Interview by Kerri Denter, Felicity Shelties




Dorothy Christiansen, along with husband Ray, has been a show breeder for 35 years and started judging in 1987. She has finished at least 25 American champions as well as several in Canada.  In addition, she has put 12 obedience titles on her dogs. She is approved for 13 herding breeds and expects to finish the herding group this year.

She and her husband have produced four National winners from Best of Breed to Best in Futurity. Last year, Ch. Lynnlea’s  In The Line of Fire (Travis) qualified for the Eukanuba Invitational but bad weather kept them grounded in Chicago. Travis had numerous group placements in 2006 including three group 1.

Dorothy  became active in local Sheltie rescue in 1991 and brought rescue into the ASSA’s fold in 1996. Today, rescue is part of the ASSA Foundation and she oversees 90 diverse groups. Annually about 2500 shelties are saved and re-homed. Fund-raising is a big part of this position. She has served two two-year terms as a Director-At-large on the ASSA Board and is running for vice-president this year. She and her husband remain active in Interlocking SSC of Monee, of which they are charter members. Dorothy publishes the club’s monthly newsletter. She is also a life member of Stone City Kennel club.

        They live near their only child, Stacy Krol and her husband Eric. They have two grandsons, Jackson and Nicholas.

Ch. Lynnlea's Passion and Desire

WB, BW 2004 ASSA National
Passion is one of Burning Desire's champion kids.
She now lives the farm life with her handler/owner, Becky Johnson
Photo by
by Sherrie Sparling


Kerri: 1.When did you establish your kennel name and how did you come to choose it?

Dorothy: It was not our first choice. We used Ashford (our house model) for several years and our first home-bred champion started with Ashford. Then for an unexplained reason, the AKC would not let us continue using it so we came up with Lynnlea. Lynn is our daughter’s middle name and lea is the English word for meadow. Given we had just moved to 5 acres of farm fields, it seemed appropriate.

2. When did you first become interested in showing and breeding dogs?

We got our first sheltie in 1969 from a pet store . A childhood friend had had a “toy collie” named “Queenie” who had been to school. She was very well-trained. So we took Robbie to school. The 2nd training ring was for conformation and that looked liked fun so we set out to get a “show dog”. We did not breed a litter until 1973 and our first champion came from that one. Our next litter produced our National BOB winner, Amy.

3. Why did you choose Shelties?

I think we originally thought about a Collie but I remembered “Queenie” and decided that was what I wanted. I had been a great fan of “Lassie” and had read all the Terhune books (own most of them). My husband was afraid of dogs. I emphasize was.

4. What dog or line has helped you in your breeding program and why?

We started with Westwood dogs from the Lubins. Their dogs were known for sound bodies and minds. Later we added Sea Isle blood via Barwood. We have managed to keep both foundation lines going.

5. How much of a problem has size been to you?

A big problem. Along with those great bodies came size genes. Maybe that is why I tend to keep dogs in the middle range. Our two current stud dogs are both under 15”. All of our girls are in the 14”-15” range. This is probably why, as a judge, I use the wicket quite often. I will put up a “sizey” dog but want to be sure I can measure it in.



Ch. Lynnlea Fascinating Rhythm.

Phoebe is owned by Rita DeVito and descends from Lynnlea's other line, going back to Ch. Barwood Ashford Vanity Fair CD, our second foundation bitch.

6. What do you go by in determining size in a puppy?

Thirty-five years of record-keeping and tracking growth. I totally believe in the Sea Isle growth chart. Those sizes coupled with what I have learned about weights guides our selection process today. If I think size will be an issue, the puppy is placed as a pet. It amazes me when I ask someone how tall a dog was or is at a certain age and they have no clue. I will not waste time, effort and money on a dog whose size is in doubt.

7. At what age do you feel you can safely begin to “cull” out the show puppies from the pets?

Eight weeks for size, shape of eye, movement. Balance and structure at 3 months. Then again at 6 months. If it is still here by then, it stays.

8. What were you looking for in foundation stock? And how did you obtain it?

We were so new to conformation. We lucked into our foundation stock by finding Lubins who in turn introduced us to other successful breeders in the area. When we started, the Chicago area was a hotbed of successful breeders that we could talk with—Helen Hurlbert of Willow Wand, Libby Babin of Babinette, Charlotte Tull of Tull-E-Ho, Barb Thompson of Barwood, Pokey Morey of Moribrook. Occasionally we would run into Julie Desy of Ilemist , the Fraziers of Someday and the Petersons of Merri Lon.


7. How many dogs are in your kennel? Is there such a thing as an “ideal” number of dogs in a kennel in your opinion?

We have 10 right now including three spayed veterans, two stud dogs, one young male,and one puppy grow-out. I guess that leaves three breeding girls at home. I also co-own two girls with Becky Johnson who often handles for us and a male with a good friend in Canada. I don’t  like to see the number get much above 12. In the past year, we placed two adult girls that we decided not to show or breed. Retired dogs are spayed and usually given to a carefully selected home.

8. How many litters of puppies are born at your kennel per year?

That varies but average would be 4. We still battle that size gene and consider a breeding successful if we get 1-2 prospects from it.

9. How and when are puppies weaned at your kennel?

We begin weaning at 4 weeks and by six weeks they are on solid foods. However, momma dog is allowed with the puppies as long as she is enjoying them.

Ch. Lynnlea's In The Line of Fire

Travis is a Meg son. He finished at 15 months of age handled by Gary Whitmore, his sire's owner. In 2006, Travis finished the year as an invitee to the Eukanuba Invitational. His first champion daughter, Ch. Abbotsford Fair Maid of Perth, finished at 14 months to beat her father.  Mavis is co-owned with Becky Johnson.  Photo 
by Sherrie Sparling

10. How and at what age do you begin to socialize your puppies? What has worked best for you?

Our litters are usually born in the kitchen and that is where they stay until 6 weeks when they move down into our family room. The kitchen overlooks it. A large play area is set up for them. Weather permitting they start their first outside trips at 5 weeks with momma dog for company. By six weeks, weather permitting, they start spending more time outside. We have a back deck set up as a play area. It has three levels plus tunnels, elevated beds, a pool (dry)—anything to give them a fun time. They get their first shot at 8 weeks, go for a ride to the vet, and then start to go visit different breeders.

11. What advice can you give on show training a dog, and what age do you begin with yours?

Show training starts as soon as they go onto food. Every time a pan goes down, a cue word is used such as “cookie”. Later one-on-one in the kitchen while cooking, use of cue word again. Ears up and alert, treat comes down. We train ALL the puppies to a cue word and advise pet buyers to use it. Twice it saved our dogs from certain disaster after a gate was left open. One call of  “cookie, cookie”and out of the darkness came the pack, trying to be the first to get that treat. I tell people you will get a better life-saving reaction if what you say is imprinted with food instead of shouting “No, Stop, Down”.

Ch. Lynnlea's Playing with Fire

WB, BW 1998 ASSA National
Photo by Brian Cleveland

12. What do you feel is important in conditioning a dog for the ring?

Exercise. My handler friend Becky Johnson is well-known in the horse world. She conditions dogs with long walks, giving them normal exercise like she would  if  lunging a horse. She does not believe in tread mills as she thinks it does not allow for balanced muscle building.

She also believes in baths. After every show weekend, every dog gets a full bath to remove product. Too many people load that stuff on week after week and then wonder why coats look dull or dry. Frequent baths do not harm the skin if you use gentle shampoos. And baths do not make coat drop either. If you get a lot of hair off a dog after a bath, either you have not been brushing or the coat is ready to shed.


13. Would you share with us the type of grooming products you recommend?

I am a pretty wash/wear type of groomer. I use a good shampoo like Phillips, some Crown Royale dressings, a baby powder/starch mixture for whitening. Becky I am sure has an arsenal I know little about.

14. With all of the talk about diets and what works for our dogs, what do you feed your dogs, and do you use supplements?

We feed Pro Plan Lamb and Rice to the adults, Pro Plan Weight management to the seniors, Pro Plan salmon-based to the stud dogs. I usually start puppies on Eukanuba Lamb and Rice for Puppies but they no longer provide breeder packs with that food so I may be going to Pro Plan Puppy this year.  The only supplements we use are Glyco-flex to the boys and Marin to an older girl with liver issues.  Pregnant girls usually get raspberry tea leaves, dry.

15. What is your opinion on the new vaccination protocols?

Love them and wish they had been implemented years ago. We have actually been following that protocol for years and are happy to see it is now official. But we still have pet buyers fighting with their vets over giving too many shots at once or using vaccines we don’t approve of.

16. What has been the positive part about handling your own dogs? And the negative? What was your experience with using handlers in the past? What would you personally recommend in a handler if an exhibitor were looking for one?

Nothing beats finishing that dog yourself. The negative has come in as I have gotten older and my genetically bad feet have taken over. I have had five surgeries on each foot and even on days I can walk okay, they affect my back. So running around the ring is harder but I still love to show when I can. However, grooming is still not my strong suit.

I have had good and bad experiences. One must beware of handlers who want to take your dog JUST because it will help pay the gas for the big winner.  I used one of those and saw money disappear with other dogs in her string winning.  Watch how handlers handle the dogs both in and out of the ring. I used one man who basically ruined a young female. I have since given her to a performance home where she is in her glory but it took a lot of work to get her over her fear of the table.

You need to find someone who is honest, fair, and really loves the dogs. They are out there and I think I use two that fall into that category.


Ch. Lynnlea Forever Amber CD

Best of Breed from veterans class
1983 ASSA National
Our second home-bred champion

17. When did you become a judge?

I was approved for shelties in 1987. I added Aussies in 1994 and HOPE to finish the herding group this year. Waiting on AKC for that. I have not proceeded as fast as other people who started after me.  My life is multi-dimensional and other pursuits take time. But I love judging and hope to finish the herding group this year and then start studying working breeds.


18. As a judge, what would you say it's the first thing you look at in the ring? Movement? Good structure? Head detail?

Outline. You can tell so much just from the outline—layback of shoulder, placement of the front assembly, head carriage, length of body, bend of stifle. It is all there in the standing dog.

19. What would be a pet peeve as a judge when evaluating a dog?

Dirty teeth. People don’t seem to realize (or care) that dirty teeth can kill a dog. The toxins from abscesses can cause kidney failure. If one doesn’t want to brush the teeth weekly, then spend the money for a good cleaning every so often. Even old dogs’ teeth can be cleaned by a good vet. I have had teeth cleaned on dogs that were 15 and 16 years old. The other peeve is a fat dog. Too much fat affects movement and shows the dog is not in good condition.This also doesn’t help the health of the animal .

20. What would you say is most challenging about being a judge today in the breed?

Trying to find dogs that have good heads coupled with good moving bodies. The sad thing for the breed now is so many breeders have never owned or maybe even seen a good moving dog. Moving true coming and going does not mean a good moving dog. Give me a slightly closer rear if that rear kicks off in rhythm with a correctly reaching front. I want to see that front leg touch the ground directly under the nose, not back under the chin. I don’t want to see bounce or roll.

Ch. Lynnlea's Burning Desire

Meg is another specialty winner and the dam of three champions. Tracing back through her dam The Firestarter, then through Ch. Lynnlea's Parade Dress and to Ch. Forever Amber, Meg goes directly back to our Westwood foundation bitch, Westwood's Lea Piper of Ashford CD.
Piper was purchased from the Lubins in 1970.

21. What has been the best experience as a judge?

Being given the great honor of judging the Sheltie National three times--1992, 2001, and again in 2009.

22. How do you feel the breed has changed over the years? The good? The bad?

Temperaments overall are better. Expressions prettier, better eye shape though some have now gotten too small. On the flip side, movement is worse. We have improved the coming and going but have lost the reach and drive. The result is a pretty dog that bounces around the ring, not covering much ground for the steps taken. Some dogs have too much coat. A farm dog with that much hair would be a liability. We also have too many dogs that are long in the loin. A 4-finger span should be what fits between the last rib and the thigh. The undercarriage should be shorter than the back not the same length. The head should be carried above the level of the back if there I any neck at all.

23. What would you say the breed needs most improvement on?

Reach and drive, outline and balance. There are too many dogs overly long in loin with forward set fronts that make backs like tables. These dogs have the same length under the body as the back’s length. When the front is forward set, you will find the shoulder blade in front of the foreleg. The layback may be correct but the position goes along with that long back. We also still have too many dogs low on leg. Higher-stationed is not a sin! And size. I am seeing size really push that 16” limit. Bigger is not better. Where are the 14-15” shelties, especially males?

Ch. Ashford Promises, Promises CD

Cissy was our first home-bred champion, named before AKC made us change our kennel name. Cissy's profile can be found in Jean Simmonds Standard show. She illustrated correct stop and parallel planes. While she produced a champion son, Ch. Lynnlea's Promises to Keep CD, neither of them carry on today.

In your breeding program, which dog do you feel was most influential to your success?

Dogs owned by other people—hard one as there are several. I especially liked Ch. Tull E Ho Miss Fire and Ch. Apple Acres Kelnook Calais. Those bitches excelled in just about every facet of  breed  type. Of our own, Ch. Lynnlea Forever Amber CD, Best of Breed from veterans class at the 1983 National in Boston. Amy , Miss Fire and Calais became mental guideposts for both breeding and judging.

25. In your breeding stock, what is one fault you simply will not tolerate?

Tough one. I don’t think there is any one thing I will not tolerate except maybe bad temperament. I think one must look at the whole picture. To say, one can’t stand a bad rear might negate a dog that has outstanding virtues in other areas. This type of thinking is like fault judging. Anybody can pick a dog apart and find faults as they all have them. The result would be a mediocre dog, nothing terribly bad but nothing very outstanding either. I have seen prospective judges doing sweeps classes fall into this trap. One must consider the fault or faults and weigh them against the virtues and decide from there. Just be sure the dog has virtues!

26. If you could go back and bring a certain dog into your breeding program, who would it be and why?

I think I would have liked to have been a bit stronger on Peter Pumpkin. While I can trace some of our dogs’ pedigrees back to include Peter, I wish I could have gone deeper. He was so pre-potent, one could look at a puppy and know immediately it was a Peter kid. He had his faults, of course, but as a sire, he passed on many lovely attributes including the soft Peter look.

27. What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of this sport? What do you enjoy most about it?

Producing healthy puppies that bring joy to their owners’ lives. Because Shelties do not breed true, breeders should always try to produce the healthiest and happiest puppies they can since so many of each litter will become family companions. I think this is also an aspect of rescue I enjoy, seeing an abandoned dog become a beloved family member. Plus breeding/showing has introduced us to wonderful people, some who became life-long friends, the kind that would always be there.

28. With any sport there is at times poor sportsmanship. How have you overcome it when it has been an issue?

Tried to walk away but as a judge, depending on what is said and done, I have the power to request a bench-show committee for suspension of the offending person. And it need not involve an altercation with me but could be outside the ring.  Clubs should become versed in the steps to follow should the committee be called and more clubs need to pro-active in stopping episodes of bad sportsmanship. The AKC has plenty of materials to teach the needed steps and every show committee needs to know those steps. Too often bad behavior is forgiven or glossed over because of the work involved. All that has done is led to people who continually are bad sports at ringside.

29. What advice would you give a novice or a person just starting in the breed?

Find a mentor, someone who is truly successful in the breed. Get dogs from them, learn from them, stick with them. I say someone who is successful because it amazes me how often I will see people buying “show dogs” from breeders who have never even finished a dog’s championship. Do not buy long distance. Web sites are great foolers. Kennel hop. Arrange a driving trip and go visit breeders. Many of us love showing off our dogs. Attend Nationals whether you have a dog to show or not. If you can show, do so proudly and with no expectation of doing anything. That way you will be enormously happy when you do! You enter to display to other breeders what you have been doing. Every National I discover dogs that interest me and they are not necessarily the top winners. At all breed shows, stay through best in show. You will learn so much about good dogs and good handling by watching. For movement, watch breeds like Siberian huskies or Australian shepherds. By and large, those breeds can still move. In fact, most working breeds are still good movers.



Ch. Lynnlea's The Firestarter

Charlie was a multiple specialty winner before and after she finished her title. She was the dam of Ch. Lynnlea's Playing with Fire (ASSA WB 1998) and the dam of Ch. Lynnlea's Burning Desire. She was one of my favorite shelties ever.

30. Who was your first true mentor? Who has influenced you the most? Whom do you admire?

Al and Ruth Lubin of Westwood. They were always upbeat and never down on their dogs or the competition. Influence? There have been many and I think I mentioned some earlier. I admire breeders who attempt to breed to the standard. It always comes back to that. You have to learn what is correct by the standard and then try to get there. Look around any ring full of shelties and you will be struck by the lack of consistency in type, size, movement. It is no wonder judges do such varied jobs. We give them a wide variety to pick from!  In Sheltie litters, one or two finishable dogs make the breeding a success. In other breeds, whole litters finish with ease because they are consistent. I don’t know if we will ever get that consistency.

31. With all of your great success as a judge and National wins, what other goal may there be?

Produce a ROM that will have a positive impact on the breed.

32. What do you feel has been the one key to your continuing success?

If I only get to name one thing it would be perseverance. There have been bad times mixed with the good, times I have wept and said, “This is supposed to be fun, why isn’t it?”  But then the joy comes back with a win or a new litter. My very best friends came to me via the dogs.

33. What has been the highlight of your career?

There have been several. Those National wins, even class placings, but being asked to judge the National three times—wow, what an honor  not given to most breeder judges.

34. Is there anything you would like to add?

I suspect when all is said and done, the one thing I am most proud of is how far sheltie rescue has come since I started locally in 1991. Bloodlines may die out, wins be forgotten, generations see names as ancient history. I want my legacy to be that I started National Sheltie Rescue and I hope there will be others as passionate to follow me -- while still trying to produce Shelties bred to the standard.

None of my accomplishments in dogs  could have happened without the tremendous help and support from my husband, Ray. They don't make them any better.

Lynnlea's Sweeter than Wine CD. (pts)

Ginger was placed in a "loving" home after she developed reproduction issues. She came back to us at age 13 in
dreadful physical condition (via a tattoo) and stayed with us until bone cancer took her at age 14. I give a lot of credit to Ginger for my and later the ASSA's involvement in Sheltie rescue.  This is a cause I am passionate about and hope the ASSA will always be supportive.

Visit Dorothy on the web at

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