THE OLD TRAINER: When picking a dog, don’t worry about breed

D ear Old Trainer: I had dogs I loved when I was a kid, but not as an adult. I have kids now and want them to have those same memories, so I am going to get a dog in the next few weeks. Do you recommend any breed? I think I want a Lab or a golden although I never had either. You always mention getting your dogs from shelters, but will they have purebreds like that? Any ideas or advice you have will help me.

– Coleman, Merced

Dear Coleman: Don’t worry about the breed. Concentrate on the individual dog. Every dog is a good dog and is perfect for someone. The only thing that matters is which one fits you and the family best.

Choosing a dog – like music – is subjective. “Love In Vain” was written by legendary Mississippi blues man Robert Johnson in 1937. Half a century later, the same song was recorded by the Rolling Stones, a group of white boys from England, playing electric guitars which did not even exist when Johnson wrote the song.

Both versions are beautiful. Both are pure art. If you prefer one over the other it is not because one is worse, it is because something in you responds to one version more than the other.

The same thing occurs when choosing a dog.

That’s why the shelter is the ideal place to find one. The people who run them are interested in finding the perfect dog for you and the perfect home for their dogs. They know their dogs very well, and they know the kind of home each one needs.

The reason I always advise getting your dog from a shelter is because they are filled with wonderful dogs. I know. I have worked with thousands of them, and every dog I have came from one.

And the best place to get a purebred dog is the shelter. They are chock full of purebreds, especially Labs and goldens. Check the Internet and you’ll find dozens of rescue groups for both breeds.

Goldens and Labs are wonderful dogs – gentle, loving and smart. Perfect for a family and perfect as companions, but they are both large breeds. They need a lot of exercise and a lot of room to roam – and they love water and need access to it.

Here’s my advice: Go to your local shelter and tell them about yourself — how active you are, how much space you have, what you are looking for. Take the kids along. The people at the shelter will know which dogs fit you best and bring them out so you and the kids can walk with them and play with them.

Observe them as they interact with you and play with the kids, and you will find it is easy to judge their personalities.

Dogs know when they will fit into a family, so watch for the one that looks at you and the kids, falls in love, and adopts you on the spot. You’ll know when it happens because the dog will let you know it loves you and won’t take no for an answer.

That’s the dog for you.