From treasured terriers to cherished corgis, these precious small dogs are the ultimate country house companions, says Rory Knight Bruce

By their pet dogs let them be known; chatelaines of great houses, keen hunters and countrywomen to their boots. They run shoots, fending off their husband’s soaking wet spaniels and labradors, relegating them to the boot room or outdoor kennel. Meanwhile, their own small dog sits on a cushion in pampered splendour, every bit as regal as the breed of King Charles II himself, licensed since his day to enter any public place, hostel or inn, without hindrance or reproach.

Not for these pampered pets the boot of the car or some draughty outhouse. These small dogs of the heart stay firmly by the hearth. They are as treasured as the time the poet Alexander Pope gave a lapdog puppy in the 1730s to Frederick, Prince of Wales, with the epigram on the collar: ‘I am His Highness’ dog at Kew; pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?’ Their owners defend them mercilessly, and are not unknown to spoil them rotten.

Once, staying with Lady Powell of Bayswater in Lazio, we drove in her Fiat 500 into Rome with her wirehaired dachshund on her lap, his paws blithely on the steering wheel. We visited the Uffizi Gallery and later lunched on a splendid terrace. At all times the dog came too. When Noël Coward wrote Mad Dogs and Englishmen, he should have mentioned women as well.

The pampered small dogs beloved by the whole family

So, who are today’s chatelaines who have such pampered pooches, sometimes to the dismay of their husbands but, more often than not, equally beloved by them? Lottie Sheridan, honorary secretary of the Crawley and Horsham hunt, grew up with her parents’ black labradors, while for her husband, Lanto, it was retired regimental wolfhounds and Norfolk terriers. But when it came to finding a canine companion for their two young children, it was to Corwen in North Wales that they ventured to secure Puff, a tricolour Pembroke corgi.

“He went in their pram as a child and certainly won’t go in the boot of the car, preferring instead to sit in the front beside me,” says Lottie Sheridan. “In bed, if you move even ever so slightly, he growls.” But Puff, whom she says is a big dog with short legs, has no lack of admirers. “Everybody falls in love with him and we have never had any trouble finding dog sitters,” she continues. “He definitely rules the roost, and my husband adores him. He is a living teddy bear and, despite two square meals a day, is a brilliant hoover under the children’s high chairs. He is no fat old ladies’ dog and is sporting and fun.”

Also in Sussex are former Southdown Master Gary Lee and his wife Fee, now respectively chairman and secretary of the popular South of England Hound Show. Their pretty downland farm near Ditchling boasts a herd of red deer, pedigree Sussex cattle, horses, sheep, a bull, two farm collies, a shooting labrador and Cricket, a three-year-old chihuahua. “He is not a handbag dog,” says Fee Lee. “He is never happier than being on the quad bike. When it starts up he bounces up and down as if to say ‘I’m on the bus’.”

When the favourite spot is not on the bed but under the duvet

A friend brought a box to Lee’s tack room one day after she had lost her beloved fox terrier. “I thought there would be a hat inside but there was this bateared face. I have become 100% smitten. He comes with me to the hairdresser and the Chinese nail bar, whose owners look at him with interest.” Cricket is equally at home on the Red Funnel ferry to the Isle of Wight, where the Lees’ also have a house. But his favourite spot? “Not on the bed,” says Lee. “Under the duvet.”

Fee Lee with Cricket, a small dog with a big personality

Fee Lee with Cricket, a small dog with a big personality

The Duke of Buccleuch’s Bowhill estate in the Scottish Borders has been the home to the small breed of Dandie Dinmonts since they were popularised in the early 19th century by Sir Walter Scott in Guy Mannering. They have their own estate tartan, and Calum Flanders, who has worked for the Duke for 35 years, and his partner Kirstie Tinkler keep the flame of this vulnerable breed very much alive. They have three Dandies: Lucy, Clementine and oneyear- old Lilibet. “They are hardy dogs and full of fun, although they can be stubborn,” says Flanders.

Today, every Dandie Dinmont on Earth can trace their pedigree to the Bowhill kennels and the founding sire, Old Pepper, who was believed to have been abandoned there by poaching gypsies in the 1830s. Many Dandie owners have black-and-white tartan waistcoats for their dogs and the same tartan shawls for themselves when they are going on official walks. This is because in 2015, Richard, 10th Duke of Buccleuch, head of the Scott Clan, gave permission for the Dandies to adopt Sir Walter Scott’s private black-and-white tartan. To this day not only are the terriers the only ones to be named after a literary figure but also the only ones with an official clan tartan.

“They do not like rain and so I have to stand outside with an umbrella while they do their business”

“They have their own sofa and chairs in the kitchen. At night they sleep on the bed and like to be in the middle. Unlike other small dogs, they do not moult,” says Flanders. “They do not like rain and so I have to stand outside with an umbrella if it is raining while they do their business.” He has done much to promote the endangered breed, with no more than 100 Dandies being born each year. They have sponsored football matches, and there are Dandie Dinmont sausages and vintage whisky. If Flanders offers up The Lord My God My Shepherd Is, Clementine will put her paws up in the air in prayer. Although the puppy, Lilibet, has claimed three pairs of walking boots and a television remote control, Flanders is clearly devoted to the breed. 

Philippa Tyrwhitt-Drake and her trio of Lucas terriers

When three is never a crowd: Philippa Tyrwhitt-Drake and her trio of Lucas terriers

Harmonious coexistence is also the watchword at Bereleigh, the Hampshire downland estate of Bill and Philippa Tyrwhitt- Drake, with its renowned partridge and pheasant shoot. Philippa has had Lucas terriers for about 40 years and the three currently in residence seem to get on perfectly well with the master’s golden retriever, Turney. “They can be snappy and a bit tricky but for the most part they are calm and very good companions,” she says. “Bill never had small dogs in the house before I arrived but he has definitely come round to enjoying their company; they are sporty and, on the whole, surprisingly obedient.” They all sleep in the back hall, while the youngest, Maisie, at just one, will hopefully be trained to pick up, with help and advice from the knowledgeable pickers- up who work on the estate.

Like Dandie Dinmonts, Lucas terriers, which are a cross between a Sealyham and Norfolk terrier, were bred originally as working dogs. Sir Jocelyn Lucas, after whom they are named, wrote their definitive history in Hunt and Working Terriers (1931). As well as rats and rabbits for quarry, they have also proven to be fine mousers. You cannot, however, mate a Sealyham with a Norfolk today to produce a Lucas terrier. All Lucas’ have to go back to Sir Jocelyn’s original ‘Ilmer’ bloodlines, so named after his original kennels near Watford in Hertfordshire. 

A small dog with a mighty snore

When Kishanda Fulford, chatelaine of Great Fulford in Devon, went to collect her 18-month-old, pre-owned pug Daisy, she imagined she was getting the real thing. She was soon disabused of this notion when the Kennel Club replied to her: “Colour of coat not recognised.” This has not, however, dimmed her love and affection for this slightly hybrid pug, with a touch of auburn in her coat, now aged nine.

As a writer, most recently of a fast-paced book, The Spite of Fortune, about a brave Fulford heiress who battled to reclaim her plantations in America and the Bahamas, Fulford spends much of her time at her plantations in America and the Bahamas, Fulford spends much of her time at her writing desk in part of a cavernous kitchen that would not be out of place in Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. And Daisy, on her own velvet cushion, sits on the desk as well.

Daisy the pug likes to sit on a velvet cushion while her mistress writes

“She lives in the kitchen and sometimes on our bed,” says Fulford. “I love her snoring: it is soothing.” Fulford’s grandmother kept pugs when she was a child, so this has been a reuniting with the breed. How has her husband Francis, a life-long labrador man (one of whose famous earlier labradors, Fritz, he once took to lunch at a private dining club in the City of London where the club’s owner pronounced him “better behaved than many of my members”), coped with a pug around the house? “Daisy is best friends with Francis’ newest labrador, Sheba,” says Fulford. “It also helps that Daisy likes shooting.” At elevenses, when Fulford joins the guns, Daisy will happily sit on a recently shot pheasant to keep warm. 

One size does not fit all

As a breed, pugs have been fashionable since the late 19th century. At Glyndebourne in Sussex, they have for generations been treasured pets and there are plenty of pug statues in the garden. At one open Pug Dog Club day, I witnessed a pug in a matador’s outfit dancing to flamenco music. The late Sir George Christie had to intervene when he spotted the owner trying to dig a hole in the pristine lawn to erect a Spanish flag. In his bestselling book Why We Love the Dogs We Do, Stanley Coren attempts to find the dog that matches the human personality. ‘One size does not fit all,’ writes Coren. He suggests that important ladies of fashion and wealth prefer small dogs, citing Queen Victoria and her King Charles spaniel, Dash. The monarch was a copious writer of diaries, and one entry reads: ‘I dressed dear sweet little Dash for the second time after dinner in a scarlet jacket and blue trousers.’ 

Small dogs, then, do make the ultimate country house companion. For years at home, we had Pekineses who, when allowed out among the sheep, would round them up with all the vigour of a Lakeland sheepdog. But nothing, as I have said, could rival for pride of place and roost ruling than Lady Powell’s wire-haired dachshund. She would cook with it, sitting by the stove with it on her lap, a cigarette, stirring spoon and glass of wine in hand. As befits her wide circle of political friends who came to her wonderful villa, some of her other dogs were named after politicians. There was a Nicholas (Soames) and a Norman (Lamont). But keeping guard on a chain not doing much at all was an Italian shepherd’s dog, favoured in Italy as guard dogs. His name was Tony Blair.

If you enjoyed this feature on small dogs, take a look at other articles by The Field about working dogs including the best gundog breeds from overseas, the best presents for dogs and the 10 commandments of dog training.