I don’t have much trouble finding good homes for pet and performance dogs but I do go to a lot of trouble to vet the owners. As for show, I would rather place a lovely dog in a pet home than have it go to a show home I feel doesn’t have their priorities straight.”

  • Founded in 1884, the American Kennel Club is a not-for-profit organization, which maintains the largest registry of purebred dogs in the world and oversees the sport of purebred dogs in the United States. The AKC is dedicated to upholding the integrity of its registry, promoting the sport of purebred dogs and breeding for type and function. Along with its more than 5,000 licensed and member clubs and its affiliated organizations, the AKC advocates for the purebred dog as a family companion, advances canine health and well-being, works to protect the rights of all dog owners and promotes responsible dog ownership. More than 22,000 competitions for AKC-registered purebred and mixed breed dogs are held under AKC rules and regulations each year including conformation, agility, obedience, rally, tracking, herding, lure coursing, coonhound events, hunt tests, field and earthdog tests. Affiliate AKC organizations include the AKC Humane Fund, AKC Canine Health Foundation, AKC Reunite and the AKC Museum of the Dog. For more information, visit www.akc.org. AKC, American Kennel Club, the American Kennel Club seal and design, and all associated marks and logos are trademarks, registered trademarks and service marks of The American Kennel Club, Inc.

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