One of the great difficulties that breeders of Mastiffs and all other large dogs have to contend against is in rearing the puppies; so many bitches being clumsy and apt to kill the whelps by lying on them. It is therefore always better to be provided with one or more foster bitches. At about six weeks old a fairly good opinion may be formed as to what the puppies will ultimately turn out in certain respects, for, although they may change materially during growth, the good or bad qualities which are manifest at that early age will, in all probability, be apparent when the puppy has reached maturity. It is, therefore, frequently easier to select the best puppy in the nest than to do so when they are from six to nine or ten months old.
Puppies should be allowed all the liberty possible, and never be tied up: they should be taken out for steady, gentle exercise, and not permitted to get too fat or they become too heavy, with detrimental results to their legs. Many Mastiff puppies are very shy and nervous, but they will grow out of this if kindly handled, and eventually become the best guard and protector it is possible to have.
The puppies feeding is an important matter, and should be carefully seen to by anyone wishing to rear them successfully. If goat's milk is procurable it is preferable to cow's milk. The price asked for it is sometimes prohibitory, but this difficulty may be surmounted in many cases by keeping a goat or two on the premises. Many breeders have obtained a goat with the sole object of rearing a litter of puppies on her milk, and have eventually discarded cow's milk altogether, using goat's milk for household purposes instead. As soon as the puppies will lap they should be induced to take arrowroot prepared with milk. Oatmeal and maize meal, about one quarter of the latter to three quarters of the former, make a good food for puppies. Dog biscuits and the various hound meals, soaked in good broth, may be used with advantage, but no dogs, either large or small, can be kept in condition for any length of time without a fair proportion of meat of some kind. Sheep's paunches, cleaned and well boiled, mixed with sweet stale bread, previously soaked in cold water, make an excellent food and can hardly be excelled as a staple diet. In feeding on horseflesh care should be taken to ascertain that the horse was not diseased, especially if any is given uncooked.
Worms are a constant source of trouble from the earliest days of puppy-hood, and no puppy suffering from them will thrive; every effort, therefore, should be made to get rid of them.
With proper feeding, grooming, exercise, and cleanliness, any large dog can be kept in good condition without resort to medicine, the use of which should be strictly prohibited unless there is real need for it. Mastiffs kept under such conditions are far more likely to prove successful stud dogs and brood bitches than those to which deleterious drugs are constantly being given.
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