Spend money on anything - except a dog

Is it my imagination, or have dogs become more hyperactive and aggressive?
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The Independent Online

Unlike the Cambridge MP who recently castigated one of his constituents for spending the £9m he had just won on the Lottery unwisely, I take little interest in other peoples' shopping habits. If, like the man down the road, you can afford a 20-foot-high reconstituted concrete reproduction of the Trevi fountain that can be floodlit for parties and programmed to spout water in several different colours at several different heights, then go ahead and get one, for heaven's sake. Get half a dozen while you're about it and give them to friends for Christmas.

As far as I'm concerned, people can spend their money on anything they like - except dogs, in particular big, vicious alsatians that bite people, like Dino. You must have heard of Dino. There were hourly news bulletins on radio and television about the wretched dog yesterday, but in case you missed them, he's the German shepherd who bit someone three years ago in Northampton and was subsequently ordered to be put down.

Happily for Dino, his owner and best friend, Bryan Lamont, dug his toes in. He took the case from the Magistrates' Court to the Crown Court to the High Court and finally to the European Court in Strasbourg, with the result that Dino was reprieved, his death sentence quashed, and Mr and Mrs Lamont are over the moon with happiness despite the fact that they have had to fork out £60,000 in legal fees.

Clearly, that old maxim about everyone being equal in the eyes of the law does not apply to dog owners. If, for instance, Bertie, the manky old pooch that belonged to the little old lady who used to live in the flat next door before she died, had bitten the postman and been sentenced to death by the local magistrates, that would have been the end of it. Mrs C certainly didn't have the money to take Bertie's case to Strasbourg. Pity. She might have won, either because Bertie didn't have any teeth or because the postman at the time was a particularly nasty piece of work whom I often felt like biting myself.

He usually left the post on the doorstep, preferably in a puddle because, he said, the letterbox was higher than regulation guidelines. And whenever he came to the door with a registered letter that needed a signature, he would bemoan the fact that I was fully dressed (I've always been an early riser) and then launch into lewd reminiscences about all the women who had answered the door in baby-doll nighties. Or less. "Have you got a pencil?" they would ask sleepily. Grinning lasciviously, he would tell them they could borrow his any time they liked, darlin', and 40 minutes later he'd be sitting at their kitchen tables eating bacon and eggs. No wonder our post was always late.

But I digress. It's dogs I'm complaining about, not postmen. Is it my imagination or have dogs become more hyperactive and aggressive, like children, except that unlike kids you can't really blame it on television and video games. One reason I've given up running round the park and joined the gym is that I got fed up with being attacked by dogs, quite often tiny dogs not much bigger than rats. They'd suddenly appear, race across the grass and hurl themselves at my knees, snapping and yapping and being generally loathesome. I'd jog on, snarling and lashing out with my fists, and then the owners, invariably big women in brogues and Barbours, would intervene, snatch the rats to their bosoms and say: "Frightfully sorry, he wouldn't hurt you, I promise, he's just high-spirited, aren't you muffin?" Or Puffin, or Joffin.

One morning, a particularly vicious rat managed to grab hold of my ankle and give it quite a sharp nip. Its owner, by the look on her face, was about to order me to take my horrible great foot out of her poor little dog's mouth when she saw the blood and changed her tune.

"It's only a surface scratch," she assured me hastily, dabbing at my leg with a handkerchief to remove the evidence. "But you're a very naughty boy, Mr Jeeves, and I'm going to have to spank you."

I can't pretend that I like dogs, apart from guide dogs, sheepdogs and a few black Labradors, but I am not an inhumane person. When a dog snaps playfully at your ankles it may not intend to hurt you, but that's beside the point. It needs to be taught civilised behaviour, social skills, and there are places designed to do just that up and down the country that cost a great deal less than £60,000.

If training fails, there's always the short, sharp shock - taking all their teeth out. People have their cats' claws removed to stop them scratching the furniture. What's the difference?