To ninety-nine fanciers out of a hundred it is the soundest and kindest advice to warn against keeping a stud dog. Since it is human nature for each of us to consider himself "the hundredth man," and as the temptations, especially financial temptations so hard to overcome, are strong, it is right and proper that this advice should be supported with hard facts.
The conscientious breeder always finds that the selection of a suitable sire to whom to breed his matrons is his most serious problem. The more thoroughly he understands the principles underlying sound breeding practice, the more serious this problem becomes. He will look further than to the latest winner, either at the bench shows or in the field trials, as the case may be. He will not necessarily be satisfied with a champion son of champion parents. He will never breed to a dog just because he is convenient, or because he is owned by some friend, or by a prominent fancier, or by a popular judge.
He must find a dog that is better than his bitch in as many of her best points as possible: a dog, moreover, that has desirable features not possessed by his bitch. This dog must be from parents and grand-parents of the correct type; a dog bred, if possible, in the "winning strain"; a dog who has been proved by his puppies to be a desirable sire. Any experienced breeder will say that it is perfectly impossible to discover a dog combining all these qualities. Granted, some of these points will always have to be sacrificed, but the chance of finding the greatest possible number of them lies in having every dog at public stud available. For any one fancier to hope to keep a single dog combining them is to hope for the "impossibly impossible." No fancier, be he ever so wise and ever so wealthy, could possibly expect to own such a collection of sires that he would be sure of having just the best possible mate for each bitch in his kennels. The best possible mating is, or should be, none too good for every careful breeder.
The impossibility of keeping suitable mates for all the matrons of a kennel is, of course, the chief objection to owning a stud dog. Many fanciers, not only of dogs, but of other kinds of stock, have tried the costly experiment of attempting to maintain a small stud of exceptional quality. They have always failed as breeders, because of the dearth of material for selection. Perfection, even in any one detail, appears so seldom that the breeder must have the greatest freedom in his choice of breeding stock. The greatest freedom is only to be secured without the temptation to breed to one's own stud dogs. However good they may be as individuals, however potent as sires, it is almost always sure that somewhere is a dog who would be a better mate for any given bitch.
It requires the greatest strength of mind not to breed to one's own dog. It is so much more convenient. There are no express charges or stud fees to be paid. One is naturally jealous of his dog's reputation and wants him to have every possible opportunity to sire winning pups.
If one can withstand these temptations, and always be sure that he is honest with himself in selecting the best possible mate for each of his matrons, then there is no objection in the world to his keeping one or forty stud dogs. It is, however, a pretty safe estimate that not one in a hundred fanciers can do so.
It may seem that this advice against keeping a stud dog is diametrically opposed to the advice to found a strain of your own. This is not of necessity the case. It is to be assumed that a breeder will keep trace of the dogs he has bred and sold. These can therefore be surely counted among the available sires from whom a selection can always be made. In fact, a breeder should consider them first, and most men do so. But here too he should guard against partiality. Do not breed to a dog you have bred, simply because you are his breeder, or because he will supply the puppies with a pedigree that will look on paper as if you had established a strain. That way lies the egotistical breeding system that leads to nowhere.
If one has determined to keep a stud and resolved to use him with discretion, two courses are open. He can either breed or he can buy his dog. In either case he should apply rigorous tests, the same as he would apply to any dog he was to mate to his own bitches.
The ideal stud dog should be possessed of quality, and accordingly he will probably be a winner at the bench shows, or in the case of a sporting dog, a proved performer in the field. If he is a champion so much the better, for while the title sometimes only means luck or opportunity, still it is generally evidence of quality above the average of the breed. His sire and dam, and their sires and dams should bear investigation as to type. If possible, the dog should be already proved as a sire of winning puppies. This is the one most valuable test that can be applied to a prospective sire. Naturally, he should be sound and healthy, and he will be at his physical prime when three or four years old.
Being the possessor of such a dog, it is but natural that a fancier should wish to offer his services at stud. This is right and proper, but he should remember that by placing his dog at the disposal of fellow breeders he assumes certain responsibilities. First, it is his duty to see that his dog is kept in the best of good health. A vigorous, healthy dog is obviously a more desirable sire than a weak, sickly one. The foundations of good health, kenneling, food, exercise, and cleanliness, have been discussed at length in the companion volume to this book, "Practical Dog Keeping," and it would be going beyond the limits of our subject to discuss them here. There are, however, a few special points that apply directly to the stud dog. He should have plenty of exercise—more than is given to the other dogs—and his regular diet should be supplemented with raw, lean, chopped meat. If very heavy demands are made on his vitality, a couple of raw eggs beaten up with a tablespoonful of sherry or port (for a dog the size of a Pointer) may be given him daily.
Authorities differ on the number of bitches a dog may safely be allowed to serve. Some say only twelve a year: others claim a dog can stand service twice a week without injury to his powers. The former seems "unreasonably conservative," except in the case of a very young dog, but the other goes to the other and the more dangerous extreme. A service a week, or three in two weeks seems a reasonable demand. A young dog should not be used as stud before he is ten months old and should be only used sparingly during his first year. After a dog is six years old he should not be used more than twelve or fifteen times a year, and at eight years one can expect his ability to get puppies to become uncertain, though some dogs have proved to be potent as old as ten.
Besides attention to the health and vigor of the stud dog, the owner must assume certain responsibility for visiting matrons. He must provide against any possibility of a mesalliance, and see that she is properly fed and exercised. When she first arrives, if she has come by express, she should be given a run and put in some quiet, comfortable place removed, if possible, from the other inmates of the kennels. Upset by the journey and frightened in a strange place, she needs rest and quiet. She should have all the clean, cool water she wants to drink—she is sure to be thirsty—and she should be fed lightly. The next day she will be ready to be bred.
A "tie" is generally considered evidence of a satisfactory service. There is, however, no foundation of fact for the theory that the duration of the "tie" is any indication of the number of puppies that will be born. Moreover, bitches have proved to be in whelp after a service when there was no "tie" at all, but, in such cases, it is but fair to notify the owner of the bitch of the circumstances.
There is no more provoking trial to a breeder's patience than to have a brood bitch "miss." He is apt to put the blame on the stud dog. This is natural, but unjust. Absolute sterility is uncommon among dogs. Over eighty per cent, of the cases of barrenness are to be found among the bitches. Moreover, a bitch out of condition—too fat is much worse than too thin—very often fails to have puppies even after an apparently satisfactory mating with a proved sire. In such cases, it is her owner's fault. However, most of the misses are the result of not breeding the bitch at the proper time during her period of heat. Sometimes this is the fault of her owner in not shipping her promptly: sometimes the blame rests with the owner of the stud dog who is careless.
But whatever the cause and whoever is to blame, the owner of the bitch is almost sure to charge the stud dog with the fault. Of this the stud dog's owner may be sure, and, since the reputation of being a sure sire of large litters is a valuable asset to any dog, every precaution ought to be taken to reduce to a minimum the chances of a miss. Careless words from fancier to fancier are often a stud dog's best—or worst—advertisement, and there are some "knocks" no optimism can transpose into "boosts." A reputation as an uncertain sire is one of these.
In advertising a stud dog, discretion is the better part of valor. A few facts soberly stated are better than buncombe and extravagant claims. Our English cousins are usually more circumspect in their kennel advertising than we, but oddly enough there appeared in a recent issue of one of the British kennel papers an advertisement that is a good example of all a stud advertisement should not be:
One does not have to be a walking encyclopedia of Airedale pedigrees and performances to appreciate the questionable taste of such statements, while, had I included the names, any novice in the Airedale fancy could see that despite the bold claim to the contrary, there is more "bluff" than "facts" in the advertisement. But, some one may ask, what has taste got to do with it?—a stud card is not a sonnet. True, but the object of a stud card is to sell the services of your dog. Confidence is an essential, integral part of every sale ever made, and surely confidence is never begotten by statements that the veriest tyro knows to be misleading. On the other hand, one does not have to write a "tombstone advertisement." There is a happy medium.
A good working guide when writing a stud advertisement is to be sure first that you present the essential facts, and let the good word you say for your dog be secondary. There are five facts that should be in every stud advertisement. The dog's name and stud book number, his pedigree for the first two generations, his age, the fee, and the address. In some breeds, his weight or his color also come into the class of the essentials. These are facts that every one who breeds to any dog will want to know, and, if they are presented clearly in the stud card, it saves time in letter writing.
In saying a good word for your own dog it is always well to let a list of his winning puppies or a criticism quoted from a show report in a kennel paper speak in your stead. "Best" and "greatest" are two adjectives that should be struck out of the advertiser's lexicon. You will never get any three fanciers to agree on the "best dog of the breed" or on the "greatest sire." It is silly to claim something that cannot be, except in one case in a thousand, substantiated, and which is sure to create just the impression that one ought to strive to avoid.
The various kennel journals are the best mediums through which a stud dog's services may be offered. This may be supplemented by letters and cards sent to known breeders of your variety. Lists of these can be purchased for two cents a name and are a good investment.
Two little things that, although not strictly in the form of advertising, will prove to be very valuable publicity are Certificates of Service and Whelping Cards. Owners appreciate such attention and they help create confidence and good will. A good form for a certificate is:
The whelping card, which should be printed on a self-addressed post card may be in this form:
Any local printer can get these up in attractive shape, and at a reasonable cost. Both the certificate of service and the post cards for recording whelping will prove to be a good investment for all kennels that do any considerable business, and it is but little more expensive to gain that decidedly personal touch by having special forms printed with the kennel name and address on them than to buy the stock forms. These are, however, better than none, and are specially available for the small kennel or the breeder with a single stud dog.
Before leaving the subject of the stud dog, it will be well to consider briefly some of those ills that are peculiar to him, and which, accordingly are not treated in general books on dog keeping.
Impotence, or sterility, may be due to a variety of causes, some incurable, others able to be remedied. In many cases either one or both of the testes do not descend to the scrotum. In the former case a dog is usually fertile: in the latter, he is usually impotent, though often able to perform the act of coition. Of course, a dog that has been castrated is absolutely sterile. In other cases, without any apparent reason or cause, the seminal fluid is deficient. This can often be determined by a microscopical examination. Impotence from any of the above causes is almost without exception beyond remedy. A diet of raw meat, supplemented with raw eggs and sherry, is rarely beneficial, but, in the case of a valuable dog, it is certainly worth a fair trial.
Temporary impotence, due to accident or deformity, is amenable to treatment. Fracture of the bone of the penis, which happens occasionally, will mend in a month's time, usually without treatment, but a dog should not be used at stud for two months. When the opening of the prepuce is so constricted as to prevent the penis from protruding, it can be cured by a simple operation. This had, however, best be left to a veterinarian's skill. Some dogs, especially young dogs, and dogs used too often at stud, are temporarily impotent because of the lack of sexual desire. A dose of tincture of cantharides, from three to twenty drops, according to the size of the dog, administered in water two hours before service, will often have the desired effect.
Inflammation of the testicle is usually caused by some accidental injury in the case of young dogs, but in old animals, especially if they have been extensively used at stud for a long time, it may arise from some constitutional cause. The testicles become swollen, and the scrotum is shiny and red. The dog suffers considerable pain and walks and sits down with difficulty. Local relief is sometimes obtained by the use of a hot poultice and sometimes by an ice bag, but the dog should be thoroughly purged and placed on a light diet of milk, thin soups, and dry biscuits.
In some cases the testicle enlarges, without the inflammation and soreness. This condition is nine times out of ten found in old dogs, and unless the enlargement continues and if it does not cause any great discomfort by hanging low and interfering with the dog's actions, it may be left alone. The only positive cure is castration.
A dog used at stud often develops wartlike growths on the penis. These greyish, hard growths often spread and grow, and should be promptly treated. A wash of two teaspoonfuls of common washing soda in half a pint of water sometimes effects a cure, but, if this fails, use a five per cent. solution of chromic acid, treating only one or two warts at a time.