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Breeding For Good Disposition








This, to my mind, is the most important feature in the breeding of the dog
that demands the most careful attention. If the disposition of the dog is
not all that can be desired, of what avail is superb constitution, an
ideal conformation and beautiful color and markings? Better by far obtain
the most pronounced mongrel that roams the street that shows a loving,
generous nature if he cost his weight in gold, than take as a gift the
most royally bred Boston that could not be depended upon at all times and
under all circumstances to manifest a perfect disposition.

A short time ago I went to visit a noted pack of English fox hounds. One
beautiful dog especially, took my eye, a strong, vigorous, noble-looking
fellow, and on my asking the kennel man, a quaint old Scotchman, if he
would let the dog out for me to see, he replied: Why, certainly, Mr.
Axtell, that dog is Dashwood, he is a perfect gentleman, and this is what
all Boston terriers should be. Of course, I am speaking of the well bred,
properly trained, blue blooded dog, not the mongrel that so often
masquerades under his name. Still, as there are black sheep in every
family, a dog showing an ugly, snapping, quarrelsome disposition will
occasionally be met with which, to the shame of the owner, is not
mercifully put out of the way and buried so deep that he can not be
scratched up, but is allowed to perpetuate his or her own kind to the
everlasting detriment of the breed.

How many a one has come away from a dog show utterly disgusted with
perhaps one of the best looking dogs on the bench, who, after admiring its
attractiveness in every detail, discovers on too near an approach to him
that he possesses a snappy, vicious disposition?

I am perfectly well aware that due allowance must be made for the
unnatural excitement that surrounds a dog, perhaps for the first time
shown, away from all he knows, and surrounded by strange noises and faces.
Yet I consider it an outrage on the public who give their time and pay
their money, to subject them to any risk of being bitten by any dog, I
care not of what breed it may be. At a recent show in Boston, in company
with three or four gentlemen, I was admiring a very handsome looking
Boston, a candidate for high honors, when his owner called out to me: Mr.
Axtell, do not go too near him or he will bite your fingers off. I
replied: You need not advise an old dog man like me; I can tell by the
look of his eye what he would do if given a chance. You have no right
whatever to show such a dog. Since then I went to the kennels where a
noted prize winner is placed at public stud, and he showed such a vicious
disposition and attempt to bite through the bars of his pen that the
attendant had to cover the bars over with a blanket. Such dogs as these
should be given at once a sufficient amount of chloroform and a suitable
burial without mourners. If a man must keep such a brute, then a strong
chain and a secure place where his owner alone can visit him is absolutely
imperative.

Boston terriers, of all breeds, must possess perfect dispositions if they
are to maintain their present popularity; and yet, how many unscrupulous
breeders and dealers are palming off upon a confiding public dogs which,
instead of being put away (I think that is the general term they use)
should be put under so much solid mother earth that no one would suspect
their interment. I know it takes considerable grit and force of character
to cheerfully put to sleep a dog for which perhaps a large sum of money
has been paid, that has developed an uncertain, snappy disposition, yet it
pays so to do; honesty is not alone the best policy, but the only one. In
my experience as a dog man I could give many personal incidents concerning
the sale of vicious dogs, but for space sake one must suffice.

Last year a Chicago banker sent me an order for a dog similar in style and
disposition to the one I had sold him a few years previously, to go to his
niece, a young lady staying for treatment at a large sanatorium in
southern Massachusetts. I replied that I had not in my kennels a large
enough dog to suit, but that I knew a dealer who possessed a fairly good
reputation who had, and would get him for him if he would run the chances.
This was satisfactory, and I bought the dog. He was guaranteed to me as
all right in every way, but I felt somewhat suspicious, as the price was
very low for a dog of his style. I kept him with me for a week and saw no
outs whatever about him, and practically concluded my suspicions were
unfounded.

Upon taking the dog personally to the young lady in question, I told her
his history as far as I knew it, and also that while I could give her the
dealer's guarantee of the dog I could not of course, endorse it, but that
if she cared to run the risk she could have the dog on approval as long as
she wished. I said in warning that there was something about his eye that
did not altogether strike my fancy, and that if he showed the least
symptom of being anything but affectionate, to ship him to my kennels in
Cliftondale immediately. As he was a handsome dog, with beautiful color, I
could see she wanted him at once, and the dog seemed to take to her in an
even greater degree. I received a letter from her in a week's time, saying
how perfectly satisfactory the dog was in every way, and what a general
favorite he had become with the lady patients there, several of whom would
like me to get one like him for them. I need not say how pleased I was to
hear this, but what was my surprise to receive a letter the next day
asking me to send at once for the dog, as he had bitten the matron. You
may depend that neither she nor any other of the inmates there would ever
want to see a Boston again, and who would want them to? Of course I lost
my money, but that is not worth mentioning. The sorrow I felt stays by me
today. I sent for the dog and kept him at my kennels for five months,
taking care of him myself and never letting him out of my sight, during
which time he was as gentle as a kitten, until one day a young dog man
came down into the yard, and the dog, for some unaccountable reason, as in
the case of the matron, jumped on him and took hold of his sleeve. The
man, being accustomed to dogs, was fortunately not scared. This explained
the low price of the dog, and it is needless to add, he ornamented my
kennels no longer. I can only state in connection with this that that
dealer has sold very few dogs since. I never purchase a dog now, unless I
know the man from whom I buy.

How to breed dogs possessing an ideal disposition is the all-important
question, and I give the rules as followed in our kennels with complete
success. Breed only from stock that you know comes from an ancestry noted
for this particular feature. Many dogs are naturally of an affectionate
nature, but have been made snappish by ill treatment, or teasing. This can
be bred out by judicious care, but where a vicious tendency is hereditary,
look out for trouble ahead. Damages for dog bites come high, and he must
be either a very rich man, or a very poor one, that can afford to keep
this kind of stock.

Use only thoroughly healthy stock; disease is often productive of an
uneven, sullen disposition. See that the bitch especially never shows a
tendency to be cross or snappy. The male dog usually controls the shape,
color and markings, and the dam the constitution and disposition. Hence it
is, if anything, of more importance that the female should be strong in
this feature than the male, although the male, of course, should be first
class also. So well known is this physiological fact that breeders of
standard bred horses, particularly hunters and carriage horses, will never
breed a vicious mare to a quiet stallion, and yet they are generally
willing to risk breeding a quiet mare to a stallion not as good in this
respect.

The education of the puppies should begin as soon as they can run around.
Very much depends upon a right start. We are admonished to train up a
child in the way he should go, and this applies with equal force to the
dog. Treat them with the utmost kindness, but with a firm hand. Be sure
they are taught to mind when spoken to, and never fail to correct at once
when necessary. A stitch in time saves many times nine. A habit once
formed is hard to break. Never be harsh with them; never whip; remember
that judicious kindness with firmness is far more effective with dogs, as
with children. Be sure to accustom them to mingle with people and
children, and introduce them as early as possible to the sights of the
street, to go on ahead, and to come at your call. Prevent the pernicious
habit of running and barking at teams, etc., and other dogs. The time to
check these habits as aforesaid is before they become fixed. If, after all
these pains, you see a dog show the slightest disposition to be vicious,
then do not hesitate to send him at once by a humane transit to dog
heaven. By thus continuously breeding a strain of dogs with an
affectionate nature and the elimination of any that show the least
deviation from the same, in a short time kennels can be established whose
dogs will not only be a source of supreme satisfaction to the owner, but
will be the best advertisers of said kennels wherever they go.

It will readily be admitted by all who have given the matter any
consideration that a dog of an affectionate nature, whose fidelity has
always been constant, and whose devotion to its owner has always under all
circumstances been perfectly sincere and lasting, makes an appeal to
something that is inherent in human nature. The fact of the case is that
the love of such a dog is imbedded in the soul of every normal man and
woman who have red blood in their veins. I think it is instinctive, and
has its foundation in the fact that from the beginning of time he has
ministered to man's necessities, and has accompanied him as his best
friend on man's upward march to civilization and enlightenment. There may
be races of people who have never known the dog, but I very much question
if, after they have made his acquaintance, they fail to appreciate his
desirable qualities, and to conceive for him both esteem and affection.





Next: Breeding For A Vigorous Constitution

Previous: Breeding For Size



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