Miniature American Shepherd
The Journey Continues
Have you ever said to yourself - 'What was I thinking when I said YES this time?' That is how I felt after the first meeting as Chair of the Breed Standard Committee. Tongue in cheek, it has taken a year to be able to recover and write this portion of the story . . . Suffice to say that whenever a project of this magnitude is undertaken, passions are strong and everyone IS right because the love and integrity of the breed is at stake. And then there are deadlines and boards and memberships and ALL have to be taken into consideration with respect. The Committee did an excellent job of working together under difficult circumstances and I am entirely and incredibly grateful for this wonderful group of people who sacrificed much of their time and most of their summer to make the Breed Standard happen.
And then, History was made. Beginning in June, 2012, the first Miniature American Shepherds entered the AKC ring in the Miscellaneous class as an FSS breed. Of course we were there! ;) The response from the Judges around the country was positive and encouraging. Exhibitors across the country finally have a level playing field and a place to showcase these wonderful little dogs. Now, a few short months later, the first Certificates of Merit have been issued and invitations to our breed's first Eukanuba Championship have been mailed.
It is exciting, scary, awe-inspiring, and many other adjectives, to be a part of this history.
I note the nervousness and trepidition of some to enter an AKC ring. The thing is, when it comes right down to it, the adventure is still just about you and your dog. It is competitive, it can be slightly intimidating no doubt, but you CAN do it. Focus on you, focus on your dog, pay attention and listen to the Judge. At the end of the day, YOUR dog is still the BEST dog on earth and you just had one more opportunity to spend a day together. Revel in that and HAVE FUN!
Besides - the vendor shopping at the larger AKC shows is the BEST!! Retail therapy ROCKS!
Miniature American Shepherd
A New AKC Breed is Whelped
The road has been long and riddled with speed bumps, S-curves, and extreme mountain passes. The journey is not yet over, but we now have GPS directions, written by the membership of NAMASCUSA.
On March 31st a vote of the membership was finalized with an overwhelming majority of the membership participating. The majority of those participants voted YES, for NAMASCUSA to become the Parent Breed club in AKC. A new name had to be chosen, and has. Our Miniature Australian Shepherds will now become Miniature American Shepherds for those choosing to enter into registration with AKC.
The name of the club will need to align with the name of the dogs. At this time it appears that it may revert to the original club acronym of MASCUSA, Miniature American Shepherd Club of the USA. That is but one of the many details still to be decided however.
This is an exciting time filled with endless possibilities for the people and dogs involved.
To read about the full journey go to:
AKC vs. Rare Breed Venues/Status
Written in November 2010
For the NAMASCUSA AKC Committee
This is one perspective complete with observations and opinion based on personal
experience and fact from a competitor who has lived in both the Rare Breed and
AKC world. It is by no means to be considered the `Only' way to look at this
issue. Just one perspective to draw information from. The Rare Breed world and
the AKC world are like an alternate universe. I have now been in both worlds and
the difference IS huge.
CONFORMATION: In the Conformation Rare Breed World, we are used to being on the
top of the ladder. We have the largest numbers, possibly the best dogs, etc,
etc. In the Conformation AKC World, there is NO breed on the top. The
competition is fierce and the big wins are not guaranteed.
Rare Breed Conformation: Our Championships are based on points the same as an
AKC Championship. We have several venues available to participate in. Unless it
is a Club Specialty, it is up to the handler to acquire, maintain and collect
the appropriate paperwork, count the dogs in the ring, get the Judge's signature
and turn the paperwork in to gather the needed points. All of this x2 if you are
seeking a Championship in both Mini clubs. This is incredibly confusing and
frustrating for a new exhibitor – not to mention those of us that have been
doing this for several years. In the beginning of my Mini Career, I had no idea
this paperwork even existed and no one helped me figure that out for quite some
time. It is entirely possible that all of us know of Champions that have been
created through faulty paperwork, inaccurate counting and sadly, just plain
sneaking one in. How many times has someone counted the dogs in the program
instead of the dogs in the ring? No deceit needs to be intended in order to
create inaccurate Championship paperwork. Add in the constant confusion over
providing the extra classes depending on Venue and this is a difficult
Championship system. I know for a fact that every part of the country handles
IABCA classes just a little bit differently. How is that fair and equitable?
AKC Conformation: The Champion title is a point system earned in the same manner
– but the Judge, Ring Steward and Show Secretary are responsible for recording
the points. Not the exhibitor. Now, AKC has a Grand Champion program so even
that is something we would not have to give up. Of course mistakes can be made
and any competitor in any venue should still keep track of any points they have
earned to make certain they get appropriate credit. There is a huge difference
between double checking points and relying on the handler for correct and
Since the dog's conformation points are recorded by AKC, totaling merit points
and standings is already done by someone not invested in the results.
PERFORMANCE: Conformation is only one piece of the picture. The Performance Rare
Breed World and Performance AKC World is another alternate universe. The
competition that we have now for our performance dogs is nothing compared to
what will be available in the AKC Performance World. I realize this is a loaded
statement – but I have been in both and it is true in my opinion. So here are
some performance facts to back it up.
Obedience: As a Rare Breed and in theory, we have access to APDT Rally and ASCA
Obedience. The ASCA Rally program is now up and running, but not yet readily
available. ASCA obedience is very similar to AKC obedience. This is total
opinion – but I do not hear of many `Mini' handlers that compete in ASCA,
possibly because of the friction between the groups?? The closest APDT Rally to
me is California, 1500 miles away. That is NOT accessible.
AKC has a Rally-O program similar to APDT but with some obvious differences such
as no food in the ring – ever! AKC Obedience has multiple levels that include
advanced skills such as retrieving, scent articles and long out-of-sight sit and
down stays. The competition aspect includes the fact that any AKC obedience
trial is attended by handlers with many, many different breeds of dogs at all
levels of competition. I cherish the ONE win that I can brag about over a friend
with an overachieving Shelty! ;)
In AKC agility the courses are tighter (fact), with more handling challenge
(opinion), and the times are faster (fact). I have competed in AKC, NADAC, CPE,
USDAA and ASCA agility with Chesapeake, Aussie and Mini Aussies. My dogs have
Excellent/Elite level titles in AKC, NADAC and ASCA. My favorite agility venue
is actually NADAC. I love the distance challenges and the games. Going into AKC
means that an additional agility venue is available to our dogs AND it is a
venue that challenges the dog/handler team skills.
Herding: Mini's do have herding available through AHBA, ASCA and NAMASCUSA.
Adding AKC would provide another option and probably more locations to choose
AKC Tracking: ASCA does offer tracking tests to all breeds. They are too few and
far between to be `readily available' I do know that there are Tracking
enthusiasts with Mini's that would enjoy having a venue to showcase their
talents. I have attended AKC Tracking training and watched a Trial and have been
to a Search and Rescue training event. I am totally amazed by the process.
Search and Rescue scenting is totally different from beginning TD level
tracking. The advanced levels of AKC tracking that utilize air and variable
surface scent are more compatible with S&R type tracking.
General Performance Observations: It is a fact that as a Rare Breed, only
certain parts of the country have only certain performance venues available.
Every single year at our Nationals, there is discussion and argument over which
performance venue to use and how to appropriately enter dogs according to skill
level and even how to total points. Because this is such a gray area, the rules
are often changed in the moment. How can a competitor adequately prepare for
that? If AKC was our performance venue - that choice is already made. Even more
important is that the playing field will be level because AKC IS available in
ALL areas of the country. Competitors either choose to train and compete – or
they don't. The rules won't even be a question because the AKC Venues carry AKC
rules. Period. Isn't that a nice thought? No changes in the middle of the
AKC has a prestigious All Around performance title, earned in levels, for dogs
that compete in 3 or more events.
Again, someone who is NOT invested in the outcome, is tracking points and
titles. This bears repeating.
Rules and Regs: AKC Performance events come with written rules, guidelines and
title requirements, in booklet form that you can put in your training bag. The
gray areas are gone. There is always a flip side and in this case, some of AKC
rules get to be rather nit picking and annoying. That is a fact! ;)
REGISTRATIONS: Our dogs will go into AKC by registration and owner choice - not
size. In the beginning we will be able to choose which dogs go in and which do
not. But eventually, that will be that. It has always amazed me to arrive at a
show and listen to people say 'I am going to enter this dog as a Mini - and this
dog as a Toy - Today'. Really, seriously??? If I had not participated in this
Rare Breed World, I would never have dreamed such a thing was even possible.
The fact is that we ARE a developing breed regardless of registration. The
larger and the smaller dogs will still have value as registered breeding dogs –
they just will not be able to compete in Conformation with the current proposed
size DQ. This is where it is vital that breeders look at the `Big Picture' – not
just the dog at your feet. In the beginning the larger and smaller dogs are
needed for width of genetics and the individual qualities they carry. A size DQ
creates an additional and tangible breeding objective. Eventually, we will have
something we do NOT have now – and that is consistency.
OUR CLUB: In terms of the club, our club will still be very valid, strong, and
worthwhile. Possibly even more than it is now. Chances are as the parent club in
AKC, membership will grow so there will be more working hands to draw from. We
can continue Awards, Specialties, Nationals, every single thing except a Club
Championship. Champions will be awarded through AKC. The club would have Merits
and other stats that matter – drawn from AKC records. USASA is strong and has
this 'power' over us as a parent breed club. That 'power' will be ours if the
vote is YES.
As far as MASCA is concerned, that is their story to write. It appears that
MASCA is following the example of ASCA from 20 years ago with the addition of
banning the MAS/New Breed from their registry. The irony is that for years MASCA
has said the gene pool is too shallow. By placing this ban, they are effectively
closing off the gene pool in one fell swoop. How is that better for the dogs?
Difficult choices are soon going to have to be made by each of us. It is going
to get more and more difficult to sit on the fence.
The Future of the Mini Aussie
Written in 2007
I personally go through life trying to not make waves or cause great conflict. Occasionally however, it is time to make a stand for a passion or goal or just what is right.
When my daughter was in grade school, we didn't have a Girl Scout Troop in our area. I made a statement that if no one started a Troop by the time she would be a Brownie, I would have to do it. Guess who ended up being the Troop leader? Yep. The least likely Troop Leader in the history of Girl Scouts - that was me! It was fun and worthwhile and thank goodness it is now in someone else's much more capable hands! ;)
It appears that another life changing decision is upon me and this time it involves my dogs. What follows is my opinion on what direction should be taken with this wonderful creature commonly known as the Miniature Australian Shepherd. There are others who are just as passionate, whose opinion is totally opposite from mine, and I respect that passion. After spending years being 'politically correct' and trying to not make waves, I do believe it is now time to stand up for what I believe in and for what I see as right for my dogs. My sincere hope is that I have gathered enough credibililty over the years to at least be heard on behalf of these dogs that I love.
So grab a cup of coffee and let's have what I feel is a realistic discussion.
**NOTE: Added at the bottom of this page are comments and some Q&A that have been discussed since the release of this page.**
THE CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE: The current 'political' climate is charged with very strong feelings over what should/should not happen with the Mini Aussie. The reason I am 'coming out' so to speak, is because the time has come when mini owners are clamoring for AKC recognition and the 'powers that be' are listening. Make no mistake, this was and always has been inevitable. As responsible breeders most of our puppies go to 'pet' homes on spay/neuter contracts. Only the best of the best go to breed/show homes in accordance with improving the breed. (This applies to ANY breed by the way - not just mini's.) This also makes the average pet of better quality and health. The average pet person is now very well educated on what a good dog is, what a good breeder is, training issues AND - they want to compete with their dogs for fun and sport. It is a FACT that AKC is the most readily available and recognized venue for most people in most locations, to participate in. Now, AKC recognition may or may not be the best thing for the breed itself, but it IS the best thing for the person with the dog at their feet. I would agree with Pat Hastings who says that 'AKC does not ruin breeds, breeders ruin breeds'. I promise my dogs that I will not be one of 'those' breeders!
THE ORGANIZATIONS: There is way more 'back story' than I will write here. My purpose in writing this synopsis is to illustrate the basics of how I came to the conclusions that I have. It would take a serious shift in the tenor of the individual organizations to change my mind at this point; but if that happens, I am open to it.
NAMASCUSA: The parent breed club that I belong to, have always belonged to, participate in, work for and register my mini's with. Possibly open to the idea of AKC recognition with a membership vote, even if it means a change in the name. MASCA: The other parent breed club. Open to AKC recognition only if it is possible to keep the name 'Miniature Australian Shepherd' and only if AKC is willing to accept them as a size variety/division. ASCA: The original parent Australian Shepherd organization. Did NOT sanction AKC acceptance. Also did NOT keep their dogs from being AKC registered. Most Australian Shepherds are AKC/ASCA registered. ASCA is one of the most respected breed clubs in the history of breeds, but they are NOT the parent breed club recognized by AKC. ASCA does NOT recognize the Mini Aussie as a part of their breed or history. USASA: The parent breed club of the Australian Shepherd in AKC. This is an IMPORTANT distinction! USASA chose to seek AKC recognition even though the parent breed club of the Australian Shepherd did not. Therefore, the parent breed club recognized by AKC is NOT ASCA - it is USASA. USASA does NOT recognize the Mini Aussie as a part of their breed or history. MASANA: An organization formed with the intent of seeking AKC recognition if one or both of the parent clubs, NAMASCUSA or MASCA, do not. NASA: The group currently, diligently and fervently seeking AKC recognition no matter what. They have acceptance into UKC, though not yet in conformation. AKC: The organization that is most recognized and respected by the largest population. Also the agency that 'controls the shots' and will make the final decision on when and how these dogs are or are not accepted.
*NOTE: For validity of these statements, follow the links and read for yourself the very clear and outspoken statements made by each of these organizations regarding the Mini Aussie.
WHAT IS UP WITH THE NAME GAME?: I would like to strip the emotion out of this section and take it down to the bare facts. The Australian Shepherd was recognized by AKC 18 years ago. The Mini Aussie fancy did not seek AKC recognition at the same time. Two parent clubs were eventually formed, Miniature Australian Shepherd Club of America and the North American Miniature Australian Shepherd Club. You will notice by the name of NAMASCUSA that there has already been a name change. NOW - in seeking AKC recognition the largest emotional stumbling block appears to be the hangup on the name. The ideal situation would be to enter as a variety/division of the Australian Shepherd and I personally would prefer this. However, I am realistic enough to realize that THIS IS NOT, CANNOT, WILL NOT happen!!!! AKC, USASA and ASCA do NOT accept the Mini as a variety of the Australian Shepherd. Is this rather nuts? You bet it is. BUT IT IS A FACT!! And they have the power. AKC has not accepted a variety of any breed since the 1950's. Right or wrong, the FACT is that USASA and ASCA have NEVER accepted the Mini as part of their breed.
CURRENT OPTIONS OPEN TO MINI AUSSIE OWNERS:
The parent breed clubs, NAMASCUSA and MASCA, have worked towards a merge for YEARS. In a perfect world this would be the best thing for all involved and especially the dogs. HOWEVER, MASCA is completely and totally unwilling to consider AKC acceptance in any way other than as a variety of the Australian Shepherd. As stated above, this is just not going to happen. My view on what is now best for the DOGS is for NAMASCUSA to seek AKC acceptance even if it means a name change. The people that I talk to who have minis are starving for venues to participate in. It frightens me to KNOW that WHEN one of the other clubs enters AKC, the people who have minis and wish to compete, WILL register their dogs with whichever club gets into AKC first. As leaders and caretakers of the breed, I believe we need to acknowledge this as fact and inevitable. For me, the question then becomes 'How will we feel when others are promoting OUR pedigrees and dogs as THEIR pedigrees and dogs.' The answer seems clear to me - it is ASCA/USASA all over again. Now maybe that would be fine. But just 'what if' the actual parent club of our dogs was the parent club in AKC. We would then have as much power as possible under the circumstances, to protect the dogs that are going to end up there anyway. I see this as the responsible thing to do for our dogs. In fact, this statement and conviction is why I am putting my neck on the block and writing this now.
MY BACKGROUND: I have lived on farms and ranches with herding dogs most of my life and definitely the best parts of my life. We had Aussies and Border Collies before they were AKC recognized breeds. 14 years ago I discovered AKC competitions, agility and obedience and became hooked on training, training issues and having fun in the competition world with my Chesapeake. 10 years ago I started training classes of my own. 8 years ago I discovered Mini Aussies and my first Mini is now 6. I have owned/operated Chandrea Farms as it now exists with Boarding, Training and Breeding for 6 years. My participation in the 'mini' world has included serving as Secretary on the Board of NAMASCUSA, authoring the 'SCORE' rally program for the club, promoting my dogs and the breed through titles in conformation, agility, obedience and herding. I compete in all venues available to me with every dog who is willing to play with me! There are others with a longer history in the 'dog world', there are others with less. Only for the sake of this discussion will I share the fact that at this writing I am 49 years young/old, (depending on which day you ask and how many dogs I have walked/run on that day!)
SUMMARY: Living on farms/ranches for a lifetime gives one a more basic and pragmatic view of the world. This appears in my practical training methods and is now a part of my decision to support and protect in this manner, these smaller Aussies that I love. My choice is to first back NAMASCUSA as the parent breed club seeking AKC acceptance, I just believe that is the right thing to do for the dogs. IF it begins to look like this cannot/will not be accomplished, I support MASANA as I feel they have close to the same outlook and love of the breed. Genetically my dogs are smaller Aussies. On paper and in competition, they may become North American Shepherds, American Shepherds, Miniature American Shepherds (my personal favorite), whatever. They are still the same dogs and my breeding program will continue to utilize the best of the best.
The best and only advice I can leave you with is this: Read everything you can, draw your own conclusions and the join the club or clubs that fall in line with your beliefs. If you have mini's, you don't need to register your dogs in order to be a member of any of these organizations and have a vote. Be heard, stand up for the dogs!
I respectfully thank you for listening.
Dog Training & Boarding
AKC Canine Good Citizen Evaluator
AKC, ASCA and NAMASCUSA (miniature) registered Australian Shepherds
Each day I wake is one more chance to be a better person.
Today, I will maybe get it right . . .
Chestrac Jackpot Ginger - Chesapeake, retired. CD, OA, OAJ, NAP, NAJP, CGC, Delta Certified Pet Partner
CH Bluegrass Chandrea's Dreamchaser, 'Chase'. CGC, OA, AXJ, NF, NGC, TG-N, WV-N, NVersatility Award, OAC, OJC, TN-O, Delta Certified Pet Partner, HIC, SL1
MULTI CH, GRAND CHAMPION Patchwork Chandrea's Summer Breeze, 'Bree'. CGC, TN-N, HIC
BISP, BOBP Chandrea's Next Top Model, 'Vogue'
CH, RBISP, Chandrea's Ruff Terrain, 'Tundra'
Proud Mom of Junior Handler: Andrea & Andrea's Dessiray Racer, 'Desi'. CGC, MX, MXJ, NF, RL-1, NGC, TG-N, WV-N, NVersatility Award, OAC, OJC, TN-O, 2nd Place 2007 & 2008 Aussie Olympics, HIC, SL1
Ironhorse TakeA Chance on Me, 'Bug' (AKC, ASCA, UKC Registered)
BIS, MULTI CH Bluegrass Boomerang of Chandrea, 'Krash' , CGC (NAMASCUSA Registered)
ALL dogs of age - health clearances include OFA, CERF, MDR1, PRA, Thyroid, DNA and InGen panel. Other clearances as needed.
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS:
One of the valid concerns about AKC recognition is that closing the stud books will limit breeding opportunity and make it more difficult to find healthy outcrosses, is this true?
Aussies of all sizes have been intermingled, bred and matured side by side for almost 50 years. It is safe to say that there are thousands of miniatures collectively registered at this time. That is a lot of dogs to choose from and way more than most breeds enter AKC with.
The AKC Aussie folks left the stud books open for 10 years after they went AKC. YES - we can choose to do that! It is a total misconception that AKC acceptance means the stud books immediately close! The parent club of the breed DOES have a say in the timing of the closing of the stud books. That is one HUGE reason that it DOES matter which club is the parent club in AKC.
Another fact to remember is that not every (or even most) standard Aussie breeders will let their dogs be bred to mini's now. The idea that the gene pool is currently 'wide open' is also a false assumption.
The flip side is that closing the stud books could mean that we finally set size and type. Right now a 'mini' might be 12" or 20". That is a pretty huge size range! We have many, many wonderful 'typey' and healthy dogs to choose from for breeding.
My Opinion: I don't buy the 'gene pool' theory at all. Even less than some of the other considerations.
Since this page was released I have received some wonderful comments, even from people who are on the opposite side of this issue. It has helped me realize this was the right thing to do and that our voices DO need to be heard so people can be informed enough to draw their own conclusions. Also it seems that most people feel isolated by the issues, when the reality is that they are not. We are all in this together and we all have the same concerns.
Thank you to all who have written!
**I was just on your website and read your future of the breed page. It was very well written and spoken. In many ways I see your point and agree with you. I am agonizing over this whole thing, because my new hobby, new love, new friends, etc are being all divided up right before my eyes. I hate it! I am generally a peacemaker and a "lets all get along" kind of person. But that said, I just wanted to thank you for making your stand known. It took a lot of courage and I admire you a lot for doing it. It also helps me in making my voting decision.
**Thanks for posting your opinion. As a newcomer to the breed in general it was informative and it caused me to jump to the many links that you enclosed. It seems that MASCA isn't very realistic about the likelihood of ever getting minis registered as a variety of Aussie. I too believe that Namascusa needs to step forward to be the breed club of choice for this breed. If it can't be Miniature Australian Shepherd, but must be North American Shepherd, so be it. I for one think it is time to close the stud book and become a true breed. I understand the need to outcross to Aussies to improve the breed characteristics, but in the end, I too look for more venues for obedience for my intact dogs, more showing opportunities that AKC may allow us.
**Kevin and I admire you greatly!!! We think Miniature Aussies (Miniature American Shepherd-it has a good ring!) are wonderful even if Cage didn't quite get the message and turned out to be "Midi." We were hoping for a Krash-sized dog, but even though Cage didn't turn out that small we know you bred two dogs (Wanda x Krash) RESPONSIBLY that are top quality in all areas (best of the best!). That is what is most important to us. I would like to compete at some point in the fairly near future (my second career, so to speak) I am 50 years young/old, so hopefully I will be able to retire within the next 10 years. I know my current job as a Clinical Pharmacist is too demanding to compete at this time. That is why Cage is the perfect dog for me/us and you are the perfect breeder. We are getting to know the breed, training and setting goals (i.e. Delta Certification) with Cage and developing a relationship with you, so that when the time comes you will know us. You will know my/our intentions and how serious we/I am about showing. I would love to volunteer as a kennel worker for you just to be around the farm, the outdoors and gain experience once I retire if you would have me. When that time comes I do want the availability of RESPONSIBLY bred Mini-Aussies (or whatever name) and all the venues enjoyed by AKC recognized breed owners. Thank you for taking a stand. These wonderful dogs and the breeder/owner/handlers should enjoy the most there is to offer out there in show.