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Breeding And Whelping








The modern practice of dog-breeding in Great Britain has reached a
condition which may be esteemed as an art. At no other time, and in no
other country, have the various canine types been kept more rigidly
distinct or brought to a higher level of perfection. Formerly
dog-owners--apart from the keepers of packs of hounds--paid scant
attention to the differentiation of breeds and the conservation of
type, and they considered it no serious breach of duty to ignore the
principles of scientific selection, and thus contribute to the
multiplication of mongrels. Discriminate breeding was rare, and if a
Bulldog should mate himself with a Greyhound, or a Spaniel with a
Terrier, the alliance was regarded merely as an inconvenience. So
careless were owners in preventing the promiscuous mingling of alien
breeds that it is little short of surprising so many of our canine
types have been preserved in their integrity.

The elimination of the nondescript cur is no doubt largely due to the
work of the homes for lost dogs that are instituted in most of our
great towns. Every year some 26,000 homeless and ownerless canines are
picked up by the police in the streets of London, and during the
forty-seven years which have elapsed since the Dogs' Home at Battersea
was established, upwards of 800,000 dogs have passed through the
books, a few to be reclaimed or bought, the great majority to be put
to death. A very large proportion of these have been veritable
mongrels, not worth the value of their licences--diseased and maimed
curs, or bitches in whelp, turned ruthlessly adrift to be consigned to
the oblivion of the lethal chamber, where the thoroughbred seldom
finds its way. And if as many as 500 undesirables are destroyed every
week at one such institution, 'tis clear that the ill-bred mongrel
must soon altogether disappear. But the chief factor in the general
improvement of our canine population is due to the steadily growing
care and pride which are bestowed upon the dog, and to the scientific
skill with which he is being bred.

Admitting that the dogs seen at our best contemporary shows are
superlative examples of scientific selection, one has yet to
acknowledge that the process of breeding for show points has its
disadvantages, and that, in the sporting and pastoral varieties more
especially, utility is apt to be sacrificed to ornament and type, and
stamina to fancy qualities not always relative to the animal's
capacities as a worker. The standards of perfection and scales of
points laid down by the specialist clubs are usually admirable guides
to the uninitiated, but they are often unreasonably arbitrary in their
insistence upon certain details of form--generally in the neighbourhood
of the head--while they leave the qualities of type and character to
look after themselves or to be totally ignored.

It is necessary to assure the beginner in breeding that points are
essentially of far less moment than type and a good constitution. The
one thing necessary in the cultivation of the dog is to bear in mind
the purpose for which he is supposed to be employed, and to aim at
adapting or conserving his physique to the best fulfilment of that
purpose, remembering that the Greyhound has tucked-up loins to give
elasticity and bend to the body in running, that a Terrier is kept
small to enable him the better to enter an earth, that a Bulldog is
massive and undershot for encounters in the bullring, that the
Collie's ears are erected to assist him in hearing sounds from afar,
as those of the Bloodhound are pendant, the more readily to detect
sounds coming to him along the ground while his head is bent to the
trail. Nature has been discriminate in her adaptations of animal
forms; and the most perfect dog yet bred is the one which approaches
nearest to Nature's wise intention.

The foregoing chapters have given abundant examples of how the various
breeds of the dog have been acquired, manufactured, improved,
resuscitated, and retained. Broadly speaking, two methods have been
adopted: The method of introducing an outcross to impart new blood,
new strength, new character; and the method of inbreeding to retain an
approved type. An outcross is introduced when the breed operated upon
is declining in stamina or is in danger of extinction, or when some
new physical or mental quality is desired. New types and eccentricities
are hardly wanted, however, and the extreme requirements of an
outcross may nowadays be achieved by the simple process of selecting
individuals from differing strains of the same breed, mating a bitch
which lacks the required points with a dog in whose family they are
prominently and consistently present.

Inbreeding is the reverse of outcrossing. It is the practice of mating
animals closely related to each other, and it is, within limits, an
entirely justifiable means of preserving and intensifying family
characteristics. It is a law in zoology that an animal cannot transmit
a quality which it does not itself innately possess, or which none of
its progenitors has ever possessed. By mating a dog and a bitch of the
same family, therefore, you concentrate and enhance the uniform
inheritable qualities into one line instead of two, and you reduce the
number of possibly heterogeneous ancestors by exactly a half right
back to the very beginning. There is no surer way of maintaining
uniformity of type, and an examination of the extended pedigree of
almost any famous dog will show how commonly inbreeding is practised.
Inbreeding is certainly advantageous when managed with judgment and
discreet selection, but it has its disadvantages also, for it is to be
remembered that faults and blemishes are inherited as well as merits,
and that the faults have a way of asserting themselves with annoying
persistency. Furthermore, breeding between animals closely allied in
parentage is prone to lead to degeneracy, physical weakness, and
mental stupidity, while impotence and sterility are frequent
concomitants, and none but experienced breeders should attempt so
hazardous an experiment. Observation has proved that the union of
father with daughter and mother with son is preferable to an alliance
between brother and sister. Perhaps the best union is that between
cousins. For the preservation of general type, however, it ought to be
sufficient to keep to one strain and to select from that strain
members who, while exhibiting similar characteristics, are not
actually too closely allied in consanguinity. To move perpetually from
one strain to another is only to court an undesirable confusion of
type.

In founding a kennel it is advisable to begin with the possession of a
bitch. As a companion the female is to be preferred to the male; she
is not less affectionate and faithful, and she is usually much cleaner
in her habits in the house. If it is intended to breed by her, she
should be very carefully chosen and proved to be free from any serious
fault or predisposition to disease. Not only should her written
pedigree be scrupulously scrutinised, but her own constitution and
that of her parents on both sides should be minutely inquired into.

A bitch comes into season for breeding twice in a year; the first time
when she is reaching maturity, usually at the age of from seven to ten
months. Her condition will readily be discerned by the fact of an
increased attentiveness of the opposite sex and the appearance of a
mucous discharge from the vagina. She should then be carefully
protected from the gallantry of suitors. Dogs kept in the near
neighbourhood of a bitch on heat, who is not accessible to them, go
off their feed and suffer in condition. With most breeds it is unwise
to put a bitch to stud before she is eighteen months old, but Mr.
Stubbs recommends that a Bull bitch should be allowed to breed at her
first heat, while her body retains the flexibility of youth; and there
is no doubt that with regard to the Bulldog great mortality occurs in
attempting to breed from maiden bitches exceeding three years old. In
almost all breeds it is the case that the first three litters are the
best. It is accordingly important that a proper mating should be
considered at the outset, and a prospective sire selected either
through the medium of stud advertisements or by private arrangement
with the owner of the desired dog. For the payment of the requisite
stud fee, varying from a guinea to ten or fifteen pounds, the services
of the best dogs of the particular breed can usually be secured. It is
customary for the bitch to be the visitor, and it is well that her
visit should extend to two or three days at the least. When possible a
responsible person should accompany her.

If the stud dog is a frequenter of shows he can usually be depended
upon to be in sound physical condition. No dog who is not so can be
expected to win prizes. But it ought to be ascertained before hand
that he is what is known as a good stock-getter. The fee is for his
services, not for the result of them. Some owners of stud dogs will
grant two services, and this is often desirable, especially in the
case of a maiden bitch or of a stud dog that is over-wrought, as so
many are. It is most important that both the mated animals should be
free from worms and skin disorders. Fifty per cent. of the casualties
among young puppies are due to one or other of the parents having been
in an unhealthy condition when mated. A winter whelping is not
advisable. It is best for puppies to be born in the spring or early
summer, thus escaping the rigours of inclement weather.

During the period of gestation the breeding bitch should have ample
but not violent exercise, with varied and wholesome food, including
some preparation of bone meal; and at about the third week, whether
she seems to require it or not, she should be treated for worms. At
about the sixtieth day she will begin to be uneasy and restless. A
mild purgative should be given; usually salad oil is enough, but if
constipation is apparent castor oil may be necessary. On the
sixty-second day the whelps may be expected, and everything ought to
be in readiness for the event.

A coarsely constituted bitch may be trusted to look after herself on
these occasions; no help is necessary, and one may come down in the
morning to find her with her litter comfortably nestling at her side.
But with the Toy breeds, and the breeds that have been reared in
artificial conditions, difficult or protracted parturition is
frequent, and human assistance ought to be at hand in case of need.
The owner of a valuable Bull bitch, for example, would never think of
leaving her to her own unaided devices. All undue interference,
however, should be avoided, and it is absolutely necessary that the
person attending her should be one with whom she is fondly familiar.

In anticipation of a possibly numerous litter, a foster-mother should
be arranged for beforehand. Comfortable quarters should be prepared in
a quiet part of the house or kennels, warm, and free from draughts.
Clean bedding of wheaten straw should be provided, but the bitch
should be allowed to make her nest in her own instinctive fashion. Let
her have easy access to drinking water. She will probable refuse food
for a few hours before her time, but a little concentrated nourishment,
such as Brand's Essence or a drink of warm milk, should be offered to
her. In further preparation for the confinement a basin of water
containing antiseptic for washing in, towels, warm milk, a flask of
brandy, a bottle of ergotine, and a pair of scissors are commodities
which may all be required in emergency. The ergot, which must be used
with extreme caution and only when the labour pains have commenced, is
invaluable when parturition is protracted, and there is difficult
straining without result. Its effect is to contract the womb and expel
the contents. But when the puppies are expelled with ease it is
superfluous. For a bitch of 10 lb. in weight ten drops of the extract
of ergot in a teaspoonful of water should be ample, given by the
mouth. The scissors are for severing the umbilical cord if the mother
should fail to do it in her own natural way. Sometimes a puppy may be
enclosed within a membrane which the dam cannot readily open with
tongue and teeth. If help is necessary it should be given tenderly and
with clean fingers. Occasionally a puppy may seem to be inert and
lifeless, and after repeatedly licking it the bitch may relinquish all
effort at restoration and turn her attention to another that is being
born. In such a circumstance the rejected little one may be discreetly
removed, and a drop of brandy on the point of the finger smeared upon
its tongue may revive animation, or it may be plunged up to the neck
in warm water. The object should be to keep it warm and to make it
breathe. When the puppies are all born, their dam may be given a drink
of warm milk and then left alone to their toilet and to suckle them.
If any should be dead, these ought to be disposed of. Curiosity in
regard to the others should be temporarily repressed, and inspection
of them delayed until a more fitting opportunity. If any are then seen
to be malformed or to have cleft palates, these had better be removed
and mercifully destroyed.

It is the experience of many observers that the first whelps born in a
litter are the strongest, largest, and healthiest. If the litter is a
large one, the last born may be noticeably puny, and this disparity in
size may continue to maturity. The wise breeder will decide for
himself how many whelps should be left to the care of their dam. The
number should be relative to her health and constitution, and in any
case it is well not to give her so many that they will be a drain upon
her. Those breeds of dogs that have been most highly developed by man
and that appear to have the greatest amount of brain and intelligence
are generally the most prolific as to the number of puppies they
produce. St. Bernards, Pointers, Setters are notable for the usual
strength of their families. St. Bernards have been known to produce as
many as eighteen whelps at a birth, and it is no uncommon thing for
them to produce from nine to twelve. A Pointer of Mr. Barclay Field's
produced fifteen, and it is well known that Mr. Statter's Setter
Phoebe produced twenty-one at a birth. Phoebe reared ten of these
herself, and almost every one of the family became celebrated. It
would be straining the natural possibilities of any bitch to expect
her to bring up eighteen puppies healthily. Half that number would tax
her natural resources to the extreme. But Nature is extraordinarily
adaptive in tempering the wind to the shorn lamb, and a dam who gives
birth to a numerous litter ought not to have her family unduly
reduced. It was good policy to allow Phoebe to have the rearing of as
many as ten out of her twenty-one. A bitch having twelve will bring up
nine very well, one having nine will rear seven without help, and a
bitch having seven will bring up five better than four.

Breeders of Toy-dogs often rear the overplus offspring by hand, with
the help of a Maw and Thompson feeding-bottle, peptonised milk, and
one or more of the various advertised infants' foods or orphan puppy
foods. Others prefer to engage or prepare in advance a foster-mother.
The foster-mother need not be of the same breed, but she should be
approximately of similar size, and her own family ought to be of the
same age as the one of which she is to take additional charge. One can
usually be secured through advertisement in the canine press. Some
owners do not object to taking one from a dogs' home, which is an easy
method, in consideration of the circumstance that by far the larger
number of lost dogs are bitches sent adrift because they are in
whelp. The chief risk in this course is that the unknown foster-mother
may be diseased or verminous or have contracted the seeds of
distemper, or her milk may be populated with embryo worms. These are
dangers to guard against. A cat makes an excellent foster-mother for
Toy-dog puppies.

Worms ought not to be a necessary accompaniment of puppyhood, and if
the sire and dam are properly attended to in advance they need not be.
The writer has attended at the birth of puppies, not one of whom has
shown the remotest sign of having a worm, and the puppies have almost
galloped into healthy, happy maturity, protected from all the usual
canine ailments by constitutions impervious to disease. He has seen
others almost eaten away by worms. Great writhing knots of them have
been ejected; they have been vomited; they have wriggled out of the
nostrils; they have perforated the stomach and wrought such damage
that most of the puppies succumbed, and those that survived were
permanently deficient in stamina and liable to go wrong on the least
provocating. The puppy that is free from worms starts life with a
great advantage.





Next: Some Common Ailments Of The Dog And Their Treatment

Previous: Practical Management



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