Breeding Of Dogs

The breeding of dogs and other domesticated animals is an art and not a science. Galton, a writer on heredity who has been extensively read and followed, reduced the breeding problem to an arithmetical proposition and laid down a simple rule that each parent contributed one-half to the physical and mental make-up of the offspring; consequently the grandparents each contributed one-fourth; the great-grandparents, one-sixteenth, and remoter ancestors proportionately fractional parts.

These conclusions, from a mathematical point, are correct; from a practical breeder’s aspect, they are monumental errors. Galton’s theories did not explain the mysterious changes that are constantly taking place in animals. They were flatly contradicted by the fact that individual peculiarities are frequently lost in one generation, and no solution was offered for the perplexing problem why some animals with certain traits or characteristics impress them conspicuously upon their offspring, while other peculiarities fully as pronounced in the individual are absent in the progeny. If Galton’s rule was founded upon facts, the generally accepted breeders’ aphorisms of “like begets like,” and “breed from the best,” would be above criticism or qualification, and as it is the soundness of these two apothegms as a general working rule for the breeder will not be questioned; but it can be truly said that they do not constitute the beginning and the end of the breeders’ art.


The great forces in nature are heredity and evolution. They are radically opposed to each other and in slow but unceasing conflict. Heredity, the master and passive force, is opposed to change and makes all living things a product of their ancestors, with all their defects and weaknesses as well as their excellences.

Evolution, on the contrary, is constantly effecting changes in both the physical and mental make-up of animals, so as to adapt them better to the conditions under which they live. Heredity, the base upon which all breeders operate, can be relied upon to transmit from parents to young all of the physical and mental peculiarities that have become fixed and have existed in the family for a number of generations, but it will not transmit with any degree of certainty individual peculiarities that are not family traits. Whenever individual peculiarities appear, heredity aims to remove and obliterate them, and is concerned only in the perpetuation of the established family type.

As an illustration, a certain strain of fox terriers may have splendid legs and bodies, but as a rule are short in head. A dog of this strain may come out with a long, clean, and in every way desirable head, and his body and general conformation be fully up to the high standard of his family. A dog of this kind would be bred too extensively and bitches with all kinds of head would be sent to him. If a number of his puppies be examined after they arrive at or approach maturity, it will be seen that while as a rule these puppies display the general symmetry that distinguishes the family of the sire, they still have the family defects in head. The sire had a good head, but heredity would not transmit it with any degree of certainty because it was not a characteristic of the family or a dominant trait.

The successful breeder, while he does not lose sight of the excellences of individuals, concerns himself chiefly -with the excellences of families. If he has a fox terrier bitch which is symmetrical and generally desirable, with the exception that she has a soft coat, he does not breed her to a dog with a good coat unless he is sure that good coats are a characteristic of the family of which the dog is a member. If he had a bad-bodied, but nice-headed, collie, he would look around for the best dog which came from a family which were noted for their good bodies. It is by having a thorough knowledge of pedigrees and the general characteristics of certain families that breeders succeed in making those combinations of blood that are known as successful nicks, and these, when arrived at, should be adhered to as closely as possible.


In connection with the breeding subject there are certain laws and principles that must be observed. The most important of them is in-breeding. In the development of our most valuable breeds of domestic animals, in-breeding has been the main reliance of the breeder, and it has been practiced so closely and extensively that among some people the word in-bred has been accepted as synonymous with pure bred. This is a great error. Animals can be in-bred without being pure bred, and pure-bred animals are not necessarily in-bred. Correctly speaking, in-breeding is simply the mating together of animals closely related. The results of judicious in-breeding are a uniformity of type and a smoothness and finish that can be arrived at so quickly in no other way, and it makes possible the perpetuation of desirable characteristics. The effects of careless, injudicious in-breeding are loss of size and strength, weakened constitutions, susceptible to disease, and impotency. The continuance and closeness with which in-breeding can be practiced with safety depend upon the character of the animals the breeder is attempting to improve. With breeds of recent origin, among which there is much irregularity, slight relationship and little likeness in either shape, size, or temperament, in-breeding can be practiced frequently without fear of bad results, until such time as uniformity is arrived at. After that it must be practiced with care. Among animals that are pure bred, more or less related, and which breed true to a uniform type, in-breeding should not be practiced any more than is necessary to keep the blood pure or to preserve successful nicks.


This principle is, that change in one organ or part of the body cannot be accomplished without modifications and changes in other parts of the system, and explains the difficulty breeders have in producing freakish specimens that will breed true to type, as nature insists through the operation of this law that a careful balance be kept between all the organs and parts of the body. A long-backed dog in nature’s plan should have a long head, and vice versa. Terrier breeders who have been trying for long heads and short backs know how difficult it is to circumvent this principle. It is also understood that a high degree of development in one part of the body is accomplished only with a lack of development in other parts, and this applies to special senses and mental traits as well as physical features. As an illustration: In reptiles, fishes, or long-snouted herbivorous animals, the increased development of the bones of the face is at the expense of the cerebral cavity. The lower forms of apes have large faces and small heads. In man the bones of the face are comparatively small, while those covering the brain are largely developed. This is worthy of consideration by setter and pointer breeders, for the bench show standards call for setters with long, square muzzles, bench-show advocates deplore the fact that the type of setter developed by field trials has lost the old square muzzle and become what they term snipymuzzled, and assert that this is an evidence of lack of intelligence. A greater error is impossible of conception, and the so-called snipy muzzle of field trial dogs is to competent biologists the strongest evidence of increased mental capacity, and the aggressive bird-hunting instinct of dogs bred from field trial ancestry is sufficient evidence that the American setter and pointer are being developed upon natural lines, for the relations existing between structure and function are such that by developing and breeding for bird-hunting instincts we will arrive at a structure that is useful, rational, and will breed true to type.


This factor or principle in breeding is called by breeders casting back, or throwing back, and refers to the occurrence of an individual which reresembles its grandparents, great-grandparents, or some remote ancestor more than it does its parents. Cases of atavism occur most frequently when crossbreeding has been resorted to at some more or less remote period. The purer bred and more uniform the type for the greatest number of years, the less frequent the appearance of cases illustrating this principle. Atavism is not the result of a failure or loss of power of heredity, and the only conclusion to be drawn from its occurrence is, that a trait or characteristic that had been dominant in the family of some ancestor had by process of nature been suppressed or held dormant until by another peculiar process of nature it received an opportunity to assert itself and become dominant.


There is a widespread belief that an impression made upon the mother’s mind while she is carrying her young will influence their intra-uterine development, and in this way abnormalities, birthmarks, and peculiarities in structure and color are accounted for. This belief owes its popularity as much as anything to the fact that the Bible credits Jacob with breeding cattle which were ring-streaked, spreckled, and spotted, simply through the influence upon the minds of the females of the herd made by a row of peeled rods. Modern biologists attach no great importance to mental impressions; birthmarks are largely the result of inflammations of the uterus, and the resemblances, fancied or otherwise, of arms and legs to lower animals are simply cases of arrested embryonic development or the result of mechanical pressure from the ligaments of the uterus or the umbilical cord. It is generally conceded that the habitual mental condition of the mother has an influence upon the fluids supporting the embryo, but this cannot be regarded as a direct mental impression upon either the foetus or its development.


This subject, “Does the first impregnation of the female have any influence upon the progeny of subsequent breeding to other sires?” has been for years, and still remains, a disputed question. Scientists are arrayed on both sides of the question. Among dog breeders, the popular opinion is that it does, and many of the breeders who look with suspicion upon a bitch which has suffered a misalliance have had personal experiences with which to support their position.


A bitch usually comes in season for breeding twice a year. The first time when she reaches maturity, which will be at from seven to ten months of age.

Her condition can be recognized by restlessness, frequent urination, attention to other dogs, and a mucous discharge from the vagina, at first thin and watery, later streaked with blood, and finally of the appearance of pure blood. She should be isolated at once and carefully protected from the attentions of other dogs.

A bitch can be bred the first time that she comes in season, but it is better to wait for the second season before asking her to take up the burden of maternity, for it is a heavy drain upon the system. It is important that both of the parents of a prospective litter be of good health and free from worms or skin diseases: most of the puppies which die before reaching maturity are the progeny of unhealthy parents. The period of gestation in the bitch is from fifty-seven to sixty-three days; sixty-one being the average.

It is easier to raise puppies during the spring and summer than it is during the fall and winter, and for that reason make the matings accordingly. The whelping table indicates the dates puppies can be expected after the service dates.

During the period of gestation the bitch should be exercised regularly but not violently, her diet should be varied and wholesome, such as Spratt’s Cakes, whole wheat bread, vegetables, well-cooked meat varied with raw meat, boiled rice, fresh milk, and soups mixed with some preparation of bone meal so as to provide bone-making material for her prospective litter. About the third week it is well to treat the mother for worms, and a few days before she is due to whelp give her a dose or two of olive oil as constipation should be avoided at this time. What is needed is a mild purgative. Olive oil is usually sufficient, but if she is badly constipated, a mixture of olive oil and castor oil may be necessary.

Strong, healthy bitches can usually be trusted to take care of themselves. If possible they should be allowed to occupy their customary quarters. It is important that they be quiet, comfortable, warm, and free from draughts. Provide plenty of clean wheat or oat straw in which she can make her own nest, and after she has her puppies the less she is bothered the better. The person who looks after her should be one to whom she is accustomed. She may refuse food for the first few hours after her labors, but light nourishment should be offered her, such as warm milk or beef tea. Do not neglect to have a bowl of fresh water by her at all times.

In the case of pet dogs that have lived under highly artificial conditions the whelping is not always so easily carried on, and assistance is frequently necessary. If no veterinarian is available and the labor pains have begun and continue without result, Ergot may be resorted to. The dose of the extract is about ten drops for a ten-pound bitch, fifteen for one weighing twenty pounds, etc; it should be administered in a teaspoonful of water and given by the mouth. If a puppy is born and the mother is unable to break the membrane in which it is enclosed, the umbilical cord should be severed with a pair of sharp scissors and the membrane broken with the fingers. If a puppy is born and the mother is unable to develop any signs of life by licking, and she is obliged to turn her attention to another that is being born, the apparently lifeless puppy should be quietly removed, and, for a few moments, placed in a bowl of warm water up to its neck. A finger should then be moistened with a drop of brandy and applied to the puppy’s tongue. This will sometimes start a puppy to breathing, after which it should be carefully dried, warmed, and returned to the dam as promptly as possible.

After the puppies are all born, restrain any desire to examine them. Leave them with their mother, who should be offered warm milk every hour.


The important point in feeding the nursing mother is to select and carefully prepare her food, and feed it in smaller quantities, and at shorter intervals than usual, so as not to overload or disturb her stomach, as a derangement of the mother’s stomach is reflected in her puppies. A good diet for a nursing bitch is as follows: For the first day after whelping she should be fed milk and raw eggs in the proportion

of two eggs to the pint of milk, not a large quantity at any one time, but every two hours. The second day give a pan of fresh milk to which lime water has been added in the proportion of a cup of lime water to a pint of milk; this should be thickened with well-boiled rice, dog cakes, or stale bread; at noon give a more substantial meal, adding meat, either cooked or raw, minced fine and in the proportion of one third the amount of biscuits or cereal; at night feed equal quantities of meat, vegetables, and cereals softened with milk or soup, and before going to bed, a drink of milk may be offered. The meat should be lean, free from fat, and mixed with the vegetables, and the cereals so that it cannot be picked out.

Some bitches are so solicitious for the care of their puppies that they are loathe to leave them for exercise. After the first day they should be encouraged to leave for a short walk at least twice a day. Watch the condition of their bowels. If there is any tendency to constipation give olive oil in suitable doses. If the bowels are too loose give bismuth in doses of ten grains up to a dram.

Leave the mother and her puppies alone as long as they are doing well. Simply see that they have a warm, comfortable nest if the weather is cold, and a cool place in the heated days of summer. Use every precaution to protect them against flies, for a few flies will keep a bitch and her puppies miserable. When the puppies are a week or ten days old their eyes open, they begin to crawl about, and there is more expression to their whines and attempts at barking. The mother must now be encouraged to leave them for an hour or two each day for a slow, quiet walk. After the first two weeks she will likely spend less and less time with them, but at night she should always be with them as they require her presence to keep them warm. It requires two or three weeks to wean a litter of puppies. Milk is, of course, the staple diet. It should be fresh and of full strength, as the milk of a bitch is stronger than that of a cow. To teach puppies to drink milk, simply dip their noses into the pan; they will lick it off their lips, and after two or three times they will do their own dipping, and in a short time are lapping industriously. The milk can then be thickened with puppy meal, stale bread, Spratt’s puppy cakes, boiled rice, and in a few weeks they will be ready for a still more substantial diet. It is well to bear in mind that the rule in feeding puppies should be little and often-four or five times a day. Sprinkle bone meal over their food. Egg shells well beaten up are good with beef or mutton bones to gnaw, but beware of fish and chicken bones.

In drying up a bitch do not make the mistake of taking the puppies away too soon, and be sure to allow some of the puppies to nurse until her breasts are entirely dry. In case it is necessary to destroy a litter of puppies, always allow one or two of them to live and nurse the mother until her breasts are dry, otherwise she will undergo great suffering and it is liable to leave her with caked breasts. When the puppies are six weeks old treat them for worms with Dent’s puppy vermifuge. This treatment should be repeated every two or three months until they are grown, and after that give them a dose of Dent’s vermifuge twice a year.

As a usual thing the first puppies born are the strongest, and the popular opinion is that they will grow up that way. There is, however, no fixed rule about these things. In large litters the last puppy is usually the smallest, and breeders usually agree that it will never attain the size of its predecessors. This may be borne in mind when selecting puppies. The number of puppies that a bitch will bring up safely depends upon her size and strength. As a general rule, it is not wise to ask too much of her.

If the mother is short of milk, it is well to provide a foster mother. The breed is of no importance so long as the individual is sound and healthy. Puppies can be brought up on a bottle if necessary. Ordinary cow’s milk is not as good in these cases as Spratt’s special food for that purpose, or one of the peptonized milks or infant’s foods that are used for babies. As we have said before, the principal thing to be avoided is intestinal parasites; therefore be sure that the mother is free from them before her puppies are brought into the world.