This section is from the book "The Dogs Of Great Britain, America, And Other Countries. Their Breeding, Training, and Management in Health and Disease", by John Henry Walsh (Stonehenge). Also available from Amazon: The Dogs Of Great Britain, America And Other Countries.
The questions relating to in-and-in breeding and crossing are of the greatest importance, each plan being strongly advocated by some people, and by others as strenuously opposed. Like many other practices essentially good, in-breeding has been grossly abused. Owners of a good kennel having become bigoted to their own strain, and, from keeping to it exclusively, having at length reduced their dogs to a state of idiotcy and delicacy of constitution which has rendered them quite useless. Thus I have seen in the course of twenty years a most valuable breed of pointers, by a persistence in avoiding any cross, become so full of excitability that they were perpetually at "a false point," and backing one another at the same time without game near them; and, what is worse, they could not be stirred from their position. This last was from a want of mental capacity, for it is by their reasoning powers that these dogs find out when they have made a mistake, and without a good knowledge-box the pointer and setter are for this reason quite useless. But the breed I allude to, when once they had become stiff, were like Chinese idols, and must be absolutely kicked or whipped up in order to make them start off beating again.
Mr. A. Graham, who has had a long experience in in-breeding greyhounds, and was at one time so successful as to obtain the name of the "Emperor of Coursers," has laid down the rule that "once in and twice out" is the proper extent to which breeding in the greyhound should be carried, and probably the same will apply to other breeds. Sometimes a sister may be put to a brother even, when there has been no previous relationship in their sire and dam; but though this has answered well two or three times, it is not to be generally recommended. A father may in preference be put to a daughter, because there is only half the same blood in them, when the sire and dam of the latter are not related; or an uncle to a niece; but the best plan is to obtain a dog which has some considerable portion of the same blood as the bitch, but separated by one or two crosses; that is to say, to put two animals together whose grandfathers or great-grandfathers were brothers, but whose mothers and grandmothers were not related to each other. This relationship will do equally well on the dam's side, and the grandmother may be sister to the grandsire, quite as well as having the two grandsires brothers.
The practice of breeding-in to this extent has been extensively adopted of late years, and has answered well with the greyhound, in which breed, as used for public coursing, the names of "Harriet Wilson," "Hour-glass," "Screw," "Sparrowhawk," "Vraye Foy," "Mot* ley," "Miss Hannah," and "Rival" speak volumes in its approbation, all being in-bred and all wonderfully successful. The last-named bitch is a remarkable instance, being by a half-brother out of a half-sister, and yet continuing honest up to her sixth season, when she broke a toe in running the la3t course but one in a large stake at Ashdown. In her case, too, the blood of the dam was somewhat notorious for a tendency to run cunning; and, indeed, the same might be said of nearly all the strains of which she was composed; nevertheless, throughout her career she was entirely free from this vice, and left off without a stain. She has, however, unfortunately refused to breed; but as I have never known this peculiarity confined to in-bred bitches, I do not allege the fact as arising from her close in-breeding. Thus I have shown that in practice, in-and-in breeding, within certain bounds, is not only not prejudicial, but absolutely advantageous, inasmuch as it does not injure the nervous temperament and mental qualities of the produce; and that the body does not suffer is a well-known fact, easily capable of proof by examining the external forms of the dogs so bred.
Theoretically, also, it ought to answer, because we find in nature gregarious wild animals resorting to in-breeding in all cases, the stag adding his daughters to his harem as long as he has strength enough to beat off his younger rivals. In the same way the bull and the stallion fight for supremacy, until at length from age or accident they are beaten off, and a younger and more vigorous animal masters them and their female attendants. Yet this appears to be Nature's mode of insuring a superior stock, and preventing the degeneration which occurs among human beings, when a feeble pair take upon themselves the task of producing a family. It would appear that man is an exception to the general rule, for there is a special revelation prohibiting intermarriages, while we find them constantly going on among brutes, and especially, as above remarked, among gregarious animals. Hence it should not lead us to reason by analogy from one to the other, nor because we find that first cousins among our own race are apt to produce defective children, bodily and mentally, should we conclude that the same evil results will occur when we breed from dogs or horses having the same degree of relationship to their mates.
At the same time, when all that can be desired is obtainable without in-breeding, I should be inclined to avoid it; always taking care to resort to it when it is desired to recover a particular strain, which is becoming merged in some other predominant blood. Then by obtaining an animal bred as purely as possible to the desired strain, and putting him or her to your own, it may be expected that the produce will "go back" to this particular ancestry, and will resemble them more than any other.
The best time of the year for breeding dogs is from April to September, inasmuch as in the cold of winter the puppies are apt to become chilled, whereby their growth is stopped, and some disease very often developed. Among public greyhounds there is a particular reason for selecting an earlier period of the year, because as their age is reckoned from the 1st of January, and as they are wanted to run as saplings or puppies, which are defined by their age, the earlier they are born, the more chance they have in competition with their fellows of the same year. Hounds and game dogs are wanted to begin work in the autumn, and as they do not come to maturity until after they are a year old, they should be whelped in the spring. This is more especially the case with pointers and setters, which are then old enough to have their education nearly completed at "pairing time," in the spring of the next year, when only their breaking can properly be carried on, as birds then lie like stones, and allow the dog to be reached and properly kept under by his breaker.
Toy dogs and all small dogs, which are reared in the house, may be bred almost at any time of the year; but even they are stronger and healthier if born in the summer months, because the puppies may then be supposed to get more air and sun than they could do in the winter, when the warmth of the fire is essential to their well-doing.