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 3 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
A Hound in the Home, Canine Manners, Surviving Adolescence, Managing a Reactive Dog

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 three adopted pets at home: a 9-year-old hound dog named Floyd and two Richmond SPCA alumni, a 4-year-old black cat named Frankie and 1-year-old Gracie, a Maine Coon mix. 

Mariah Dudley, CPDT-KA
Good Start Puppy 1 & 2, Puppy Socialization and Play, Surviving Adolescence, Canine Manners

Mariah became interested in behavior and training in 2017 when she rescued her first dog. She then interned at a local dog training facility and began teaching her own classes in 2019. Mariah started her own dog training business in 2020 and joined the Richmond SPCA as a class instructor in 2021. She earned her CPDT-KA (Certified Professional Dog Trainer – Knowledge Assessed) certification through the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT) in 2021. Mariah is a member of the Association of Professional Dog Trainers (APDT) and a supporting member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants (IAABC). She is passionate about continuing education and is always seeking opportunities to learn more about canine behavior.

She shares her life and home with her rescue dogs, Sadie, a Husky/Shepherd mix, and Opie, an Australian Shepherd/Rottie mix, her rescue cat named Simba, a very patient partner and her active toddler.

Julie Fields, CPDT-KA
Surviving Adolescence, Canine Manners, Street Manners, Private Lessons

Julie started training as a member of the Richmond SPCA’s Green Team in 2012. Green Team members are trained in teaching the dogs in our care skills that will help prepare the dogs for adoption, while providing them with physical exercise and mental stimulation. She quickly realized, “The best dog in the world is the one you are with right now!” After working with shelter dogs and assisting in all levels of classes, she joined the training staff in 2019. Julie greatly enjoys the interactions with students and their pets and wants to help students achieve their goals in training.

She lives with her husband, Lee, and two dogs, Max and Hercules.

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’ connections 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 five dogs of her own, three of whom play agility with her.

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 number four 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) and a snake named Killian.

Sandi Pitini
Agility C, D, Workshops

Sandi has been an agility instructor since 2023.  She has been competing in agility for over 18 years with her golden retrievers and  has earned multiple championships with them.  Her current dog, Dancer, is 5 years old and has earned 8 MACHs (championships).  The American Kennel Club ranked Dancer as the #5 Golden Retriever in agility as of December 31, 2022, and he earned his place in AKC invitationals. For 2023 he is currently ranked at #4 in the nation. Sandi is also competing with her 2 year old golden, Dreamer, who has already earned his AKC Master Titles for Standard and Jumpers.  Her training goals focus on helping students solidify their connection and teamwork with their dogs, enabling faster runs and distance.

Julie W, IAABC-ADT, AD-PDT, CTDI, CGC Evaluator
Rally Obedience, Canine Manners, CGC, Tricks, Specialty Classes 

Julie began her dog training career under the mentorship of a certified dog behaviorist and began training professionally in 2016. As the organization’s Rally Obedience instructor, Julie brings many educational and professional achievements to the human-dog teams of the Richmond SPCA community. Julie is a Certified Trick Dog Instructor (CDTI), Accredited Dog Trainer (ADT) through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, Certified Professional Dog Trainer (PDT) through Absolute Dogs, and an AKC Canine Good Citizen evaluator.

Her rescue dog, Elsie, has earned her WCRL (rally) Level 3 Title, Expert Trick Dog and Trick Dog Performer titles, and Canine Good Citizenship. Julie’s young rising star, Rhubarb Pi (Ruby) has earned her Advanced Trick Dog title and is working toward earning her AKC rally titles. A strong proponent of positive reinforcement training, canine enrichment, and least invasive, minimally aversive (LIMA) guidelines, Julie is continually seeking new training challenges for herself and her girls. 

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