Oshie, an miniature American shepherd (MAS) from Magrath, Alta., took home a big win at the 2022 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show last month.
The pup, officially known as Alta Oceans Symphony of the Seas, won the best of opposite sex prize in the best of breeds category at the prestigious competition in New York City.
Valerie Nilsson, owner and breeder at Alta Miniature American Shepherds, said it takes a lot of hard work and years of breeding to perfect a pedigree and land a title at Westminster.
“You wanna come up against good dogs and if you can beat the good dogs, that’s saying something,” said Nilsson.
This is Nilsson’s first Westminister champion title and she’s had four other dogs qualify in the past.
“It’s 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 were not the beautiful animals I’m raising right 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 have its category in shows.
From 2011 to 2015, she was involved with getting them AKC registered. It took a name change to miniature American shepherds for the certification to go through.
The Canadian Kennel Club has not recognized the breed, but she hopes the recognition comes soon so they can compete on home soil.
Her dogs have won more than 48 titles since she started the competitive circuit in 2011 and can be seen winning awards in South America, the U.K., Europe, Russia and the United States.
“That’s telling me that my breeding program is going in the right direction,” said Nilsson. “If they weren’t winning, I guess I’d have to revamp the whole program.”
“I’m very proud of my dogs.”
Nilsson plans to retire in five years and hopes to find someone just as passionate to take over her operation.
“You have to understand your lines and how to breed, and I guess that’s where I have to build some trust that someone will take it and go with it,” said Nilsson