Puppies in the Palisades

Local Dog Trainer Julie Sterling Trains Pupil Pooches to Perfection

A six-week puppy-training course kicked off March 9 at Palisades Lutheran Church, led by local dog trainer Julie Sterling—born and raised in Pacific Palisades.

Now in its fifth week, Sterling is transforming her puppy protégés into some truly courtly canines.

“I’ve been training dogs for 40 years,” Sterling told the Palisadian-Post. “I’ve been doing this my whole life. It’s what I love to do. You don’t get tired of it. Well, maybe physically tired.”

Sterling, who runs Sterling Dog Training, LLC., leads group puppy training classes and also offers private, in-home lessons and consultations, including “pre-puppy” consultations for households considering adopting or rescuing a furry family member.

“I like to work with people—that’s what it takes to be a good dog trainer, you have to love working with people too. I’m training people too,” Sterling said with a laugh.

Classes meet Saturdays at 8:30 a.m. The first class was just the dog owners and Sterling, who used a “demo dog” to exhibit some training techniques.

The class then gradually works puppies through “Level One” foundational material, beginning with a half-hour of off-leash, supervised free play and socialization followed by an instructional portion with training methods that employ positive reinforcement and clicker training.

Sterling training a puppy

“I don’t want anybody’s puppy to get scared or hurt, so I take a lot of precautions to make sure socializing goes well,” Sterling explained “When I have a new group of puppies, I set up the ‘meek and mild’ pen to separate younger, timid dogs who take longer to feel comfortable.

“It’s great to have the owners there so I can point out to them what kind of behavior is appropriate or if they need to intervene. By the end, the dogs are all running around together.”

As the training nears completion, the puppies have already mastered obedience commands including how to sit, stay, lay down and touch a target.

“Everybody’s having a great time—this class in particular seems to be uniformly fluffy,” Sterling said. “Sometimes you’ll get a class full of labs or German Shepherd, but this one is full of a bunch of fluffy puppies.”

For owners unable to attend a Saturday class, Sterling also offers a “boot camp” for dogs.

“I pick up a bunch of dogs in a van outfitted with individual kennels,” Sterling explained. “I work with them during the day on obedience but they get a ton of exercise and socialization. It’s like sending your dog away to camp.”

The boot camp is five days a week for Sterling, with private training sessions when possible followed by a Saturday group class.

“The class is great because it’s a lot of the same material and more affordable than the boot camp.”

At age 10, Sterling asked her parents for her first dog, a beagle named Tammy-Lou, training her at the local basketball courts.

At Palisades High School, she learned how to groom dogs then for two years attended Pierce College, becoming a certified veterinary technician. Later, at UC Davis while studying animal science, Sterling got involved with the local SPCA and even opened up her own grooming shop: Julie’s Pet Grooming.

She later worked as the technical director for the VCA on Sepulveda Boulevard before becoming a full-time dog trainer in the ’80s.

Today, Sterling belongs to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers and has also trained horses, mules, donkeys, alpacas, pot-bellied pigs and cats.

“There are dog trainers that just train dogs because they don’t get along with people, but they never become successful,” Sterling shared. “I really appreciate and love my clients. I get to be part of their family, to see kids who were babies the first time I went to their house. That’s the beauty of having been in the same community for this long.

“Darn it, I love the animals, I love the people and that’s why I love to do this, and they say if you do what you love, you never work a day in your life.”

For private dog training or to enroll your puppy in a class, email Julie at juliesburditt@gmail.com or call (310) 573-1150