NOW you can’t judge a book by a cover. Nor a person by his appearance.
But is it just me who feels uneasy at the growing number of young men leading burly, musclebound dogs around the city centre and housing estates?
These people invariably are in synthetic jogging pants, with an outsize baseball-style cap at a rakish angle and a top emblazoned with the name of some over-priced couturier.
The dogs also seem to wear a uniform of sorts: they’re inevitably on a lead made of chain strong enough to restrain Samson and often have a pattern of studs protruding from their harness or collar.
The overall effect is an exaggerated declaration of the blindingly obvious: I’m a tough dog, keep your distance!
There seem to be more of these combinations than ever.
But don’t get me wrong.
I have nothing against people owning dogs and wish more of them would exercise their pets.
But why is it that the only owner/dog combos you see in the city centre fit the above description?
You never see a little old lady with Fido trotting delicately on a leash.
Or a family strolling down Fargate with a frisky springer spaniel wagging its tail and looking up expectantly for a frisbee to be thrown.
I feel, no, I fear these are status dogs, animals which are paraded as an extension of the owner’s aggressive and threatening personality.
It seems that I am not alone in feeling this growing concern over dogs.
For the courts this week were given the green light to jail people whose dangerous dog runs amok.
The Sentencing Council, alarmed at an increasing numbers of convictions for offences involving dangerous dogs, published new guideline which they hope will ensure courts use their full powers when dealing with offenders.
The types of offence cover a wide range, from owning or dealing in banned breeds to allowing a dog to be dangerously out of control.
But I am afraid I do not share the optimism exhibited by the Dogs Trust. A spokesman said: “This tougher approach should serve as a stiff reminder to dog owners to keep their pets under proper control and to behave responsibly.”
Keep their pets under proper control? Don’t make me laugh. Some of today’s parents don’t even know how to keep their kids under proper control!
Take for instance Manchester mum Karla Walker who allowed her three children, aged 11, 12 and 13, to run wild, invading gardens, jumping on cars, vandalising fences and smashing windows.
This was no flash in the pan. It went on for three long, miserable years.
During that time, police were inundated with complaints of loud music, late-night parties and the youngsters hurling foul-mouthed abuse.
She was taken to county court after fed up neighbours kept a diary showing how the boys breached a court order telling them to behave 25 times!
Finally time ran out for Walker and her brood and they were evicted.
Oh, and they also had a dog. Which killed a neighbour’s rabbit.