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Why I hate dogs but despise their owners even more

Enjoying a walk through the park with my husband and children the other week, it felt good to be out with my family in the fresh air. That was until an unleashed dog decided to bound over and gatecrash the outing.

Such was this hairy beast's enthusiasm to join our party, he hurtled at my four children like a bowling ball into a line of skittles, and in the process nearly knocked my three-yearold off her feet.

The hound clearly couldn't understand the fuss as I scooped up my trembling daughter and tried to soothe her tears. But worse still, neither could its owner.

Indeed instead of inquiring if any harm had been done, she threw her mongrel a smile of absolution and excused the excitable hound's behaviour as youthful exuberance.

Anti-social: Dogs are noisy, aggressive, unhygienic and inconsiderate ... but they're not nearly as bad as their owners

With breathtaking indifference to my traumatised child, she assured us that her thumping great pet "didn't mean any harm". And with that, she clicked her mouth, swung the animal's redundant lead round her shoulder and walked off.

Incidents such as this do more than confirm my dislike of dogs. They inflame my loathing for their owners.

This dreadful strain of humanity is a breed apart. Marked by a delusional acceptance of anything their pets do, dog owners have transformed turning a blind eye into an Olympic sport.

Worse still, their intolerable, sanctimonious conduct means that the rest of us pay the price for their relentless indulgence.

But before all those pet-loving detractors start clamouring that I'm over-reacting, my experience last week was no one-off. I could list countless occasions when this kind of thing has happened.

Take the time I was sitting in a public square with my friend as she fed her baby a jar of food. A picky eater, we were delighted that the banana mush was being happily received. Until, that is, a dog hurtled over and gave the baby's lunch an expansive lick.

Its owner came over, humorously scolded the animal ("you naughty boy, you've had yours"), and offered a helpless shrug by way of explanation.

Catch me at a benign moment and I'll concede this is not really the fault of the dogs. I may dislike them because they are smelly, unhygienic, have the capacity to foul pavements indiscriminately and bark loudly when I'm trying to get to sleep.

But they're dumb animals, driven by instinct rather than reason, so I can't be too harsh. I'll even allow the view that they can make affectionate companions.

What I object to is the way this indulgent one-way relationship is foisted on the rest of us. You see, part of the problem with dog owners is that they behave even more badly than the most doting, showbiz mother.

Quick to exonerate their pet's misdemeanours with feeble explanations, they lavishly praise the unconditional love and loyalty of their four-legged friends.

Not so long ago, the Mail ran an account by a dog-owner, Elaine Everest, who planned to leave all her savings to her pets. Childless by design and not default, she apparently imagines dog-rearing to be so much more satisfying than motherhood, since she has witnessed "too many disappointed parents whose lives had been ruined by the selfishness of their offspring".

It's a jaundiced view of one of the greatest forms of love, yet sadly not unexpected since as a nation our reputation as dog-lovers is underpinned by our dismal and dysfunctional take on family life.

If you think that's harsh, check out the response one reader posted on the Daily Mail website after reading Elaine Everest's article: "I have both dogs and children, and if I had my time over I would not have the children. It's not that I don't love them - I would do anything for them. I just wouldn't have them if I knew then what I know now."

Man's best friend?: What to some is charming playfulness can to others be annoying over-exuberance

Of course, dogs are easier than children. They don't throw tantrums, nag you for money or slam doors. By comparison, chewing the carpet or barking at the postman seem much more agreeable. But aren't children just possibly worth the extra trouble?

But what is particularly deplorable about the dog-owning psyche is the way a negative reaction to their pets is regarded as the fault of the objector, not the animal.

During a recent dinner party, the hostess was baffled by my lack of enthusiasm for the fact that her dog was licking my ankles while I ate my hors d'oeuvre. Another time, I went to pick up a friend and had my white shirt accessorised by a Jack Russell who made a leap for me at the door. Its owner dismissed me as a sour party-pooper for not enjoying this display of affection.

Yet the dog-owner's glossary of self-serving excuses is boundless. Dogs are friendly/enthusiastic/playful - even when their jaws drip, their paws scratch and their tongues seek places you have no desire for them to go. The canine world is an anarchical place which the rest of us, it seems, should have to accept.

One friend tells me of the time she took her children to visit a dog-owning cousin. As her brood trooped off into the garden, the call was: "Mind the dog poo, we never got round to clearing it up."

Can you imagine leaving dirty nappies scattered across the lawn when expecting visitors?

I'm not suggesting all dog-owners are incapable of practising good hygiene. But I'm not prepared to give them the benefit of the doubt
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