CHAPTER XLIV. THE KING CHARLES SPANIELS

The novice fancier, desirous of breeding for profit, exhibition, or pleasure, when price is an object for consideration, is often better advised to purchase a healthy puppy from a breeder of repute rather than to be deluded with the notion that a good adult can be purchased for a few pounds, or to be carried away with the idea that a cheap, indifferently bred specimen will produce first-class stock. It takes years to breed out bad points, but good blood will tell.

When you are purchasing a bitch with the intention of breeding, many inquiries should be made as to the stock from which she comes. This will influence the selection of the sire to whom she is to be mated, and he should excel in the points in which she is deficient. It is absolutely necessary to have perfectly healthy animals, and if the female be young, and small stock is desired, her mate should be several years her senior. A plain specimen of the right blood is quite likely to produce good results to the breeder; for example, should there be two female puppies in a well-bred litter, one remarkable as promising to have all the requirements for a coming champion, the other large and plain, this latter should be selected for breeding purposes as, being stronger, she will make a better and more useful mother than her handsome sister, who should be kept for exhibition, or for sale at a remunerative price.

The modern craze for small specimens makes them quite unsuitable for procreation. A brood bitch should not be less than 9 lb. in weight, and even heavier is preferable. A sire the same size will produce small and far more typical stock than one of 5 lb. or 6 lb., as the tendency is to degenerate, especially in head points; but small size can be obtained by suitably selecting the parents.

The early spring is the best season for breeding, as it gives the puppies a start of at least six months in which to grow and get strong before the cold weather sets in, although, of course, they can be bred at any time, but autumn and winter puppies are more troublesome to rear. It is always wise to administer occasionally, both to puppies and adults, a dose of worm medicine, so as to give no chance to internal parasites—the most troublesome ill with which the dog owner has to wrestle, causing even more mortality than the dreaded scourge of distemper.

The rules of hygiene cannot be overlooked, as upon them hangs the success of the breeder; plenty of fresh air, light, and sunshine are as necessary as food. Puppies of this breed are essentially delicate, and must be kept free from cold and draughts, but they require liberty and freedom to develop and strengthen their limbs, otherwise they are liable to develop rickets. Their food should be of the best quality, and after the age of six months, nothing seems more suitable than stale brown bred, cut up dice size, and moistened with good stock gravy, together with minced, lean, underdone roast beef, with the addition, two or three times a week, of a little well-cooked green vegetable, varied with rice or suet pudding and plain biscuits. Fish may also be given occasionally.

When only two or three dogs are kept, table scraps will generally be sufficient, but the pernicious habit of feeding at all times, and giving sweets, pastry, and rich dainties, is most harmful, and must produce disastrous results to the unfortunate animal. Two meals a day at regular intervals are quite sufficient to keep these little pets in the best condition, although puppies should be fed four times daily in small quantities. After leaving the mother they will thrive better if put on dry food, and a small portion of scraped or finely minced lean meat given them every other day, alternately with a chopped hard-boiled egg and stale bread-crumbs.