Posts Tagged ‘pug’


Nothing’s wrong here.


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pug show dog

I am often amazed at what people think they are doing with dogs.

No one has demonstrated to me what is essentially an article of faith or at least a current mantra of the AKC-apologist set:

That breeding to a breed standard means that the dog is healthy.

And from what I’ve seen in the actual scientific literature, it’s actually something that is probably not true.

At least not always true:

Now, if you’re breeding a vizsla to its breed standard, you’re really not producing any exaggerations that might cause the dog to be unhealthy.

But the same logic that produces the athletic and svelte vizsla– that is healthy because it is bred to a written standard– simply cannot apply to a dog like a pug.

A vizsla is a gundog.  It was developed in Hungary as an HPR, and it actually prospered quite well during the communist years as it was the Hungarian equivalent of the German forester’s drahthaar.

Vizslas, like many continental gundog breeds, were only recently allowed to be sold to people who were not hunters. Thus, through most of the history of this breed, it was always a performance dog that was bred to a performance standard that also was as much about the dog’s behavior and aptitude as its conformation.

You cannot say that about pugs.

Or a lot of other breeds.

What use does a pug have?

Well, it’s a pet dog. A pet dog doesn’t have to bred to any sort of performance standard like a vizsla would be.

And this is precisely where things start to go off the rails.

In the case of a vizsla, a written standard has to have some basis in the real world.

In the case of the pug, it can be as convoluted as the human imagination will take it.

And that’s the big problem with saying that breeding to a breed standard makes a dog healthy.

To breed a dog with as many health problems as pugs have that call all be traced to its various exaggerations in morphology is perhaps the most stupid thing we’ve ever done to dogs.

It’s also unusually counterproductive.

The claim is that modern show dog breeders are selecting for the healthiest dogs ever, but this claim doesn’t even pass the giggle test when you start looking at dogs like pugs.

There are lots of claims that pugs have ancient Chinese origins, and although I will admit they do have some ancestry from dogs imported from China, most of their development actually happened in the West, first in the Dutch Republic and then in the UK.

And it’s in those countries that breed took on its current form.

In the early nineteenth centur, this is what an English pug looked like:

chalon pug 1802


It’s still a brachycephalic dog. And yes, it has cropped ears.

But it still has a relatively normal dog body.

And in 200 years of “breed improvement,” we’ve produced a dog like the modern pug, which has too many health problems to elucidate in a single blog post. Almost every single one of these problems can be traced to its phenotype, which has been the result of human ignorance mixing in with human caprice and vanity.

The story of the pug is the story of everything that is wrong with dogs in the West.

It’s a tragedy masquerading as virtue.

Breeding to the standard has done nothing good for the pug.

And these people ought to be ashamed of themselves.

But they aren’t.

They twist it all around to blaming it on puppy mills and the mass production industry.

But that’s nothing more than an obfuscation.

If the public were fully informed of the problems that come from breeding a dog with a muzzle like a pug’s, I don’t think the breed would have one tenth of the popularity it now has.

At the very least, there would be demands to change the standard or maybe bring in new blood to make a more healthily conformed dogs.

Of course, the bastards lambaste the puggles, which are not terrible idea. However, the entire puggle concept has been based upon a puppy mill economic model, so at least right now, it’s a bit doomed to failure.

But that doesn’t mean the concept is wrong. It just means that puggle  and pug cross-breeding for health would have to take more human approach.

Because that’s one thing the modern pug fancy doesn’t have going for it– they really don’t care about how much suffering they cause the dogs.

They delude themselves into thinking that if they just win ribbons, they are being ethical

Instead, they are breeding dogs that have obvious problems. These problems are obvious to anyone but a pug breeder, of course.

They’ve bought into the cult.

And there is no reasoning with them.

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Stuck in a pooping pug

Nothing could be more embarrassing. Like getting your hand caught in the cookie jar! (Kinda).


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True words about pugs

pug defect

“People talk about birth defects from inbreeding, but just being a pug is a birth defect.”


Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London.

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Pug with a muzzle!

From Dog Book.

From Dog Book.  


Ignore the cartoon of the “heart on the nose.” (I lack this cuteness gene).

This is a pug with a decent mug!

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Bad pug breeding


Cuteness is curse.

We’ve pushed this breed to the absolute limit of canine anatomy, and it is going to be next to impossible to bring them back.

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Diseases are cute

At least with pugs, they are:


And with pugs, it’s sad to say that this isn’t first disorder they’ve had that people have thought might be cute.



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Snoring pugs are not cute. This poor creature suffering from stenotic nares. The nares are the nasal cavity, and stenosis just means they are abnormally scrunched up.


The dog is actually having a very hard time oxygenating itself while it is in prone position.

The entire reason why this health condition exists is simple breeding for extreme brachycephaly.

I can’t imagine going through life without being able to oxygenate my body as fully as possible, and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have my breathing obstructed every time I went to sleep.

I have had a person very close to me with COPD that resulted from a lifetime of smoking.  One of the reasons why I don’t smoke and never will is that I have no desire to be in that situation. I never want to have the discussion about my health ever to involve a discussion of oxygen tanks.  I never fail to appreciate how important it is for me to be able to take in full breaths of air.

But it’s one thing for a person to develop breathing problems as the result of a lifetime of smoking.

It’s another to breed for it in a dog.

It’s even more of a problem for dogs because dogs dogs use their respiratory systems as their primary cooling systems. Dogs pass air over their moist mucus membranes when they paint. This causes evaporation, which leads to cooling. When dog has such a scrunched up muzzle, it cannot cool itself efficiently.

This is why pugs and other brachycephalic dogs drop like flies on hot summer days.

The biggest welfare problems that dogs face today in the West are not neglect, dog fighting, or puppy mills.

The biggest welfare problems they face are distortions in conformation that have very real consequences for their health.

The reason why this is such a big welfare problem is that it’s not seen as being objectively cruel like those other practices. Dogs win prizes because they have a particular conformation, even if it is very bad for them.

Jemima Harrison used a pug as a good example of what this sort of breeding has produced in Pedigree Dogs Exposed:


The sad thing is that people think this is normal.

Not only do the laypeople think this is cute, dog shows reward extreme muzzles.

Dog shows are respectable and esteemed institutions, and as a result, you don’t see as much of a public outcry against extreme brachycephalic breeding as you do with dog fighting and puppy mills.

And because of this discrepancy, the welfare issues that result from this sort of selective breeding are an even bigger problem than those disgusting ones.

If we can say no more to dog fighting and puppy mills, why can’t we say no more to dogs that can’t fully breathe or oxygenate themselves?

No one is saying end brachycephaly in dogs.  After all, most dogs are brachycephalic when compared to wolves, and some breeds have always had shorter muzzles.

But we’ve gone too far.

We’ve pushed the organism’s anatomy too far, and we’ve got to stop and think about where this is heading.

There is a certain banality of evil that exists with pugs and other breeds like them. I don’t wish to use that Eichmann analogy too lightly, but it seems uncomfortably appropriate.

People accept that it’s wrong to fight dogs or breed them like broiler chickens, but they are entirely okay with dogs that spend their entire lives struggling for a breath.  The axiom that leads to the cruelty is the breed standard, and virtually everyone who buys one of these dogs wants a little flat-face, no matter the consequences.

In fact, it is unlikely that most people who own these dogs ever seriously consider the cruelty by anatomical distortion when they decide to get one of these dogs. These are not callus people. They are dog lovers, who often spend lots of money on their charges.

But they have allowed the flat-face to blind them.

They cannot see how much of deficit these dogs actually face when it comes to breathing and cooling themselves, and the sad part is that the deficit is seen as cuteness or even a breed trait.

It is in this realm that we’re decided to we have allowed obvious discomfort to go unchallenged, and in this respect, we now have a problem that is going to be next to impossible to fix without outcrossing– which no one wants to do.

The pug is a victim of our own caprices and vanities. It never served any purpose in the West, except to be a nice pet. We allowed it to become an object that we could mold in any way we saw fit, and now we are suffering the consequences.

We’ve lost site of this animal as a biological entity. In the eyes of many, it has ceased to be a dog. It is an animate toy.

Its canine anatomical necessities have been put on the backburner in order to mold into the image we have created for it.

And until we recognize that pugs are indeed dogs, they are going to continue to suffer.

This is not the way we treat animals we love.

And if we truly do love them, it’s time to look at things from their perspective.

Have a bit of empathy.

Would you like it if you struggled to breathe every time you went to bed?

What if your sweat glands couldn’t cool you on a hot afternoon?

We need to think about these issues before we start nattering on about what’s cute or “excellent breed type.”

These are secondary considerations.

We make breeding decisions for dogs. We write out breed standards. The dogs have no say in it, but they do suffer when we don’t put their interests first.

We’ve clearly not put their interests first when we allowed pugs to turn out this way.

It’s time to change it.

For the love the dogs and simple human decency, we must change.


Update: This dog has already undergone an operation for stenotic nares. It turns out that the reason for her problems are that her entire upper respiratory system is stenotic!

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1890's pug

Photo from Nara U.

This is the 1890’s version– back when they had a muzzle!

This is what they look like now:


This breed has not been well-served by the fancy in the past 120 years.

Like many brachycephalic breeds, they have a hard time breathing and cooling themselves, and those wrinkles have a tendency to collect gunk that allows bacteria to flourish.

The double-curled tail has created a selection pressure for deviated spines, and oh, those bug eyes have a tendency to fall out under even modest trauma.

It’s very sad what we’ve done to this breed. It’s also a good example of how dog shows lead to extreme distortions in type.

This breed has no work. It never has had any work.

There is no way to divine a working trial for them.

But because its utility was solely in how it looked, extreme conformation could be justified.

There is absolutely no need to make any claims about this conformation giving the dog an advantage at doing a task– something that even the English bulldog fanatics at least attempt!

This sort of dog should have been built upon a different standard:  Can it be a healthy and active family pet?

In its current form, the pug is compromised in its utility.

No one wants a dog that has all of these potential impairments.

But the attitude among the pet buying public has been “It’s cute. So who cares?’

This attitude needs to change.

And if it does, maybe the pug will come out better for it.

The expression on the dog in the 1890’s photo is much more reflective of the breed’s temperament than the distorted modern version.

These are sly little dogs.



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