Teen Sisters Uplift Family Legacy as Breeder-Owner-Handlers at Westminster

Not all children are excited to follow in their family’s footsteps. However, third-generation owner-handlers Taylor and Cameron Johnson are determined to make a name for themselves in the world of dog shows. These Junior Handlers from Colorado Springs, Colorado, work with Old English Sheepdogs and Bouvier des Flandres, breeds that their parents and paternal grandparents also breed, show, and own at the highest levels of the sport. Both Johnson sisters are set to compete in Junior Showmanship at the 2023 Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

Inspired From Childhood

What drives these Juniors to continue the Johnson family Conformation tradition? “Seeing my family succeed in the ring is something I always looked up to while growing up,” says Taylor. “I couldn’t wait to start showing on my own.” The Johnson sisters have witnessed firsthand what it takes 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 a 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. Out 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, guiding Bouvier des Flandres CH Ghostwind Etched In Stone At Donlee “River” down to the final round.

A Rich Family Legacy in the Dog World

The Johnsons not only sparked their daughters’ interest in showing dogs, but they also have a long history of success in their family. The girls’ paternal grandparents, Douglas and Michaelanne Johnson, have won multiple All-Breed Bests in Show and Old English Sheepdog Club of America (OESCA) National Specialties. As 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, manage 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 the girls immerse themselves in showing dogs, the more they enjoy it. Taylor may not usually feel nervous going into the ring, but that doesn’t mean it never affects her. “In Orlando, each time I made the cut in the Junior preliminaries, the more nervous I felt,” she reminisces.

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

Cameron also started showing dogs at a young age. She debuted with Gemma, an OES, at age six. “Entering the ring was so thrilling, and I knew I wanted to continue 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 have litters of 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 understand the weight of the responsibility. “I just had to get into the whelping box with puppies,” Cameron shares. “I wanted to ensure 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 eagerly anticipate meeting new puppies and assist in socializing them as they mature. “Old English Sheepdogs make wonderful mothers, but at least initially, they need constant supervision,” Taylor explains. “I can help with supplemental feeding and handling the pups so my parents can rest.”

Future Careers and Dog World Dreams

For these young enthusiasts, the dog world has already imparted valuable lessons. “Being involved with dogs helps me manage my time,” Taylor reveals. “Dog shows motivate me to complete my homework. By finishing my assignments, I can unwind and enjoy the shows. I’ve learned how to balance schoolwork with my time spent with dogs and puppies.”

Their parents never had to push them to take an interest in dogs and competition. “All Heather and I ask of our kids is to enjoy what they do and give their best,” Colton affirms. “I learned this from my parents, and I don’t remember them ever doing anything halfway.”

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

Taylor aims to continue honing her skills. “After graduating from college, I would like a career involving animals and to keep showing and handling Old English Sheepdogs. I now enjoy asking about stud dogs and evaluating litters for future reference.” Cameron also aspires to pursue a career in the dog world as she grows older, with her goal being to become a professional handler.

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Teen Sisters Uplift Family Legacy as Breeder-Owner-Handlers at Westminster