Owning a dog is an excellent way for pensioners to take exercise, enjoy loyal companionship and accumulate a large collection of sticks.

In broad terms, dogs fall into two categories: real dogs like Alsatians, Labradors and Irish wolfhounds, and offensive ornaments such as Pomeranians, Chihuahuas and Bichon Frise, all of which are related to caterpillars and earwigs.

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of crossbreeds such as the cockapoo (cocker spaniel/poodle), the golden eagle (golden retriever/beagle) and Jack Russell (jackal/Brussels sprout), though many of these suffer from genetic mutations and may have more than one tail, external teeth and castors instead of feet.

With patience, dogs can be trained to be obedient, well-behaved and perform simple tricks, including jumping through tyres, juggling guinea pigs and kite-surfing, while breeds such as the Norwegian buhund and the Austrian Glocknerwand Hovawart are routinely used as marshals in downhill skiing competitions.

‘A dog is not just for Christmas’ encapsulates the long-term commitment needed by every serious dog owner, although this needn’t apply to dachshunds, which can be covered in chocolate ganache and baked in a medium oven to create a deliciously distinctive yule log for the festive table.

As a responsible owner, you should always wear a muzzle in public, never alarm sheep by sudden unannounced shearing and only sniff the rear parts of other owners with prior permission.