I felt like writing to 'Dear Mary' who advises on how to behave in delicate social situations on the back page of The Spectator. Last year, the moment the doorbell signalled the arrival of an ambassador and his wife for lunch, Daisy the dachshund puppy did a couple of elegant sausages on the drawing-room floor. Inevitably these became stuck to the ambassadorial shoes, and were trodden towards the door and down the steps to the garden, in a series of telltale footprints. Nothing was said. Nothing was noticed. Correct procedure, I presume.
We adore our dogs, miniature wire-haired dachshunds Mr Reginald and Daisy, but how is it that when we have a large group of visitors, one of them is certain to feel an urgent need to crap? Directly in the middle of the path. Perhaps it's in anticipation of the tea-and-biscuit session in the dining room, where there's a chance of a dropped biscuit organized by the god who looks after little dogs. Anyway, what all dogs have to do, several times a day (and often I'm so pleased they're doing it I don't care where it happens), must be done in the garden. When I open the door to let them out in wet weather they stand looking at me with incredulity - didn't I know that dachshunds never go out in the rain? But if push comes to shove, a quick leak in one of the garden sheds is acceptable. A point in favour of these small German dogs, with more than a hint of terrier: they detest getting wet so much that our borders are mostly no-go areas.
'We can't have male dogs because they lift their legs on our vegetables' I hear. Quite. But bitches make yellow patches on the lawn. And in the 1960s and 1970s heyday of dwarf conifers, a spurt of urine could permanently damage a prize specimen. Enthusiastic, cat-chasing dogs with a sporting look in their eye, lolloping Labradors and retrievers, and ditzy King Charles spaniels that rush in all directions without thinking - none of these breeds is garden friendly.
What you need is a male dog with very short legs. However valiantly he lifts his leg, it always misses. Not a squirt but a sprinkle. That's what you want near your choice evergreens. I did have a lovely peke called Boozle, who, although challenged in the leg department, wasn't quite so suitable. With his splendid thick coat he was always doing it in his trousers and needed a lot of baths. This reminds me of a friend's cousin's aunt, who was stuck on a yacht where the lavatory didn't work, and she had to do it in a carrier bag and throw it overboard.
No, your ideal garden dog is a male dachshund - but of course, if you haven't got a lawn, like me, a female is just as good.
From Helen Dillon's Garden Book, Copyright © Helen Dillon 2007. Published by Frances Lincoln, and in the US by Timber Press as 'Down to Earth with Helen Dillon'.