Pugs and all their characteristics are a sight to behold.
At least that’s what breed enthusiasts would tell you.
Where Pug lovers see a cute snout, researchers, medical professionals and concerned dog owners see a breathing problem on the horizon.
While pug lovers see a cute skull, others shudder at the thought of that skull housing a large brain.
While Pug lovers listen to that sweet sniff, others fear that the dog could collapse at any moment.
The thing is, many people don’t know that we created the pug that way and we might as well put an end to it.
And yet we decide to keep breeding these adorable lovebugs, because… well, just because we can.
Despite the obvious health concerns, self-proclaimed Pug advocates love the look and will defend their beloved breed standard at all costs.
Yes, that’s right, the breed standards don’t even call for stopping these cruel breeding practices.
Pugs before and after breeding
Before selective breeding, Pugs had longer snouts, regularly shaped faces, fewer wrinkles, no bulging eyes and even a different gait and sometimes a straight tail.
This difference between the pug before and after selective breeding is directly related to a variety of health problems.
Among these are:
- Breathing problems
- Sleep apnea
- Encephalopathy (skull too small for brain)
- Skin problems
- Eye problems (usually poor vision up to blindness)
- Hip dysplasia
Breathing problems alone are responsible for a large number of medical complaints that pugs face.
Not being able to cool down effectively, not getting the proper oxygen supply, or dying in their sleep due to breathing problems are all possible problems that pugs face.
Possible telltale signs (apart from appearance) of struggling pugs abound.
Have you ever seen a pug walk with its mouth open all the time, despite not being heavily exercised or outside on a hot day?
Have you ever seen a pug snort extremely loudly for no apparent reason?
Have you ever seen a pug lying in the shade with all four paws spread out to the sides?
These are all results of the so-called selective breeding that gave rise to the modern pug.
All this just to create this super tiny snout.
For many, these looks aren’t even cute anymore, they’re just plain awful. Bulging eyes, wrinkles all over the body and, more often than not, being overweight.
How can a snout that is almost pushed in look cute to some people?
It is a facial feature that also affects the shape of the skull compared to ancient paintings of pugs.
All of these problems contribute to a shorter lifespan for pugs.
Are pugs selectively bred?
Yes, pugs are selectively bred, just like technically all modern purebred dogs. However, the pug was bred for specific, unhealthy facial features.
The selective breeding was done in part by pushing the upper jaw backward, which caused compression of the nasal cavity, wrinkles on the head, and deformed eyes.
Not only was the pug selectively bred, but humans are also not providing the proper level of care.
Despite their potential pet being plagued with health issues, people will immediately ignore them to get the pug the way they want it to be.
Since the plethora of health problems cannot be denied, they will rationalize it.
You’ll often hear Pug owners say that Pugs are prone to sinus infections because of their short snouts, as if that’s all there is to it.
These statements do two things: reduce the threat these health problems pose and avoid the real problem.
As if breeding pugs in this unhealthy way with respiratory problems is the only way to call one of them yours.
Furthermore, every other pug I see – whether on the road or on social media – is overweight.
Obesity is a serious problem and no, pugs are not overweight by default because they love food.
The majority of dogs would check this box when asked whether or not they are food driven.
That doesn’t mean you have to give in to it, but pug owners seem to do it more often than others.
Possibly because dog owners like the look of a fat pug. It is a fat and unhealthy dog, there is nothing cute about it.
Obesity was also the leading medical condition in the US this study surveyed more than 1,000 pugs, concluding that almost 70% of them had a health problem.
Surprisingly this Swedish study found no connection between pugs’ gait and their weight.
However, the research did show that 1/3 of the more than 500 pugs aged 1, 5 and 8 years have difficulty walking properly, often related to neurological problems.
How were pugs originally bred?
Originally, pugs were bred to have healthy, small to medium-sized companions and at the time, the facial features of the modern pug were not at all desirable.
The fact that pugs look the way they do today is due to the desire of pet owners to own these creatures and make them look as cute as possible.
Beauty standards are always changing and have been so since the dawn of humanity. It is no wonder that this ideal image of the pug has recently emerged.
Although the pug has resembled today’s pug since the 20th century, it is safe to say that this has only become a dramatic problem in recent decades.
Many people don’t even know that the Pug is a truly ancient breed.
The Chinese kept these dogs, as did the British Royal Family, and they have found their way into homes all over the world.
Their rise in popularity comes partly from all the hype they gather on social media.
It’s true that their facial features attract a lot of attention, but what if that comes at the expense of the majority of these dogs?
Cruelty in pug breeding
Breeding pugs with extremely short snouts, small and round skulls and encouraging the image of bulging eyes, skin-irritating wrinkles and too much weight as puppy-like characteristics can be considered cruelty.
As explained above, all of these problems contribute to serious health problems.
People who are interested in the pug and its unhealthy appearance also rarely think about the associated veterinary costs.
Not only will your pet suffer, but your chances of leaving $1,000 – $2,500 on the vet’s table for surgery for breathing problems are also high.
Why buy a puppy that needs repairs?
You may be wondering what can be done about the cruelty in pug breeding. There are a few ways:
- Buy a pug with a longer muzzle, fewer wrinkles, healthy eyes, etc. from breeders who conduct extensive health testing
- Save a pug (beware of costs and consider health insurance)
- Look for a similar breed
- Investigate the possibility of a Retro Pug
As for the last point for Retro Pugs, many breeders have started crossbreeding while still keeping the characteristics of the Pug, just in a less exaggerated way.
A favorite for this is the Beagle, as their neutral appearance and generally good health in addition to their similar size make them an ideal candidate.
That said, improving a breed takes several generations and decades of work.
Once you’ve found a dog that suits you, go for it, but make sure you demand all health tests.
Hip and elbow x-rays, healthy weights of the parents, no eye problems, not too many skin folds, well-shaped skull – all these problems should help avoid irresponsible breeders.
Disclaimer: This blog post does not and does not intend to replace veterinary attention. I am not a veterinarian or pet nutritionist. If your dog shows signs of illness, call your vet.