Spirit and Blue in Clavering

Our training method is much based on the science of ‘behaviourism’ as defined in the middle part of the last century by the work of B.F. Skinner and Ivan Pavlof.

In understanding this science, we can use a combination of building an association (such as the sound of clicker or word preluding the arrival of food), which is known as classical conditioning, and then using this association as a reward, and steering our dogs to work for this their reward, operant conditioning.

This is commonly referred to as ‘positive reinforcement’, ‘r+’, ‘reward based’ or ‘force-free’ training.

We prefer the term ‘force-free’, as our training philosophy is much based on a holistic outlook, and we look to encourage owners to see training as much as a means of better communicating with their dogs than simply a means of getting them to do what they are told.

Good communication is key for this to be effective, and good communication comes with trust and understanding, so as well as learning how to teach your dog to listen to you, we aim to teach you how to listen to your dog by looking at how they communicate with us and each other. There’s a great deal more to it than the waggy tail!

To this end, we will:


  • Always set our dogs up to succeed in any task we are working to teach.
  • Always start teaching new skills at a level that your dog is confident and able to achieve.
  • Never ask a dog to do more than it is capable or happy to comply with.
  • Never shout, pull, push or use intimidation or physical force to make a dog do anything, but for using leads appropriately to prevent dogs from being able to make wrong choices.

All of the above applies to people attending as well as the dogs!

We want everyone, four legged, two legged and even three legged to look forward to coming to our classes and hope that in doing so you will not only further understanding and interest in all things dog-kind.


The personal reason why this means so much to me

Although I have been clicker training for a very long time, I really never thought I would enjoy training other people’s dogs.

I grew up with dogs and in my childhood. I was 10 when my baby brother was born. We had a Jack Russell Terrier mix (she looked like a Jack Russell on stilts, probably whippet) called Sadie at that time. Sadie was fascinated by the baby and would keep taking my hand in her mouth and lad me over to the crib. I was and still am more interested in dogs than babies, though I am very fond of the big guy my brother is now! This behaviour fascinated me.

My first own dog was a rescue German Shepherd. She was lovely, soft and just so naturally obedient. She passed in 2003 and and I wanted my next dog to be a little more challenging. She didn’t really want to do very much. 

A few months later we brought home Cindy. I very quickly learned that dogs don’t read books and to be careful what I wished for. Cindy was a tornado!

She saw me take a very steep learning curve. She could be incredibly clever, I taught her so many tricks and skills,  but she always had a mind of her own and I never fully harnessed the ability to stop her taking off in chase.

In 2010 Henne, a puppy from strong working lines came to join us. I had been assured that gundog training had moved on and that the harsh corrections and training mehods I’d read in books and seen on tv were much in the past. I took him to a gundog class strongly recommended and very very quickly learned that some trainers had most certainly not moved on. 

It was truly awful to see a german pointer, just sitting there suddenly haulled of the ground on a rope lead with a massive jolt … for no reason whatsoever but to demonstrate to the class the appropriate amount of force that you needed to inflict on your dog. No thank you!

Shortly after, Henne got ill with puppy meningitis and died. I vowed that I would prove that there was a better way with my next dog. Cindy passed a year later and while waiting for my next I fostered a few different dogs.

Escher came to us in January 2014 as a pup, again from working lines. I’d met Denise while fostering, and had intended to go to her classes but ended up working for her instead!

I started running a force free gundog class and trying to work out different ways of achieving the same ends as were required of a gundog  but by only using positive methods. 

I am myself  dreadful in competition – that kind of all eyes on me pressure totally melts my brains and i go into a mashed up auto pilot mode so I knew I could not make those big waves in the gundog field directly, but it gave me the fabulous opportunity to be able to inspire others who really could take their achievements on in to the mainstream world and prove  that force free is not only as effective, but better than using punishers and fear to make a dog comply.