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An alphabetical list of the UK's most popular dogs could include border collie, chihuahua, cocker spaniel, dachshund, English springer spaniel, French bulldog, German shepherd, Jack Russell terrier, labrador retriever, pug, shih tzu, Staffordshire bull terrier and Yorkshire terrier.

People keep dogs for different purposes. Working dogs include border collies used for rounding up sheep, German shepherds (also known as Alsatians) used by police, English springer spaniels used for drug detection and Saint Bernards used by mountain rescue services.

Pet owners also find uses for their dogs. Most probably keep dogs for companionship, especially people who are retired from work or who may be increasingly working from home. Some keep dogs to encourage them to take regular exercise. Greyhounds can also be raced. Others keep dogs for home security. Rottweilers as pets are not encouraged unless owners are fully committed to training and socialising them. Ownership of pit bull terriers is banned in the UK under the Dangerous Dogs Act of 1991.

The daily walking of dogs in public places poses a challenge to the pedestrian environment and the cleanliness of public places such as parks and beaches. The nuisance of dog fouling is one of the top complaints to Councils and ward councillors. In many parks, there are now enclosed areas which exclude dogs where children can play. Seaside resorts often exclude dogs on their most popular areas of beach, especially during the summer holidays.

Local by-laws generally stipulate that dogs should be kept on a lead on all streets and pavements and on open air land where a dog could be a threat to animals such as sheep. However, these by-laws are not always observed.

Responsible dog owners carry bags with them so that they can clean up after their pets. They are often among local volunteers who use dog-poo pavement stencils to issue reminders to less careful dog owners. Toxocariasis poses a health risk, especially to young children with the habit of putting their hands in their mouths, and it is spread by roundworm parasites found in mess from dogs, cats and foxes.

Dog poo pavement stencils generally consist of a simple graphic and a three word slogan such as "Scoop That Poop", "Clean It Up", or "No Dog Fouling". Although local Councils have dog wardens who may attend streets where there is a regular problem, they are few in number. Gentle reminders from volunteers that you are being watched by neighbours have fuelled the culture of taking responsibility for your own dog's mess.


-----© Ted Power