It is an old saying, and a true one : "Nothing like a good beginning." This proverb stands particularly staunch with regard to dogs. Without a sound start, we shall be often subject to sore disappointments. When we consider the unsuitable amalgamations ; the interminable, and almost incomprehensible transmogrifications ; the oft trebly compounded admixtures, to which the canine race is continually exposed, it should inspire us with somewhat of diffidence, in attempting to define the originality of stock, or in deciding on the purity of blood, simply from outward appearances. Breeds of dogs are continually undergoing the varied changes of the kaleidoscope. When there mav chance to be nine shades on the one side, and perhaps, thirteen on the other, it would be preposterous to inquire under what head to class the progeny. Certainly, they would be commonly termed mongrels; but not more than three breeds at most, could be detected in their appearance ; whilst their peculiar characteristics could be named only after trial. It often happens, however, even from such an inscrutable compound as that above mentioned, that a dog of apparently pure stock may present himself. Hence we are often deceived. We get Pointers, that won't hunt; Water Spaniels, that won't face the water; Newfoundlands intractable and savage ; Bull-dogs that won't fight; Charley Spaniels with long noses; Terriers with round heads ; in fine, a multitude of animals with irresponsible hypocritical countenances, well calculated to subvert the judgment of a Buffon, a Cuvier, or of Butler himself.
I merely cite these examples, to show how careful we ought to be in the selection of Breeding-Stock. I have seen splendid Scotch Terriers from a Poodle ; magnificent Newfoundlands from a Foxhound; beautiful Black and Tan Terriers from a Cocker Spaniel; also three apparently distinct breeds in the same litter; and a host of almost incredible productions, too numerous to put in print. A peculiar breed will often leak out, from generations back, thus giving rise to the popular, yet mistaken notion, of a slut enclosing in her womb the offspring of various sires. This idea is not only against the laws of nature, but contrary to common sense and experience. One plain fact, (it appears to me), is sufficient to decide the question. A slut will be in full heat during 10 or 20 days. Let us suppose then, that during that period, she has had intercourse with one or more males every day ; if her whelps were fathered by a variety of dogs, it is reasonable to suppose, (presuming them to arrive at the regular stage of embryo-perfection), that they would enter the world at periods, corresponding to the various times, when they were begotten ; therefore a slut, (one of the random kind), would be from 10 to 20 days in bringing forth her young, which I have hitherto not found to be the ease. I have a record of some five or six hundred breeding sluts ; sixty hours has been the greatest variation of time, between copulation and parturition. Some, I have put to the same dog every day, from the first up to the twentieth day. Now, why didn't they pup at various periods ? They were as likely to do it from one dog, as from a hundred ; but they have not averaged between the first born puppy and the last, perhaps over twelve hours. Then again, those who have for several consecutive days been subjected to the embraces of Pointer, Poodle and Pug, are just as regular in bringing forth, as others who have been allowed one male alone. The difference often discernable in the same family of pure breeds, arises from some former and perhaps distant amalgamation of another race. In breeding then, I repeat be very cautious in the selection of your stock. Trace their pedigree, (if you can), their qualities and their characteristics; aye, their manners and education ; their constitutions, pluck, endurance, etc. I cannot rid myself of the idea that even talents and acquirements are somewhat hereditary. The quail trembles at the tread of man, and with the very shell on his back, hurries off affrighted at the sound of his footstep ; whilst the young turkey, or chicken, (once wild as the quail), will become friendly in a few minutes ; and in a few hours will follow a person about as his adopted parent. The steady habits of the parent stock have thoroughly transformed their instinctive endowments, and suited them to civilized life. Look at the tame rabbit, (a more apt illustration), the young ones are comparatively tame, when they first run about: whilst those of the same stamp, if born in the woods, at the least sound, would bolt off like a shot, from under the very mother that bore them. Do not suppose, however, that you can get a learned puppy ; neither can absolute confidence be placed in hereditary endowments. I quote these examples merely to endeavor to substantiate my impressions in regard to the superiority of educated stock.
The next point to be considered is, the absolute Breeding. Authors are continually at variance as to the most appropriate ages for propagation. My own personal experience has not led me to fix on any definite period of canine development, as more particularly suitable for procreation, except in as far as health and vigor are concerned. If the dog and slut be perfectly healthy, and fully developed ; if they have lost none of their vigor ; if they be free from all taint of hereditary disease, stock may be safely relied on, from animals varying in age from eighteen months, to eight years ; and occasionally older. It is commonly supposed that the first litter is not good for much. I admit, there are cases, when the slut is in heat, before completing her growth, the pups would not, perhaps, be as fine ; but as a general rule, Nature is the best indicator of pro-creative fitness. This, I really do believe, that dogs bred from very young, uneducated stock, are much wilder and more difficult to control, than the offspring of riper years. See that your breeders are symmetrically built; strong in the loins, good teeth, good coat, and well developed limbs. Reject contracted chests, narrow loins, decayed teeth, stinking breath, etc. Do not breed in, any more than can be avoided ; it tells unhappy tales, and if persisted in, to any extent, deteriorates the constitution, weakens the intellectual powers, and gradually extinguishes every spark of healthful vigor. If you are particular about breeding from the same stock, that dog should be chosen who is living at the greatest distance from his mate. This will make an astonishing difference, as climate, diet, habits and treatment contribute greatly towards a physical change. Witness the same breed of dog, horse, cow, sheep, etc., under different guns. If these causes work such a marked change, the principle must be carried out in the same ratio, in localities less distant, and climates less varying.