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Fauquier dog trainer teaches Bo to behave
Fauquier trainer taught first dog Bo Obama to behave himself

 Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz makes sure the dogs she trains will fit in well with children. She worked with the Obamas' dog, Bo, and is confident he'll be a great addition to the first family. 'He's a very loving dog,' she said.
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Date published: 4/25/2009


Bo knows Fauquier County.

That's right. Before his well-publicized romp across the South Lawn with the first family two days after Easter, Bo Obama learned a thing or two at the Hume home of dog trainer Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz.

When the curly-haired pup with the tuxedo-like coat, then known as "Charlie," showed up at Sylvia-Stasiewicz's house in March, his future was uncertain.

His first home hadn't worked out, she was told, because the family's older dog hadn't taken to the frisky youngster.

Sylvia-Stasiewicz was already training one of Charlie's littermates, Cappy, the youngest of three Portuguese water dogs owned by Sen. Edward Kennedy and his wife, Vicki.

She was asked to evaluate Charlie to see if he'd be good for a family with kids.

The fact that the family in question was the one living in the big white house on Pennsylvania Avenue wasn't revealed until several weeks into the dog's training.

"I trained and lived with him as though he were one of my own," said Sylvia-Stasiewicz, 51, who occasionally walked him around the Warrenton Petco to gauge his response to other dogs.

"I put him around kids, got to know his temperament. He's sweet and cuddly and he pays attention to you," she said. "He's a very loving dog."

Her month with Charlie-turned-Bo was nostalgic. Sylvia-Stasiewicz, who has owned and worked with just about every breed of dog over the past two decades, had owned a "Portie" named Ebony in the '80s.

Ebony was especially loving with her three children, she said.

"There's practically not a picture of the kids without her there," she said. "She was good with everybody."

Bo was similarly good-natured, she said, and a quick study. Both he and brother Cappy were easily house-trained, she said.

"With both of those dogs, I had not one accident ever," she said. "It's been years since I had one like that--a bladder you would kill for."

She crate-trained Bo, taught him some basic commands and brought him along to the Merit Puppy Training class she teaches each week at the Jelleff Boys & Girls Club in Georgetown.

No one knew the playful pup was White House-bound, and he never put on airs, said Washington resident Jacqueline Eyl, whose beagle-German shepherd mix, Ruby, faithfully attended the class.

"She probably slobbered all over him," Eyl added.

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Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz has been training dogs for more than 20 years, and specializes in working with families with children.

Most of her hour-long classes take place in the evenings at the Jelleff Boys & Girls Club in Georgetown, though she has offered some in Front Royal. The next six-week session in Georgetown begins May 18.

She teaches about a dozen puppies (and their owners) at a time, covering the basics--sit, stay, come, off--and addressing problem behaviors, all while using positive reinforcement. Private obedience training also is available.

For more information, visit meritpuppy.com on the Web.

See a video of her puppy-training class on fredericksburg.com.