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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 consid
red 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


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.