This article will deal exclusively with toy dogs, the hardiest and easiest to rear. The most profitable, certainly, are the Pekingese, Pomeranian, and Toy Yorkshire. I have named the three . in their respective order of profit, though not of merit. This last point is one for each fancier to decide.
The site of the future kennel having been chosen, it is well to decide how the dogs are to be housed. Of course, the well-known firms who cater for dogs will supply every conceivable sort of puppy-house, but the writer has found a small, easily moved house preferable. It should be on castors, have its floor pierced with holes for drainage, with a removable zinc tray underneath it that can be covered with sanitary sawdust. It should also have a roof that will open at the top. It should be placed out of all draughts, in a sunny part of the room devoted to the dogs, and be kept as immaculately clean as the nursery of a human baby. The breeder should reproach herself if, for any preventible cause, she loses a single puppy.
Large healthy litters of strong puppies are possible in these and kindred toy breeds, and are the only means of making any profit.
The exhibiting even of successful winners is attended with risk, and practically more honour than profit; indeed, from a financial point of view, it is only doubtfully useful as an advertisement of one's kennels. In this connection it is interesting to note that one lady, who is perhaps the most famous of breeders of Pekingese, never exhibits at all.
There is less risk in showing adult dogs than puppies, but in all cases there is risk. The dread distemper germ may be conveyed by those whose own dogs are clean, but who may have been in unconscious contact with a dog sickening for distemper, or with infected kennels. Still, it is a short cut to fame, if a dangerous one, to exhibit a big winner, if only for a time, until one's reputation is established. The question is one for each fancier to decide; a warning only is given.
The next point to settle is how many dogs shall form the beginning of the kennel. If the breeder is a novice, or one with a small purse, it would be well to begin with, say, two good bitches. I say advisedly bitches, for it is of the utmost importance to lay a good foundation this way. An indifferently bred bitch is always unsatisfactory. Buy the best bitch you can afford; a winning dog will be beyond you, and in any case would be a foolish investment at first. You can for a much smaller sum secure his services, and if you are not pleased with his puppies, make a change for your next litter. But a healthy, good-looking bitch from a well-tried strain - not necessarily at all a show specimen, but one that is the exact type desired - mated to a dog whose strong points will correct her weak ones, is the best road to successful litters. Puppies owe as much, if not more, as a well-known breeder asserts, to the dam as to the sire.
If preferred, a bitch that has already proved her worth may be purchased. But if her cost is beyond you, then a visit to a breeder of absolute integrity will secure a good bitch puppy and sound advice upon her mating. In the case of a Toy the dam should not be too small, hence a show bitch is often useless as a brood bitch. From too small a dam often results one enormous puppy or a litter of weaklings; at times the death of the mother.
It is often possible, too, to secure a good bitch on what are called " breeding terms." These terms are exactly what the parties concerned choose to make them. Often the one who owns the bitch lends her in return for her keep and a puppy or more. The writer has made this arrangement and found it to answer well. All depends upon whether the other party takes proper care of mother and pups.
In choosing a sire, let the record of the dog as such, rather than his show successes, be his passport to favour. One of the most consistent sires of winners amongst a certain breed of sporting terriers has never achieved signal honours in the ring, but - far more to the point - his progeny invariably do so. And do not be above seeking friendly and expert advice from a disinterested person.
Build up your kennel gradually. Remember as a golden rule that a few good pups are worth several indifferent specimens. Never be tempted to trade upon the ignorance of your clients; the most rigid honesty alone will secure you their custom. It is far better, even commercially, to lose at the time than either disappoint or deceive a client. At the same time be business-like, and allow no credit; nor, if avoidable, send dogs on approbation except to a trustworthy friend. Grudge no time, no trouble, and nothing in the way of good food. Even if a Toy should grow too big he is better as a healthy, intelligent companion than if he has been half starved to make him a trifle smaller. It is better to destroy a sickly puppy than try to patch him up sufficiently to sell to a tyro for a small sum; one loses in credit more than one gains in pocket.
Avoid most carefully trying for immediate profits, either by breeding from immature mothers or by overworking your matrons. Such a course is unwise, and worthy only of the lower ranks of dealers, and is both cruel and wasteful.
Of course, a proper kennel-book should be kept as in other businesses. Every item should be entered, and with reasonable success and proper care the profits should, in a popular breed, outweigh the losses. But the margin is not always a wide one, and so there should not be the slightest waste. Buy the meat - the most expensive item - yourself, taking advantage of the market in every sense. Buy only the best of all foods, and measure quantities carefully. Be generous, but not wasteful. Value sanitation; dirt means infantile cholera and the like. Steep yourself in doggy lore that you may, as far as possible, dispense with a vet, yet grudge no medical aid that you cannot yourself supply, and let it be the best.
For the first year, or longer, you will make slow progress, but by inflexible probity first, and the production of handsome and absolutely sound stock next, you will gradually forge ahead, and you will have the most delightful of hobbies.
Always be a little better than your word. Never promise the impossible, as that a puppy of a few weeks is a "certain winner," or that one of a month or so has "perfect house manners." If you can, try at first for the custom of the person who will pay a reasonable price for a pretty, healthy puppy of pure strain, and be as generous as possible in what costs you nothing, such as advice if the puppy needs it, a collar thrown in with a good bargain, or any similar friendliness.
As your stock increases you should certainly breed a "flyer," and then, if convenient, you may yourself have a good stud dog or two, whose fees will most materially increase your bank balance. But, as a rule, this will depend upon your initial efforts, and the way in which you have by patient care and skill avoided illnesses and reared sound stock, and perhaps refused tempting offers for a matron who is the support of your little kennel. Such an animal is indeed a treasure; keep her until you can afford her superior.
Finally, when you have a promising sire of your own, again prove yourself the soul of honour by keeping him fit. As in horse dealing, so in dog dealing, it is honesty that deserves and usually secures success in the end.
A last word as regards prices. Remember your fellow breeders, and charge fairly; do not undersell any more than overcharge. It is just, of course, as a sire becomes more fashionable, to increase his fee in proportion. Among Pekingese sires, for instance, fees vary from the modest four and five guineas up to the thirty guineas of a dog who is perhaps the most perfect of his breed extant. Common-sense and the trend of fashion in the dog world will guide you in this important matter.