CHAPTER XLIX. PRACTICAL MANAGEMENT
Many people are deterred from keeping dogs by the belief that the hobby is expensive and that it entails a profitless amount of trouble and anxiety; but to the true dog-lover the anxiety and trouble are far outbalanced by the pleasures of possession, and as to the expense, that is a matter which can be regulated at will. A luxuriously appointed kennel of valuable dogs, who are pampered into sickness, may, indeed, become a serious drain upon the owner's banking account, but if managed on business principles the occupation is capable of yielding a very respectable income. One does not wish to see dog-keeping turned into a profession, and there seems to be something mean in making money by our pets; but the process of drafting is necessary when the kennel is overstocked, and buying and selling are among the interesting accessories of the game, second only to the pleasurable excitement of submitting one's favourites to the judgment of the show-ring. The delights of breeding and rearing should be their own reward, as they usually are, yet something more than mere pin-money can be made by the alert amateur who possesses a kennel of acknowledged merit, and who knows how to turn it to account. A champion ought easily to earn his own living: some are a source of handsome revenue.
Occasionally one hears of very high prices being paid for dogs acknowledged to be perfect specimens of their breed. For the St. Bernard Sir Belvidere sixteen hundred pounds were offered. Plinlimmon was sold for a thousand, the same sum that was paid for the Bulldog Rodney Stone. For the Collies Southport Perfection and Ormskirk Emerald Mr. Megson paid a thousand sovereigns each. Size is no criterion of a dog's market value; Mrs. Ashton Cross is said to have refused two thousand pounds for her celebrated Pekinese Chu-Erh, and there are many lap-dogs now living that could not be purchased for that high price. These are sums which only a competent judge with a long purse would dream of paying for an animal whose tenure of active life can hardly be more than eight or ten years, and already the dog's value must have been attested by his success in competition. It requires an expert eye to perceive the potentialities of a puppy, and there is always an element of speculative risk for both buyer and seller. Many a dog that has been sold for a song has grown to be a famous champion. At Cruft's show in 1905 the Bulldog Mahomet was offered for ten pounds. No one was bold enough to buy him, yet eighteen months afterwards he was sold and considered cheap at a thousand. Uncertainty adds zest to a hobby that is in itself engaging.
Thanks to the influence of the Kennel Club and the institution of dog shows, which have encouraged the improvement of distinct breeds, there are fewer nondescript mongrels in our midst than there were a generation or so ago. A fuller knowledge has done much to increase the pride which the British people take in their canine companions, and our present population of dogs has never been equalled for good quality in any other age or any other land.
The beginner cannot easily go wrong or be seriously cheated, but it is well when making a first purchase to take the advice of an expert and to be very certain of the dog's pedigree, age, temper, and condition. The approved method of buying a dog is to select one advertised for sale in the weekly journals devoted to the dog. A better way still, if a dog of distinguished pedigree is desired, is to apply direct to a well-known owner of the required breed, or to visit one of the great annual shows, such as Cruft's, Manchester, The Ladies' Kennel Association, The Kennel Club (Crystal Palace, in October), The Scottish Kennel Club, or Birmingham, and there choose the dog from the benches, buying him at his catalogue price.
In determining the choice of a breed it is to be remembered that some are better watchdogs than others, some more docile, some safer with children. The size of the breed should be relative to the accommodation available. To have a St. Bernard or a Great Dane galumphing about a small house is an inconvenience, and sporting dogs which require constant exercise and freedom are not suited to the confined life of a Bloomsbury flat. Nor are the long-haired breeds at their best draggling round in the wet, muddy streets of a city. For town life the clean-legged Terrier, the Bulldog, the Pug, and the Schipperke are to be preferred. Bitches are cleaner in the house and more tractable than dogs. The idea that they are more trouble than dogs is a fallacy. The difficulty arises only twice in a twelvemonth for a few days, and if you are watchful there need be no misadventure.
If only one dog, or two or three of the smaller kinds, be kept, there is no imperative need for an outdoor kennel, although all dogs are the better for life in the open air. The house-dog may be fed with meat-scraps from the kitchen served as an evening meal, with rodnim or a dry biscuit for breakfast. The duty of feeding him should be in the hands of one person only. When it is everybody's and nobody's duty he is apt to be neglected at one time and overfed at another. Regularity of feeding is one of the secrets of successful dog-keeping. It ought also to be one person's duty to see that he has frequent access to the yard or garden, that he gets plenty of clean drinking water, plenty of outdoor exercise, and a comfortable bed.
For the toy and delicate breeds it is a good plan to have a dog-room set apart, with a suitable cage or basket-kennel for each dog.