Show Dog Winners of 2021

striker working group winner

An unusual year, 2021 started with many dog shows canceled due to COVID-19. The year will long be remembered for having extraordinarily stiff competition at every weekend event. Cross-country journeys to reach shows miles from home typified the norm. Here we honor the Show Dogs of the Year. Your stupendous achievements rising to the top of the rankings, some setting breed records, amid the year’s challenges are commendable.


MBIS/MBISS CAN GRCH/AM GCHP Vanderbilt ’N Printemp’s Lucky Strike

No. 1 All-Breed Dog & No. 1 Working Dog 

70 Bests in Show & 139 Working Group Firsts

His perpetual “Sammy” smile wraps around you in a joyous hug. His eyes twinkle mischievously. Socially charming, unflappable, charismatically comical, with phenomenal movement and conformation, “Striker” is the quintessential show dog.

Pro handler Laura King, of Milan, Illinois, tossed toys, played chase, kept it easy breezy, while sealing a special bond with the now 5 ½-year-old male Samoyed. “Striker has made it easy for me,” she says, of her highest achiever over a 28-year career. “He’s the best Sammy I’ve ever seen, a clown at heart, just a good guy.”

The breeding that produced Striker’s litter was made in Denmark, and the litter was whelped in the U.S. on June 4, 2015.  The sire was DK CH Cabaka’s Happy Go Lucky, the 2015 World Dog Show Reserve Best in Show winner, and the dam was CAN/AM CH Vanderbilt’s Cherry Brandy. Judi Elford of Millbrook, Ontario, Canada, breeder of Vanderbilt Samoyeds (VanSams) for 37 years, collaborated with co-breeder Mengru Wu, of Newark, Delaware, on the breeding.

Elford chose Striker as her pick puppy, becoming co-owner with her husband, Blair. Before Striker was 8 months of age, Elford had handled him to an all-breed Best in Show and Working Group Specialty win in Canada. By 1 year, he had earned Grand Champion titles in Canada and the U.S. A dynamic, consistent winner, Striker was the No. 2 all-breed dog in Canada in 2019, with 58 Bests in Show.

The magical adventure revved up when the Elfords’ good friends, Marc Ralsky and Colleen Pacht-Ralsky (Cor-Mar Siberian Huskies) of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, signed on as co-owners in January 2020 for the Sammy’s U.S. campaign. The whirlwind year netted Striker 23 Bests in Show and rankings of No. 4 all-breed dog and No. 2 Working dog.

The gusto continued in 2021. Striker hit the No. 1 all-breed dog spot in February and held it with 70 Bests in Show by year’s end. Highlights include winning Working Group Firsts at the Westminster Kennel Club and Morris & Essex. With 93 career Bests in Show, Striker is the top-winning Samoyed in breed history.

Striker is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Salmon & Rice.


EUR/AM MBIS/MBISS JEW19 GCHS Kan Trace Very Cheeky Chic

No. 1 Sporting Dog  

83 Sporting Group Firsts

Adorably confident, gifted with natural razzle-dazzle, “Orca” shines with her insatiable curiosity and love of life. Happy and carefree, she has never met a stranger. The alpha partner when being shown, she masters the ring with flair, spunk and unquenchable joy.

“She shows me more than I show her,” muses pro handler Phil Booth, of Mims, Florida, of the Lagotto he picked as a puppy from her Croatian litter with first dibs to show her if she came to the U.S. “She is very engaged when being shown, always thinking.”

Orca arrived in the U.S. in July 2020 and warmed up right away to Booth. The pair excelled, taking seven Sporting Group Firsts in just 10 weekends and finishing 2020 with a Sporting Group First at the AKC National Championship. Orca earned 26 Bests in Show in 2021 and was the No. 2 all-breed dog in the country. Her wins, including Best of Breed at the 2021 Lagotto Romagnolo Club of America National Specialty, made her the top-winning Lagotto in breed history.

Whelped May 3, 2018, at the Kan Trace Kennel of breeder Sabina Zdunić Šinković in Rijeka, Croatia, Orca is the fourth generation of a bloodline begun 20 years ago. The beautiful Lagotto is co-owned by Šinković and Ante Lucin of Croatia. Orca’s U.S. campaign includes co-owner Victor Malzoni Jr. of Malibu, California.

A superstar in Europe before coming to the U.S., Orca took 22 Bests in Show in Fédération Cynologique Internationale shows, including two times winning Supreme Best in Show. At the 2020 Crufts Dog Show in Birmingham, England, Orca won Gundog Group Second out of more than 5,300 entries.

Orca is fed Purina Pro Plan Adult Sensitive Skin & Stomach Salmon & Rice.


MBIS/MBISS GCHG Foxcliffe Claire Randall Frasier

No. 1 Hound 

93 Hound Group Firsts

Graceful and dignified, powerful and strong, the Scottish Deerhound “Claire” loves dog shows and traveling with pro handler Angela Lloyd as much as chasing prey in the mountains at her Virginia farm home. 

“Claire is a majestic, magical creature,” says Lloyd, of Amissville, Virginia, describing her first SDOY winner. “We have a wonderful partnership built on love and care and time spent outside the ring. Sighthounds are hardwired to hunt by sight and speed and can be sensitive to little things going on outside the ring.”

Lloyd also has a special partnership with Claire’s co-breeders and co-owners, Cecilia Dove and her veterinarian husband, R. Scott Dove, of Flint Hill, Virginia. They consider Lloyd family and listed her as co-breeder and co-owner of Claire. Their friendship began when Lloyd handled Claire’s granddam, GCH Foxcliffe Hickory Win, to Best in Show at Westminster in 2011, the only Deerhound to win.

Dove fell in love with Deerhounds in 1976, a breed that ran beautifully alongside her Thoroughbred horses. Representing her seventh generation, Claire, a gray female, was born Sept. 8, 2017.

“Claire’s love of showing is amazing,” Dove says. “Angie’s special connection with her has brought out her best.”

Likewise, Lloyd credits Dove for Claire’s success. “We live only miles apart, so Claire always goes home after weekend shows. Cecilia runs her freely on their farm. It would be impossible to maintain that physique on the road, and it helps to keep her happy.”

The now 4-year-old Claire took 45 Bests in Show in 2021, making her the No. 3 all-breed dog in the country. Claire won Best in Show in 2020 and 2021 at the “National Dog Show Presented by Purina,” and her dam, GCHS Foxcliffe Chelsea Piers, won Reserve Best in Show in 2015.

Claire is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice.


MBIS/MBISS GCHG Fox Canyon’s I Won The War At Goldshield CGCA CGCU TKN

No. 1 Non-Sporting Dog  

55 Non-Sporting Group Firsts

The perfect combination of attitude and conformation comes together in the adorable 3-year-old male French Bulldog known as “Winston.” The moment Winston walks into the show ring — or the airport terminal or hotel lobby — he’s in charge.

The first SDOY winner for pro handler Perry Payson of Bixby, Oklahoma, Winston represents the fourth generation of a co-breeding partnership between Payson (Goldshield, begun in 1987) and Sandy Fox (Fox Canyon, begun in 2002) of Peoria, Arizona. “Winston loves dog shows,” Payson says. “He’s a real character who wants everyone to notice him.”

Longtime friends in Frenchies and Rottweilers, Payson and Fox added their colleague Alexandra “Alex” Vorbeck of Pasadena, California, to Team Winston in 2021. Payson and Vorbeck advised Fox to breed her double-hooded pied brindle-and-white dam, CH Fox Canyon’s Paradigm Zoe Saldana, to Payson’s fawn male, GCH Goldshield’s Catch A Dream De La River Gauche. Born Feb. 12, 2019, Winston inherited his dam’s short-backed, compact, balanced body and his sire’s outgoing enthusiasm.  

Winston was the No. 5 all-breed dog in the country in 2021 with 14 Bests in Show. He won the coveted Triple Crown at the French Bulldog Club of America (FBCA) National Specialty, sweeping all three specialty shows. An early achiever, Winston won Best in Sweepstakes and
Winners Dog at the FBCA Specialty in August 2019. He was shown intermittently until his Specials campaign began in early 2021. 

The handsome male, described by Payson as being light fawn with cream highlights, is co-owned by Fox and her grandson Morgan Fox, of Charlotte, North Carolina, a defensive end for the Carolina Panthers.

Vorbeck, owner of Winston’s maternal grandsire, GCH Highwood’s Big Shot, shown by Payson to No. 1 Frenchie in 2010, says, “Winston is a lot like ‘Willy.’  He walks into any situation with that amazing attitude.”

Winston is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice.


MBIS/MBISS GCHS King’s Mtn. Henry Higgins

No. 1 Terrier 

65 Terrier Group Firsts

With eye-catching appeal and tenacious temperament, a now 4-year-old mustard-colored male Dandie Dinmont Terrier named “Higgins” has earned a spot in history. A consummate show dog, Higgins is the top-winning American-bred Dandie in history. 

Named for Professor Henry Higgins from George Bernard Shaw’s “My Fair Lady,” Higgins was bred by the King Mtn. trio of Betty-Anne Stenmark of Grass Valley, California, Sandra Pretari Hickson of San Bruno, California, and B.J. Pumfrey of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. He represents the 12th generation of a bloodline Stenmark started in 1976.

“Dandies are ruff ‘em, tuff ‘em terriers,” Stenmark says. “They are very gamey. Higgins is the best male I’ve ever bred. He is animated and engaging with judges, a reliable performer.”

Handled by Luiz Abreu of Starr, South Carolina, Higgins took off in 2021 winning six Bests in Show in the first four months. By year’s end, he had won 12 Bests in Show, making him the No. 8 all-breed dog in the country, and Best of Breed at the Dandie Dinmont Terrier Club of America (DDTCA) National Specialty, a repeat of 2020. He is often likened to the Australian-bred male, NZ/AUST/AM CH Hobergays Fineus Fogg, who crosses his pedigree four times and was the No. 1 dog in the U.S. in 2006.

“Higgins is an incredibly balanced dog from front to rear,” Stenmark says. “He has great length of body, correct tail set and carriage, and is low to the ground and shapely. His impressive, masculine head and big dark eyes show off an affectionate dog.”

Owner Teresa (Puna) Bell of Kailua, Hawaii, waited two years to get a King’s Mtn. male. After he was born Oct. 30, 2017, Higgins lived with Stenmark until he was 10 ½ months old. During this time, Stenmark showed him at 6 months of age at the 2018 DDTCA National Specialty where he took Best of Winners and earned three 5-point Majors over the weekend.

In the summer of 2019, Pretari Hickson visited Bell and Higgins in Hawaii to see if Higgins had matured for showing. She felt he would be ready the next year. “Once he started showing, Higgins began placing every time,” Stenmark says.

Higgins is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Active 27/17 Turkey & Barley.


MBIS/MBISS GCHG Tamarin Tattoo

No. 1 Toy Dog  

61 Toy Group Firsts

Inquisitive and alert, comical and captivating, a belge-colored male Affenpinscher named “Chester” is the epitome of the German monkey dog. Handled by Alfonso Escobedo of Houston, a true Affen lover, and bred by the famous Tamarin Kennel, Chester, now 4 ½ years old, capitalizes on the winning combination.

“I bought Chester for me and Ashlie (Whitmore),” Escobedo says. “He is everything the breed should be — terrierlike, tough, always jumping around making you laugh, yet sweet and mellow.” 

Along came Laura McIngvale Brown of Houston who noticed Chester when visiting Escobedo’s kennel in late 2020. She became co-owner of the charming little dog along with Doyle Girouard of Springlake, Texas, who owns Chester’s sire with his wife, Carol.

Chester had just started his Specials campaign with Escobedo. He had won Toy Group First at the “National Dog Show Presented by Purina” and took first place at the Dallas-Ft. Worth Toy Dog Club Show. The momentum continued in 2021, with Chester finishing as the No. 1 Toy dog and No. 10 all-breed dog in the country. Highlights include winning Best of Breed at the Affenpinscher Club of America National Specialty and repeating Toy Group First at the National Dog Show.

Born June 15, 2017, Chester was bred by Terry and Jacqueline “Jackie” Stacy of Durham, North Carolina. Celebrating 25 years in 2021, their Tamarin Affenpinschers include more than 130 champions. Chester is one of three Tamarin SDOY Toy Group winners. His sire, GCHB Tamarin Tailback, also handled by Escobedo, won in 2016, and CH Tamarin Tug, the winningest American-bred Affen of all time with 75 Bests in Show, won in 2008 handled by pro Jorgé Olivera of San Diego. Escobedo was Olivera’s assistant at the time.

“Chester is such a good, honest dog,” says Jackie Stacy, a respected breed authority who works to preserve the breed’s moderate, natural look. “His adaptability is unbelievable, as it should be. He literally is a comic who makes you laugh every day.”

Chester is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Salmon & Rice.


MBIS/MBISS GCHS Limelite’s Cha Cha Cha

No. 1 Herding Dog  

70 Herding Group Firsts

Happy and engaged, polished and beautiful, a red tricolor female Australian Shepherd named “Cha Cha” works dog shows highly motivated to please. Her natural drive and happy disposition set her apart.

Representing the second generation of Limelite Aussies, Cha Cha, now 4 ½ years old, was bred by and is owned by Adam J. “A.J.” Tavares III and Matt Mullin of Centralia, Washington. Both professional handlers, the pair fell in love with the breed and got their first Aussie in 2000. Tavares, who handles Cha Cha, says, “Her smiling face and expression make her special. This is such a versatile breed. Cha Cha is easy to show because she is so biddable.”

Cha Cha’s wins in late 2020 helped to set her up for success in 2021, Tavares says. “We began pushing Cha Cha as a Special in late 2020. She took her first Best in Show in Tucson (Arizona) that fall,” he says. “In 2021, she started winning a lot. In July, she won four of five Bests in Show at the Alaska Kennel Club Cluster.”

The head-turning Aussie finished 2021 with 21 Bests in Show, ranking her as the No. 13 all-breed dog in the country. She is the first Australian Shepherd to be the No. 1 Herding Dog. Meanwhile, Tavares took Cha Cha to another milestone as the top-winning breeder-owner-handled Aussie.

Born June 2, 2017, Cha Cha’s prominent pedigree includes her sire, MBIS/MBISS GCHP Silverwood’s Kiss Of Fire At Limelite RN, the No. 1 Aussie in 2018 and the 2019 Australian Shepherd Club of America (ASCA) National Specialty winner, and her dam, GCH Limelite’s Yada Yada, both bred by Tavares and Mullin. Her standout paternal grandsire was HOFX CAN BIS/ASCA BISS AKC/CAN GCH Copperridge’s Fire ‘N Bayouland ROMX ROMIII, whose many wins include Best of Breed at the ASCA National Specialty in 2011.

Cha Cha is fed Purina Pro Plan SPORT Performance 30/20 Chicken & Rice.