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Among the various scientific and anecdotical writings in the English language on The Dog, it might be thought that the subject was exhausted, and that nothing remained to be done by the most careful observer of the habits and external forms of the varieties of this animal. But let any one seek for specific information upon several points connected with even well-marked and generally-recognised kinds, and he will soon be brought to confess that he is lost in doubt and uncertainty. For instance, where shall we find a sufficient description of the spaniels and terriers, or of the various retrievers for which such large sums are often given ? Who will be able to discover, from any written account, the difference between the springer and the cocker, or between the Clumber and Sussex spaniels? Who, again, will tell us the colours and forms of the Skye and Dandie Dinmont terriers, or the characteristics of the English toy terriers, pugs, and Maltese dogs? Yet there are thousands and tens of thousands who take a great interest in these animals, and who would spare neither money nor trouble to ascertain the exact properties of the variety to which each individual of their acquaintance belongs. Daniel, Youatt, and Richardson have all laboured hard to enlighten their readers upon the varieties of the canine species, and have no doubt done much towards the attainment of this end; but, as I before remarked, the deficiencies in their descriptions are patent to all. It is true that the hound and the greyhound, the pointer and the setter, as well as many of the foreign varieties of the dog, have been favoured with special treatises; but beyond them the ground is almost untrodden, or else it is choked with weeds and rubbish which render it difficult to ascertain what is beneath them.
In the following pages I have been compelled to have recourse to the work of Mr. Youatt in the instances of some of the foreign dogs, both for the descriptions and also for the engravings which are contained in it. At the time when he wrote, the Zoological Society of London possessed an extensive collection of dogs, which was made use of by him to great advantage; and I can speak to the correctness of most of his illustrations, from having compared them with the originals soon after he first gave them to the public; but unfortunately there is now no such collection in England. As far as possible, however, throughout the first Book the descriptions and illustrations are drawn from the life, the specimens selected being of the most perfect symmetry and of the purest breed within my reach. For many of them I am indebted to gentlemen who have given up their best energies to improve the peculiar strain which has enlisted their attention, and for the facilities which they have afforded me I here beg to record my most sincere thanks.
Book I. contains the Natural History of the Dog, with a minute description of the varieties which are generally recognised. The chief claims of this book rest upon its being a faithful transcript in writing of oral records which have been treasured up by the breeders of the dog in all its varieties, and which being now made public, will render it comparatively easy in future to ascertain the position which any particular dog can claim, and how far it complies wish the points which are attributed to it. These records have been carefully collected ; and I believe it will be found, that though some individuals may hold different views, yet that in each case that which I have presented is the one which is maintained by a large majority of those who have made the subject their particular study. It is impossible to attain a certainty of this in every instance; but should I be wrong, it can, at all events, be maintained that neither time, trouble, nor expense has been spared in arriving at it.
Book II. describes the best methods of breeding, rearing, breaking, and managing the dog, while in health, by means of appropriate food, exercise, and lodging. This division of the subject therefore embraces the entering and running of the greyhound; the breaking and working of shooting dogs; the entering and hunting of hounds; and the management of vermin terriers, toy, and house dogs.
Lastly, in the Third Book the most modern and successful treatment of the diseases to which the dog is subject is given at length, and in terms which will, it is hoped, be intelligible to all. My readers will therefore perceive that I have omitted no information at all likely to be interesting to the lover of the dog, which a long experience and most extensive opportunities have enabled me to obtain.