I've recently retired, live on my own and am desperate for the company of a dog. Please advise me.

I have a flat with a large garden. West Highland white terriers appeal to me, but would this breed be a good choice?

Small they may be . . but West Highland whites are true terriers, with a very energetic and not especially social nature, as far as other dogs are concerned.

They also delight in digging, which may be a problem as you are a keen gardener. Instead, why not consider one of the toy breeds, which have been created purely as companions ?

Dogs of this type are generally small enough to live in a flat, and do not have high energy levels. An Italian greyhound, which is similar in appearance to its larger cousin, could be a good choice.

This toy breed only stands about 38cm (15in) tall, weighs around 3.6kg (8lb), and will prove to be quiet, gentle and affectionate by nature. In addition, it does not require a lot of exercise - a quick run-around in the park morning and evening will suffice.

Bred in a wide range of colours, the Italian greyhound has a silky, sleek coat which also means that you will not have to spend long periods grooming your pet or cleaning up shed hairs around the home.

An older, house-trained dog rather than a puppy may be the best choice for your situation, if you can find one. There are sometimes individuals which need caring homes available from rescue organisations.