Years ago, when Marie and Peter Wade first got married, they got a dog.

And didn’t train it.

They didn’t know what they were doing and the dog didn’t know what was expected. At one point it completely shredded the decorative pillow they’d received as a wedding gift.

“I think that’s the big mistake people make,” Marie Wade said. “They get a dog and, oh yeah, it’s going to be part of the house and they expect all this stuff, but they expect it all to happen automatically.”

More than 20 years later, the Wades run Northern Exposure Kennels in Farmington. They breed German shorthaired pointers and teach others how to train their dogs. 

They even have proof they know what they’re doing: two of their three dogs are certified good citizens. They’ve passed the American Kennel Club’s Canine Good Citizen test, an official recognition that Gretta and Grace obey basic commands and will stay calm and civil even in strange situations. Jada, the Wades’ third dog, had been too young to take the test with her sisters. She may try it this weekend during the Tri-County Obedience Club’s Responsible Dog Ownership Day and Doggie Fair in Mercer. 

It’s a 10-point test anyone can take. It will be available at the fair on Sunday.

“We’re trying to make dog ownership fun and lasting. And promote safety in the community,” said Donna Whitney, a member of the club’s board of directors.

With their first dog the Wades realized an untrained, unruly animal was not fun. Avid bird hunters, they joined the North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association and began reading about training and getting training tips.When the Wades help others train their dogs now, they urge them to be consistent and insistent. And to practice. 

“I relate a lot of dog training stuff to children. You can’t never take your small child, toddler, baby, whatever, to a restaurant or to the grocery store and then, finally, when they’re 7 or 6, take them to the grocery store and expect them to know how to behave,” Marie Wade said. 

Some of the most common issues in untrained dogs, she said: aggression, biting and attacking other dogs. 

The Canine Good Citizen exams tests all that with sample situations designed to gauge a dog’s response. Will Fido lunge at another dog if it walks by? Will he walk calmly through a crowd or call when called or allow a stranger to pet him?

Dogs get a certificate if they pass. Because the certificate proves the dog is well-behaved, Whitney said, it can help people rent an apartment or get home owner’s insurance.

Even as trainers confident in their dog’s obedience, the Wades may take their youngest dog for the test.

“I think it just helps validate what you’re doing with your dog,” Marie Wade said. “And if your dog can’t do a part, you know what you need to work on.”

The fair will be held at the Mercer Community Center from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. For more information, visit www.tcocmaine.com. To register for the Canine Good Citizen test, call 397-4105.    

Have an idea for a pet feature? Contact Lindsay Tice at 689-2854 or e-mail her at [email protected] 

Marie Wade is flanked by her “canine good citizens” in front of her home in Farmington prior to taking them on a hunting trip last week. Grace, left and Gretta, right, Short Haired Pointers, have gone through testing by Tri-County Obedience Club to gain the “canine good citizens” status.


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