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General Hints On Breeding

Having become possessed of suitable kennels to house his stock, the

breeder is confronted with the great question: How and where shall I

obtain my breeding stock? Much depends on a right start and the getting of

the proper kind of dogs for the foundation. Our celebrated Boston poet,

Oliver Wendell Holmes, when asked when a child's education should begin,

promptly replied, A hundred years before it was born. This contains an
r /> inherent truth that all breeders of choice stock of whatever description

it may be, recognize. To be well born is half the battle, and I think this

applies with particular force to the Boston terrier, for without a good

ancestry of well bred dogs, possessing the best of dispositions,

constitutions and conformity to the standard, he is worse than useless.

Whether the start is made with one bitch or a dozen, I believe the best

plan to follow is to obtain of a reliable breeder, noted for the general

excellence of his dogs in all desirable characteristics, what he considers

the best stock obtainable for breeding purposes. This does not imply, of

course, that these bitches will be candidates for bench honors, but it

does mean that if mated with suitable sires the production of good,

all-round puppies with a reasonable amount of luck will be the result. It

would be useless to attempt to deal with the subject of breeding in more

than a few of its aspects, for after a period of twenty-five years of

expended and scientific experiments in the breeding exclusively of

Bostons, I shall have to confess that there are many problems still

unsolved. The rules and regulations that govern the production of many

other breeds of dogs seem impotent here, the assumption that like

produces like does not seem to hold good frequently in this breed, but

perhaps the elements of uncertainty give an unspeakable charm to the

efforts put forth for the production of the dogs which will be a credit to

the owner's kennel. The old adage that there is nothing duller than a

puzzle of which the answer is known, can readily be applied here. I

shall endeavor to confine my remarks to the laws observed and the lines

followed for the production of dogs in our kennels, especially in the

attainment of correct color and markings, vigorous constitutions and

desirable dispositions.

In speaking of the breeding stock I am aware that I am going contrary to

the opinion of many breeders when I state that I believe that the dam

should possess equal or more quality than the sire, that her influence and

characteristics are perpetuated in her posterity to a greater degree than

are those of the sire's, especially that feature of paramount importance,

a beautiful disposition, hence I speak of the maternal side of the house

first. There are two inexorable laws that confront the breeder at the

onset, more rigid than were those of the Medes and Persians, the

non-observance of which will inevitably lead to shipwreck. Better by far

turn one's energies in attempting to square the circle, or produce a

strain of frogs covered with feathers, than attempt to raise Boston

terriers without due attention being given to those physiological laws

which experience has proven correct. The first law is that Like produces

like, although, as previously stated in the case of this breed, more than

in any other known to the writer, many exceptions present themselves, even

when the utmost care has been exercised, still the maxim holds good in the

main. The second law is that of Heredity, too often paid inadequate

attention to, but which demands constant and unremitting apprehension, as

it modifies the first law in many ways. It may be briefly described as the

biological law by which the general characteristics of living creatures

are repeated in their descendants. Practically every one has noticed its

workings in the human family, how many children bear a stronger

resemblance to their grandparents, uncles, cousins, etc., than to their

parents, and in the lower order of animals, and it seems to me in the

Bostons especially, this tendency to atavism, or throwing back to some

ancestor, in many cases quite remote, is very pronounced, hence the

necessity of a good general knowledge of the pedigree and family history

of the dogs the breeder selects for his foundation stock. A kennel cannot

be built in a day; it takes time, money, perseverance, and a strict

attention to detail to insure success.

Breed to the best, is a golden rule, but this applies not only to the

animals themselves, but also in a far greater measure to the good general

qualities possessed by their ancestry. Far more pregnant with good results

would be the mating of two good all-round specimens, lacking to a

considerable extent show points, but the products of two families known

for their general excellence for several generations, than the offspring

would be of two noted prize winners of uncertain ancestry, neither of

which possessed the inherent quality of being able to reproduce

themselves. It will be noted that very few first prize winners had prize

winning sires and dams. The noted stud dogs of the past, Buster,

Sullivan's Punch, Cracksman, Hickey's Teddy IV. and many others were

not in themselves noted winners, and the same statement may be made of the

dams of many of the prize winning dogs, but they possessed in themselves

and their ancestry that hall mark of quality which appeared in a

pronounced form in their offspring. Experience has shown that first class

qualities must exist for several generations in order to render their

perpetuation highly probable. The converse of this is equally true, that

any bad qualities bred for the same length of time are quite as hard to

eliminate. If the dog or bitch possesses weak points, be sure to breed to

dogs coming from families that are noted for their corresponding strong

points. In this case the principle of give and take will be adopted. It

used to be the ambition of every breeder (or, at least, most of them), to

produce a winner, rather than the production of a line of dogs of good

uniform type, of good average salable quality, but most have lived long

enough to see that this has not paid as well in money or expected results

as where similar endeavors have been directed towards the production of

good all-round dogs, always striving to advance their dogs to a higher

grade of excellence. In this way in nearly every instance prize winning

dogs have been produced, and there is this peculiarity noticeable in this

breed, that any one, whether he be a breeder of the greatest number, or a

very poor man owning only one or two in his kitchen kennel, possesses an

equal chance of producing the winner of the blue. The breeder of today has

a far easier time than in the early days of the dog when type was not as

pronounced or fixed, and when considerable inbreeding of necessity had to

be resorted to. In almost all parts of the country stud dogs of first

class lineage are obtainable and the general public are educated

sufficiently to understand the good points of the dog. I think the

breeding of this dog appeals to a wider class of people than any other

breed, from the man of wealth who produces the puppies to be given away as

wedding presents or Christmas gifts, down to the lone widow, or the man

incapacitated for hard work, who must do something to keep the wolf from

the door, and who finds in the raising of these charming little pets a

certain source of income and a delightful occupation combined. I do not

think that any one may apprehend that the market will ever be overstocked,

for as the dog becomes known, the desire for possession among all classes

will be correspondingly increased, and as he is strictly an American

product, no importation from Europe can possibly supply winners, or

specially good dogs, as is the case with almost all other breeds. And the

fact is demonstrated that dogs of A 1 quality can be produced on American


There are two or three subjects that demand the most careful consideration

at the hands of the breeder, and to which I am afraid in many cases not

particular enough attention is given. I refer in the first place to the

question of inbreeding, an admitted necessity in the early history of the

dog, but in the writer's estimation very harmful and much to be

discouraged at the present time. I will yield to no man in the belief that

the fact is absolutely and scientifically true that close consanguineous

breeding is the most powerful means of determining character and

establishing type, in many instances justifiable as the only correct way

to fix desirable qualities, both physical and mental, but extreme care

must be exercised that both parties to the union must be of good quality

and not share the same defects, and where it is evident that the extra

good qualities on the one side more than outbalance the defects of the

other, and extreme precaution must always be paid to avoid carrying this

system too far.

In regard to intense inbreeding, as in the case of mating dogs from the

same sire and dam, or the bitch to her sire, or dam to son, I thing it is

highly objectionable and should never under any circumstances be resorted

to; failure will ensue. Far better to let the bitch go by unmated and lose

six months than mate her in this way because a suitable stud dog was not

at the time available. I believe that this inbreeding is productive of

excessive nervousness, weakness in physical form, the impairment of

breeding functions, and the predisposition to disease in its multiform


That eminent authority, Sir John Seabright, the originator of the early

race of bantams, known as the silver and gold spangled Seabrights, also

conducted an exhaustive series of experiments on the inbreeding of dogs

and demonstrated to an absolute certainty that the system was productive

of weakness, diminished growth, and general weediness. His experiments had

a world-wide reputation and the writer, when he first visited his large

estates near London, little dreamed that in after years he would

personally benefit by Sir John's work. I believe the prevailing ideas in

many quarters a number of years ago, as to the general stupidity of the

Boston terrier (and in some isolated cases I believed well founded), arose

from the fact that it was popularly believed he was too much inbred. I

will give just one case of inbreeding in our kennels, tried for

experiment's sake, as a warning. I took the most rugged bitch I possessed

and mated her to her sire, a dog of equal vigor. The result was six

puppies, strong, and as handsome as a picture. When two months old they

were sold to different parties on the Eastern seaboard, from Philadelphia

up to the Canadian line. This was before the West had caught on to the

breed. About two months later I had a letter from New York stating that

the pup was growing finely, but that he seemed to be hard of hearing. A

few days after this I received another epistle from Salem that the puppy I

had sent on was believed to be stone deaf. It would be superfluous to add

that the purchase money was returned, and the other four customers were

notified of the condition of the others. It may seem somewhat incredible,

but two out of the four stated that they believed the pups had defective

hearing, and declined to receive their money back, and the other two

stated that before my notification they had never observed that their dogs

were deaf. Here was a case of the entire litter being perfect practically

in every other respect, and yet every one stone deaf, and in my estimation

not worth a sou. As we have never had a case of deafness in our kennels

before or since, we attribute this solely to inbreeding.

Another important feature, little understood, and frequently much dreaded,

is that of Antecedent Impressions. When a bitch has been served by a dog

not of her own breed it has been proven in extremely rare cases that the

subsequent litters by dogs of her own kind, showed traces (or, at least,

one or more of the litter did) of the dog she was first lined by. The

theory by physiologists is that the life-giving germ, implanted by the

first dog, penetrates the serous coat of the ovary, burrows into its

parenchyma, and seeks out immature ova, not to be ripened and discharged

perhaps for years, and to produce the modifying influence described. Many

breeders are unwise enough to believe that a bitch the victim of

misalliance is practically ruined for breeding purposes and discard her.

While, of course, we believe in the fact of Antecedent Impressions, we

think they are as rare as the proverbial visit of angels. We have given

this subject serious attention and have tried numerous experiments, using

various dogs to ward our bitches, including a pug, spaniel, wire-haired

fox terrier, pointer, and perhaps one other, and we have never seen a

trace of these matings in subsequent litters. One case, for example: In

another part of this book we allude to a dog spoken of by Dr. Mott, in his

Treatise of the Boston Terrier, named Muggy Dee. The grandmother of

this charming little dog was bred in our kennels, by name, St. Botolph's

Bessie. We sold her to a Boston banker, and she matured into a beautiful

dog. Upon coming in season she was unfortunately warded by a spaniel on

the estate, which so disgusted her owner that he gave her to the coachman.

She proved a perfect gold mine to him, as she raised two litters of

elegant ideal Bostons every twelve months for a great number of years, and

never at any time showed any result of the misalliance.

On the subject of Mental Impressions we need say but little, as the

chances of it ever taking place are so small that we merely give it a

passing notice and say that in all our experience we have never been

troubled with a case. For the benefit of the uninitiated will briefly

state that this consists of the mental impression made on the mind of a

bitch by a dog with whom she has been denied sexual intercourse, affecting

the progeny resulting from the union of another dog with the bitch,

generally in regard to the color, and this strange phenomena, when it does

occur, is apt to mark usually one puppy of each litter.

A fact not generally known by breeders is that if a bitch is lined by a

second dog at any time during heat, the chances are that a second

conception may take place, resulting in two distinct sets of pups,

half-sister or brother to each other. This fact we have proven.

There is one other important feature which must be noticed before this

chapter is closed, and that is Predetermining the Sex. Most breeders, of

course, are anxious to have male pups predominate in a litter, and it is a

demonstrated fact that ordinary mating produces from four to ten per cent

more males than females. For a number of years I had always believed it

was impossible to breed so as to attain more than the excess of males

above noted, but several years ago I accepted an invitation from Mr.

Burnett, of Deerfoot Farm, of Southboro (the owner of Kate or Gyp, the

mother of the breed), to spend the day. He was, as will be recalled, one

of the earliest and most enthusiastic breeders of the Boston, and is now a

scientific breeder of choice dairy stock. We had been discussing a number

of problems in regard to raising stock, when he exclaimed: Mr. Axtell, I

believe I have discovered the problem of sex breeding. If I want heifer

calves, I breed the cow as soon as she comes in season. If a bull calf is

wanted, the cow is served just before going out of season. And said he,

In nineteen experiments I have only been unsuccessful once, and I think

you might try the same plan with your Bostons. I have since done so, and

although not nearly the same measure of success has attended my

experiments as his, yet by breeding bitches at the close of the heat

rather than at its commencement, the number of males in a litter has

materially increased. Again, I find if a young, vigorous dog is bred to a

similar bitch, females will predominate in the offspring, whereas, if the

same bitch is bred to a much older dog, an excess of males will generally

occur. Occasionally some dogs will be met with that no matter what mated

with, will produce largely males, and some the opposite of this will

nearly always produce females, and some bitches, no matter how bred, do

likewise, but these are exceptions, and not the rule. A kennel man need

never worry about sex, inasmuch as good dogs of either gender will always

be in demand.

The law of Selection must be carefully attended to to insure the best

results. Choose your best and most typical bitches for breeding,

especially those that approximate rather to the bull type and are rather

long in body and not too narrow in their hind quarters. I do not care if

the dam has a somewhat longer tail than the dog, my experience has been

that a bitch possessing a tight screw tail did not do quite as well in

whelping as one having one a little longer. Do not consider this as

suggesting that the tail is a matter of secondary importance, by no means,

it is of primal import, and too much attention can never be given to the

production of this distinguishing mark of the dog. A Boston without a good

tail is almost as worthless as a check without a signature.

Be sure at the time of breeding the bitch is free from worms. A great many

are troubled whose owners are totally ignorant of the fact, and this

frequently accounts for non-success. Always remember that worms thrive the

most when the alimentary canal is kept loaded with indigestible or

half-digested food, and that liquid foods are favorable to these pests,

while solids tend to expel them. Freshly powdered areca nut, in

teaspoonful doses, and the same quantity of a mixture of oil of male fern

and olive oil, three parts oil and one part male fern oil, I find are both

excellent vermifuges to give to matured dogs. Give a dose and two days

after repeat, and this, I think, will be found generally effectual.

Do not, on any account, allow the breeding stock to become too fat. Proper

feeding and exercise, of course, will prevent this. It will be found if

this is not attended to that the organs of generation have lost their

functional activity, and if pups are produced, are, as a rule, small and

lack vigor. My experience with Bostons is that it is very desirable to

breed them as often as they come in season; if allowed to go by it will be

found increasingly harder to get them in whelp. I think a stud dog, to

last for a reasonable number of years, should not be used more frequently

than once a week. I have found it pays best to give the bitch in whelp a

generous feed of raw meat daily. It often effectually prevents the

puppy-eating habit.

In closing these general hints on breeding, allow me to say there is no

reason whatever, if one has a genuine love for the dog and is thoroughly

in earnest in his attentions to it, why the breeding problem should

possess any great terrors for him. Perhaps, before closing this chapter,

it might be well to write on one or two matters, practically of no special

import, but which may at times be instructive and illuminate some few

incidents that may puzzle the beginner.

I allude first to that strange phenomena known as false heat, to which

Bostons, more than any other breed with which the writer is familiar, are

liable, and which consists of the bitch coming in season between the two

periods in the year when she legitimately should do so, and after being

warded by the dog, is, of course, not in whelp. The next is somewhat akin

to this, and consists of the fact that the bitch, after being properly

warded by a dog, notwithstanding all the external evidences of being in

whelp, even to the possession of milk in her breasts at the expiration of

the ninth week, is not so, neither has she been. If, in addition to the

above symptoms, and there has been unusual abdominal, uterine, and breast

enlargement, with a discharge of blood for several days and no pups are in

evidence, then in this case it may safely be concluded that the offspring

fell victims to the puppy-eating habit, in which case a close watch must

be kept on the bitch at the next time of whelping, as this is a curable

habit generally. I have had two cases to my knowledge, both of which were

cured I think, largely by giving these two bitches all the raw meat they

could possibly eat while in whelp. One other fact, related somewhat to the

last two, and one that the inexperienced breeder must give intelligent

heed to, is that some bitches go through the entire period of gestation

without presenting a single sign of pregnancy appreciable to the ordinary

observer. Of course, to a dog man the facts of the case would in all

probability be known, but I shall have to confess, after years of extended

experience I myself have been deceived two or three times. Never give up

hope until the last gun is fired.

I think it will generally be considered a good plan, if the bitch is

expected to whelp in the kennel she has been in the habit of occupying, to

thoroughly clean out and wash with boiling water the box or corner she

will use, to destroy all eggs and worms that may chance to be there. I

also deem it a good plan to rub gently into her coat and over her breasts

precipitated sulphur two or three days before the expected arrival. If the

bitch is suffering from a severe case of constipation at this time, a dose

of castor oil will be of service, otherwise, let her severely alone. A

bitch that is in good health, properly fed, that has free access to good

wholesome drinking water, can safely be left without a cathartic. Another

important fact to be observed in breeding Bostons, is the suitability of

certain stud dogs for particular bitches. It used to be my belief for a

number of years, and I suppose many dog men today entertain the same idea,

that a first class dog in every respect mated with a number of equally

well bred typical bitches would produce on an average a comparatively

uniform type of pups. Nothing could be further from actual results. The

same dog bred, say to four females practically alike in style, size,

conformation, color and markings, and from common ancestry, will give

perchance in one litter two or three crackerjacks, and the other three

will contain only medium pups. This same thing will occur every time the

dogs are bred. This is because the bitch with the choice pups and the dog

nick, a phrase signifying that some psychological union has taken place,

not understood by man, in which the best points of both dogs are

reproduced in their offspring. Whenever one finds a dog eminently suited

to his bitch, do not make a change, always breed to the same dog. I am

perfectly cognizant of the fact that a great temptation presents itself to

want to breed to a better dog, a noted prize winner probably, expecting,

of course, that inasmuch as the dam did so well with a somewhat inferior

dog, she must of necessity do correspondingly better with an A 1 dog. The

reasoning is perfectly correct, but the result does not correspond. Very

inferior pups to her previous litter by the inferior dog surprise and

disgust the owner. In our kennels we have had numerous examples of this.

One bitch especially, years ago, when bred to Buster, always gave first

class puppies of uniform type each litter, but the same bitch bred to some

noted prize winner always gave ordinary pups. Another bitch that at the

present time is practically retiring from the puppy raising business from

age, when bred to Hickey's Teddy IV., always had in her litter four

crackerjacks out of the seven or eight she always presented us with; when

bred to any other dog (and we have tried her with several), no matter how

good, never had a first class pup in the litter. Hence I repeat, if a dog

nicks with your bitch, resulting in good pups, do not on any account

ever change. Let the marriage last for life. Somewhat closely connected

with this last fact is another equally important, the fact of prepotency

in a stud dog, consisting of the capacity on the part of the dog to

transmit his share of characteristics to his offspring in a far larger

degree than is imparted by the average dog. Those who closely follow the

breed will discover how certain dogs do, and have done in the past, from

Barnard's Mike down to certain dogs of the present time, stamp the

hall-mark of excellence on all the pups they sire, in a greater or less

degree. Happy are those owners of dams who are aware of this important

fact and take pains to use in the stud dogs of this character. I have

sometimes wondered how much Barnard's Mike was worth to the breed. It will

be doubtless remembered by horsemen that the great trainer, Hiram

Woodruff, speaking of the importation of the thoroughbred, Messenger,

one of the founders of the American trotter, in 1788, said that when

Messenger charged down the gang-plank, in landing from the ship, the value

of not less than one hundred million dollars struck our soil. He would be

a very courageous man who would dare compute the worth of Mike or

Buster or Sullivan's Punch, when viewed from the same standpoint.