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Extract from "The Dog Book"
(James Watson 1906)
(Additional Notes by Steve Tillotson, February 2011)

We have a rich legacy of early writings on all things to do with the dog. Amongst the most respected writers about dogs is James Watson who authored "The Dog Book" in 1906. Whilst this book was written a very long time ago, when the world of dogs was very different, and the societal and cultural values were of the early 20th century era, such books still offer a wealth of valuable information. In reading the following extract, we should note that the language and style is of the early 20th century which may reference a regulatory situation long since displaced by more modern rules. However, if we step over those details of era, and, concentrate on the information conveyed by the early writers, we will surely enrichen our knowledge of dogs. Of particular interest in the writings below are the subjects of "breeding", "the pedigree" and associated topics.

We should, of course, also be aware that a "dog breeder" (dealer?) at the turn of the 20th century could mean something entirely different to what we are familiar with in 2011. For example, in Watson's book he includes photographs and narrative on a large breeding establishment. This "kennel" is in fact a re-modelled stable block (so the block is huge). Re-modelled to suit the needs of dogs, rather than horses. The kennel may have had several hundred dogs in residence and there may have been 20-30 different breeds being bred there. Today of course, such an enterprise would immediately come under the full assault/scrutiny of the animal rights activists, and indeed the local animal control authority. Such a kennel would today most likely be described as a puppy mill.

Our last "modern era" of large breeding establishments was probably the 1960-1970's. Few large kennels exist today that can maintain a large selection of breeding stock. It has been said that the future of the breed today is in the hands of pet owners. Whilst that is somewhat of a simplification, the message is that the days of the large breeding kennels are over and that most breeding is undertaken nowadays by individuals, breeding and raising their stock in their home. However, whilst the large kennels are no more, thanks to the writings of people such as Watson, we are able to reflect upon what/why/how the old-time kennels went about their breeding and selection programs.

Whilst science, DNA etc is equipping the modern breeder in a way the old-timers could never have imagined. The basics of dog-breeding were inherited from"stockeepers and stockbreeders" as Watson describes in his writings. We in the 2000's have DNA and substantial writings to aid us in our endeavours, by contrast the old-timers largely only had their knowledge and expererience to guide them. We can benefit our knowledge by studying what writers such as Watson documented about the early-days breeders. DNA and science do not displace knowledge and good practice, they supplement and enhance what we already know, thus, these old writings still have a value today.

Extract Contents:


We have a rich legacy of early writings on all things to do with the dog. Amongst the most respected writers about dogs is James Watson about whom Clifford "Doggie" Hubbard writes (in Hubbards "An Introduction To The Literature Of British Dogs, 1948) the following;

"But no one has yet contributed on the vast literature of the dog in its own rights, that is, the literature completely or mainly devoted to the study of dogs. There is no doubt that serious breeders of dogs study the available books on dogs (the activities of dog club libraries point this out clearly enough, as only one example) ; and biblio graphers are well aware of the substantial number of dog books which existed in the Schwerdt, in the Lonsdale, and in the Tweedmouth collections (to name but three recently dispersed libraries). And yet as I say, we have nothing more than a rare article or two on the literature of British dogs to help us sort out the good from the bad dog books. It is because of this that I wrote this introductory essay

The first of the great cynological works of the twentieth century was well timed, therefore, when it appeared in 1906. This book, The Dog Book, was written by James Watson, a Scot, who was probably our first sports editor of a daily newspaper. Watson carried out an incredible amount of research, and although this book by no means represents his first work it remains even to-day a monument to the prodigious labour his check-work involved.

The Dog Book was originally published in ten parts in the U.S.A., but its first English appearance, over the colophon of the Heinemann windmill, was in 1906. Of the book itself, padded out on thick paper to two large volumes, it can be said that it is easily the finest book on dogs written by a British writer until Ash's superb Dogs : Their History and Development appeared in 1927.

Watson's book is probably the fore runner of Ash's big work, as there is little doubt that Watson drew attention to important but obscure references to early British breeds which would other wise have been missed by Ash and even ourselves."
(Clifford L Hubbard, 1948)



How to buy a dog is as difficult a question to answer offhand as to tell a person what dog will satisfy him. With the general custom in America of worshipping the fetish of pedigree in animalswhile holding that the man must be guaged by his individual meritsit is difficult to get any person to consider the purchase of any dog that has not a number of champions in his pedigree. If he has that, you can dispose of the veriest scrub that ever lived. Pedigree has a value, but you must know the history of the dogs of the day and the most prominent of the past generation or two to enable a proper conclusion to be drawn. From a pedigree it is possible for one of the initiated to form an opinion as to what might be expected of the dog in certain characteristics and which of these characteristics he might perpetuate. It has but little to do with the future excellence of the puppy beyond the fact that a dog of good breeding has a better chance of being good-looking than one bred from scrubs.

To understand this it is necessary to state that there are few breeders of prominence who do not lay stress upon some particular point in conformation. With one it is head, with another it is "front," another must have a good coat, and so on. An expert fox-terrier judge would make but little mistake at an English show in picking out the Redmond, Vicary or Powell entry, all of which is in keeping with what Youatt tells us about the two sheep-breeders who purchased some pure Bakewell ewes and rams, and although there was not a drop of outside blood introduced into the flocks, they became entirely different in type within a few years, each breeder making his selections along a line of his own.

Then again we find every now and then a sire that is particularly good in giving to his progeny some much wanted characteristic, such as the ability of the late Finsbury Pilot among collies to give heavy coats, while the sparse-coated collie Ormskirk Galopin was noted for heads. And it is along this line we find the value of pedigree, for an inbred Galopin should be a pretty good headed dog, while one strong in Finsbury Pilot blood should be good coated, or in breeding from dogs bred that way we may expect such results.

But that is not what pedigree means to the American buyer and for his purpose the form might as well be filled up at random, with Toms, Dicks and Harrys, and Marthas, Janes and Betsies, especially if you can put "Ch." before any of the names. To him it is a pedigree, to the man who knows it is a piece of paper. It is this class of buyers that write for two puppies, not related, and start breeding dogs to win prizes with, because these puppies trace to some champions within a generation or two. Such a buyer and breeder produces pedigrees, not winners.

We were at the Birmingham (UK) show of 1879 and chatted with the late William Graham, to whom we owe the excellence of the present-day Irish terrier. He had had a very successful time with his dogs, and swinging his stick in the direction of the row of dare-devils, he said " Some men show pedigrees ; I show dogs and take the prizes." We were among the former at that show, Vero Shaw in his report saying that the pedigree was worth more than the dog; and there are thousands of that sort bred annually and from the very best dogs we have, for it is only the very top skimming of the cream that become champions of record.

It is a matter for the greatest regret that this pedigree foible is supported by the government and restrictions imposed which show that the responsible official has not the slightest knowledge of dog matters or how dogs rate themselves; dog-show records taking the place of cattle pedigrees. We will give a late personal experience.

Having been intrusted with the purchase of a number of dogs abroad that could win prizes here (USA), a very thorough search through Ireland and England was made and a dozen bought. I do not think I asked as to the pedigree of a single one. I was buying winners, not pedigrees, and knowing that good pedigrees are made by good dogs and not vice versa, I bought the dogs and then set the seller at work to get the pedigrees perfected to suit the Washington requirements. To do this occupied nearly three weeks, and it was necessary to expend over thirty dollars to have past generations supplied with stud-book numbers. Two pedigrees could not be so furnished, not that there was anything unknown, but the sire of these dogs was out of an unregistered dam, though as he was about the most famous dog in England and has more living descendants than any dog of his breed, his full pedigree is perfectly well known and has been given over and over again. The owner filled out a blank, but the American Kennel Club would not give a registration because this owner had been suspended and had not the right to register; and the dam being dead, she could not be sold to any one having the right to register. Fortunately these were cheap dogs and the duty correspondingly light, but on the same steamer with them came two or three pick-up dogs of no breeding, and they passed in on payment of one or two dollars. If worthless curs were not admitted, then there would be some semblance of reason in present rules, but for them the door is held wide open, and the stringency is put on the man who pays hundreds of dollars for a dog worth having.

To buy good dogs as per government regulations it is only necessary to write for pedigrees and buy the dog having the one that reads best, but if that is done the buyer might as well make up his mind that if he ever does show his pedigree dog he will find that he is beaten out of sight by men who bought good dogs and then thought of the pedigree.

But, the reader asks, if pedigree amounts to nothing, how are we to buy for breeding purposes, for instance ? We have already said that pedigree is valuable, and it is an essential in the case of purchasing for breeding, but we again repeat that if the buyer does not know something regarding the dogs in the pedigree, either personally or from reliable information, one string of names is as good as another to him. Here According to the United States government test the Irish terrier that owns that pedigree is practically a mongrel, because in two generations it has but one ancestor with a stud-book number; since being imported, however, the sire, King's Masterpiece, has earned a number by his show successes, but the others are still mongrels according to the United States government test.

The seeker for champions in the pedigree discards it because he only finds Breda Mixer and Bachelor, and they are too far back. Now we will put it before the man who knows. " I see a Knox bred one. Knox has done quite a bit of good breeding in his time and they seem to come better right along, but that is to be expected of course if the man knows his business; and inbred, too, and in the fashionable way. Did you ever notice how many good ones are by a son of a dog that gets good ones, out of a daughter ? No ; well, study that up a bit and get hold of a series of letters by Professor Bohannon of the University of Ohio on that subject. He shows some wonderful results in racehorses and in dogs from that system of breeding. In this case you have a son of King bred to a sister of King.



"Why, man, you have a wonderful pedigree here. I have never seen anything like it before: full of Breda Muddler blood or what made him, and not once is he mentioned. Here you have King's sire Kaiser out of Kriffel, by Breda Mixer who got Muddler, and Kaiser's sire Red Idol was out of Breda Iris the dam of Muddler. Then King's dam Kindle is a full brother in blood to Muddler, for Red Inez was a sister, if not a litter sister, to Breda Iris.

"All that is repeated in the pedigree of Koerchion, King's sister. Do you know how Kriffel's dam Knoxonia was bred .? No; well, she was a Knox anyway, and we can take her as all right. King's Masterpiece is a half-brother of our Celtic Badger, I see, for his dam is Killarney Lily. I met a man the other day who had lately been at Belfast, and he told me of his visiting Mr. Knox and spoke of his dogs very favourably. He liked King very much; and I remember his saying that it was little wonder that Badger and this Masterpiece, which he also saw, were good ones, for Killarney Lily was one much above the average. From the way he spoke of her she must be a very nice one.

If I remember rightly you won a couple of times with this bitch, but she did not strike me as one that would go on much further as she then was. I know, however, that if I owned her nothing would induce me to part with her until I had tried her as a brood bitch. If she does not prove a good one, then there is no value in a pedigree."

It must also be very distinctly borne in mind that while it is perfectly proper to buy a bitch with a pedigree which will bear such an investigation as the foregoing and be approved of by an expert, it is quite a different thing in a dog. No one with any knowledge of the subject will breed to a dog merely on pedigree, unless as an experiment in the case of one much inbred to a thoroughly tested strain. The vast majority of good dogs have been bred from sires individually good; so when it comes to the purchase of a dog he must be excellent as an individual, and that must take precedence over pedigree, for as we have already said, a good dog makes the pedigree good, and not the other way.

Continuing with the same pedigree as the text, the fact that we find in it so many of one person's breeding, and he a successful breeder, is a great endorsement of it. Such a person is all the time selecting which of his best to keep and getting rid of the unsuitable or what is no longer needed in his kennel. By this process the quality of the breeding stock of the kennel is gradually improved and becomes more reliable in producing. Type becomes more consistent, and in process of time we have a strain established which can be relied upon to produce good ones in greater proportion than is the case in most of the rival kennels.



Let us suppose for a moment that we are considering, for instance, organising a car-line. No one in his senses would suggest that a start be made with a dinky mule-car and by a series of changes finally arrive at an up-to-date electric plant. Business is not conducted that way, but in view of the many improvements continually being introduced into the car service a most thorough investigation is made so as to avoid mistake in getting the result of the best thoughts and experiments on the subject. The line when it is opened is thereby furnished in the most up-to-date manner possible and starts on an equal footing with the improved service of the old reorganised horse-cars and cable-cars. And that is just what the person intent upon entering the field as a competitive breeder must do if he desires success.

Discard all idea of beginning at the bottom with puppy purchases and "champion pedigrees," but look carefully over the results of the shows and note who are the men who have bred the winners. Having found that out do not make the mistake of purchasing puppies, for out of the many litters that this man may have in the course of a season he is unhkely to keep more than one or two from any Htter, and then gradually disperses these as he sifts out the best for home keeping. If then you buy puppies you get what are his cast-offs. Our advice is to begin where he is at by getting such of his brood matrons as he will spare; and if they have already been bred you are starting your kennel on a level with him so far as his judgment goes m deciding upon the mating. The purchase of a dog may well be left alone, for it is a drawback to have but one, it not being probable that he is suitable for a variety of matrons, and it is much better to be entirely untrammelled in seeking the best possible sire. A good enough dog to place at the head of a kennel costs a great deal of money, and it is not only more advisable on the score of suitability to go outside, but more economical as well.



If the intention is to purchase a show dog, then there are two plans to suggest. One is to buy a dog that is making a good record, but it will be found to be somewhat expensive to do so, unless the owner has an idea that his dog is going off and has another to supply its place. Now to buy a dog that is going off is the very thing that must be avoided by all means. It is the most unsatisfactory experience a beginner can have, to buy a dog that has won a number of prizes and then find that he can do so no more. The buyer is apt to think, if he does not actually say, that the change of ownership has all to do with the change in the dog's position; but that is hardly fair, for young dogs especially change materially and begin to show faults which soon put them back in the prize-lists. The seller probably paid for his experience in detecting the signs of a dog going wrong, and if the dog is being honestly shown the buyer has every opportunity to form his own conclusion, as to the dog's future.



The second plan is to pick up a dog with a possibility of improving, or that has not been shown yet and looks like making a winner. If the purchaser can do this of his own knowledge he needs no coaching, but the likelihood is that he does not know sufficient to warrant his undertaking the task, and in such a case the only thing to be done is to get some one of experience to act for him. There is one thing such a buyer must remember, and that is that good dogs cost money and are not to be picked up as bargains except by those who have expert knowledge. No one expects to purchase a lot on upper Fifth Avenue, facing Central Park, for the price of one below Fifty-ninth Street, nor to get a stylish park-horse or a two-ten trotter for the price of a grocery wagon puller. Yet when it comes to dogs the same people gasp at any price over about twenty dollars. To get a dog capable of winning at New York in any of the fashionable breeds there would be little chance of succeeding for less than five hundred dollars, while in some breeds that amount would not be sufficient. Others not so fashionable are not so expensive. When it comes to a dog capable of winning at shows where the tip-toppers are not competitors the price suggested may be halved or even quartered and a very satisfactory dog obtained. The reason being that we have so few shows here that a dog of the first class sent on circuit stops all others from winning; and as it is the winners that cost money, the price of such dogs double up quickly compared with those they can surely defeat.

(Ed Note: Re that $500 dollar cost mentioned above to purchase a show dog in 1906. Inflation calculated - that cost today would be $12,000)



The large majority of buyers are, however, in search of a puppy to bring up as a pet or house dog, and the main consideration is good health and an absence of any disfigurement. If it is of a large breed, then the largest and best-boned one is the likeliest to hold the lead in size, providing he is properly reared. Heads grow longer and thinner in foreface as puppies develop, and as that is wanted in but few breeds a head with plenty of bulk before the eyes is recommended as the one likeliest to fill out without weakness. The size of the ears is in many breeds an important point. Where the ears are erect, then the smaller and neater the better. If not to be carried fully erect the very small ear is to be avoided, for a small-eared collie, for instance, is most likely to get them fully erect eventually. So much depends upon the breed that the selection is to be made from, that general directions can hardly be given upon many points; and if the buyer has no personal knowledge to guide him the better plan will be to place himself in the hands of the vendor, and if there is any difference in price between the puppies accept that as the guide and take the high-priced one, for the man who fixed the prices has had every opportunity to form the best judgment as to the choicest.


(Please note this was written in 1906 - pre-dating the modern expression "Puppy Mills"

It is far too prevalent an idea that to do business with a dog-dealer is to invite oneself to be robbed. We have had personal knowledge of a very large number of those who make a business of buying and selling dogs, and have investigated officially and personally many cases of alleged fraud on their part, and in the majority of cases found not the slightest reason for the charges made. In others, where there was a conflict of testimony we have always found the dealer more willing to make an honorable settlement than the buyer, and in the few cases of positive swindling the Kennel Club took such speedy action as to give a lesson to all that there must be no "dishonourable conduct in connection with dogs." The penalty for that is disqualification, and that carries with it disqualification of all dogs passing through the hands of the disqualified person and the refusal to register them in the oificial stud-book or allow them to be shown if it is known that they were the property of the disqualified person. It is a very severe penalty, and as it practically kills off the best part of a dealer's business they are as a class very careful to deal fairly. We have seen the most ludicrous things done by purchasers of dogs. More than once we have known of a dealer sending quite a nice white bull terrier to a purchaser only to have it returned with the demand that one with brindle markings be sent, and charging all sorts of things because such a poor dog had been sent. Of course the vendor was only too happy to make such a change and please such a knowing customer, who doubtless let it be fully known how he was too sharp to be swindled by a dealer and had made this particular one come to time in quick order.

Dealers are not nomads, but it will be found that nearly every one, in the East at least, has occupied the same premises for years, or if a change has been made it has been for the better. Rogues cannot do this, for not only is the Kennel Club court open to all without a cent of expense, but the power of the police and the United States post-office can be invoked to good purpose, so that there is very good evidence in this permanency of location to say that the dealer in dogs is entitled to be above suspicion as much as any other man of a similar number of years' standing in business.

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