Helen Rayfield

Over Loving Our Dogs: Part 2

Last week I blogged about the increasing trend I have noticed for owners over loving their dogs. This can be through fussy feeding, over-anxiety about their welfare, allowing them on furniture, sleeping on the bed, the list goes on and on. I frequently see the results of this over indulgence in behavioural lessons, with dogs that are anxious, aggressive and territorial.

I was interested to see this theme being picked up in the national press this week with the launch of the IKEA pet furniture range. An entertaining column in The Guardian on why we treat our pets as people comes to the same conclusions I have, our obsession with our pets is getting out of hand. From gourmet food to designer pet furniture to dog yoga, we are attributing human characteristics to our dogs that they just don’t have. A dog is a pack animal and being leader of the pack is exhausting for them – that’s the owners job. Rather than making their lives better through constant attention and indulgence, over loving our dogs makes them anxious and irritable. Let them know where they stand in the pack and you will have a happy dog and save yourself a fortune in accessories.

What Did You Do This Morning?

I often say that in my job as a dog trainer, no two days are the same. One of my mornings last week demonstrates this perfectly. It started with a very defiant, very dominant Labrador; of course I’ve seen lots of Labradors but no two dogs are the same and this one was certainly a challenge. Next came the biggest Doberman Pinscher I have ever seen and still a way off being fully grown. Then, you couldn’t make this up, I trained a Chihuahua, the smallest breed of dog in the world. So what’s next? A Flatcoat Retreiver…and so it goes on. The variety of breeds and personalities (this applies to the owners too…) means a day in the life of this dog trainer never has a dull moment.

Behavioural Dog Training with Harley the German Shepherd

Harley is a ten month old German Shepherd. Her owners hadn’t had a dog before and contacted me because they had serious problems with walking Harley. She was pulling, lunging and barking at other dogs and was in need of some behavioural dog training. Walks were becoming a nightmare and it was getting to the stage where they didn’t want to take her out.

Within minutes of meeting Harley, I had her walking to heal on a slip lead. With a breed like a German Shepherd, known as a guard dog, owners can reinforce a stereotypical fear of the breed by their own behaviour. Negative energy can feed down to the dog through tightening of the lead, as the owner assumes others will be scared of their dog. My confidence with Harley allowed me to walk her calmly with just my little finger holding the lead.

I used my dogs to teach Harley how to behave around other dogs and had her lying down next to them, submissive to my command. Harley’s biggest problem had been a fear of the unknown; she was unsure of her pack position so had tried to dominate. After just one lesson she knew her place and was a calm and content dog.

Just a quick email to say thank you and how impressed we are of how much Harley has come on in just 2 lessons. From dreading walking and strong boisterous German Shepherd constantly pulling and trying every harness and walking aid out there to making walks a pleasure again with a simple slip lead. Best decision we’ve made was booking training with you.
Thanks again
Tony, Lizzie and Harley

In Harley’s second lesson I used one of my labradors to recreate the experience of walking past other dogs. I created a positive walking experience for the owners, building their confidence in taking Harley out on the lead. The change in her already is remarkable and she will be returning for further behavioural dog training to maintain this progress.

Dog training a german shepherd


Tessleymoor Charity Gundog Scurry & Toplands Clay Shoot

tessleymoor gundog scurry charity tessleymoor gundog scurry charity

Thanks to everyone who attended this great charity event. With BBQ, bar, live music, archery, trade stalls and inflatables, there was something for all the family plus of course my very popular Tessleymoor gundog scurry and the clay shoot. We are delighted to announce that we raised £11008 for our charities, giving £2500 each to local branches of  Heartbeat, Multiple Sclerosis Society, Motor Neurone Disease Association and Headway plus a donation towards the work of St Anne’s Church in Woodplumpton.

Read more…

New Website for Tessleymoor Gundogs

Following on from the redesign of this website, our sister company Tessleymoor Gundogs is the latest in line for a new look. This business focuses on training gundogs either to work in the field or to bring them up to their breed standard. Tessleymoor attracts customers from across the UK, with owners travelling long distances to benefit from the level of training expertise I can offer.

The new website showcases all the specialists services available, from group gundog days to intensive residential training. Central to the new design is the stunning gundog photography; capturing the dogs as they are focused on their training has become very much a part of the overall Tessleymoor experience. With the positive feedback I have received from incorporating the Instagram feed into the Dog Training 4u site, the new Tessleymoor website also integrates the popular @tmgundogs photos.

You can take a look at the new site here and share it with friends who may be interested in these specialist gundog training services.

tessleymoor gundogs training new website

Behavioural Dog Training with Rufus the Labrador

6 month old Rufus and his owner Georgina came all the way from Wolverhampton to see me. It’s always a good sign when people are prepared to travel to train their dog – even when their car breaks down on the way and they have to rearrange the appointment. When I eventually met Rufus, I could see he was was not a pleasure to own. A headstrong young labrador, he pulled on the lead, had poor recall and was dominant. Georgina wanted some behavioural dog training for Rufus with a view to possibly working him in the future.

I worked with Rufus using my inner circle training technique with the dog on the lead at all times. We focused on sit and wait, not allowing him to greet other dogs as this encourages him to pull. Georgina was impressed to see what my dogs could achieve and is keen to bring Rufus up to his breed standard with regular monthly lessons.

I received the following message the day after our lesson.

 Just wanted to give you an update. I took Rufus out today for a 3 mile walk and he walked on the lead to my heel as good as he did yesterday still a little bit of trying to walk in front but I’m really proud of him 😊 so thank you


Refresher Dog Training with Snoop the Springer Spaniel

Even the most well trained dogs can fall into bad habits with too much freedom. I trained Snoop the Springer Spaniel along with his owner Janette around a year ago. Bad behaviour has begun to creep in with Snoop allowed to stand at the window and bark to welcome family members. This has led to him becoming territorial and his sit, wait, recall and retrieving have also deteriorated. Janette realised it was time for some refresher dog training. After a 1-2-1 session, Snoop is back on track. He will need further lessons and consistency at home to reinforce this behaviour.

gundog training snoop the cocker spaniel

Dog Training with Willow & Sansa the Rescue Huskies

Any rescue dog needs lots of time devoted to it so rescue siblings are a real challenge. Willow and Sansa were lucky enough to be rescued by Hal, an animal lover experienced in rescuing all kinds of animals and aware of the commitment this involves. This sibling pair of huskies exhibited a lot of drive and tenacity. They were not well socialised, had poor recall and were difficult to walk on the lead. Before working with me, Hal was walking them on a belt with a 3 point harness connected to halti leads as they were pulling so badly.

The first thing to address then was walking on the lead; I demonstrated how to get them to walk to heal calmly with a slip lead. Eventually the owner wants to get them off lead – something that is always possible with the right training. For the second lesson, Hal bought her partner to ensure we had consistency in how they were trained and I used my dogs to correct the huskies behaviour around other dogs.

With siblings with such strong pack behaviour, there is no quick fix. Ideally the dogs will have individual training time at home so they bond with their owner and learn to follow her commands, rather than each other. The owner is committed to continuing 1-2-1 lessons to correct the problem behaviours that have developed over the years.

dog training husky dog training husky

Residential Dog Training with Elmo the Rescue Spring Spaniel

Elmo is a four year old rescue Springer Spaniel. Being a rescue dog, his owner Jonathan is not sure of Elmo’s past but he is very nervous and reactive to other dogs. It’s easy to overcompensate for what might have happened in the past but too much attention has not helped the dog’s behaviour.  I was recommended to Jonathan by a client of mine in Cornwall and seeing what I could do in one lesson and how calm and relaxed the dog was with me, he booked Elmo in for a residential stay.

Initially I have been assessing Elmo’s behaviour. Elmo can be nervous and anxious of change but during his time with me, he has not reacted negatively to any of my dogs. My training has been to engage his focus with structure and boundaries that create security for him. To build his confidence around other animals, I have undertaken desensitisation training; my rural kennels are the perfect place for this, surrounded by livestock and farm traffic. There is still work to do with Elmo, it is always a long journey with a rescue dog but with another two weeks of residential training ahead, I will make real progress with him.

residential dog training springer spaniel

Residential Dog Training for Tess the Cocker Spaniel

Tess was booked in for residential training with me by her owners Eric and Christine after a single 1-2-1 lesson. A show cocker spaniel, Tess exhibits all the usual behaviour of a dog that is over loved. She is cute but too cute, so has become a pampered pooch who ignores commands, whines and craves attention the moment the focus is not on her.

During her residential training, I have been working with Tess on structure and boundaries, desensitising her to the need for constant praise. Love for your dog is a great thing but too much affection leads to a dog that needs intensive retraining. Tess is well on track to becoming the dog she should be.

residential dog training cocker spaniel