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Not every child is eager to follow in their family’s footsteps. But third-generation owner-handlers Taylor and Cameron Johnson are keen to make their marks in the dog show world. These Junior Handlers from Colorado Springs, Colorado, work with Old English Sheepdogs and Bouvier des Flandres, which their parents and paternal grandparents also breed, show, and own at the uppermost levels of the sport. Both Johnson sisters will compete in Junior Showmanship at the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Inspired From Childhood

What motivates these Juniors to carry on the Johnson family Conformation tradition? “Seeing my family be successful in the ring is something I always admired while growing up,” says Taylor. “I couldn’t wait to start showing on my own.” The Johnson sisters have seen first-hand what it means to breed, own, and handle top show dogs. “I grew up watching my parents wake up at five A.M. to exercise, feed, and groom dogs at the show sites,” Taylor adds. “After a long day of showing, instead of going to bed early, they take care of the dogs all over again. We learned that dogs are the major responsibility if we want to show them.”

The Johnson sisters competed in Junior Showmanship at the AKC National Championship Presented by Royal Canin in Orlando, Florida. Of the 120 youngsters participating in the event, 16-year-old Taylor placed second with Old English Sheepdog GCHB CH Bugaboo’s Let It Be “Sven.” Her sister, 14-year-old Cameron, also competed, piloting Bouvier des Flandres CH Ghostwind Etched In Stone At Donlee “River” down to the last cut until the finals.

A Rich Family Legacy in the Dog World

The Johnsons didn’t just get their daughters interested in showing dogs, they have a long history of success in their family. The girls’ paternal grandparents, Douglas and Michaelanne Johnson, won multiple All-Breed Bests in Show and Old English Sheepdog Club of America (OESCA) National Specialties. Recipients of the 2006 AKC Breeder of the Year Award, the couple also breeds Bouvier des Flandres and Havanese.

Taylor and Cameron’s parents, Colton and Heather Johnson, are owner-managers of the canine events center Under the Sun. They also breed, handle, and show Old English Sheepdogs. In 2014, Colton led “Swagger,” GCHCH Bugaboo’s Picture Perfect, to the No. 2 all-breed spot. In 2018, Heather led GCHG CH Bugaboo’s Let It Go Blu Mtn (an OES known as “Elsa”) to the No. 1 all-breed ranking.

Taylor Johnson with GCHB CH Bugaboo's Let It Be (Old English Sheepdog); Junior Showmanship Finals at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.
Stephanie Hayes/©American Kennel Club
Taylor Johnson with GCHB CH Bugaboo’s Let It Be (Old English Sheepdog); Junior Showmanship Finals at the AKC National Championship presented by Royal Canin, Orlando, FL.

The more familiar the girls get with showing dogs, the more they enjoy it. Taylor doesn’t usually get nervous going into the ring, but that doesn’t mean it never gets to her. “In Orlando, each time I made the cut in the Junior preliminaries, the more nervous I felt,” she recalls.

She still remembers the first time she showed a dog. “I was eight years old, helping my grandma with her dogs outside the ring,” Taylor says. “Suddenly, I had to take Breeze, my parents’ Old English Sheepdog, into the ring, and I was so excited, especially when Breeze won.”

Cameron got her start in showing dogs early as well. She showed Gemma, an OES, for the first time at age six. “Going in the ring was so exciting, and I knew I wanted to keep doing it.”

Learning From New Litters

“From the moment the girls could walk and talk, they were drawn to dogs and following us,” Colton says. “When we whelp puppies, our daughters are like kids in a candy store, and we never had to ask them to help with feeding, handling, socialization, and training.”

Despite the excitement of new litters, Cameron and her sister know it’s something they have to take very seriously. “I just had to get into the whelping box with puppies,” Cameron says. “I wanted to make sure the mother wouldn’t accidentally step on her pups, but it helped me bond with them as they grew.”

“The more we do with litters, the more we learn about them,” says Taylor. Both teens always look forward to meeting new puppies, and help socialize them as they get older. “Old English Sheepdogs make fantastic moms, but at least in the beginning, they need constant supervision,” Taylor says. “I can help with supplemental feeding and handling the pups so my parents can sleep.”

Future Careers and Dog World Dreams

For these youngsters, the dog world has already taught them valuable lessons. “Being involved with dogs helps me manage my time,” Taylor says. “Dog shows motivate me to get my homework done. Because my assignments are completed, I can relax and have fun at the shows. I’ve learned how to juggle school and balance my time with dogs and puppies.”

Their parents never had to push them to be interested in dogs and competing. “All Heather and I ask of our kids are to enjoy what they do and to give their best,” Colton says. “I learned this from my parents, and I don’t recall them ever doing anything halfway.”

Cameron Johnson celebrates her achievements.
Colton Johnson
Cameron Johnson celebrates her achievements.

Taylor wants to keep improving. “After college graduation, I’d like a career dealing with animals and continue showing and handling Old English Sheepdogs. Now I love asking questions about stud dogs and evaluating litters for future reference.” Cameron also wants to continue a career in the dog world when she’s older, and her goal is to become a professional handler.

Related article: How Do I Get My Puppy Started in Dog Shows?
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