Thursday, October 14, 2010

A Pug Breeder Challenge ~ How to breed a healthy pug

Sometimes I think about becoming a pug breeder. OK clearly that's never gonna happen. I just don't have the energy and I also have trust issue baggage. But I have discovered a few things over the last few years that has me concerned about the breeds longevity.
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Back when we decided to add a pug to our family I tried finding what I consider a reputable breeder. To me this means someone that does health testing to make sure they are breeding the healthiest dogs possible. To me that's part of improving a breed which ideally is why anyone is breeding dogs in the first place, not to make a buck.
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I struck out but didn't think about it to much at the time. Maybe I couldn't find one because not enough of them were online. (how I do many searches) Maybe it was because I looked in a limited area. I may have only looked on the east coast at the time. I don't remember specifically. So because I couldn't find a breeder that met my standard I went to rescue instead. It didn't take long before Jenny was on her way to us thanks to a wonderful woman in the group named Amy.
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I had no idea at the time this would spark a new obsession for me. Well maybe obsession isn't the right word, but something certainly happened to me. I never expected to become so enamored of pugs. I was all about akitas and bulldogs at that point. A pug was neither of those. (I have a theory involving pugs actually being aliens and sucking out parts of our brains causing us to fall under their spell. Remember Frank in MIB? Yeah, that wasn't special effects and make up. But keep that under your hat for now. We don't want them to know that we are on to them!)
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Anyways, I did some digging recently and found a serious lack of health testing for pugs in general. After going through many websites and looking at many show breeders sites, I couldn't find even ONE pug breeder doing any health testing. Zip. One person said their dogs were healthy but that was the only time I even saw the word health mentioned on a breeders site. The national breed club website lists health concerns in the breed but doesn't list which tests they suggest for their breeders, nor what tests a pug buyer should ask about. It was starting to really freak me out. I mean, obviously this breed has issues! Some can't breathe well, their eyes can pop out of their sockets, and they have a 63% chance of hip dysplasia. (second only to bulldogs)
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Tonight while looking into health testing for other breeds for comparison, (like frenchies and other brachycephalic breeds) I stumbled across this site: http://caninehealthinfo.org . I was pleasantly surprised to see some pugs listed as having been tested. (hips, eyes, patellas and legg-perthes) Then I looked closer. There were only 110 dogs listed which if you think about it isn't very many. I mean consider how popular this breed is and the amount of pugs in rescue and it is a sad statement on the lack of health testing overall. You can whittle that down a little more because some of those dogs are owned by the same breeder. (21 breeders by my count based on kennel names) Only 25 of all of the dogs were tested in the year 2000 or later, and the most recent was 2008. You don't need to be a rocket scientist to connect those dots.
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For years I have told people looking for a dog or puppy from a breeder to make sure they go to a reputable breeder. Look for those that show their dogs I said. They are making sure their breed meets the standard and not just throwing two purebreds together to make a buck. Then look for the ones doing health testing out of that group. (because not all of those who show are doing the testing as I have found out) Well it certainly looks like there aren't very many reputable breeders by that test in pugs!
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How does this happen?? Where are their standards?
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Aside from the tests listed on the canine health site there are a few other things to consider checking in the pug breed. Can they breathe normally? Are their nostrils large enough for them to get enough air into their lungs? Yes they may have been bred originally to just be our companions but they need to be able to walk outside without fainting from lack of oxygen. It would also be nice to be able to take our companions for an actual walk. If a dog needs surgery to correct small nostrils it shouldn't be used in a breeding program.
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Does the soft palate interfere with their breathing? To long and it can cause the dog to gasp or snore alot. This can be fixed surgically but can be expensive and not all vets can do the procedure. Is the trachea a good size to allow airflow? These can be to small in some bracycephalic breeds. If those are not a good size to allow the dog to function, and yes they can be checked, then that dog should not be in a breeding program.
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Does the dog have seizures? Allergies? Thyroid problems? Dogs in the pedigree that were affected by encephalitis? Is it prone to dry eye, born with entropion, have dogs in the line with proptosis? (This is when those bulgy eyes pop out of their sockets. This can happen if the dog pulls to hard on its collar with some pugs.) Personally I don't think bulging eyes should be a normal aspect of this breed. If your pug can't close it's eyes all the way when asleep that is a problem.
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Seems simple right? If your dog has a defect then don't breed it and possibly pass those defects on to the puppies. If I were a pug breeder I would check ALL these things before breeding. Of course I would also breed pugs with some nose to them so I wouldn't meet my own test of breeding to the standard. At least the standard that looks popular in the show ring. But for me if you don't breed for health first I don't see the point. Some would argue that pugs aren't a healthy breed because they are bracycephalic. I disagree. Living with an active pug myself I can attest that some can be quite healthy. While we do battle allergies at this point she is a pug that seems pretty sturdy in the other departments. (knock on wood) And the pugs in those old photos show a pretty normal looking dog that we have really messed up over time. Maybe stepping back a few years wouldn't be such a bad thing.
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Now I know I am not an expert. I'm sure some will laugh at me for posting this. I'm sure some will think, "she has no idea what she is talking about". Maybe that is true. So educate me. Tell me how I am wrong. I would love to hear it.
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I throw down the gauntlet to the pug breeders out there. Please consider doing health testing on your dogs. Thinking your dogs are healthy "because you've never had a problem" isn't enough. You need to look into those pedigrees. You need to communicate openly about your problems with other breeders. I can't remember where I read it but cleaning up shit off the carpet is far easier than trying to clean shit up from under the carpet later. If you truly love this breed you want to see it continue down the road. I know I do. That's why I am trying to push the point. What a shame it would be if pugs, good healthy pugs, became a thing of the past because the people taking on the mantle of improving the breed ignored the big bad things already out there.
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When I think about that I do consider becoming a pug breeder. "We can build a better pug, we have the technology". (ok you need to imagine that in the 6 million dollar man voice over) Unfortunately there are enough pugs in rescue to keep me from considering adding more pugs to the planet. So for now I'll keep preaching my madness. Who knows, it might not be a lost cause somewhere.

1 comment:

N.D. Humayune said...

You are right but as they say its easier to said than done. I think kennel clubs are responsible for setting the breed standards and the breeders are forced to comply. Can a Pug with pointed muzzle, small eyes and a wrinkle less face win a dog show? The goal of setting a breed standard should be to enhance the capabilities of a certain breed but sadly they are predominantly focused only towards the cosmetic aspect of a breed. A general term is used, a bench dog (show dog) and a working dog. Why can't a working dog be a show dog? The breed standards are needed to be revised.

I am from an underdeveloped country with limited medical facilities. It is impossible for us to test our breeding stock for the many diseases you have mentioned. But our kennel club is affiliated with British Kennel Club hence the breed standards are the same. So, if the breed standards can be revised keeping in view the wellbeing of a breed rather than just looks it would be easier for us to breed healthy dogs even in the third world country like mine.