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Bo Obama’s Trainer Dies
Champion for positive-reinforcement, Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz will be missed
Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz recently told Bark:

Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, 52, who trained dogs for the late senator Edward M. Kennedy and trained first dog Bo (known to her as Charlie) before he went to live in the White House, died Jan. 12 in Virginia. According to The Washington Post, she had been leading dog training classes days before her death. After being admitted to the hospital, for reasons that were not stated in the obituary, she went into a coma and died of respiratory distress.

A champion of positive-reinforcement training methods, many of which she detailed in her book, The Love That Dog Training Program (written with Larry Kay), Sylvia-Stasiewicz will be missed by all of those who have been touched by her message of loving and respecting dogs, and teaching them as we would our children.
In a recent interview with Bark, Sylvia-Stasiewicz was asked why training mattered. Her answer stuck with me: “Training opens up communication; it’s a language that helps our dog understand us, and vice versa,” she said. It’s a true sentiment beautifully and simply expressed. We train not simply to keep our dogs off the couch but to develop our relationship with them.
Bark interviewed Sylvia-Stasiewicz shortly before she died. That interview, which will appear in our February issue and in a longer form online, was apparently her last. Dawn’s family has requested that tax-deductible contributions be made to the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) Foundation to further her work in researching, developing and promoting best practices in positive reinforcement dog training. Dawn’s mentor and APDT Founder, Dr. Ian Dunbar, is presiding over the fund.
Details on a memorial and opportunities to pay tribute can be found at lovethatdogbook.com.


Lisa Wogan lives in Seattle and is the author of, most recently, Dog Park Wisdom. lisawogan.com

Photo by Evan Sklar.

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Submitted by Carolyn | January 17 2011 |

“Training opens up communication; it’s a language that helps our dog understand us, and vice versa.” Beautiful quote and the main reason I am so interested in training. I'm sorry for her loss and look forward to my February issue with her interview.

Submitted by Ann | January 19 2011 |

I am so sorry not to have known about her work sooner despite the fact that positive-reinforcement training is the method I choose to train my dogs. The results of positive training speaks for itself and cannot compare to any other training method. I get such joy when the light bulb goes off in my dog's head as he/she masters a new command (you can see it in their faces and their body language). For me it is utter elation as I watch them "get it" and for them, it is triumphant satisfaction not only because they are completely pleased with themselves but in doing so they have pleased me, which is what most canines live to do. I think many dog owners either forget that or don't realize that dogs really do want to please. Dogs spend a lot of energy trying to translate the language of their owners while constantly evaluating the world around them and their place in it. This is one of the most remarkable traits of our canine companions, interpreting our human world while constantly "reading" us in order to better perform our requests. Thank you Sylvia-Stasiewicz for your work and all of those trainers who propagate this training method.

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