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 National Championship presented by Royal Canin, 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.
- 2018: Kent Boyles and Liz Oster
- 2017: Helyne E. Medeiros
- 2016: Alan Kalter and Chris Lezotte
- 2015: John Buddie
- 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
2019 Breeder of the Year Group Honorees
Sporting Group: Lisa Weiss, Lobuff Labrador Retrievers
Lisa Weiss began breeding and exhibiting in the 1960s. She and her dad, Col. Jerry Weiss, have been breeding under the Lobuff prefix for over 50 years. They produced their first homebred champion, Ch. Lobuff’s Dandy Lion, in 1971. He was a son of their second two Labs, Ch. Gunslinger’s Tawny Boy and Ch. Spenrock’s Cognac. Cognac produced two more important dogs for the Lobuff breeding program, Ch. Lobuff’s Seafaring Banner and Ch. Lobuff’s Tequila Sunrise. Most of the Lobuff dogs today can still be traced back to Cognac.
Weiss continued to breed and finish champions throughout the 1970s and ‘80s. In the ‘90s she bred an important dog for the kennel, a top winning and producing dog, Ch. Lobuff Bare Necessities CD, JH (Baloo). He was the number-one Lab in the U.S. in 1994 and ’95 and won the breed at Westminster and Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac, the biggest Labrador show in the world. Baloo was shown and adored by Beth Sweigart and the “Green Team.”
Ch. Lobuff’s Turtle Dove and her daughter Ch. Lobuff Hollyridge Puffin were also Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac breed winners as well as Brood Bitch winners at Potomac (Weiss is the only breeder to have won BOB at Potomac three times). Lobuff Labs have won countless specialty JAMS, WD, WB, Best Puppy and Best Veteran honors as well as Best in Sweepstakes at Specialties and over 40 Specialty BOBs. Weiss is also proud that Lobuff dogs have been awarded BOB at Westminster five times.
Weiss has been an AKC judge for 26 years and has traveled the globe judging Labradors. She also judges five other sporting breeds. She has judged the Nationals for her breed on four continents as well as countless U.S. specialties. Weiss is a member of the prestigious Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac and a lifelong member of the Labrador Retriever Club of America. Weiss has three grown children – a nurse, chef and a law student.
Hound Group: Andrea “Andy” and Jack McIlwaine, Aberdeen Otterhounds
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.
Working Group: Renee and Jim Pope, Geistvoll Standard Schnauzers
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.
Terrier Group: Aileen & Richard Santo, Paxon Kerry Blue Terriers
Aileen & 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.
Toy Group: Jeff Bazell and Jeff Kestner, St. Johns Brussels Griffon
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.
Non-Sporting Group: Elizabeth and Daniel Karshner, Little Ponds Bulldogs
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.
Herding Group: Patricia Princehouse, La Brise Pyrenean Shepherds
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.