I don’t think you even had to be a dog owner to have been appalled by a recent story that made lurid headlines in numerous papers recently.

It concerned the distressing story of a bullmastiff that attacked and killed a tiny miniature pinscher, Rocco, on Woolwich Common, London.

As an owner of several small dogs, this awful incident really hit home. However, something that really infuriated me was the irresponsible behaviour of certain sections of the tabloid press.

Immediately, they labelled the bullmastiff a ‘devil dog’. Such inflammatory branding and castigating of an entire breed achieves absolutely nothing good.

Growing up, my family owned German shepherds and rottweilers, both breeds that have suffered the ‘devil dog’ tag in the past.

This created distrust from the public and attracted the wrong kinds of people into these breeds, which then created a vicious circle, the wrong kind of people keeping and breeding them and subsequently pumping out badly bred/badly socialised puppies.

Exactly the kind of dogs that go on to attack children or defenceless little dogs like poor Rocco.

These beautiful dogs need to be brought up with love and strong discipline; they certainly aren’t for everyone. Socialisation is key.

One thing I love about the winter months in the Bay is watching dogs of all shapes and sizes enjoying themselves on the beach.

The beautiful expanse of sand is such a great resource for the dog owner and it’s a joy to watch a number of large dogs, including bullmastiffs, running around with tiny dogs without so much as a single cross word.

I also often see a couple walking their rottweilers, two beautifully adjusted dogs that are a joy to watch and are a credit to the owners.

It’s very rare to come across a bad dog. Bad owners, however, are rife.

What we desperately need in this country is for all puppies and their new owners to undergo compulsory socialisation/basic training courses, combined with tough sentencing for those who flout the laws.

It would also be useful if the more sensationalist elements of our media would remember to deal with the deed, not the breed.