Beyond Sit and Stay: The Secret to Dog Training is Teamwork    

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“Dogs communicate through their emotions. It’s our job to interpret what they’re feeling and what it means. Are they anxious, excited, happy or scared?” asks Stefanie Duval, owner and founder of Happy Paws DC, a boarding, training and daycare home-away-from-home in upper Northwest. “The owner, trainer and the dog have to understand each other so they can work together as a team to bring out the dog’s best behavior.”   

Since 2007, Happy Paws has been helping pet parents live happily ever after with their dogs — “from recent rescues, who need to learn the ways of the world or longtime family members who could benefit from a little refresher course in manners.” Stefanie explains that without consistency, dogs and their caregivers can easily forget their lessons. “Every day is training day, whether our canine clients are here with us or at home with their owners.”  

Lauri Spiliotes would definitely agree. The now-retired in-house counsel for a large D.C.-based philanthropy and her husband have always lived with dogs. “We had boxers while the kids were growing up and planned to get a new dog once we retired. But the pandemic came and we were still both working — now from home — and it seemed like the right time to bring another dog into our lives.”  

That one dog turned into two: year-old siblings Coco and Nellie, pit bull and beagle mixes, who were, in a word, “ten handfuls,” Lauri recalls. “They were very high energy and hyperalert, each in different ways. And we were at our wits’ ends.” Did they ever think about re-homing them? “Never! We had taken on this responsibility and were determined to see it through.”  

Happy Paws to the rescue. The couple had never done daycare before but discovered it was just the answer to their needs. “From the beginning, we could see a difference. They responded to clicker training and that helped us to help them settle down and become more manageable. It made a tremendous difference in their lives and ours.”  

The experience has turned the Spiliotes family — canine and human — into devoted fans of Happy Paws. Three years later, Coco and Nellie are still enrolled in their play and train sessions and even spend the occasional night in the boarding facility.  

“What I appreciate about Stefanie is that she’s very direct and honest. She’s done a terrific job hiring people… they are knowledgeable, kind, love dogs and are calm themselves. You get the sense that there’s nothing they haven’t seen and can communicate what you need to do to help your dog,” Lauri said. “If you’re either overwhelmed by a new dog or need some guidance, Happy Paws is the place to go.”  

Happy Paws is located at 4904 Wisconsin Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20016. Tel: 202.363.7297. For more information, visit or contact  







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