Dear Old Trainer: I want to get a family dog. I prefer one from the pound but my wife wants one that has papers. What is your opinion? -- Unsure, San Francisco
A: Every time The Old Trainer hears that question, Unsure, he is reminded of the scene in "The Karate Kid" when Daniel asks Mr. Miyagi, "Do you have a black belt?" Mr. Miyagi answers, "Only belt I have is belt to hold up pants."
"Papers" are no indication of how a dog will turn out. A dog with "papers" may turn out to be a great dog, but the "papers" will have nothing to do with it.
"Papers" are part of the dog marketing business. It includes dog shows with hefty ladies running around in a circle with a dog on a leash. The dog is then judged based entirely on how its looks measure up against an arbitrary scale invented by the same hefty ladies. You have no idea if the dog will catch a Frisbee, take a nap with you or likes to take a trip in a car -- all essential traits of a good pet.
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Mr. Miyagi didn't care about a black belt, and a potential dog owner needn't care about papers. The dog is what is important -- not the papers.
Dear Old Trainer: I have decided to get a dog and thought I might get the same breed as you. What kind of dog do you have and how many?
-- Curious, Chowchilla.
Regular readers of this column know that The Old Trainer dearly loves border collies. He has three of his own -- Streak, Rowdy and Dixie, all rescue dogs, and is down to only five dogs total at this time. The other two are an Australian shepard named Little Red and a border collie named Rocky, both rescue dogs. As soon as they are ready, The Old Trainer will find homes for them -- but not before he enjoys them a little more.
Border collies are magnificent dogs, but are not the right choice for everyone. That is the reason I have rescued so many -- more than 200 as of this writing. Picking the right dog for your circumstances requires work on your part to ensure that you make the right choice (see next letter).
Dear Old Trainer: I want to get a dog, but I have heard horror stories about people getting dogs that won't behave. Which breed do you advise I get? -- Worried, Fresno.
Well, Worried, you can quit worrying. You will have no problems if you take the few, simple steps that will ensure that you get the right dog.
First, evaluate yourself. The secret to choosing the right dog is honestly assessing your own lifestyle and choosing a dog that will match. How active are you? How much time do you have each day to devote to your dog? How much room do you have? How often do you travel? Do you have kids? Do you have a yard?
There is a dog out there that is ideal for you, but to find it you have to understand yourself.
Next, talk to people at your local shelter and rescue groups and tell them about yourself. If you have a breed in mind, mention that to them. Any experienced dog handler can talk to you for five minutes and know which breeds will make a good fit. In addition, they get to know the personalities of the individual dogs they are working with.
Look at the dogs they recommend and spend some time with them. Take them for a walk. Pet them. Throw a stick for them. Discuss it again with the dog handlers. You will make a correct choice, and you will have no problems.
Send your questions for The Old Trainer to: TheOldTrainer711@yahoo.com