The Pug in a Nutshell

A short history of the Pug

It is generally accepted that the Pug originates in China. The Orient is known to have been the home of several short-faced, broad-mouthed dogs, some of which existed there several centuries before the Christian era. Some were long-coated, some were smooth, some short on the leg, some long-legged. The Pekingese traces its origin to the long-coated, short-legged kind, whereas the Pug is believed to have evolved from the longer-legged, smooth-coated ones.

Nothing is positively known of when the Pug first came to Europe. The breed was well known on the continent in the sixteenth century, and there is a story how a Pug was instrumental in saving the life of Prince William the Silent of the Netherlands during the Spanish wars in the late sixteen hundreds. When Prince William of Orange arrived in England to take over the British throne in 1688 with his wife Mary, they had several Pugs with them. Since that time the breed has enjoyed varying degrees of popularity, at times being very much in vogue, and at others, almost extinct.

The North American Pugs can trace their ancestry to England. Throughout the existence of the breed on this continent there have been breeders who have imported dogs from Europe, primarily England, to complement the stock here. Canadian Pugs are more of a mixture of nationalities than the American ones, since the breed is not as popular here as it is in the United States and we do not have the numbers to choose from for breeding stock. Therefore Canadians often rely on American Pugs for stud service, as well as importing specimens from other countries.

What is the Pug really like?

The Pug is one of dogdom's most endearing representatives. Although its comical appearance does not appeal to everyone, those devoted to the breed would want no other kind. In spite of its small size, the Pug is a sturdy dog with nothing dainty or fragile about it. It is most comfortable as a house pet, so that it can best engage in its major endeavours in life: sleeping and being close to people.

In temperament it is completely reliable. You never need to worry about a Pug biting anyone who comes calling, or even showing aggression towards strangers. This outgoing, I-love-everyone temperament also makes the Pug very easy to steal. Since it doesn't discriminate between friend and foe, anyone (and we mean anyone) can just scoop it up and cart it away, so care must be taken that the Pug is not left outside unsupervised in areas where lots of unknown people generally mill about. As a rule a Pug will bark to announce someone knocking on the door or ringing a door bell, but outside of that, it does not make a very good watch dog. Or maybe it does: it sure would like to watch a burglar clean you out of your valuables and might even lend some assistance!

Once you realize the Pug's limitations and don't expect from it what is against its nature to deliver, it makes the best of companions. It will walk with you, listen to you talk, sleep with you (if you let it) and never let you feel that no one understands you or loves you. The Pug does!

Does the Pug require a lot of work?

Pugs have short hair, so grooming them doesn't require nearly as much time as some long-haired breeds. However, they do shed, and if you don't want to spend the rest of your days eating, breathing and vacuuming fawn or black hairs, maybe you should find some other breed. Regular brushing can minimize the shedding, as well as keeping your Pug indoors in the winter. If it doesn't grow a wintercoat, it has that much less to shed. In spite of all efforts, however, the bitches will blow their coats after every season or after having puppies.

A Pug requires a bath if it is dirty, but otherwise bathing should be kept to a minimum, as it dries the skin. Pugs do not have a doggy odour, so common to some other breeds.

The Pug's wrinkles require extra care, particularly the one over the nose. The skin in the folds of the wrinkles can't breathe and the moist, warm atmosphere is ideal for bacteria to grow. The nose wrinkle should be cleaned at least weekly, more often if it appears to be particularly damp. A cotton ball or a baby wipe works well and some medicated talc can be sprinkled in the fold, if it needs drying up.

Nails should be trimmed regularly. Unless the Pug spends most of its time on gravel (it prefers not to!), the nails won't wear out by themselves. Pugs hate having their nails trimmed, and will do an instant disappearing act when confronted with anything they perceive as a nail trimming device. The owner should use whatever works: nail trimmers or a grinder. Both do a good job, when used regularly, and if trimming is started when the Pug is very young, it might even learn to tolerate the procedure.

What problems does the Pug have?

Most of the problems the Pug has are related to its structure and its size. Common to toy dogs, patellar luxation occurs in Pugs, and is probably the most common leg problem. Pugs also have the odd incidence of Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which is very crippling, but can be corrected with surgery. As well, hip displasia is much more common than most people realize, but does not have the crippling effect in a small breed that it does in large ones, and so generally goes unnoticed. The Pug has a disease named after it, and it is considered unique to the breed. Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is a relatively new disease, or at least it is only in the last ten or so years that any serious study of it has been done. It is an extremely serious condition, always fatal, and very little is known about its mode of transmission.

Because of its flat face and resulting compressed breathing passages, the most common problems in the Pug to watch far involve the respiratory tract. An elongated soft palate is a very common problem in the breed. Pugs should never be left outside in the sun with no shade, and when it is hot, should not be taken outside at all, except in the early morning and in the evening after sunset. Humid weather can be worse than direct sunshine. The Pug has normal size breathing apparatus for the size of dog it is, but everything is compressed in a much smaller space. If a Pug goes down in the heat, the absolutely first thing the owner must do is cool it down, fast! Soak it in cool water, use fans, whatever it takes to bring the body temperature down. Once the Pug is out of immediate danger, call the vet.

The Pug's eyes require attention. This is a curious breed who likes to poke its nose into things. The eyes are alarmingly close to the curious nose and can get injured. If you notice your Pug's eye has a blue mist on it, get veterinary help immediately. Most eye ulcers are treatable if caught in time. Do not treat the eye yourself with over-the-counter ointments, and never, ever use anything with cortisone (steroids) on an ulcerated eye, unless specifically instructed to do so by your veterinarian. Cortisones hinder healing and initially will do more damage than good to the eye.

In addition to accidents, there are some eye problems that are common to the breed. Entropion (inturned eyelids) is widely spread. Another very common condition is exposure keratopathy syndrome, the inability of the eye lid to close completely when the Pug sleeps. This leaves part of the cornea exposed at all times and it dries and eventually pigmentation will form on the exposed area.

© 1998 by Kristina Reid. All rights reserved.