For owners

What to Look for When Buying a Pug Puppy

Pugs are one of Australia's most loved breeds. This popularity attracts them to inexperienced and unscrupulous breeders. So how do you know the difference between a responsible and irresponsible breeder?

Dogs Australia registered breeders follow a strict code of breeding ethics, conduct health testing to help reduce the incidence of inherited diseases and, for accountability, and research.

The results are recorded on the ORCHID database.

Like in all dogs, there are specific health issues, and it’s important to make sure your breeder does the recommended health testing for their breed. This could be the difference between a happy and healthy puppy and a poorly bred one.

In this article we spoke to Jane Dowdy, a Dogs Australia registered breeder specialising in breeding healthy black pugs for over 28 years, on what to know when you are considering a Pug puppy as your new best friend.

What is a healthy Pug?

Even-tempered, happy with a lively disposition, the Pug is a breed of dignity, intelligence and great charm. Jane Dowdy is also the Secretary of the Pug Club of Victoria.

What health testing should breeders be doing?  

There are a range of health tests currently available for the Pug and dogs used in a breed program are tested. Some health tests such as hip and elbow scoring and eye checks are completed after a certain age. 

Dog Australia registered breeders have access to and are recommended to do the following health tests on their breeding dogs:

  • Degenerative Myelopathy 
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency (PKD), a metabolic blood disorder 
  • May-Hegglin Anomaly (MHA), a blood disease  
  • Necrotizing meningoencephalitis (Pug Dog Encephalitis) 
  • Hip and Elbow X-rays
  • Spine X-rays for hemivertebrae
  • Patella Luxation checks 
  • Eyes checked by an eye specialist for Entropion, Distichiasis (double eyelashes) and Pigmentary Keratitis
  • Heart testing for heart murmurs 

Whilst health testing is ideal, tests need to be breed appropriate and have a tangible outcome.

May-Hegglin Anomaly was found in only one dog, a Pug or Pug cross. 

Necrotizing meningoencephalitis test for susceptibility and won’t indicate if a dog is a carrier like it would for autosomal conditions. Dogs in the susceptible group may never develop the condition. 

“I had a puppy who had a liver shunt that didn’t have symptoms, and vets thought he had Necrotizing meningoencephalitis until we had him tested, and a liver shunt was confirmed.” 

Jane would like for vets to know how to better diagnose Necrotizing meningoencephalitis. A flowchart for diagnosis was developed as part of research that led to the susceptibility test. 

“I’d like to see the AVA (Australian Veterinary Association) work with Dogs Australia to build a database in regards to health issues such as hips and elbows and hemivertebrae.”

“Subsidising the costs of x-rays and scoring would help quickly gather meaningful relevant data which could be used to assess breed health in these areas and establish a grading system going forward.” 

Jane is also looking forward to the BOAS grading system being brought to Australia.

What is a well-bred Pug like?

Contrary to belief, when a Pug breathing can be heard, this does not always indicate health issues.

“If you could see a pug walking down the street huffing and puffing, people think that dog can't breathe but it could have walked four kilometres.”

“People do not place these assumptions on other dogs.”

Jane has trained her Pugs in Agility and one, in particular, enjoyed Tracking. Some of her Pugs have competed in Obedience. The average Pug in Jane’s home lives to 14, some reaching 16.

“I had the first Australian pug to be awarded a NADAC agility title, which is an American agility title brought in at the time.” 

“In cooler months I walk my dogs 3 kilometres a day and they don't have issues with it. I think Pugs are only limited by what their owners are willing to do with them.”

A common misconception is that pug’s eyes just pop out. Jane has seen an improvement of Pug’s eyes in the Dogs Australia community.

“We never bred for bulging eyes, the globular reference in the standard is not for bulging eyes, it’s for globed shaped eyes which are a feature of the face.”

“As breeders we want to breed the healthiest dogs possible and when we have a litter, we are looking to keep a pup to continue on with.”

“Each puppy needs to be as healthy as possible because that perfect dog we are striving for also needs to be healthy.”

“We don’t want sick dogs, they’re part of our family and we want them to be healthy.”, she said.

 “I had a girl who made some funny airways noises and decided not to breed her again.”

“She needed airway surgery, her soft palate trimmed and they did her nostrils as well and her saccules.” 

“She lived till 14 and her sons all lived between 12 and 15.”, she said.

 Health is not something considered highly in unregulated breeding. 

What are the concerns for pugs that don’t meet their breed standard?

Pugs with non-standard coloured coats are often marketed as “rare”, “exotic”, and purebred, however, purebred pugs don’t carry the genes for non-standard colours. The only way for these colours to be there is through cross breeding at some point. Along with the colours will come genetics for diseases not previously found in Pugs.

“There’s a big fad at the moment for non-standard coloured Pugs and Pug like dogs.”

“A lot of issues will be found with dogs that aren’t well-bred and cross-bred.”, Jane said.

Buying a Pug checklist

  • Be prepared to wait for a puppy 
  • Research the breed and make sure they are the right fit for your lifestyle
  • Source from a Dogs Australia registered breeder, ask to see their membership number and prefix 
  • Research the breed by visiting breed club websites and the Dogs Australia website
  • Contact Pug clubs for a list of breeders or seek breeders via the Dogs Australia website 
  • Attend dog shows to meet breeders and see the breed in person 
  • Attend Pug meet up groups to learn the pro and cons of the breed
  • Speak with breeders often, visit the breeder and see their dogs and the puppies
  • A contract with your breeder should be signed to outline expectations
  • Ask for a receipt of purchase
  • Pugs are companion animals and don’t do well left alone
  • Understand the breed and the commitment you are undertaking

Before buying a Pug puppy it’s important to do your research.

Follow the Dogs Australia three Rs ;  

  • Right time – Is it the right time now to get a puppy for your family?
  • Right breed – Have you researched all you need to know about your breed from its natural instincts to grooming?
  • Right Breeder – Is your breeder responsible, operating under a code of ethics, with regulations and health checks?

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