Deb is owner & co-founder of Gold Star Dog Training LLC, based in Fairfax, Vermont. She enjoys working with dogs and their handlers to solve their challenges, build a healthy dog-handler relationship, and achieve their training goals. She is highly student-focused—adept at explaining concepts, helping every student feel successful, and creating training experiences that are meaningful and effective. Deb’s sense of humor, enthusiastic teaching style, and ability to work with a wide range of students are what clients seem to like about her.  Teaching is not new to Deb; for nearly three decades, she taught writing and served as a writing coach.

Deb has been a therapy dog handler since 1996 and the volunteer Director of Training and Certification for Therapy Dogs of Vermont (TDV) since 2005. In this role, she manages the testing and evaluation of new therapy dog teams, oversees a statewide team of testers and evaluators, and is responsible for all policies and guidelines related to therapy dog certification. She also created TDV’s first training programs in 2008. Deb has been a therapy dog handler since 1996 and has been the volunteer Director of Training and Certification since 2005.  She’s had 6 therapy dog partners over the years!

Deb also volunteers with German Shepherd Resource and Rescue Center, Inc., based in Massachusetts. She serves as an advisor on dog training and behavior, is a resource for questions regarding GSDs in their foster program, does home visits and phone screenings, and writes articles for their newsletter and educational programs.  She also works closely with VT Dog Rescue a canine educational consultant; in this volunteer position, Deb shares her training skills and expertise with foster parents as well as adopters.   You can read more about her community service efforts here

When she is not working with dogs, Deb works in business development for a research and consulting firm, managing proposal efforts as well as a publications department. She lives in Fairfax with her husband Tom, their German Shepherd mix, Cora, and their German Shepherd Mya. Previous family members, now deceased but always remembered and loved, have included German Shepherds Jordan, Khese, and Isa. 

Gold Star Dog Training was founded in 2011 by Maryellen Sullivan and Deb Helfrich.  After meeting at a dog-related seminar, they quickly realized they shared both a passion for all things dogs and the desire to help others with their dogs.  After several successful years growing the business and just having tons of fun doing so, Maryellen moved on to other interests.  Maryellen continues to serve as a valued business advisor, friend, and all around great dog buddy.