Meet Our Training Class Instructors

Sarah Babcock, CTC, CPDT-KSA, CBCC-KA, CDBC 
Advanced Agility Classes

While she was working at IBM, Sarah found, adopted and began training a dog named Crosby. Crosby inspired Sarah to pursue additional education in animal behavior at the University of Richmond, where she completed three years of graduate work in psychology and neuroscience.

Sarah joined the staff of the Richmond SPCA in 2001, soon after graduating valedictorian and with honors from Jean Donaldson’s Academy for Dog Trainers at the San Francisco SPCA.

The dogs who share Sarah’s home have competed in canine agility, trained in tricks, done commercial work for local and national brands, appeared on the cover of Bark magazine, and visited local retirement communities as part of the Richmond SPCA’s Paws for Health® Program. Her Henrico County farm is also home to cats, chickens and miniature horses, all of whom have benefited from some degree of clicker training.

Jacob Burnheimer
Canine Manners, Surviving Adolescence

Jacob believes each dog has a different set of skills and strengths that are unique to that dog’s personality. He likes to use each dog’s individual skills and strengths to help with training, rather than prescribing the same routine to each dog he works with. Jacob is currently pursuing his PCT-A (Professional Canine Trainer – Accredited) certification through the Pet Professional Guild.  

Jacob has two adopted pets at home: a 7-year-old hound dog named Floyd and a 2-year-old black cat named Frankie whom he adopted from the Richmond SPCA in March of 2019. 

Alisha K. Fritz
Good Start Puppy 1 and 2, Surviving Adolescence, Canine Manners, Advanced Manners, Street Manners, House Manners, Managing a Reactive Dog, Creating a Calm Dog, Tricks for All Types

Alisha was first introduced to training in 2006 and has been professionally training dogs since 2009. She earned her Certified Professional Dog Trainer-Knowledge and Skills Assessed certification in 2014 and is currently working towards becoming a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant. Alisha is also a Canine Good Citizen evaluator and is certified in pet first aide. She is particularly skilled in working with reactive dogs and resource guarders.

Alisha has three dogs and many small pets, including reptiles, rodents, and birds.

Anne Grier
Agility A, B

Anne has been an instructor at the Richmond SPCA since 2018. Her classes are designed to introduce dogs and their handlers to the wonderful sport of agility. She strives to strengthen her students’ connection to their pets by fostering play and a sense of fun while building effective communication between dog and handler.

Anne served on the Richmond SPCA’s Board of Directors for many years, including terms as Chair of the Board. She was honored to receive our Ellen Glasgow Award for Humane Service in 2005.

Anne has six dogs of her own, three of whom play agility with her.

Mel Hardwick
Agility A, B, B/C, C, Canine Manners, Managing a Reactive Dog

Mel joined the Richmond SPCA as a training class instructor in the summer of 2017.

Mel is actively involved with many local humane organizations. She specializes in working with dogs exhibiting fearful and shy behaviors and reactive dogs. She also is skilled in helping dogs master that ever-challenging teeter on the agility course!

Mel believes pet training should be an exercise in fun and fostering mutual respect, while being a bridge to understanding between pet and parent. She has five dogs of her own (Bean, Shepherd Book, Brooke, Elli and Kaylee) and one former alley cat turned couch potato (Washburne), plus a rotating assortment of foster dogs.

Eileen Holst-Grubbe, CTC
Managing a Reactive Dog

Eileen joined the Richmond SPCA School for Dogs in September 2017, about a year after her graduation with honors from The Academy for Dog Trainers. The comprehensive and rigorous “Harvard of dog training schools” provided Eileen with the skills to help dogs be dogs in a human world.

Since beginning her time at School for Dogs, Eileen has honed a love for working with dogs trying to conquer problems such as leash reactivity and discomfort with body handling.

Eileen shares her life with her 10-year-old dog Willow and cats Kurt and Kit.

Lesley Gurule, CPDT-KA
Good Start Puppy 1 & 2, Puppy Socialization and Play

Lesley is a transplant from Brooklyn, New York. After volunteering for more than ten years at a local rescue and seeing how behavior issues brought dogs into the shelter, and often kept them there, Lesley decided to become a dog trainer. She was accepted into the dog training apprenticeship program at Amanda Gagnon Dog Training in New York City and completed her certification as a Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed.

Lesley shares her home with her two cats, Chet and Albee. Now that they no longer live in a closet in Brooklyn, negotiations about getting a dog have commenced. 

Emily Neal
Intro to Flyball

Emily has been professionally teaching flyball since 2014 and joined the Richmond SPCA’s staff in 2018. She is an R+ (positive-reinforcement) trainer who believes playing sports with your dog should be all fun!

Emily’s flyball team was first runner up for Region 15 Multibreed in 2017. Her team was also the 2015 Regular and Multibreed Champion. Her dog Mordecai is recognized as the #4-all time greyhound in the North American Flyball Association.

At home, Emily has three dogs who participate in Flyball (Blanche FGDCH50K, Mordecai FM and Axton), a cat named Sophia, a snake named Killian and a gecko named Dorothy.

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