site logo

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<
r />
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


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


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


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.