Great news on the Bo Obama front! The pup’s trainer, who kept him under wraps for the first family, is a firm believer in positive reinforcement. Sylvia Stasiewicz, founder of Merit Puppy Training in Virginia was one of the first to bring humane training techniques to the area. When Stasievicz founded her business she realized the command-and-control, choke-collar approach employed by most trainers of the time was less appealing and less effective than the newer positive-reinforcement approach. She rejects chokers and harsh corrections and relies on food and lures and seizing opportunities to reward good behaviors while largely ignoring unwanted ones.

Merit Puppy Training focuses on puppies and families learning and growing together. Strasiewicz stresses the importance of starting dogs off on the right paw from a young age with plenty of socialization and good manners from the start. She has developed a curriculum that helps people create family-friendly dogs. The doggy etiquette she teaches included polite leash walking, not jumping up and no resource guarding. She also teaches people to be more dog savvy and helps them recognize their dogs’ limitations and be sensitive to their pets’ needs.

Hats off to Sylvia Stasiewicz for bringing dog-friendly training into the spotlight!