No doubt, quite the orthodox introduction for this book on dog breeding would be a couple of paragraphs expatiating on the increased interest that we Americans are displaying in thoroughbred dogs for bench shows and field trials and as companions and guards; but I am sure that it is safe to assume that my readers are acquainted with these familiar facts.
Dog fanciers are also informed—at least roughly—of the tremendous advances that have been made the past few years in our new knowledge of the old study of genetics, for articles on the recent scientific developments and practical discoveries in plant and animal breeding have found their way not only into the popular magazines, but also into the daily papers. When the editors of newspapers in the big cities, whose touch upon the pulse of public interest must be very delicate, find a news value in these items about breeding, it bespeaks a widespread interest from a considerable number of our citizens.
In the midst of much popular interest in all phases of breeding, dog breeders, somewhat curiously, have given but the scantiest attention to the theoretical and practical work being done by trained biologists, the agricultural stations, and careful breeders of various kinds of stock. This is strange, for with certain limitations the knowledge gained in a painstaking study of the sugar content of beets will be valuable to all breeders, not only of plants but also of animals. Experiments in breeding mice and poultry have yielded results that are being practically applied by many horse and cattle breeders. Notwithstanding these good examples, dog fanciers have refused "to take the tips "—to borrow a phrase from the paddock—that fellow breeders and scientific investigators can give them.
This can, however, be reasonably explained. Dog breeding is a sport pure and simple, and, as such, it is very largely removed from any immediate economic influences. Scientific workers have devoted themselves to problems of more direct, practical value than the breeding of a dog to win championship points or a derby stakes. They have lent their aid in producing the 200-egg hen, in increasing the weight of cattle and of hogs, in raising the percentage of butter fat in milk. The breeders of economically important stock make breeding their business, and they have the sharp goad of gold to prod them to greater efforts. Their own stock has been the subject of scientific experiment. They have little difficulty in translating into dollars and cents the results of these experiments.
To-day many cattle, horse, sheep, hog, and poultry breeders are alive to the valuable helps that science can give them. Dog breeders have fallen hopelessly behind. A book on breeding that is as plain as A B C to a progressive dairyman will be full of terms that are new and unintelligible to the dog fancier. Every once in a while, one meets a dog breeder who basses among local fanciers as a scientific breeder. Usually his "science" consists of copies of Darwin's "Origin of Species" and "Animals and Plants under Domestication," some hazy notions about atavism, telegony, and Mendelian inheritance, combined with a remarkably good knowledge of the points, history, and pedigrees of his breed. It may be stretching the truth to call such a man a scientific breeder, but he is surely making some serious effort along the right way. Most fanciers, it is to be feared, do even less than this.
In this day and generation and after all the work that has been done in the study of genetics, it is an outrage that a prominent dog owner should confess that "put two good ones together, and trust to luck" is his idea of successful dog breeding. Nevertheless, I am told by one of his friends that this is the acknowledged "system" of the owner of a certain large kennel. His kennel is filled with the best dogs that money can buy; every modern device to promote good care and good health has been installed in the building; an expert kennelman is in direct charge of the dogs,—but is any one surprised to learn that these kennels have never produced a home-bred champion? When we hear such expressions and when we see such wasted opportunities, it quite justifies Mr. Muss-Arnolt's forceful statement that "ninety per cent of the so-called dog breeding is nothing more nor less than canine prostitution."
Dog fanciers have made a serious mistake in not grasping for their own benefit the important knowledge that has been accumulated in other fields by scientists and breeders. "The principles of scientific breeding" is a pretty good term to put a dog fancier to rout. Before he runs away, however, let him remember that only a few years ago "all these durned high falutin' notions" were scouted by the very farmer who to-day boasts of the blood lines of his cattle and the egg records in his poultry yards.
Let him also recall the many years his breed of dogs has been bred and the number of thoroughbred puppies that are whelped each year. Further let him remember that dogs, excepting field dogs, are bred solely for size, shape, and color, all variations of form, without any regard for the more elusive functional variations of weight, fertility, composition of flesh, and contents and quantity of the milk secretions which are all so vital in the breeding of live stock.
Compared with other breeders, the dog fancier has an easy task. In the first place he has less for which to breed. Secondly, dog histories and dog pedigrees have been for generations carefully recorded. Lastly, dogs have been bred toward approximately the same ideal for a considerable time—much of the commercial stock and poultry being comparatively recently manufactured varieties, comparable with the Boston Terrier and the Airedale. But are dogs nearer to the ideal, or do they breed closer to type than other domesticated animals?
A good understanding of the principles that have helped other breeders will help the dog breeder. Certainly, they will give him a big handicap over any rival who breeds on the "trust to luck system." Of course, these principles are not infallible rules, else we should long ago have heen able to reduce all breeding to a series of mathematical formulae that would produce champions at will. Just because we must work with such very uncertain tools, it is all the more important that we should learn all we possibly can and from every possible source.
Often dog fanciers mistake the true object of dog breeding. "The longest way round is the shortest way home," but many rush in frantically with the wild hope of breeding a champion in their very first litter. Once in a great while this succeeds, but most of the dismal failures are to be accounted for by this hasty, short-cut method. If instead of trying to get a chance winner, the dog breeder would set seriously to work to build up a strain of his own by gradually improving the quality of his stock, he would stand just about one hundred per cent better chance of accomplishing lasting results.
Every breeder should have a knowledge of the principles that underlie all successful breeding, and no breeder can be successful unless he be patient and persevering. Equally important in his equipment is a thorough knowledge of the breed. He must know the Standard that describes the ideal type; he must be able to apply this ideal to the actual dog without having it distorted by the individual application. In other words, he must have in his mind's eye a very definite conception of what sort of a dog he wants to produce, nor should he be easily changed from his ideal. A heavy burden is laid on the breeder's shoulders by every change of type.
The judges are largely responsible for these changes. The incompetent all-rounder, with his imperfect knowledge especially of the finer points of many of the breeds he so boldly essays to judge, is the worst offender. There is, however, little doubt that, if the Standards of the different breeds were expressed in more exact language and more liberally illustrated with weights and measures, much confusion would be avoided. Every one knows that a person's fingers should meet when clasped round his own wrist, and that both hands should just be able to encircle the neck. Each penny scale on every railroad platform in the country tells you what you should weigh according to what your height may be.
Similar figures can be worked out for different varieties of dogs and embodied in the Standards. One example will suffice: "Back not long" is a quotation from one of the present Standards. "Length, back of skull to root of tail, 22½ inches" carefully indicated for a dog, with 21 inches specified for a bitch. This is also a quotation, taken from the official description of the Skye Terrier Club, drawn by Mr. Duncan Cunningham. There is no material for debate on the comparative clearness of these two definitions.
In addition to knowing the points of his variety, a successful breeder must know as much as possible about its past history. There are two phases of canine histories. The one treats of events; the other of dogs. The former is interesting; the latter is invaluable.
It is a standing joke that the origins of all breeds of dogs are shrouded in mystery; but almost always we know something of the conditions that called new breeds into existence and of the uses to which they were originally put. In many cases, we have some pretty reliable information about the materials employed in the "manufacture" of certain varieties. A knowledge of these things is useful. Some idea of the work that was expected of the ancestors of our terriers gives one a wonderful insight into the true meaning of the whys and wherefores of a wire jacket. To know that the Otterhound was a factor in the creation of the Airedale explains where this popular dog got his exceptional nose, his big size, and also his tendency to unattractive ears.
Interesting and suggestive as this part of a breed's history is, it is not nearly so essential to a successful breeder as a sound working knowledge of the good and bad points of the different individual dogs of the past. Without this knowledge a breeder cannot do any real breeding; he will only be mating dogs. No landlubber at sea in an open boat without sail or rudder could be more completely helpless. James Watson in his work "The Dog Book," a book, by the way, that should be in every fancier's library, gives a vivid illustration of what is the real meaning of a pedigree. He says:
"We have already said that pedigree is valuable, and it is an essential in the case of purchasing for breeding, but we again repeat that, if the buyer does not know something regard-ing the dogs in the pedigree, either personally or from reliable information, one string of names is as good as another to him. Here is a case in point as shown in the following Irish terrier pedigree (see figure 1):
"According to the United States government test the Irish terrier that owns that pedigree is practically a mongrel, because in two generations it has but one ancestor with a studbook number.... The seeker for champions in the pedigree discards it because he only finds Breda Mixer and Bachelor, and they are too far back. Now we will put it before the man who knows:
" 'I see a Knox bred one. Knox has done quite a bit of good breeding in his time and they seem to come better right along, but that is to be expected, of course, if the man knows his business; and inbred too, and in the fashionable way. Did you ever notice how many good ones are by a son of a dog that gets good ones out of a daughter? ... In this case you have a son of King bred to sister of King.
" 'Why, man, you have a wonderful pedigree here. I have never seen anything like it before: full of Breda Muddler blood, or what made him, and not once is he mentioned. Here you have King's sire Kaiser out of Kriffel, by Breda Mixer who got Muddler, and Kaiser's sire Red Idol was out of Breda Iris the dam of Muddler. The King's dam Kindle is a full brother in blood to Muddler, for Red Inez was a sister, if not a little sister, to Breda Iris.
" 'All this is repeated below in the pedigree of Koerchion, King's sister. Do you know how Kriffel's dam Knoxonia was bred? No; well, she was a Knox anyway, and we can take her as all right. King's Masterpiece is a halfbrother of our Celtic Badger, I see, for his dam is Killarney Lily. I met a man the other day who had lately been at Belfast, and he told me of his visiting Mr. Knox and spoke of his dogs very favorably. He likes King very much; and I remember his saying that it was little wonder that Badger and this Masterpiece, which he saw, were good ones, for Killarney Lily was one much above the average. From the way he spoke, she must be a very nice one.
" 'If I remember rightly you won a couple of times with this bitch, but she did not strike as one who would go on much further than she then was. I know, however, that if I owned her nothing would induce me to part with her until I had tried her as a brood bitch. If she does not prove a good one, then there is no value in a pedigree.' "
Formerly dog breeders relied almost exclusively upon what might be called individual selection. They picked out their best bitches and bred them to their best dogs. In the light of modern knowledge, they followed the "trust-to-luck" theory more than they ever would have acknowledged, for they rather prided themselves in their quaint, old-fashioned way on their skill and care as breeders. Most dog fanciers to-day are following right in their footsteps, practicing individual selection, with possibly some efforts to breed out faults by counterbalancing, or mating a bitch to a dog whose strongest points offset her own peculiar weaknesses.
All this is directly in the face of the fact that the ancestors more remote than the immediate parents are being continually shown to be highly important. This places more and more emphasis on the value of a real understanding of a pedigree, which means a real knowledge of the dogs. One of the chief advantages of the foundation of a strain of your own will be the very intimate knowledge that you must of necessity have of the individuals behind your breeding stock. The breeder who knows the most about the points of the dogs of the past will be best able to foretell the quality of the puppies of the future.
An example will make even clearer the very great practical value of a knowledge of the real meaning of a pedigree. A certain strain of Airedales has produced a great number of winners, but it inherits from its founder a tendency to light, round eyes and heavy ears. That these defects are buried in the blood is proved not by the shining examples of perfection in these points that this strain has produced, but by the fact that the majority of dogs bred in this strain are more or less "off" in eyes and ears. To be specific, a certain dog of this strain is being extensively used at stud to-day. As an individual he is good in ears and his eye escapes comment except from the hypercritical judge. Without knowing his family tendency to poor eyes and ears, no one would expect his get to be bad in these points. Nevertheless, a breeder would be bitterly disappointed should he use him to improve these points, and many of his puppies are downright faulty in these respects.
To sum up the requirements of a successful breeder and the equipment that he must have: He must first of all be a true dog lover and a patient man blessed with that spirit that comes up smiling after many disappointments. These things are inborn in the man himself, and no amount of study can provide him with these necessary characteristics.
A good, sound working knowledge of his breed, however, may be acquired by visits to shows, trials, and kennels, by talks with experienced fanciers, judges, and breeders, by reading historical articles in the kennel papers and by study of the monographs that various authorities have written on different breeds.
The third requirement for success as a dog breeder is a knowledge of the principles that underlie modern scientific breeding. We have seen that, as a class, dog owners are behind other stock breeders in their application of these scientific helps to practical problems. Some fanciers will find in the following pages terms and ideas that may be quite new to them, but within the limits of clearness all that has not a direct practical bearing on breeding operations has been omitted. It is to be hoped that some breeders will be stimulated to pursue further their study, and to this end a short list of the most important and suggestive books is given in the Appendix.
If a dog owner is a breeder at heart, if he has a good knowledge of his breed and of the principles of breeding, he can make a kennel that will become world famous. Others have done so. The Duchess of Newcastle laid the foundation of her justly celebrated kennels by the purchase of two Fox Terrier bitches, Eber Post, a wire, and Partney Prude, a smooth, for which she paid just ten pounds, fifty dollars. Ask any terrier man about Ch. Collarbone of Notts, or Ch. Cackler of Notts, or Ch. Collar of Notts, or Ch. Corker of Notts, or about that litter of nine all first prize winners and two of them champions. All these terriers were bred by this lady from her own strain.
As a matter of fact, the modest fancier usually has a distinct advantage over the larger kennels. Without a fat purse he is forced, in this day of high priced prize winners, to breed his own good ones. Necessity was ever the mother of invention, and the Stud Books, both in England and this country, show that there have been more champions bred in the "kitchen kennel" than in the wealthy fancier's "show place."
The American dog fancy needs careful, serious breeders. For years we have been importing dogs from England. Far too often it has been a case of the last dog over shall be first in the award list. In some breeds we have bred dogs as good as England's best specimens, but in many varieties the retort of a professional at a recent show is true enough to have a sharp sting to it. Two dogs were on the block before the judge, and the handler of one waved the stars and stripes by saying of his entry, "He's an American-bred, sir." The other dog's handler replied, "Yes, and he looks it."
Will a dog fancier be repaid for the time, and the trouble, and the expense, and the work, and the disappointments of breeding? If he is a successful breeder, he most surely will. Financially, because a good dog always commands a good price, and a kennel with the reputation for turning out good dogs will be a Mecca to which bench show and field trial devotees will always flock. Less substantial than dollars and cents, but hardly less satisfying to a true breeder are the personal satisfaction of having accomplished something difficult and worth while and the honor always accorded a breeder of champions among good fanciers. To breed a great dog is a feat that calls for more than time and money. It demands brains and gameness and good faith.