Looking for a friend? You’ll find one in the Pug; “the most wonderful companion in the world” according to Pug fanatics. And Pug aficionados agree that while many breeds are faithful and loyal, the lovable Pug takes top prize for these attributes.
Bred specifically as a companion dog, the Pug is a lot of dog packed into a little body. In fact, this breed’s stocky, thickset and muscular-looking body, closely resembling the Mastiff’s in style, could lead some to believe the Pug is a fighter. However, nothing could be further from the truth. With its distinctive, large, pool-like eyes and irresistible wrinkled face, this little pooch was born to love, filling its home with affection, humour and fun. It will stick close to those it loves, often pressing up against its owner just to feel them, burrowing in for a cuddle and often sprawling across one of its favourite places of all — the human lap!
Felicity Way, from Canberra, has owned and shown Pugs for 20 years, as well as being a national and international judge of the breed. In her opinion, the best thing about these little dogs is their love of humans and their fantastic nature.
“Each one is an individual, with its own quirks, likes and dislikes,” explains Felicity. “We’ve had many other breeds, but the day the Pug came into our lives it captivated our household.”
Felicity stresses this is not a breed for people who are too busy to put in time and effort, emphasising that the Pug is definitely a house dog.
“This animal was originally bred to live in temples,” she says. “That’s its heritage. This is not a dog for the yard or an outside kennel. It’s human-oriented and needs to be with its owners.”
Adelaide-based Patsy Muirden has owned and shown Pugs since 1956 and agrees that this dog is meant to be part of its owner’s life.
“The Pug should never be kept in kennels or on concrete,” states Patsy. “In fact, their lot in life is to be a person!”
Despite the fact that Patsy is now in her seventies, her Pugs still feature prominently. Her five-year-old Champion Patrian Chaucer took out Best in Show in both the 1998 and 1999 Pug Specialty in Melbourne. And what is it about these dogs that has kept her captivated for so many years?
“It’s their predictability,” says Patsy. “They’re so easy to live with. They don’t bark at every little thing and they’re not highly strung or excitable. They’re intelligent and have great personalities. And by the way,” she adds, “one Pug deserves another! After all, there needs to be two so they can rest their chins on each other.”
While the Pug is easy to look after, owners need to maintain a degree of vigilance to ensure their pets remain healthy. For example, heat and humidity are the Pug’s enemies and can prove lethal in some situations. The Pug’s cooling system is limited due to its flat face and the dog can easily overheat. Similarly, they dislike the cold and are prone to catching colds. And while this breed’s to-die-for eyes can melt the hardest of hearts, they can be the Pug’s undoing if owners aren’t watchful.
New South Wales Pug expert and international show judge Kerry Cannon, who bred Don Burke’s Pug Ralph, can’t stress enough the importance of guarding a Pug’s prominent and therefore easily damaged eyes.
“This dog is wonderful around children, but kids can be rough and they can easily damage a Pug’s eyes,” she says. Some experts even warn about the presence of cats and suggest that any pointy or dangerous objects lying around be removed or they could inadvertently poke the large exposed surface of a Pug’s eye.
As for the theory that Pugs’ eyes pop out, “Absolute nonsense,” claims Kerry. “Pugs’ eyes are bulbous so it could be easier for their eyes to pop out than those of some other breeds, but the dog would have to be grabbed by another dog for it to happen. In all my time connected with this breed, I have only known of two dogs whose eyes have popped out. Unlike some other breeds, such as the King Charles Spaniel, this problem is not prevalent in the Pug.”
Can one lose sleep if bombarded nightly by the famous Pug snore? “They do snore, but so do old people,” laughs Kerry. She stresses that the breed does not have a breathing problem and is perfectly healthy if looked after properly. “Sometimes you can hear a Pug panting away, but that’s often caused by heat, which causes stress, making the dog pant. It’s not a breathing problem.”
Snoring, common in many short-nosed breeds, simply comes with Pug territory and has to be accepted. Some owners even get to enjoy the sound. “I love it. To me it’s such a soothing sound,” enthuses one Pug lover.
According to Felicity Way, Pugs will snore in varying degrees and it does take some getting used to. But, she adds, it’s all part of the special Pug package. “Pugs love all members of a family but often they get especially attached to one person,” she relates. “That’s the case with me and my Pug Bert. Sometimes he’s like an immovable rock. He stretches out across three-quarters of my bed, leaving me a very generous one-quarter for the night.”
The Pug comes in a variety of solid colours, ranging from fawn to apricot and silver, with a black mask on the face and black ears. Black Pugs, which some say can be noisier and more mischievous than others, should have no markings. The head should be large and round with clearly defined wrinkles and a short, flat muzzle.
The tightly curled tail sits over the hip and can become very animated in an excited Pug. The dog’s eyes are prominent, expressive and dark. They should not be overly moist and if they appear so, should be checked by a vet.
When it comes to training, the Pug will catch on fairly quickly but does have a stubborn streak. Being a dog that is known to sell its soul for a tasty morsel, however, food rewards for good behaviour can go a long way. (Beware of overfeeding as the food-loving Pug is prone to obesity.)
While the Pug can fulfil the role of watchdog, barking if the doorbell is rung or when a stranger approaches the house, the Pug Club of Victoria warns the dog is likely to “lick a burglar to death,” despite its initial deep barks and growls.
Experts recommend early socialisation and obedience training, but warn that when it comes to toilet training in cold weather, your Pug could baulk at the idea of going out in the cold and the rain. Having a dry area for toilet-training could be beneficial.
Michael Bay, from Melbourne, still laughs nostalgically when he thinks about his pet Pug Tamar who, together with the family’s Chihuahua (which was named Hercules), used to keep them in fits of merriment. “Tamar was a member of our family for many years,” recalls Michael, “and she was very much an integral part of all our lives. We used to call her the vacuum cleaner because she would race around the house, nose to the floor, and because of her flat face it was almost as if she was vacuuming as she moved. When she finally died, an old lady, she left a big gap in all of us. She was really gorgeous.”
It’s believed the Pug first appeared in China, where there was a short-coated Pekingese-type dog known as the Happa-dog, which may well have been the forebear of our modern Pug. They were reportedly in China as far back as 1115 BC, but it wasn’t until 663 BC that ‘short-mouthed’ dogs are mentioned. They were often treated like royalty and were kept by the emperors.
Some varieties of Pug eventually found their way to the continent, particularly Holland, probably through the Dutch East India Company. Pugs appeared in England in about 1688 and their popularity spread, with courtiers parading their dogs adorned with orange ribbons. They remained a popular breed into the reign of George III (1760-1820), when his wife Charlotte kept large numbers.
Later, the breed’s popularity began to wane and by 1867 it seemed cross-breeding was leading to the Pug’s demise. But the little dog had a resurgence in popularity in the Victorian era.
It’s believed the Pug came with migrants to Australia in the 1860s. The first record of them being shown was at the Sydney Royal Show in 1870.
The Duke and Duchess of Windsor were Pug fanatics, owning 11 over the years and amassing a huge collection of Pug memorabilia. They were known to have sheets embroidered with the word Pug, engraved leashes, numerous paintings of Pugs, a gold matchbox holder with the names of some of their Pugs engraved on it, porcelain Pugs, porcelain dog bowls decorated with pictures of Pugs, Pug paperweights, even letter openers decorated with images of the much-loved pooch.
A few years ago, the Windsors’ collection was auctioned by Sotheby’s, with bidders paying well into the thousands for the various items. Most went for more than the reserve, with Pug lovers snapping up treasured pieces of Pug royal history. A much cherished portrait of the Duke of Windsor and one of his adored Pugs went way past its expected price, finally selling for $18,400.
It doesn’t take long to groom a Pug but they do love to be brushed and fussed over. I groom my Pugs with a soft bristle brush, a velvet mitt, a bottle of baby oil and a box of tissues.
Twice a week I brush with the soft brush to eliminate dead hair and dirt from the coat. Once the dead hair is removed, I brush with the velvet mitt which enhances the coat’s lovely shine. Fawn Pugs have a double coat which takes a little longer to brush than the single black coat.
Once a week I clean the face, paying attention to the ‘nose roll’ (the roll of fat that sits on top of the Pug’s nose). Dab your tissue in some baby oil and gently rub under the nose roll. You’ll be amazed how much dirt and grime collects here.
The Pug also enjoys a bath and loves to be ‘roughed up’ while being dried. I bath my Pugs regularly — once a month in winter is adequate, and weekly in summer, mainly because they enjoy it so much!
A loyal friend
The Pug is renowned for its loyalty, with stories abounding of its death-defying attempts to protect its owners. In 1572 in Holland, Prince William of Orange’s life was saved when his beloved pet Pug set about trying to warn the prince of the approaching Spaniards. The little dog, which slept beside the prince, apparently barked and licked its owner’s face to try to wake him.
The Pug also rose to fame in 18th century France when it became much adored by Napoleon’s wife, Josephine. When she was later imprisoned, she apparently sent messages, tucked under her Pug’s collar, to Napoleon. And rumour has it that the famous Pug bit Napoleon when he entered Josephine’s room on the night of their wedding!