The way Donna Whitney and Peggy Mayette talk about dogs, you’d think they were talking about their kids.

Terrible twos. Playtime. Being firm and consistent in parenting. Teaching them to stay away from traffic.

“Dogs are part of my family,” Mayette admits. “Where I go, they go.” One of her dogs was born in the back of the family’s minivan on Mayette’s way home from picking the kids up at school.

Longtime friends, the two started their at their Farmington obedience business, K-9 Motivations, in 1995. Whitney, of Farmington, works full-time as a veterinarian technician at the Animal Hospital of Waterville and has been training dogs forever, it seems. Same goes for Mayette, of Weld, who used to show dogs all over the East Coast and breeds East German shepherds.

Currently, Mayette is also a student at the University of Maine at Augusta, majoring in psychology. It’s a field of study that carries over to her job at K-9.

What the two have discovered is that training dogs is really about training dog owners.

“If you are thinking we are going to train your dog, you are mistaken,” Mayette says laughing. “We are going to train you. And if you come in with an attitude that you know it all. Well, I don’t know why you are here.”

Dog owners shouldn’t be too passive or too aggressive when training their four-legged friend good doggie demeanor, the two say. They shouldn’t feel guilty looking into those sad eyes and give in, and they can’t surrender to their temper when the mutt makes a mess.

“Dogs are just like kids,” Whitney says. “You have to teach them the rules of the house and make it so the dog truly becomes a member of the family.”

Mayette agrees that dogs are just as tricky as humans to raise. “Just like kids,” she says, “they like to push and pull your buttons.”

And so, just like parents who read books, take classes and do research on the Internet for tips on how to be better moms and dads, dog owners must do the same, according to Whitney and Mayette.

They offer six-week obedience classes in Farmington and in Fairfield, private lessons, handling classes, puppy preschool and can help train search and rescue dogs. The six-week sessions are the most popular and cost $70.

For the first class, it’s just the owners with no dogs for two hours. The goal is to work on getting owners ready to provide consistent and firm, yet loving, obedience training for their dogs. The next five classes last about an hour, and teach the commands to sit, stay, heal, come and lie down as well as safety, dealing with distractions, and how to interact with other animals and people.

At the end of the course is graduation, where dogs parade to “Pomp and Circumstance” and receive diplomas and bags filled with treats. They don’t have caps and gowns – yet.

Sure, it’s a lot of work raising a good dog, but the benefits of owning a good dog, Whitney says, are that obedient dogs are less likely to bite and make messes. It’s easier to travel with a behaved dog, or if they must stay home, it’s easier to find them a pet-sitter. Well-behaved dogs are more loyal and take a stronger role as protector.

“There is no cookie-cutter way to train a dog,” Mayette says. “But, if you do this right, you have a lifelong companion. Someone there who will love you unconditionally. It’s hard work, but it’s worth the rewards.”

For more information: phone 778-9261 or 645-2011 or e-mail [email protected] or [email protected]

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