We have always been a dog family. My mother used to breed Chihuahuas, but we had many others from griffin to Doberman, and I grew up with many dogs in the house. With a family of our own, a pet seemed natural and for many years our spaniel gave us much love and affection as our children grew up.

Taking the dog out for a long country walk was always a treat, especially for a boy from suburban Manchester, as was letting her off the lead for a serious runabout, which is what many dogs need to remain happy and healthy.

At a surgery, about this time last year, I had a visit from a farmer, who told me of his despair and annoyance at some dog owners who seem either not to understand the rules of the countryside, or deliberately flout them. Don’t anyone get miffed or on their high horse, for this is not having a go at all dog owners. It is those who do not notice sheep that may be lambing, or that a designated path may still be adjacent to unfenced pasture where dogs should not run freely if that puts animals at risk, or those who don’t clean up after their dogs on fields of crops as they would on a pavement, because it must be ‘fertilising’ the fields - which it is not.

Please have a thought before your dogs run free. Are they easily controllable if a problem arises? Are there any pregnant animals about, or young animals whose mothers might feel they are being threatened? Are you willing to clean up in the countryside, where no one can see you, as you would down your own avenue?

I love the countryside I am lucky enough both to live close to and represent, and understand that it is not a free country park for people to take for granted, but a place which is often cared for by others who work in it, but share it with us. As dog owners, let’s do our bit to say thanks by our actions.