Champion Wyoming Aussie Shepherd Off To Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (2024)

A well-groomed Sansa heads to work every day to with owner Shelby Shank to her kitchen design business.

You could call the Australian shepherd a working dog — and a pet.

“She lays on my desk and greets our customers,” Shank said.

A designer at French Creek Design in Casper, Shank and Sansa are also a team in the show-dog arena and are preparing for the 148th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in New York on May 11. The pair plan to be in the show ring May 13 to compete in the Super Bowl of dog shows.

They will likely see another Wyoming champion pooch, a Bracco Italiano named Rowan from Douglas.

“We are super excited. It’s the first dog that we’ve actually bred that we think has merit to attend, so that is really cool for us,” Shank said.

“Essentially, it’s one of those bucket-list items if you show dogs,” she said. “It’s like the Super Bowl of dog shows for dog people, so it is pretty cool to go and attend and get to experience it all.”

Learning Young

Shank moved to the Casper area four years ago from Phoenix, Arizona. She grew up showing and breeding dogs with her mother.

“My mom started showing dogs in 4-H and then continued on breeding Dobermans and Pomeranians and then we got into Aussies when I was around 2,” she said. “I started showing as a peewee at age 3.”

When Sansa was born six years ago, Shank said she planned on keeping a male puppy from the litter and recommended the “redhead dog” as a special pup for her mom. But her mother told her that if she loved the dog that much, she should keep her.

So, Shank did.

Sansa first stepped into the show ring as a puppy, and has gone on to become an Australian Shepherd Club of America supreme champion and American Kennel Club grand champion.

“I don’t show her as much as I should, that’s terrible,” Shank said. “I really only show her, like, five times a year, maybe. Every year she attends the ASCA (Australian Shepherd Club of America) Nationals and the past two years she also attended the United States Australian Shepherd Association Nationals.

“We do the Casper show here and then we sometimes go to Greeley (Colorado).”

At Westminster, the pair is entered to be part of the breed standards competition. Shank said judges will be looking for Sansa’s movement, structure, eyesight, her ear shape, foot shape, grooming and how she presents herself in general.

Smart Dogs

As a breed, Australian shepherds are “beyond very intelligent” and extremely loyal animals, Shank said. That loyalty and bond manifests in the show ring. She said her mother has tried showing Sansa, but the dog doesn’t perform as well for anyone but Shank.

“What I get out of her and the loyalty and the connection we have while showing is just so different,” Shank said. “When we are showing and I need her to do something, I can move a shoulder and essentially get her to move her feet with my body language. And I never even really taught her that. One day I just did it and she picked it up and I thought, ‘That’s really cool.’ And she’s done it ever since.”

Shank characterizes the breed as extremely versatile with the ability to do herding, tracking, agility, dock diving and more.

Should Sansa win the breed competition at Westminster, she would go on to compete against other herder breeds and if she wins that, they would go up against all breeds in the coveted Best of Show competition.

As a breeder, Shank said she tells customers that her dogs are 2% show dogs and 98% pets. She said Sansa shows a classic trait of Australian shepherds in addition to having her own personality as a redheaded “diva.”

“Aussies are supposed to be reserved with strangers and so she is. For a show dog, that is very interesting because we will have people come in and she will go ‘don’t touch me,’” Shank said. “But she will get touched every day for dog shows.”

The ‘Diva’

As the redheaded “diva” of the family, Sansa is fine with looking at people and hanging out with them, not wanting to be touched until “all of a sudden she deems you can touch her and then she loves people.”

“But it is very selective and that is something I have never had in an Aussie before, that is very selective in how she likes to be approached and everything like that,” Shank said.

Shank said she knows Rowan, the Douglas dog, and his owner Jenni Nieft. The two dogs would not meet in any competition unless both make it to the Best of Show round.

After flying to New York on May 11, Shank said she and Sansa plan to go to the dog show site the next day and also want to be there early May 13.

“I am very much a nervous person and always stressed about being on time, and the nightmares have already started that I am going to miss it,” she said. “So, we’ll get there early, and she will get washed and everything, and then she’ll show and then the following day we will hop on another plane to St. Louis to attend the (U.S. Australian Shepherd) nationals for her for the top 20 event. So, we will hit two shows in one week flying around the country.”

And if Sansa happens to be named Best of Show at Westminster?

“Honestly, I would probably retire her,” she said. “After this year she is going to go into a semi-retirement. But (if that happens) we would do one-and-done’ and go out on top.”

Dale Killingbeck can be reached at

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Champion Wyoming Aussie Shepherd Off To Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (2024)


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