Breed Focus: The Pug
Top judge and breeds expert Andrew Brace provides an insight into the Pug - the characterful Toy breed sometimes described as 'an awful lot of dog in a relatively small space'!

Originating in ancient China, the Pug is one of the most solidly built of the Toy breeds and is perfectly described by the Latin expression 'multum in parvo' (much in little). This breed is busy, active, intelligent, mischievious, equable and full of character. Having found it's way into the courts of Europe and being favoured by western royalty, the Pug was much loved in more humble homes during the Victorian era, and shows no sign of decline these days.

There is little doubt that the Pug's origins lie in the east, and China seems to be the favoured land of birth in view of the regularity with which small Pug-like dogs are featured in ancient Chinese art and literature.

There is a school of thought that maintains the breed began as a dwarf Mastiff, but this is possibly down to vague similarities in coloring and head type, and not one which has ever been given any great credence. It is far more likely that the breed shares an ancestry with the other oriental Toy dogs (Pekingese and Japanese Chin), and that these three breeds were developed in slightly different directions over the years.

Up to the twelfth century, Pugs existed in China where they were much valued. They were regarded as highly important members of the royal household, and were pampered pets who had their own servants to attend to their every whim. With the gradual decline of the ruling classes in China, little mention is made of the Pug until the sixteenth century when Europe began trading with China on a large scale. Portugal, Spain, Holland and England all sent ships to the Orient to collect merchandise and it is apparent that small 'fancy' dogs of unusual appearance were secured - by fair means of foul - to accompany the returning sailors.

It is said that the first Pugs to come out of China found their way to Europe via Russia, but is is far more likely that dogs came directly from China to several European countries on the trading ships. Holland was one of the first western countries to embrace the breed with enthusiasm, while artists in other European countries obviously had access to well-owned Pugs as they were frequently incorporated in celebrity portraits.

Developing under various names - Pu, Poo Dog, Dutch Pug, Carlin, Carlino and Mops for example - the Pug soon gained popularity throughout Europe. The Emperor Napoleon's wife, Josephine, was a keen admirer of the breed and a tale is told of how her pet Pug bit the Emperor-to-be when he entered the matrimonial bedchamber on their wedding night. Named Fortuné, Josephine's shadow survived this act of bravado but apparently failed to live up to his name when he met up with the cook's Bordelaise Bulldog in the gardens at Montabello!

The best documented evidence of the Pug's introduction into Britain virtually proves that the breed first arrived with William of Orange and his Queen Mary. The breed was much favoured by the royal household and, consequently, a Pug became a de rigueur fashion accessory with society of the day. It is said that ladies of a certain class would not dream of being seen outside their home without a Pug dog and a turbaned Ethiopian pageboy!

There are various theories offered as to the origins of the breed's name. A dictionary dated 1731 gives the definition of Pug as being 'a nickname for a monkey or dog'. The Latin 'pugnus' means 'fist' and it has been suggested that the Pug's wrinkled head bears more than a passing resemblance to a clenched fist. Others, whimsically, speculate that the word is simply a derivation of 'Puck', the traditional impish figure, but doubtless each aficionado of the breed will have his own favourite.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, the breed seemed to be in something of a decline in Britain but then underwent a resurgence in popularity, largely due to the efforts of two independent parties. Lord and Lady Willoughby strain from what is claimed to be a brace of Russian Pugs.

There are many differing stories about the source of the Willoughbys' original stock but their ownership carried with it some cachet of class and blue blood. Canine experts of the time claimed that the Willoughby dogs tended to lack clear color, describing some of them as 'fallow smuts' that were rather leggy and had very cramped faces with small eyes. However they did have, it was conceded, exceptional wrinkle.

Further south, a publican named Charlie Morrison was developing his own line from stock supposedly of Dutch origin, having obtained - how, we will never know - dogs from the royal kennel of Queen Charlotte, wife of George III. These were of a different type to the Willoughby dogs, but these two foundations were further supplemented by dogs bred down from two Pugs - named Lamb and Moss - that were allegedly stolen form the Chinese emperor's palace in the 1860s. These apricot dogs fell into the ownership of a Mrs St. John and gradually the base stock in Britain was merged, until distinct types were far less apparent and the foundations of the modern Pug were laid.

Up until this time little was known of the black Pug, but in the 1870s Lady Brassey did much to promote the color when she returned from a round the world trip in her yacht 'Sunbeam'. In 1896 an attempt was made by the secretary of the Ladies' Kennel Association to classify the black Pug as a separate British-made variety. Thankfully this failed.

Some of the paintings that feature early Pugs show them to be extremely small animals when compared with their human companions, but this could merely have been artistic license to demonstrate the 'Toy' aspect of the dogs in question. What is also apparent in old paintings and prints is that the heads of the Pugs were not as extreme as in today's breed, in that they had narrower and longer muzzles. Through selective breeding the head type has changed to produce a Pug that has a wider and shorter foreface and a consequently smoother profile.

Today there is a great consistency within the breed, thanks to the efforts of many keen enthusiasts in the past, and the breed in the UK has only occasionally been enhanced with foreign blood. British-bred Pugs are in great demand all over the world.

Temperament & Character
While the Pug is registered as a Toy breed in the Toy group, and remains there as his main purpose in life is to fulfill all the many demands of a devoted companion, he is a solidly built dog unlike some of his more 'flimsy' cousins, and in temperament is a much more active and busy little character than some of the Toys that prefer a more sedentary lifestyle.

Generally the breed is extremely intelligent, even-tempered and lively. Pugs are naturally gregarious dogs and enjoy company. They will get along with other animals and adore human attention. Ideally Pugs should always live with families as they do not thrive alone in a kennel. However, if keeping numbers of the breed together, then a kennel house adjoining the human dwelling is the best way for a large Pug family to live. In this way they get to see their people as often as possible and can still run as a pack.

Pugs are busy, enthusiastic and sometimes not overly endowed with social graces. If they are in the room, they would prefer to sit on you rather than beside you. They love being part of the family and hate being excluded from anything. They want to be in the thick of things and tend not to take no for an answer.

Pugs should be neither nervous nor aggressive; they are equable by nature and will fit in with most routines. They have a sense of humour and stubborn streak, and never fail in being able to make their owners laugh. Strangely, Pugs seem to be rather intuitive; while they will be happy to be on the go all day in an active household, when living with an elderly owner they seem to have the ability to change down a gear to fit in with the demand of the owner's lifestyle. It is little wonder that they have such a following as companions.

Despite their small stature, Pugs make excellent watchdogs. Their label of 'multum in parvo' is well earned as when a stranger approaches, they will pull themselves up to their full size and be very vocal in their warning. Pugs will probably never win any awards for the obedience breed of the year: they can be trained relatively easily to an acceptable level of obedience, but with patience and on their terms. If asked to do something, Pugs will tend to think about the request and, if they can't see the point of it, turn to matters of much greater importance.

With their love of food, this can be used to great advantage when training. Even the most single-minded and obstinate of Pugs will think very carfully about ignoring his master's voice if he knows there is going to be a titbit or even a meal at the end of it!

In the show ring there is a tendency for a Pug to become bored when asked to stand for some minutes looking noble and proud for the judge's assessment, and it is not coincidence that the most obliging of show Pugs become so because they are well aware that their handler has some tasty morsel concealed in one hand.

Special Care
The Pug is a short-faced dog and consequently has a reputation for being 'snuffy'. In reality, given that a Pug is soundly constructed and has wide nostrils, he will lead a fit and active healthy life. Having said that, it would be unwise to subject a Pug to a five-mile walk in the heat of a midsummer's afternoon, but many Pugs actually seem to revel in heat and will often be seen sunbathing with no ill effects. Even so, on hot days it is a good idea to keep an eye on Pugs and be sure that they always have access to shade and cold water.

Pugs with pinched nostrils or soft nasal cartilage will tend to breathe through their mouths, and in extreme examples this can sometimes lead to an enlarged heart or even heart failure. When buying a puppy, it is essential that the nostrils are large and open and there are no apparent breathing difficulties.

Although a Toy breed, the Pug needs more exercise than many others in its group if it is to be kept in optimum condition. It has great bulk and is a natural glutton, so the diet must be carefully monitored, but that bulk should be muscle rather than fat. Apart from general free exercise, any Pug will benefit from two brisk walks each day, which will help tone him up, and also burn off some of that excess energy.

Pugs are not always the easiest of breeds to toilet-train, but with careful and correct training most are usually clean in the house within a week. As far as grooming is concerned, the Pug is a low-maintenance breed with its short, smooth and glossy coat. A weekly brushing should keep the coat spick and span. Attention should be paid to nails as these can sometimes become long and unsightly and lead to problems. However, if the foot is correctly formed and the Pug given ample exercise on a hard surface, he should not routinely need his nails trimmed. It is a good idea, however, to get a wriggly Pug puppy used to having his nails filed from a very early age, as this is something that an adult Pug will not take kindly to unless he is used to it.

Health & Welfare
Generally speaking the Pug is a healthy breed, but structurally there is a tendency to patella luxation (where the kneecap can slip out of its socket). Susceptible dogs often live with this condition well into old age without any great problems, but the likelihood of the condition causing concern will be lessened if the Pug is kept fit and is not allowed to become overweight.

Due to their size and shape, Pugs' eyes can easily become damaged when playing; even pottering around the garden they can catch them on twigs or spiky-thorny plants. Minor scratches can be treated with proprietary ointments, but it is always advisable to seek veterinary advice in the first instance just in case any greater damage that may not be immediately apparent has occurred.

Cataracts occur within the breed. Some of these may have a hereditary basis but others may not. A cataract will first become apparent when there is a small opaque spot on the surface of the eyeball. In extreme examples surgery may be necessary, after which some vision may be restored.

Ulcers are another eye problem which affect Pugs; these usually develop from a small scratch. Other problems affecting the eye include entropion (ingrowing eyelashes), distichiasis (a double row of eyelashes which cause similar irritation as entropion), and dry eye (where the eye does not produce the normal level of lubrication through tears). It is advisable to examine eyes regularly and anything which suggests a lack of brightness should be monitored, with a view to a veterinary visit if it persists.

The face should be examined on a daily basis and the wrinkles wiped through with cotton wool to ensure that any undue dampness or foreign bodies are removed. If left unattended, wet wrinkles can, at best, cause an unpleasant odour, or, at worst, develop into infection.

Pugs hate having their mouths opened to have their teeth and mouth checked, unless they are used to having this done - so get puppies used to having their teeth looked at and cleaned on a regular basis. In these days of complete feeds and few bones on which to gnaw, tartar builds up very quickly on dogs' teeth which causes bad breath and subsequent decay.

Pugs commonly develop facial pimples or bumps which can be likened to acne in the human. These pimples may start off as barely perceptible bumps but can become so defined that they actually develop a 'head'. These generally tend to occur around the chin, lips and muzzle, and frequently will be identified first when the dog is anything from six to 24 months old. These pimples usualy disappear of their own accord without treatment and do not necessitate either squeezing or medication, but if they do become aggravated then it is best to seek veterinary attention.

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