Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Canine philosophy

November 22nd, 2008

JULIUS CAESAR is said to have remarked that Roman women had given up having babies in favour of their lap dogs. Could this be said of our family? We've had eight dogs and three children, but I've always thought it was because dogs are so much more economical than children.

We've always treated our dogs very much as part of the family. This doesn't mean they've been treated with undue sentimentality or allowed free rein in the house. I firmly believe that the dogs' interests have to be subordinate to the family's. To allow a dog to think he is master of the household is clearly nonsense. Without human assistance, for instance, no household pet could feed itself or turn on the tap to fill its water bowl.

GK Chesterton said, “I always like a dog so long as he isn't spelled backwards.” I fear that some owners give in to their dogs and allow them to be cock of the midden, and they can become utter tyrants. It's not surprising if a dog is allowed to get away with murder that it expects to be able to do so permanently. We've never allowed our little “gods” to commandeer a comfy chair which would otherwise be offered to a visitor, and dogs on beds is strictly forbidden.

I used to say I wanted to own a real “bite your leg” dog. I got Macbeth, but he would only bite my leg if it was covered in gravy. It was a meaningless remark anyway, and the old adage that every dog is allowed one bite before it is judged to be vicious is equally meaningless. Allowed to behave out of control, a dog as small as Macbeth (West Highland terrier) is as capable of inflicting terrible damage on a small child as Inka (Labrador) could have inflicted on me.

The ideas of the pack, and a pecking order within the pack, are instinctive in a dog. If the family is the pack then the dog is at the bottom of the pecking order – in just the same way as he would experience the protocols of precedent in the wild. House rules become the pack rules and it's we humans who write the rule book. Dogs are most secure when they know their place and it is up to us owners to define it.

I've never minded my dogs barking when people come to the door. They're better than any doorbell and are aware of callers long before they reach the doorstep. This protective behaviour has never continued inside the house but I've sometimes wondered how any of our dogs would react if a member of the family was threatened by an intruder.

“The best thing about a man is his dog”. I hesitate to ask the Doyenne about this one in case she agrees with it!