Much as every true mother believes that her babe is perfect, so, apparently, does every dog-lover believe that his particular "fancy" is a capable watch-dog. Such, at least, is the writer's impression after many years' experience of the clan.
It is true that most breeds, even of the "toy" persuasion, are more or less alert watch-dogs, but there are some which, either by natural instinct or hereditary tendency, develop this good point beyond their brethren.
When I say "watch-dog," I do not mean m e r el y an animal which yelps or barks at every sound, friendly and usual or hostile and unusual. Such foolish conduct is useless and annoying, and no credit to its perpetrator. The true watch-dog is the one who allows no sound to pass unnoticed which is not permissible to his doggy intelligence. He does not give mouth unless there is ample reason so to do. As a rule, he will show his suspicion first by uneasy motions and low, warning growls, though some of the larger breeds have the disconcerting - to the unauthorised intruder, that is - habit of, like Brer Rabbit, "lyin' low and sayin' nuffin" until, with a deep growl, they fall upon the suspected one.
Let the owner, therefore, see to it that his dog is one of the useful sort - that is to say, one which will discriminate between friend and foe. In view of the attentions of the possible burglar, it is a good plan to try to train the animal to take food from its master, and refuse it from a total stranger. This can be done, with the help of a friend, by rating the dog severely each time it takes the food offered by him. The dainty should be taken away each time the animal accepts it. Should this be found a matter beyond the power of teacher and pupil, then, at least, discourage the habit of picking up things in the roads or streets.
All "doggy" persons are asked at times how a puppy may be taught to be a good watch-dog and yet at the same time be a safe, friendly companion. People do not want a savage brute which drags out a miserable existence chained to a kennel, yet they would like one whom they can rely upon to give notice of intruders or unusual events.
"Well begun being half done," it is said, much depends upon the choice of breed. Certain races seem naturally better watchdogs than others, though probably most can be trained to this duty. If a powerful animal is desired, one which can, if necessary, tackle his man, then the old-fashioned mastiff ranks first. Care, however, must be taken that the dog is bought from a person who is thoroughly trustworthy, as it should not be ferocious. A puppy of a strain known to be safe - tempered is a sine quanon in such a large breed. The Airedale terrier is another most suitable dog, being powerful, quite trustworthy with children, and a thorough sportsman and alert watch. He is hardy, most intelligent, devotedly affectionate, and takes readily to all teaching. In his case, it is well to be sure that the pup chosen shows no signs of nervousness, a fault which sometimes occurs in very highly bred dogs. Even then - and the writer knows of an instance at the time of writing - a most nervous puppy can be trained, by dint of extreme patience and kindness, to make a good watch-dog. Still, it is quite as well to start with a steady pup.
The bull-terrier is another dog unsurpassable for courage and devotion, with first-rate qualities as a watch. He, too, is sufficiently strong and awe-inspiring for protection, and, unless afflicted with that frequent weakness of white animals, deafness, is acute of hearing.
As with the mastiff, care should be taken to procure a good-tempered dog, otherwise he may be more of a trouble than a pleasure.
Amongst smaller terriers suitable for town houses or dwellings near other habitations, the writer feels tempted to place first - inter pares, if you will, but still first - the "Diehard," or Scottie. Not that he is more alert than the more elegant fox-terrier, the restless Pomeranian, and the many other smaller dogs kept in houses, but he owns, in addition to alertness, the invaluable gift of keeping a still tongue unless it is necessary to speak, and he has an aloofness with strangers and an uncivil curiosity concerning wayfaring men of unattractive appearance which are most useful assets.
I have seen an old lady of this breed persistently follow, nose to heel, a plausible gentleman of the road the whole length of an orchard and garden, until he effaced himself in a perfect tempest of curses. Yet, beyond the first deep mutter, she uttered no sound, nor was he able to beguile her with flattery, nor reward her with a sly kick. But her nose never left his heel while he was within her domains.
As regards teaching the pup. It is a mistake of the most foolish to imagine that, to be alert, a dog must be miserably uncomfortable. If your dog must sleep outside, though, indeed, he will be far more use indoors, then see that he is neither cold nor hungry, or all that he will do will be to bay his sorrows to the moon. Feed him not too late, not after, say, six, or, at the latest, seven; bed him out of a draught, and give him a chance of patrolling all the house, if possible. Should he at first rouse you unnecessarily, do not cow or terrify him with reproaches. Bid him lie down and reassure him. You yourself make mistakes, and may be misinterpreting his cries.
In the daytime make him as much of a companion as possible, and do not imagine that to chain him up will teach him anything but ill-temper. If, for any reason, he must be chained for a part of the day, do your utmost to make that time as brief as possible. But, as a general rule, no dog should be chained. A diet of raw meat will be a far more efficient method of encouraging a timid puppy, combined with its master's constant society outdoors, and the companionship of its own race. If these are unavailing, then it is best to get another dog, and begin again.
Perhaps the reader may wonder that the bulldog has been left out of the list of suitable breeds, but, though the most faithful and valiant of dogs, it possesses little power of scent, and has been known to make somewhat serious mistakes in the dark. This defect may deter those who wish to have a watch-dog from choosing a bulldog.
To sum up. If you do not buy a ready made and proved watch-dog, get a puppy from a reliable breeder, of a strain known for courage and sense, as well as for looks; feed suitably and train patiently yourself, overlooking at first certain small transgressions until your main object is attained, for a young dog is merely bewildered by trying to grasp too many lessons at a time. Reward all efforts, even if mistaken, and you may have cause, as men have had cause all through the strange, inexplicable association of man and dog, to thank a friend who asks no thanks for safety of life and limb of yourself or those clearer than yourself.
For it is not merely the burglar, the assassin, or the footpad whom his keen vigilance bids you beware, but that stealthy red-tongued servant who so quickly becomes a merciless master - fire, with its stifling breath and fiery sting. Unbelievable as it may sound, a Dalmatian dog recently not only saved the lives of his master and two other firemen at a fire in New York, but even climbed a ladder to do so. He barked furiously into the window of the room where the half-suffocated men were imprisoned and thus drew attention to their danger.
A wise-faced old Scottie for years might have been seen strolling about the courts of a celebrated (legal) inn with the master whom he had saved from the same awful danger. In this case, the little dog had not only barked his warning, but, finding that useless, had gone downstairs and actually roused the housekeeper by pawing and licking her face until she was thoroughly awakened.
"Happy," the sagacious dog of the New York fireman, who saved the
Jives of three firemen by climbing a ladder and drawing attention to the half suffocated and imprisoned men