About Me

My name is Rachael Toren, and my entry into the dog world started with our first rescue dog acquired after moving into a house with a real yard.  Our family interest soon grew once we realized that obedience was a competitive sport.  Once I graduated from college, I was able to do more with the dogs, and through the generosity of Debbie Jones (Ashburton Shelties) got my very own dog, Marque.  I now live in south west Baltimore.  The dogs have run of an approximately quarter acre yard, full of agility equipment and trouble to get into, and out of.  My landlord is gracious enough to let me have a few dogs, and even helped me whelp my first litter.

I am a firm believer in understanding something before you get into it.  I have spent the past ten years bugging breeders and handlers, and asking questions, and more questions, and more questions, and doing as much research into this breed as I can fit in.  I maintain an extensive pedigree database, with most of my dogs tails going back to the imports and Collie crosses.  I have taken more than a few seminars in structure, breed history, genetics, and training. I am continuously coming up with questions for my mentor and friend, Debbie Jones, and she continues to patiently answer them.

I am a member and occasional officer of the Shetland Sheepdog Club of Greater Baltimore, a member of the Collie Club of America, Oriole Dog Training Club, and Canine Training Association. I am heavily involved in SSCGB’s performance program, and secretary our herding trials.

Kate, teaching baby Connor to play.

Marque, at about a year old, and his collection of ducks.


Temperament.  This is the first impression made of any dog in any ring, or just walking down the street.  It's hard to show a dog, in any venue, who does not want to be there or who is afraid.  I raise my puppies with all the noise I can make from the day their ears open.  My household is not a quiet one.  I use the "super-puppy" method of small stresses to help them learn to overcome stress as adults.  Puppies are raised with lots of toys, obstacles, and surfaces to play on and explore.  I rent them kids to socialize with, and they start with small trips to see "Grandma Debbie" as early as six weeks.  I like them to be a little bit bad, and to be able to problem solve.  Anyone getting one of my puppies can expect them to jump ON the tunnel at least once.

Pretty.  Everyones definition of pretty is different, and mine is hard to explain. Well, I guess everyone's interpretation would be hard to explain.

The standard states: "The Shetland Sheepdog is a small, alert, rough-coated, longhaired working dog. He must be sound, agile and sturdy... Contours and chiseling of the head, the shape, set and use of ears, the placement, shape and color of the eyes combine to produce expression. Normally the expression should be alert, gentle, intelligent and questioning. Toward strangers the eyes should show watchfulness and reserve, but no fear."  

I first look for expressions that are intelligent and inquisitive without being harsh, then I look at the structure behind it.  I feel that while a dog may have a flawless head piece, if the expression is dull or harsh or lacks personality, the perfect head is only that. I want the dogs to look like they could get into trouble at any moment. In reality, we would have both the perfect head structure and the perfect expression, but it doesn't always happen.

I feel that the photos below perfectly illustrate the intelligent, inquisitive, pretty expression that I am looking for.  The photos are the same dog at 13 weeks, nine months, and two years.  He has both the expression that I am looking for, as well as the temperament I like. If you make silly noises at him, he will tilt his head almost 90 degrees.


Structural Soundness.  Structure can be a difficult thing to master.  I have taken all the structure seminars I can find and reasonably travel to.  The most influential seminar so far, where I have learned the most, was a two day seminar given by Chris Zink, DVM.  This course was geared mostly towards agility exhibitors, as it was put on by an agility club, but still full of useful information.  It caused me to re-evaluate my own definition of "sound."  My goal is to produce dogs that can work without physical stress for as long as they want to work.  I would love to have a dog in their teens still capable of running a jumpers course.

Health.  It makes no difference how pretty a dog is if they can not live a long, healthy, stress-free life. The health of the dogs is a top priority. I have done many hours of research that has led me down the path of a more natural existence for them. I have minimized the use of harsh chemicals in the house, stopped using external pesticides (i.e. flea treatments), stopped all non-core vaccinations.  I feel that this method will allow their naturally strong immune systems the best chance of keeping them healthy.  The dogs are screened for known genetic diseases as appropriate

The dogs are kept in the house, can be found on any number of hammocks or beds, and at night they sleep where they fall.  In my current space, I plan to keep my breeding program to six dogs or less, which means I will have to be very discriminate about breedings are done, and what is kept.

The dogs are registered with AKC, some with UKC; and they compete in several venues including conformation, agility and obedience/rally.

My goals for my dogs are simple: