Breeder of the Year Award


Each year, The American Kennel Club recognizes and celebrates an outstanding purebred dog breeder with the Breeder of the Year Award. The award honors those breeders who have dedicated their lives to improving the health, temperament and quality of purebred dogs. At a special presentation held during the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship show, a breeder, or pair of breeders, is recognized in each of the 7 Groups. At the conclusion of the presentation, one of the 7 Group recipients is chosen as the Breeder of the Year.

  • 2014: Gwen DeMilta and Carissa DeMilta Shimpeno
  • 2013: Winifred Stout
  • 2012: James W. Smith
  • 2011: Pluis Davern
  • 2010: Debbie Butt
  • 2009: Claudia Orlandi, Ph.D.
  • 2008: Joan Savage
  • 2007: Barbara Miller
  • 2006: Douglas and Michaelanne Johnson
  • 2005: Dave and Peggy Helming
  • 2004: Catherine B. Nelson
  • 2003: Mary Rodgers
  • 2002: Wendell J. Sammet


2015 Breeder of the Year Group Honorees

The 2015 AKC Breeder of the Year will be announced Sunday, December 13, 2015 in Orlando, Florida at the AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. 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 and plaque on permanent display at the AKC headquarters in New York City. All group recipients will receive a medallion in recognition of their achievements. 

Sporting Group: Janet Bunce, Wochica Golden Retrievers

Over 50 years ago Wochica Golden Retrievers began under the watchful eye of Janet Bunce. (In turn her daughter Karin Fisher would join in raising Golden Retrievers for conformation, obedience, and fieldwork).

As a child Bunce was allowed one dog, an out-of-control Irish Setter. Her parents warned her that unless the dog was well trained she would not be allowed to keep him. She did not know the basics of obedience training, but she learned quickly.

After her marriage, in 1945, Bunce finished another Irish Setter. In the 1960s Bunce joined the Golden Retriever Club of America and the Long Island Golden Retriever Club. She became interested in starting a breeding program and becoming a professional handler.

Her first Golden Retriever, Ch. Pathfinder of Lazy Pines CD, WC, came into her life, and in one year she completed his conformation championship, Companion Dog title, and Working Certificate. The foundation bitch for Wochica Golden Retrievers was Little Dawn of Chickasaw, OD, who produced four champions in her first litter: Ch. Wochica’s Okeechobee Jake, OS, SDHF (three-time National winner, multi-BIS, and a Westminster breed winner), Ch. Wochica’s MJ Protégé, CD (Westminster BOB and Group IV in 1972), Ch. Jib of Cedarmoor, and Ch. Wochica’s Wind Song, OD. Bunce has judged many matches and Golden Retriever sweepstakes, including the Golden Retriever National. For over 35 years she has conducted specialized handling classes, teaching novice owners how to be more professional in the ring. One of her great joys is forming lifelong friendships with her Golden Retriever clients, puppy owners, and fellow breeders.

Breed standards and sound breeding were paramount to the Wochica Golden Retrievers. Bunce focused on producing sound dogs with broad chests, spring of rib, good toplines, beautiful heads, smiling faces, straight tails, steady gait, and solid composition. Over 70 Wochica Goldens earned titles in conformation, obedience, and field trials. Her aim was a Golden that could work in the field followed by the show ring or visa versa. Bunce is proof that there are “no shortcuts to breeding good dogs.”

Hound Group: Jay T. Hafford and James P. Blanchard, Thaon Reg. Afghan Hounds

“Forever, as you need to be, a student of the breed, my early years were spent studying the breed and struggling with direction in my breeding program,” Hafford says.

The years of study have paid off handsomely: Thaon Reg. Afghan Hounds have won the breed’s National Specialty show a total of seven times, making Thaon the top national specialty–winning Afghan Hound kennel in breed history. “It was the acquisition of our foundation bitch, MBIS MSBIS Ch. Coastwind Antiophe (Annie), that changed everything,” Hafford says. “Annie is the single most influential dog in our pedigrees.”

Hafford and Blanchard have bred or owned many Specialty Best in Show winners and have amassed well over 100 Specialty Best in Show wins. They have bred or owned seven all-breed Best in Show winners who have won more than 50 all-breed Bests in Show. Their proudest achievements are their four National Specialty winners: MBIS, MSBIS, Ch. Thaon’s Wannadance; his daughter MBIS, MSBIS, Ch. Thaon’s Travertine and his son MBIS MSBIS GCh. Thaon’s Mowgli; and Travertine’s son MBIS, MSBIS, GCh. Thaon’s Wallstreet, making it “three generational.” Mowgli, having won the National four times (consecutively 2009–2012) holds the individual record.

Hafford, of Valley Center, California, has been a member of the Afghan Hound Club of America for more than 30 years. He has been show chairman for the National and served on the AHCA board for six years. He has also been at various times show chairman, president, and a board member of the Colonial Afghan Hound Club. Hafford is past president and board member of the Hockamock KC, and was show chairman for that club for five consecutive years. He is an AKC judge of the breed who has officiated at the AHCA and specialties around the world. Blanchard and Hafford are members of the California Afghan Hound Club and the Afghan Hound Club of America.

Working Group: Sylvia Hammarstrom, Skansen Giant Schnauzers

Sylvia Hammarstrom, of Sebastopol, California, began her U.S. Giant Schnauzer and Standard Schnauzer breeding programs in 1963. In her native Sweden, she had already bred several Standard Schnauzer champions by the time she was 10 years old.

She spent her childhood summers working in kennels, learning the basics and going to dog shows in Denmark, Switzerland, Belgium, and England. “My parents allowed it as I told them I was learning a language,” she says.

Jane Kamp (Forsyth) sponsored her relocation to the United States in 1960 to learn more about show dogs. “I was young and restless,” Hammarstrom says, “so instead of learning to be a professional handler from the best, I took off on a 26-plus-year journey as a flight attendant with TWA.” When not flying around the world, she was back at her Sebastopol ranch breeding Schnauzers, as well as a few Greyhound and Rottweiler champions.

In the 52 years since attending her first AKC show she has bred more than 1,200 champions and earned more than 500 Best in Show awards. “Unfortunately I am a terrible record keeper so I didn’t record early champions or the hundred champions in other countries.” Hammarstrom has achieved unprecedented international success in the conformation ring, but she is equally proud of putting more than 100 obedience titles on her dogs.

A much sought-after judge on the international circuit, Hammarstrom has judged in the Americas, Europe, and Asia. She is the author of “The Giant Schnauzer in America,” now in its fourth edition, and puts out a newsletter for her puppy buyers, advising them on Giant Schnauzer health, nutrition, and other concerns.

She sums up her breeding philosophy simply: “I try to improve in each generation on health, character, and beauty. It’s satisfying to see my dogs win in shows and to know my puppy buyers are proud.”

Terrier Group: Lydia Coleman Hutchinson, Wolfpit Cairn Terriers

Lydia Coleman Hutchinson, of Middletown, Maryland, is a second-generation dog fancier who attend her first dog show with her parents in 1949. Her family-owned Wolfpit Kennel has accounted for over 250 Cairn Terrier champions, including numerous top winners and producers. The first Wolfpit litter was born in 1941 and the most recent in May 2015.

The success of the Wolfpit breeding program can be attributed to Hutchinson’s wise decisions in using line breeding and judicious outcrosses. The majority of the kennel’s litters are of pure Wolfpit bloodlines, and Wolfpit dogs have been crucial to the success of the lines of several dozen other breeders around the world.

Just a few outstanding Wolfpit winners and producers:  Ch. Caledonian Berry of Wolfpit (multi-BIS and specialty winner, sire of 36 champions), GCh. Caledonian In-For-A-Penny of Wolfpit (Top-5 Cairn for two years), Ch. Bonnie Bairn of Wolfpit (group winner and top producer), Ch. Persimmon of Wolfpit (specialty winner, sire of 27 champions), Ch. Cairnwoods Quince (BIS winner and winner of Cairn Terrier Club of America four times; sire of 51 champions), Ch. Cairnhoe Highlander of Wolfpit (CTCA specialty winner, sire of 12 champions), Ch. Cairnhoe Alliance of Wolfpit (dam of 10 champions), Ch. Birselaw Peggy Sue (dam of nine champions). The current flag-bearer is GCh. Caledonian Tea Time of Wolfpit (group and specialty winner; promising sire of five recent champions). 

Hutchinson has been an AKC judge for 51 years and has also judged in numerous countries abroad. She is past president of the CTCA and now serves on the club’s board of governors. Hutchinson is a founder of the Potomac Cairn Terrier Club and the Bay Area Judges Association. She also is vice president of the Columbia Terrier Association of Maryland and treasurer of the Mason Dixon Dog Judges Association.

Toy Group: Arlene A. Czech, Coquina Papillons

Arlene A. Czech, of Naples, Florida, has been the Papillon Club of America’s AKC Delegate for 24 years and is the recipient of the club’s Lifetime Achievement Award.

She began in Papillons in 1955. In a breeding program limited by the demands of her career as teacher of high-school students with learning disabilities, Czech has bred and shown 44 champions and 44 performance-titled dogs. She says, “My goal was to have a title on both ends of my dog’s name.” Her first male earned his UD title at the 1964 Papillon National and in doing so became the year’s top Papillon in obedience. She also had the first Papillon to win a Mexican championship. In the years since, dogs of her breeding have won several of the parent club’s Versatility awards.

Since 2010, when the Papillon Club of America began its Top Twenty Awards, Czech has had a dog every year in the Top Twenty Five (as it evolved). “At that time I was joined by Mary Jo Korpi to help with the dogs,” Czech says. “We now co-own all the dogs and I do the beginning training and she perfects them as I can no longer show the dogs efficiently.” Her breeding program now includes a four-generation Dam of Merit award.

For years Czech taught obedience classes in Michigan before retiring to Florida, where she continued as a teacher in conformation and obedience for the Naples Dog Club. She is also an evaluator for the AKC Canine Good Citizen and AKC Community Canine programs. Czech has put therapy-dog titles on many of her dogs. “Our Therapy dogs are constantly invited to perform and visit at the local nursing homes,” she says. Czech incorporated her dogs into her classroom work and received an award from the National Science Teachers Association for Excellence for the program.

Czech has been an AKC judge for nearly 50 years and is an honorary life member of her parent club.

Non-Sporting Group: Kathie Vogel, Vogelflight Bichons Frises

Kathie Vogel, Virginia Beach, Virginia, began in Bichons in the 1960s, before the breed was recognized by the AKC. When Bichons became an AKC breed in 1973, a homebred Vogelflight dog became the first AKC-pointed Bichon, awarded by Edd Bivin. Another homebred won BOB at the breed’s first three National Specialties. At National Specialties since, Vogelflight has won numerous Breeds, Winners Dog, Winners Bitch (retiring the challenge trophy), Best Bred-by, and Best in Sweeps. Vogelflight was co-breeder and -owner of the Non-Sporting Group winner at the 2013 Westminster show and the 2012 Non-Sporting Winkie Award recipient.

The Vogel’s were highly active in the breed, the parent club, and the Tidewater Kennel Club. Today, Vogel is a lifetime member of Tidewater, serves on the club’s board and Judges Selection Committee, and is the club’s AKC Delegate. She is a member in good standing of the Bichon Frise Club of America and approved to give breed seminars.

Vogel has judged numerous sweepstakes for various clubs including the National Specialty. She is slated to judge the 2016 Bichon Frise Club of America’s ‘Special Attraction” Bred-by, and in 2017 will judge the BFCA Sweepstakes. “Vogelflight is fortunate to have team member, Danielle Ardagna, for 40-plus years,” Vogel says, “and without her or my parents we would not be half as successful, nor would it have been half the fun it is—and for that I am very thankful.”

Vogel says that “beyond breeding and showing, my passion is dog legislation and I hope to pursue this at my retirement in the near future.” Vogel owns and operates a boarding kennel and grooming shop, and is active in Bichon rescue. She proudly points out that many Vogelflight Bichons have had careers in therapy work.

Herding Group: John Buddie, Tartanside Collies

John Buddie, of Pottstown, Pennsylvania, began in dogs in 1963. By 1971 he was an AKC-licensed professional handler who campaigned many influential Collies. While still in college Buddie bred Ch. Tartanside the Gladiator, a multiple group and Best in Show winner, three-time National Specialty winner, and Tartanside’s foundation stud dog. His grandson, Ch. Tartanside th’ Critics choice, was the Top Sire of the 20th century.

Tartanside Collies has breeder-owned over 150 champions, including 12 Register of Merit dogs, and overall Tartanside sires and dams have produced 350 champions. Among them have been multiple group, Best in Show, and National Specialty winners. Tartanside stock is the foundation for many of today’s top kennels.

Buddie received a Collie Club of America 50-year membership pin in 2014. He has served the club in various capacities: state director, Breeders Education committee member, Judges Education Committee co-chair, director-at-large, and AKC delegate. He is the recipient of the club’s "Right Stuff" award and an AKC Good Sportsmanship award. “Over the years I have always been involved with archiving the history of our breed,” he says, “something that I have always been passionate about.” He has written extensively about his breed for such publications as “Collie Cues” and Collie Review,” and has presented interactive seminars on the breed.

He says, “While no one really looks forward to growing older, I now realize how fortunate I have been to have lived through some of the ‘golden years’ in our sport and being so fortunate to have met and befriended some of the ‘golden’ people—not just in my breed, but in all breeds. Growing up on the cusp of Long Island in the early 1960s was like growing up in an all-breed dog Mecca, offering ‘golden’ opportunities to a starry-eyed kid.”