By their puppies you can judge the success of dog fanciers, for, although there are large kennels that cut a wide swath in the awards at the bench shows and field trials, still, unless they are producing a reasonable number of home bred winners, they are principally important in the development of the thoroughbred dog as furnishers of incentive for the true breeders. Their example of prizes won is stimulating; their financial support is even more valuable; but, as factors in the improvement of the variety in which they are interested, they are, it is to be regretted, often negligible.
Puppies, better puppies than ever before graced a bench or pointed a covey, are the goal of the dog breeder's ambition. Toward this end he always works. It seems strange then that, as a breeder, his work is finished before the puppies are born. The only point he touches directly in the breeding of better puppies is in his selection. It is, of course, his will that determines which two of many possible individuals shall be mated, in other words, which units of heredity shall be combined. This is, as we have seen, a difficult and complicated task, and to make the best selection a breeder needs every help he can secure. Hence the great importance of a thorough knowledge of the history and points of the variety being bred and a sound understanding of the principles of heredity and variation. It is ignorance of these things, ably supplemented by carelessness and catch-penny methods, that makes "well bred bad dogs" a drug on the market.
Despite the fact, however, that the trend of modern biologic thought is to lighten the emphasis formerly placed upon the inheritance of acquired characteristics and to discount largely the influence of environment on physical structure, still the practical breeder of dogs is very vitally interested in the proper rearing of his home bred puppies. The most perfect litter of exceptional individuals ever whelped must be raised to have any value. The good proverbially die young, and to hear fanciers talk one gets the idea that the pick pup of every litter ever whelped is invariably buried during infancy.
From every point of view, the first six months of a dog's life are the most important and critical in its individual development, and the first day is more important in inverted ratio than the two hundredth. Few fanciers seem to appreciate this. They usually consider that puppies are safest while nursing. In so much that they are less trouble and are less interfered with, this is in a measure true. The vast number of pups that die before their eyes are open, however, shows that this condition is more apparent than real. In raising a valuable litter then, a fancier should start the moment they are born. Eat, sleep, and grow: this is the life of the puppies during the first two weeks of their existence. Every effort must be made to make this life as ideal as is possible. A bad beginning never makes a good ending in the rearing of young animals.
When a puppy is born, its mother will attend to its first toilet. However, since damp and chill are potent enemies of the young life, it will be wise to take it from its mother, when she has finished with it, dry it thoroughly and wrap it in warm flannel rags, putting it in a dry, warm place. The mother will be so engaged that she will not be disturbed and the whole family can be re-united after the last of the litter has been born. Since the navel cord is sometimes the seat of an infection that is fatal, and prevention being very much better than cure, it is well to wash off the cord with a little tepid water in which is a mild solution of some good disinfectant, peroxide of hydrogen or lysol are excellent, and to dust it with boracic acid powder.
Many fanciers have had experience with an apparently mysterious and almost universally fatal disease popularly called the squeaks. Puppies three or four days old suddenly lose their appetites, become nervous and fidgety, and are in apparent pain. They whine and squeak continually, from which symptom the disease has received its name. The abdomen swells at first and is hard to the touch, but the puppies eventually die, stretched out on their bellies with a flat, crushed look. The immediate cause is to be found in the bitch's milk, which, if drawn off, will be seen to be greenish and stringy, with a strong, sourish odor.
The final cause is intimately associated with the condition of the dam prior to whelping. It is a disease peculiar to cramped quarters, and the best means of prevention are attention to the bitch during her pregnancy. She must have plenty of exercise, and her bowels must be kept open. Some fanciers make a practice of milking a bitch after she has whelped and before the pups have suckled. This is advisable, since every possible preventive measure should be employed, there being no known cure for the disease once it has attacked the offspring.
If for any reason the dam cannot nurse her own puppies and a foster cannot be procured, it is quite possible to raise them by hand. This is an irksome task, but not difficult. The pups will suck from an ordinary nursing bottle, but the rubber nipple had best be substituted by one made of soft leather—an old glove answers admirably—in the end of which several holes have been pricked with a large pin. This leather nipple must be stuffed with a bit of sponge to give it form, for a pup in nursing wraps its tongue round the nipple. The nipples and bottles should, of course, be kept clean, boiling them out after each feeding.
A bitch's milk, contrary to popular opinion, is stronger than a cow's. The following analysis by A. J. Sewell, M.R.C.V.S., the well known English veterinarian, shows this difference:
A bitch's milk, it appears, is about three times as concentrated as cow's milk, yet many fanciers dilute the latter when feeding pups. This is, of course, the exact reverse of the proper method. A fairly close approximation of bitch's milk can be prepared by taking a pint of cow's milk, adding to it four tablespoonfuls of cream, a heaping teaspoonful of either Mellen's or Eskay's baby foods, and six ounces of water. The prepared baby food should be mixed thoroughly with the water till a paste is made, and then added to the milk and cream and the whole brought to a boil, feeding when it has cooled to blood heat.
A day's rations may be prepared at a time, if kept tightly corked in clean bottles in the ice chest, and warmed by putting the nursing bottle in hot water just before feeding. Besides the obvious advantage of feeding artificial milk as close as possible to the composition of the pup's natural diet, the more concentrated food has the further advantage of furnishing adequate nourishment without the danger of overloading the small stomach of the young pup. Each pup should be allowed to suck the bottle ten minutes, and they will have to be fed every three hours, day and night. At three weeks old the puppies will only require food every four hours, but they must be allowed to suck for fifteen minutes.
At five or six weeks the puppies should naturally begin the weaning process. By the time they are two months old they should be entirely independent of their mother. It is, however, best to leave this entirely to nature. Do not force matters. Their mother's milk is the best food pups can have, and so long as she will nurse them, they should be allowed this advantage. The arrival of the youngsters' first teeth will soon enough force the dam to leave off nursing them.
The dog, like most mammals, has two sets of teeth. The first set, the milk teeth, are temporary: the second are permanent. There are twenty-eight milk teeth, and the permanent set, varying according to the breed, contains forty-two or forty-four. There are three different kinds of teeth: the incisors, twelve in number in each set, are in the front of the mouth and used for cutting and tearing: just behind the incisors are the canines or tusks, four in number: in the back of the mouth are the molars, twelve in the milk set and seven on each lower jaw and six on each upper in the permanent set, heavy, strong teeth, used for crushing and grinding. Some short faced breeds, as Bulldogs, have only five upper and six lower molars in each jaw.
Usually puppies experience little or no trouble in cutting their milk teeth. The larger breeds cut these teeth earlier than the smaller, the center molar in the lower jaw usually appearing first about three weeks after birth. The upper incisors next appear, followed by the lower incisors and the tusks, after which the two lower molars will come through and then the upper ones, the front upper molar being the last of the milk set to make its appearance.
The process of dentation will take about two weeks, so a puppy of the larger breeds should be equipped with a set of temporary teeth by the time it is five weeks old, while pups of the smaller breeds will be a few days later. Bitch puppies generally cut their teeth a few days earlier than their brothers, and summer puppies may have their teeth a little earlier than winter pups of the same variety. This set of teeth is very soft, and by the time a pup is four months old the sharp edges will be worn smooth. This, together with the fact that the teeth are not set close and grow farther apart as the pup's jaw grows, furnishes a rough index to the age of the youngster.
At about four months old, a puppy begins to get its permanent set of teeth. The center upper incisors will be loose or out about this time, and the fourth upper molar is beginning to put in an appearance. The other upper incisors and then the lower ones are replaced and the permanent tusks begin to show through the gums. The back molars appear next and then the more forward ones, the upper teeth appearing earlier than the lower, the opposite of the order in the temporary set.
The teeth do not follow any set and regular order, but by the time a St. Bernard, a Great Dane, or a Mastiff is five months old he should have a complete set of permanent teeth. The Terriers and medium sized dogs are usually two or three weeks later, and a toy may not be through teething till seven or even eight months. During the cutting of these permanent teeth it pays to watch a puppy's mouth. One of the permanent teeth may come up beside a temporary one without forcing it out. If neglected, this will cause no end of pain and inconvenience, and, if long neglected, may even result in a twisting of the permanent teeth. It is a simple thing to look into a pup's mouth every few days during the teething period and to draw any loose teeth of the baby set.
A puppy is often upset during the cutting of the permanent teeth. Eczema sometimes breaks out and the youngster's digestive tract is more than apt to be disarranged. Give a pup a thorough worming when he is three months old. It is a perfectly safe supposition that a puppy has worms, and it is the best insurance against stomach disorder, bowel troubles, and rickets to institute and follow a regular course of vermifuge. Three months is a good age to administer the first dose, and repeat it every three months till a dog is a year and a half old, after that at least twice a year.
Any of the vermifuges placed on the market by reliable firms will be found to be very effective, if the directions of the manufacturers are carefully followed. It is always advisable to do well what is worth doing at all, and the treatment should be repeated two or three days after the first dose. Thorough treatment for worms will forestall most of the teething troubles, but if the pup is upset, put him on a light diet and administer a dose of castor oil and syrup of buckthorn.
Rickets is a disease peculiar to puppies, and, if the youngster gets through his teething, he is very apt to escape all possibility of this trouble. Few cases appear, and then only as a legacy of distemper, after a dog is six months of age. The symptoms cannot be mistaken. The joints, especially those of the legs, swell; the forelegs are bowed and the hind legs are cowhocked. Usually there is involuntary twitching and shaking, the pup is thin and pot bellied, suffers considerable pain, and is altogether a miserable, pathetic object. The cause is worms, aggravated by improper food, lack of exercise, foul air, dampness, and lack of light and air. In extreme cases it is kindest and wisest to put the sufferer mercifully out of the way. If a cure is attempted—permanent cure is seldom achieved—the puppy must be treated heroically for worms and then well fed, well housed, and well exercised. Fowler's solution of arsenic, or better still, cod liver oil tonic, after the formula recommended in the companion volume to this book, is valuable.
Many puppies have fits. Sometimes these occur during the cutting of the second teeth, but they are usually the result of worms with heat or super-excitement furnishing the immediate cause. The youngster, who has apparently been quite well, suddenly crumples up, rolls about, kicking and champing its jaws, and frothing at the mouth. In a few seconds it will stagger to its feet, look about in a dazed manner, and then rush off, running round in circles, barking excitedly. Attack may follow attack in rapid succession and with increasing severity till the puppy may die of exhaustion.
First and foremost, one must remember that fits, as evidenced by these symptoms, have nothing whatever to do with rabies. Thousands of innocent dogs are slaughtered each year and hundreds of people are scared to distraction through this very silly mistake. The bite of a dog in a fit is absolutely harmless, and one can secure him without any fear. This should be done, and he must be restrained from hurting himself in his frenzies. A sponge or large cloth, soaked in cold water, should be soused on his head, and he should be kept quiet in a dark room. Talk to him and pet him gently. Do whatever you can to quiet him. After the fit has disappeared, the dog should be kept on a light diet of milk and thin broth for a couple of days and then treated for worms.
There are three minor operations that some breeders are called upon to perform upon their dogs.
The terriers, except the Scottish Terrier, and the spaniels, except the Irish Water Spaniel, are docked. This is best done when the puppy is four or five days old. The skin should be drawn down away from the body as far as possible, so it will be able to grow over and cover the stump of the bone, and the tail cut off clean with a pair of scissors. It is best to keep the pups away from the mother for half an hour or more, until the active bleeding has stopped. This, however, is seldom serious, and it can be readily checked by an application of tincture of perchloride of iron. It is not a bad plan to wash off the wound with a mild solution of disinfectant. It is customary to leave about three-fifths of a Fox Terrier's tail and something more than half of the tails of the other Terriers. The sporting Spaniels have a little less than half of their tails left and the toys about a third.
Cropping is not quite so easy, but the employment of the steel clips, sold by kennel supply houses for this purpose, makes it a surer and simpler operation than formerly. The clips should be fastened securely to the ear in the correct position, and the part of the ear outside the metal cut out quickly and cleanly with a sharp razor. Cocaine is sometimes used as a local anesthetic, but this is hardly necessary, for the pain is very slight. Cropping had best be done when a pup is nine or ten months old, and the proper training of the ear after cut is all-important, if a correct carriage is to be induced. It is at this point that the amateur generally fails dismally, and he should, if possible, receive a few practical lessons from a competent man, or else send his dogs to such a one to be cropped. Surgeon's plaster, wax, and even plaster of Paris are employed to fasten the ears back across the skull, so that when released they shall stand smartly erect.
Puppies are sometimes born with extra claws, dew claws, on the inside of their legs. These whether they be on the front or back legs, should be removed four or five days after birth, by cutting them off clean, close to the leg, with sharp scissors. This is an almost painless and bloodless operation.
The troubles of puppyhood are almost without exception the result of improper quarters, dirt, poor or badly selected food, or worms. With a very little reasonable attention, there is not a reason in the world why the average pup should not be "disgustingly well." Growing youngsters demand room and light and fresh air. They must have adequate food. They cannot thrive if infested with worms. Remember these things and the problem of raising puppies successfully is solved for you.
It is, however, true that no matter how roomy and light your kennels be, nor how large their runs, nor how careful you are of what goes into the pups' stomachs: they will do better on a farm. This being so, it is well, if possible, to make an effort to find reliable persons with whom you can board your youngsters between five and eight months of age. This English custom, and it is a great factor in the success of the British kennels, is one that is based on years of experience, and we in America should make every effort to establish it in this country. It will be an important factor in the rearing of better puppies.