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'!
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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
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.