risks of early neuter/spay
Pickwick Pugs does not recommend early spay/neuter. We recommend neutering males after growth stops (so average around a year of age). With females, never before the first estrus, (even better, waiting for 2 cycles). Most females have their first cycle around 6 months of age, so, waiting until a bit over a year of age for the spay will allow for the possibility of 2 cycles before the spay.
There is much controversy in the profession but we feel more data is needed (specifically regarding pugs and other stocky smaller breeds) before making breed-specific recommendations.
Why are we so against early spay/neuter at Pickwick Pugs?
It has been proven many times (most recently in 2020 by respected researchers at UC Davis) that heavier dogs have higher health risks if neutered or spayed early before the age of one year. (see UC Davis study below and links to other studies).
It has been proven (i.e. the UC Davis 10 year study) that the risk of a joint disorder could be THREE to FOUR times greater with dogs neutered early than in dogs left intact (larger breed dogs).
Pugs are a stocky breed. While small, they have large bodies to cart around on those 4 tiny legs. The pug breed as a whole (not Pickwick Pugs, thankfully) often deal with hip, patellar, and other joint issues. Pugs are simply built differently. Only just now are more and more pug breeders beginning to include hip xrays and other joint health screening in their breeding programs. UNTIL WE KNOW THE CAUSE of Pug Myleopathy and other disorders the breed encounters, why compromise any chance we have of allowing the bones to fully form and mature? (Have you seen the wheelie pugs in the Facebook groups? The numbers are ever increasing). If there is even the slightest chance that delaying the spay/neuter a few more months will help prevent having to carry our pugs around in his/her last years because the hips have worn out and they can't even walk outside to relieve themselves, or prevent having to pay a fortune to deal with a "wheel chair" for a senior pug, isn't it worth it?
Until hip and joint problems are a thing of the past in the breed at large, why take the risk with early spay/neuter? We should be doing everything possible to ensure each pug lives a healthy, long life. Pugs need strong, solid legs with lots of bone and muscle to support those stocky bodies for decades of life on this gravity-laden earth. So, if a few more months prior to neuter/spay helps to prevent a joint disorder ... even possibly helps ... why even consider early spay neuter?
The theory is that once altered, the pug will no longer have behavioral issues. That's simply not true. Pugs need training. Pugs are smart. If you don't continue the training started in the Puppy K and basic obedience classes when they are puppies ..... they will start to create mischief because they are bored. They will find their own way to entertain themselves. Spay/neuter does not equal training and tiring those smart little brains out on a daily basis. A daily walk does not replace this 'brain walk' either. Only "brain walks" -- puzzles, learning a new trick, proofing an old trick, playing hide and seek, going places and seeing/smelling new sights and sounds, and lots of human/dog contact time to release oxytocin -- only these things will help prevent behavioral problems in a pug.
The theory is that a dog will stop "humping" its toy or other dogs if neutered. This is not true. We have had seniors (who were neutered as puppies) continue to 'mount' females and try to do their deed even into their senior years. The theory is that a dog, male or female, will stop marking or having accidents in the house if spayed or neutered. This is not true. Trust us. The only thing that prevents this is LOTS of potty breaks and praise/treats after each deed ... not just as puppies when first training, but periodically and randomly throughout life. (Also, all pug owners know to never leave a pile of dirty clothes or plastic bags on the floor .... even the best trained pug can't resist certain things.) Sometimes, 'accidents' occur because the pug is trying to tell us something. It's one way they have to communicate with us. So, again, spay/neuter will not 'solve' this problem either. There is a theory that early spay/neuter will help a dog who is having behavioral problems (being aggressive with another dog or something similar). The real cure for this is training, conditioning, and daily mental brain work. If a pug owner is having these issues, consider hiring a trainer to come to the home and work with all the animals concerned (including the humans!) but, Jeff and I (Amy) know first hand from owning smart pugs since 1990 .... an idle mind is the devil's workshop.
Some daycares do not allow intact dogs, however, we have found some wonderful ones who are 'show dog friendly' and have ways of allowing interaction with other dogs safely, always monitored closely, (of course never when a pug is in season). Princess Buttercup, Champion Macintosh, Lilly, and other show pugs who were intact were able to participate in their daycare and inhouse training. It was worth every penny. Shop around. You'll find the right facility/trainer who is open to working with an older, intact puppy.
It's possible to not just survive, but also thrive, a few extra months in this world with an intact dog, so consider waiting until a year before spay/neuter! We truly believe you will be glad you did in the long run. More work, yes, but honestly we should be watching our puppy when out and about that closely anyway ... spayed or not.
Yes, there are studies which suggest that early spay/neuter does not affect small breeds but, again, pugs are built VERY DIFFERENTLY than other small breeds. At Pickwick pugs, our philosophy is that many more tests and studies are needed on this breed specifically before the verdict is in on early spay/neuter.
Here is the 2020 study by UC Davis along with other links. For us, the verdict is still out, despite what our vets tell us. Yes, we want to prevent unwanted pregnancies but not at the risk of reducing the quality of our pugs' lives. That's our philosophy at least.
Data on the consequences of early sterilization continues to mountTony McReynolds - 8/27/2020
Researchers at the University of California, Davis (UC Davis), had a busy July: They published two separate studies on the health risks associated with early neutering and spaying of dogs.
One study focused on 35 specific dog breeds, the other on mixed-breed dogs. The first study found that health risks based on sterilization age varied widely depending on breed. Both found that heavier dogs have higher health risks if neutered or spayed early before the age of one year.
These findings are in line with the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines, which recommend neutering large-breed male dogs after growth stops (approximately 9–15 months of age). Recommendations for female dogs are more nuanced and require clinical discretion combined with comprehensive owner education in an effort to balance the benefit of decreasing mammary neoplasia and unwanted litters when done earlier (before the first estrus) versus decreasing the risk of orthopedic disease, some cancers, and urethral sphincter mechanism incompetence if performed later (after growth stops).*
NEWStat reached out to Benjamin Hart, DVM, PhD, professor emeritus at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and the lead author of both studies, to find out more.
Hart said his interest in the topic was piqued 10 years ago by the findings of several previous studies that suggested neutering and spaying could increase the risk of certain cancers such as lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma, as well as the risk of joint disorders such as cranial cruciate ligament rupture or hip dysplasia.
However, Hart said, those studies didn’t mention what breeds the researchers studied, or even the ages of the dogs at the time of sterilization.
“The information wasn’t clinically useful,” Hart said.
So he launched a 10-year study that looked at breed differences using 15 years of data from thousands of dogs at the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital.
“We found major breed differences and even sex differences in disease risk,” he said. They decided to focus their studies on 35 breeds that showed significant differences. Hart and his colleagues discovered that in some larger breeds, the risk of a joint disorder could be three to four times greater than in dogs left intact. The risk of cancers was unchanged.
Other than the unchanged risk of cancers, Hart said sterilization wasn’t associated with an increase in joint disorders in small dogs.
The second study grew out of the first, said Hart: “Once we got about two-thirds through the purebred paper, we decided we needed to do something with mixed-breed dogs, since most pet breeds are mixed.”
The mixed-breed study examined dogs in five weight categories. “For dogs weighing 43 pounds and over, [sterilization] at the age of 6 to 11 months correlated with a major increase in risk for one or more joint disorders.” However, as with small-breed dogs, [sterilization] did not increase the risk of the cancer in any weight category.
Hart says his team’s findings are significant, especially in the case of mixed-breed shelter adoptions: Figuring out how big a dog might get is problematic if you don’t know anything about his parents, which can complicate questions about when best to sterilize.
To account for that uncertainty, Hart suggested that shelters and humane societies should consider adopting a standard of sterilizing at over a year of age for dogs who will grow into large sizes.
If you’re attending Connexity, don’t miss “Hey Doc, When Should I Spay my Dog?” Highlights from the Reproductive Health Section of the 2019 AAHA Canine Life Stage Guidelines for more information on this topic.
Photo credit: © Gettyimages/Merriman
toy dogs vs working dogs
"Pugs are not German Shepherds." Two very experienced and knowledgeable breeders recently said this when discussing a concern Jeff and I see in the pug show rings lately . . . . over angulated rears, (or working dog rear, or a European rear) or,
an acute angulation of the hock joint than is normal for the breed.
(I'm not an artist and the 2nd thigh is a bit too long in this drawing, but you get the gist) . . .
This is unnatural and dangerously compromises the pug breed (or any breed). I recently saw a pug in the ring who was free stacked (standing naturally) but, when turning its head around to see what was behind it, its rear joints disclocated basically, and when viewing these pugs from behind when they are gaiting it's a nightmare to see with the rear pads pointing in all sorts of different directions.
Dogs with over-angulation result in sickle hocks .... the dog can’t extend his hocks properly while he trots, and that will restrict the driving force of his hind legs, and therefore reduce the power in his rear. A dog with sickle hocks has a poorly synchronized gait which destroys the dog’s efficiency. Even if the dog is just "a pet" it will still impact the pleasure he has going for long walks and playing fetch. A dog with sickle hocks will have no follow-through (sort of like in a golf swing).
The descriptive term, "sickle hocks" comes from the farm tool . . . .
A dog with sickle hocks usually stands with is rear pasterns slightly forward in order to support weak hindquarters.
When trotting, his top line will bob up and down which results in wasted energy. Instead of moving forward with power, the dog's energy goes "up and down". Also, if pugs have too much leg (length of leg) you've lost the "multum in parvo" (a lot in a little) by putting those stocky pug bodies on skinny legs. Type is lost ... it's no longer a pug.
Granted, straight fronts and rears with no angles are just as bad and that has been a problem with the pug breed for a long time. This places too much stress on joints yet, for generations, people use the excuse that a pug is simply "a ladies lap dog" (quoting our good friend and longtime breeder). We have heard TOO many times in the ring, when addressing poor movement in pugs, "well, it's a pug .... it's a head breed." Hello -- it has 4 legs -- it's a dog -- and it needs to be able to walk and move easily. (Again, quoting my friend): "All dogs are head breeds" so this is a bogus excuse breeders and judges use for poor movement in pugs.
So why worry about all this if you "just want a pet pug and don't care if it's a show pug"? Well, you tell us. Do you like to take long walks with your dog? Does your dog love playing fetch? Perhaps you would like your pug to try agility or another fun sport, or perhaps even just have the means to give that squirrel in the backyard a run for its money.
So, while it might look flashy in the show ring with some judges now (at least when it's hand stacked and viewed from the side .... and, incidentally, not judges who understand pugs), it still remains that sickle hocks limit what the dog can do with you comfortably, and without pain. More importantly, a sound dog is less likely to “break down” from injury; the dog will experience less fatigue, be able to take those long walks with you, and show greater efficiency in work (even if it’s only to help you corral those squirrels).
A sound dog stays healthier and more active throughout its life. This is why it's important to look for reputable breeders who strive to breed sound, strong, healthy pugs. When you think "I don't want a show dog", think about what you're actually saying. If you could pick out a pug to own, which one of these would you pick?
Our rescue pug, Charlie Chaplin, is "fiddle front" (Chippendale above) and his rear legs are off too. The family who rehomed him to us said they bought him from a friend (or relative) who lived close by. He has no AKC registration or papers, no pedigree. He's the sweetest pug on earth but, obviously, his parents did not have correct, sound conformation. We've had to do surgery for luxating patella and we watch him 'break down' as he ages. If he had been built more like the dog in figure 1, he would be aging much better with regard to joints and movement and would still be able to have those "grand battement" kicks after every potty outside. (So dramatic).
So what should proper angulation look like in a pug? What is healthy, beautiful, strong, and balanced?
The hocks should NOT extend much beyond the point of the rump. Here are some photos of correct angulation from a fabulous book by Lea Clarke (highly recommended this book!) . .
It is also important that the front is in balance with the rear -- which helps avoid pressure on other joints and bones. "Nature hates imbalance." Rears break down, hips - patellas.
The breed standard for pugs asks for MODERATE angulation. The ideal is a moderate slope at 30 degrees where the topline is level and the tailset high. This gives a good swing forwards and backwards which allows for powerful drive.
Symmetrical proportions of the parts in relation to each other . . . . Dogs with good balance and (appropriate, moderate) angulation will have a smoother stride. A well-balanced dog will look sounder, more fit, and healthier.
The Central Line of Gravity
"The line of gravity is an imaginary vertical line from the center of gravity to the ground or surface that an object, a person, or a moving body is on. It is the direction that gravity is acting upon the person or object. . . . .It is with his rear legs gravitating slightly towards the center line that also gives the pug his slight roll. It is correct that a pug dog moves slightly towards the COG coming and going."
"In humans and canines, body structure and movement can be related to overall health. If a human has legs that are bowed out or in, or if the spine is curved, that person is likely to suffer pain from pressure. If bones are not in the right place and cannot do the job they are meant to do, this puts pressure on other bones and joints. The same as dogs."
The dog in photo a has a 45 degree shoulder lay back and upper arm lay in. Her topline is level and strong. Notice that pug in photo a meets the Pug Standard of "wide chest, well ribbed and legs well under body".
Now observe how these angles affect movement . . . .
Perhaps let's close this blog with a photo of Secretariat .. the perfect horse. And, to quote my breeder friend again, "it's important to remember that breed standards are largely patterned after horse standards."
I'm remembering something my Grandfather was fond of saying .... "everything in moderation". This seems to apply to almost everything in life, even dog breeding! Adding extreme angulation is not the answer. To quote another amazing pug breeder (who is also an AKC judge), "The pug breed standard calls for moderate angulation. Over angulation is not correct, and the movement issue is correlated with structure not being able to compensate for it. I truly hate seeing straight stifles. But over angulation is just as bad."
april dog shows
Tory (Pickwick's Worship the Ground I Walk On), Mr Drysdale (Pickwick's High Falutin') and Jethro (Pickwick's Livin' in High Cotton) are rocking the rings this month picking up lots of Best of Breeds and other awards at shows in Columbiana and Perry, GA.
The hi-lite for us (especially as breeders) was Tory's wins and compliments from judge Jason Hoke, who was her judge in Perry, GA one day, and who has also judged and at the Pug Dog Club of America nationals. He is very knowledgeable about the pug breed so his many compliments of Tory were so appreciated and made us happy to have confirmation that we are on the right track. He loved Tory's underjaw and fill (and other qualities he listed) and said that we are losing this in the breed. As I exited the ring I said "I guess she's a more old-fashioned type pug" and he said "no, she's correct." Wow. He awarded Tory Winners Bitch AND Best Bred by Exhibitor. We traded that card in for an awesome Purina towel!
We did not attend the Pug National Convention the year Mr. Hoke judged but we watched the videos and also his workshop and talk to the breeders at the banquet. He warned breeders that the pigment and wrinkles are the hallmark of the breed, and they are being lost. He challenged the members/breeders to work on this. I'm glad Tory and all of the Pickwick Pugs in our breeding program have amazing pigment. Doris, Scarlett, and other amazing pugs we have bred even had a perfect diamond!
Mr Drysdale and Jethro both entered their first BPUP (Beginner Puppy 4-6 month) and took turns winning Best of Breed each day. Note to self: when bringing siblings into the ring, try to find a class before hand where they get used to 'ignoring' each other. They just thought it was a swell time and a chance to play! As one fellow exhibitor friend said "they were very entertaining" lol.
Mr Drysdale even went onto win the Toy Group the day he won Best of Breed! Here is his win photo.
Here is Mr Drysdale and Jethro showing off the wins ....
And here are a few shots of Jethro and Mr Drysdale in their first BPUP . . .
And Mr Drysdale in his first Best in Show! (Our amazing vet took the photos ... thank you, Dr. Williams!)
Tory won Winners Bitch, Best of Winners, Best of Breed at her first show in the Columbiana Cluster. Judge Fred Bassett REALLY liked her and had so many wonderful compliments about her.
And she won Winners Bitch and Best of Breed the other day she showed as well with this wonderful judge who ALSO awarded Mr Drysdale 1st place in the BPUP Toy Group.
Camping at the Fairgrounds in Perry, Georgia with 9 pugs was very adventurous to say the least. A horrible wind and rain storm ruined the camper awning but we hunkered down inside. Camping with be like . . .
We did have a couple of days with divine weather, though, and enjoyed lots of walks and training on the wonderful (and flat!) fairgrounds.
Sebastian came along for a change of scenery. Traveling is stressful but I think he enjoyed being able to smell new things and feel the nice breeze on the days with good weather. Lilly, Buttercup, Miss Dior, Bridget, and Lilibeth also tagged along on the trip for fun (they didn't compete in any shows). I think they enjoyed the sights, smells, and adventure as well. Here is Lilly (Pickwick's Thrill on Blueberry Hill). She never liked showing very much so I'm sure she was happy to just hang out and train.
There weren't enough pugs present at either of the clusters for a major (there were 6 bitches in Perry, but Georgia requires 8! for a 3 point major ... crazy) but at least we collected some more points AND had a ton of fun. Honestly, Tory is a natural in the ring and so easy to show. Her temperament is FLAWLESS and those cute BPUP boys Drysdale and Jethro are getting the hang of it ;)
One of the absolute hardest parts of dog breeding is placing pups. Even though we know what amazing homes they're going to, it's honestly like sending a human kid off to college .... multiplied by 100. Even harder? Placing an older pup that you let "grow out" .... a pick of the litter. In Scarlett's case, she was the pick of 4 different litters and she honestly is truly amazing. But the facts are, we simply can't keep as many pugs as we'd like because the grumble just gets too large and less manageable. And, these truly remarkable ones need a special home of their very own. Our home is awesome and we enjoy life in a large grumble sort of way but the 'brilliant' and 'old soul' pugs just seem to thrive with more one-on-one time. Scarlett is definitely a brilliant, old soul. Yes, Scarlett is beautiful, but it was her temperament and brains that called me ..... that eye contact (from a truly young age) was beyond amazing and it was always as if she was reading our minds.
Tomorrow, Scarlett will be flying to Virginia with her new family to begin the next chapter of her life, so it just seemed that a camping trip to spend time with her and a few other pugs was fitting. We snuggled by the campfire, took some nice walks, and just sat silently listening to wind, birds, leaves rustling. We took time to savor and I think I'll treasure these memories. I know she'll be too busy with her amazing new family and I pray she moves on with zest and no looking back .... but, perhaps, there will be a smell or taste or sound where she remembers her year with us and treasures the memory as much as we will treasure her for the rest of our lives.
It's like this with all the pups who leave us but there are certain ones who leave such a mark and Scarlett is one of them. I know some Pickwick pug owners understand how these guys are our children, even when they "go away to camp" -- forever camp -- and we hope you know HOW MUCH we appreciate the photos and updates. We get to continue to live beside them through your updates .... even though we are miles apart. When we never hear from owners we worry so much .... did the pug die? Did the owner die? Did the owner have to surrender the pug to rescue? Is the pug happy? Is the pug blind? Is the pug beautiful? Is the pug behaving? We understand totally if things happen ... that's life. We've lost dogs tragically over the years through house fires or freak accidents. But we'd rather know if something happens than always wonder. Some people are private and we totally get that. That's part of the price we as breeders risk when part with the pup. We also understand how busy folks' lives get but, when we don't ever hear anything, then we worry that the owners are too busy even for the pug. So, just in case gentle readers and dog owners don't know how much even just one photo means to us, I thought I'd share that here. It's a bit like with human children .... you never ever stop worrying about them no matter how many years go by.
We got back from our camping trip just in time to swing by the vet to get Scarlett's health certificate. She is SUCH a healthy pug and so beautiful. I could tell the vet and the vet tech were questioning our judgement to place her but, in the end as they saying goes, "you can't keep them all" and she is going to THE most amazing home. She'll be joining a senior female pug so I've been lecturing Scarlett about how important it is to treat her elders with respect. She looks at me as if she understands, lol, so we shall see! But what great memories for me from last week's camping trip at Monte Sano Mountain in Huntsville, Alabama.
there are only 2 pug colors
Purebred pugs come in two colors: fawn, and black. "Off" colors such as white (albino), brindle, blue merle, blue-eyed, fluffy dogs are NOT pugs and are produced via mixed breeding and as such may introduce health issues that do not occur in the breed. Words like "designer", "rare", "exotic", "boutique breeds" are just euphemisms for mutts. Don't be fooled and don't allow these willfully ignorant and greedy breeders to con you and destroy the beloved pug breed which has survived since the time of Confucius. Only support preservation breeders who adhere to breed standard.
If you are reading this, you probably love pugs or know someone who does. Yet, there are unethical breeders (who have the gall to call themselves "breeders with integrity") who are destroying the pug breed. It is important to educate people so that these breeders do not con anyone into being a part of eliminating this amazing breed from this earth.
This incredible breed has survived most likely since the time of Confucius.
It has survived OVER 2,000 years!
This breed has survived since 500 BC (before Christ) because actual breeders with integrity adhered to a standard and ONLY bred pugs that met the standard. These preservation breeders (who actually are breeders with integrity) only bred pugs who looked like pugs and not chihuahuas .... pugs who were black or fawn with a black mask and not blue, spotted, fluffy, or blue-eyed pugs. They did not breed mutts, they bred pugs.
This is what it takes to preserve a breed from the time of Confucius to the 21st century but when puppy buyers support unethical breeders who do not care about the breed, and purchase off-colors like white or brindle or blue merle or even 'fluffy' mutts called pugs, then these puppy buyers are being swindled, paying a ton of money for a mutt, and ALSO helping to ELMINATE this amazing, ancient breed from the face of this earth.
What if dalmation breeders had decided to start producing dogs without any spots at all?
Or dalmations with short legs? Or dalmations with long hair? Or reversing the dots? Or, lord forbid, blue merle dalmations?
It's no longer a dalmation! It has become a mutt. Do you see the point yet?
If you are a true pug lover, support only preservation breeders and be a part in preserving this amazing breed.
When a puppy buyer supports a breeder who purposefully breeds against the breed standard, they are helping to destroy the breed. Yes, oopsies happen (and you might be surprised how many dogs in animal shelters -- even big dogs -- have pug in their DNA!) but rescue is an entirely different subject. This blog post is addressing the swindler breeders who are purposefully breeding and promoting "rare" and "exotic" mutts which they call pugs, then charging 3 and 4 times as much for these mutts, introducing a host of health problems, and ultimately trying to destroy the pug breed.
When naive puppy buyers fall for these unethical breeders' schemes, they are a part of this destruction of the pug breed. Help to educate your friends so they are not swindled. Help educate your friends to ONLY support preservation breeders and help save the pug breed. It's as simple as sharing a link to the breed standard with them! (But you might also want to point out the increased risk of so many health problems they'll be dealing with, or the fact that they're helping these swindlers destroy the pug breed.)
If you want to add more color, just invest in tutus and fancy attire, or earn them some fancy ribbons and titles . . . . . don't destroy an ancient breed that has been around since the time of Confucius.
doliocephaly is not synonymous with health; BRACHYCEPHALY IS NOT SYNONYMOUS WITH ILLNESS
How is it that so many animal rights activists and experts of the 21st century can be so short sighted and misinformed? Did you know that the Dutch kennel club has banned the registration of brachycephalic breeds when bred to the original breed standards? While the intent is an effort to breed healthier dogs, their attempt to destroy this ancient breed will not solve health problems as we will discuss in this blog. "The implication that all brachycephalic breeds are inherently unhealthy is completely incorrect." -- Dr. Maryanne R Mack DVM
So, let's begin by addressing some of this misinformation. Let's start at the beginning.
Dolichocephalic breeds (such as Greyhounds, Collies, Setters, Dachshunds, Italian Greyhounds, Great Danes) are those with extremely long skulls.
Mesaticephalic or mesocephalic ('middle-headed') breeds (Dalmations, Beagles, Border Collies, Norwegian Elkhounds, English Springer Spaniels, Yorkshire Terriers) involve the length and width being equal, giving a square shape.
Brachycephalic breeds (Pugs, French Bulldogs, Boxers, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pekinese, Tibetan Spaniels) make up some of the most popular dogs in the United States and can be identified by their shortened snouts or faces that appear flat and, as a result, have smaller airways. The term Brachycephalic originates from the Greek words "short" and "head".
The nose doesn't know.
The Dutch kennel club believes that by adding a requirement for brachycephalic breeds to have a longer muzzle, the breed will improve in health. They are wrong.
Not only will this NOT prevent BOAS issues such as elongated soft palates, the pug will now also have a greater chance of suffering from nasal diseases and nasal cancer.
Yes, those dolichocephalic breeds with longer snouts actually have a greater chance of suffering from nasal diseases like aspergillosis, influenza, nasal cancer, and oronasal fistula.
With the Dutch kennel club's ban, the world has also lost access to some of the most amazing, health screened, healthy, breed standard pugs. These incredible (and healthy) pugs were bred by a very conscientious breeder in the Netherlands . . . .
One of the world's best pug breeders of the 21st century, who embraces breed standard plus health screening and modern science is now banned from registering a pug that does not have a muzzle of specified length . . . .
To avoid paying fines, her pugs would now need to look like mutts . . .
With these poorly researched government policies, these seemingly well-intentioned yet misinformed politicians and activitists have not only destroyed an ancient breed but also filled the world with more ugly mutts who STILL have breathing problems.
Here's the thing! A dog can have a longer muzzle and still have problems with breathing.
A dog can have a longer muzzle and still have problems with breathing. Most of the issues involving breathing problems can NOT be seen from outward appearance."
Most of the issues involving breathing problems can NOT be seen from outward appearance, aside from tight nostrils. (Stenotic nares ....)
There are many issues involving BOAS and simply adding a longer snout will not fix them. Let's explore what causes BOAS issues.
BOAS (Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome)
Brachycephalic = Shortened Foreface (see above)
Obstruction = Any obstruction narrowing or blockage
Airway = the route from the outside via the nose/mouth through the back of the throat larynx and pharynx to the lung via the windpipe or trachea to the small airways.
Syndrome = combination of the above.
Beyond the stenotic nares (or really tight nostrils), some other components of BOAS involve an elongated soft palate and a hypoplastic trachea.
THERE ARE NO STUDIES that prove that these issues are directly related to the length of the nose. Some genes can write a thicker/bigger tongue or a more tight throat, but you see this with ALL breeds (even mixed-breeds), not just Brachycephalic breeds. Yes, sometimes these things are found more often with brachy breeds, but THERE IS NO PROOF THAT THESE ISSUES ARE DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE LENGTH OF THE NOSE.
Elongated soft palate is related to different genes that are writing for the length of the soft palate. Elongated soft palate is not related to the length of the skull.
Elongated soft palate is not related to the length of the skull. Elongated soft palate is related to different genes that are writing for the length of the soft palate."
Let's apply some common sense.
You can find long soft palates in dogs with long noses, such as Labradors or even in mixed breed dogs. IT'S NOT JUST A BRACHYCEPHALIC ISSUE.
As Dr. Maryanne R Mack DVM explains "The implication that all brachycephalic breeds are inherently unhealthy is completely incorrect. These breeds have recently become the target of animal rights activists and many veterinarians. As a veterinarian, I see healthy and unhealthy dogs every day; these are of varying breeds, and currently, mostly designer or mixed breeds. To target brachycephalic dogs as unhealthy falls short of understanding the big picture."
"Doliocephaly is not a recipe for health, just as brachycephaly is not a recipe for illness. Many dolichocephalic breeds are plagued with cancer at rates far exceeding what should ever be considered acceptable."
As mentioned earlier, breeds with longer skulls also deal with more with nasal cancer, oronasal fistula (an infection creating a hole in the roof of the mouth), and are more likely to suffer from nasal diseases (aspergillosis, influenza etc.).
"The brachycephalic dogs that I see", Dr. Mack continues, "in most cases, do not suffer as a result of their anatomy."
We have a perfect example when comparing our 1st bred by champion pug, Macintosh (CH Peachtree's Hill Country Mighty Macintosh, TKN), to our rescue mixed-breed big dog (with a long nose, long muzzle) Jerry, who is a German Shepherd/Chow/Lab mix.
Our first bred-by pug, Macintosh, is able to hike in summertime heat. He actually breathes better than our rescue German Shepherd/Chow/Lab mix.
Here is Macintosh on a summertime hike. Do you see any panting? His human was, but not the pug!
While Macintosh enjoyed hiking along, we have to stop constantly with Jerry to offer the dog with the nose water, cooling jackets, and let him rest.
One summer at a dog show in Tampa, Florida, the AC broke in the large building. The temperature quickly rose and many exhibitors began to give up and leave. It truly was hot. We put a Ziplock bag with ice in Macintosh's show trolly and turned his little fan on. He was fine. Other big dogs "with noses" were having to leave ... even though they had fans and ice as well.
It was the dogs WITH "the noses" who were fleeing the building ...not our pug.
Adding a longer muzzle will not fix the problem. Preventing unethical breeders from continuing with poor breeding practices is the only thing which will fix the problem. Ruining an ancient breed by changing its outside appearance will not improve breathing. The end result will be ugly dogs who look like mutts who still can't breath, and this amazing, ancient breed would have been destroyed for no reason.
Here is Dr. Maryanne R Mack DVM complete article (below). Hopefully, the recent BOAS health screening tests will allow Dutch breeders to once again register pugs (pugs who look like pugs, not mutts) and prevent future bans globally. These health screening tests are not anything revelatory or earth shattering. They're common sense. They are what ethical breeders have done for generations and hundreds of years. (Ethical breeders do not breed a pug who does not breath well. End of story. They examine parents, grandparents, offspring. They use common sense.) What the tests will do, or could do potentially, is prevent unethical breeders from being able to continue to harm the breed and perhaps educate less experienced breeders giving everyone involved a more tangible means of assessing BOAS concerns.
Here is the article by Dr. Maryanne R Mack DVM :
"As a veterinarian and breeder of two brachycephalic breeds (Boston Terriers and Pugs), I feel obligated to make a statement regarding the recent Dutch kennel club decision to ban the registration of brachycephalic breeds when bred to the original breed standards.
I understand the intent of this notion is to aim to breed healthier dogs, however, the target is misaligned and the execution abhorrent. The implication that all brachycephalic breeds are inherently unhealthy is completely incorrect. These breeds have recently become the target of animal rights activists and many veterinarians.
As a veterinarian, I see healthy and unhealthy dogs every day; these are of varying breeds, and currently, mostly designer or mixed breeds. To target brachycephalic dogs as unhealthy falls short of understanding the big picture.
Doliocephaly is not a recipe for health, just as brachycephaly is not a recipe for illness. Doliocephalic dogs suffer severe health conditions as well, yet AR activists and veterinarians turn away and target brachycephalic dogs. Many dolichocephalic breeds are plagued with cancer at rates far exceeding what should ever be considered acceptable. I have diagnosed 6 month old dogs with neoplasia, euthanized far too many 4-6 year old dogs from metastatic neoplasia to count, and comforted owners who just can’t understand why every dog of X breed that they have just doesn’t live long enough. Yet somehow this is deemed acceptable and targeting of brachycephalic dogs for a structure that, in the majority of cases, does not limit the ability to live a long, happy, full life.
The brachycephalic dogs that I see, in most cases, do not suffer as a result of their anatomy. I see a range of quality in these dogs from backyard bred, puppy mill bred, rescue, to preservation breeder produced dogs. By far, the dogs bred by preservation readers are healthier overall, yet in a very large practice, I have maybe 1-2 patients who have airway disease that limits their function. These patients are older, from poor breeding programs, and have outlived their life expectancy and are starting to struggle. This is no different from an older sporting dog who has life limiting osteoarthritis as a result of years of running, hiking, and doing the job it was created to do. These dogs are also suffering at times, yet AR groups don’t see them as a target.
Understanding the limitations of breeds is important; just as you would not encourage a heavy coated nordic breed to go for marathon length runs in summer heat, recommendations for individual dogs need to be catered to that breed’s original purpose. As a veterinarian, it is my role to help to educate clients on breed specific issues and purposes. This is why we have purpose bred dogs. Most brachycephalic breeds have been bred for companionship, and this is a job they do incredibly well. To alter the breed standards and registration requirements such that you mandate they be bred to resemble sporting dogs is to destroy hundreds, sometimes thousands, of years of preservation breeding.
This is simply meant as an opinion piece based on my years of involvement in breeding and exhibiting of two brachycephalic breeds as well as my role as a veterinarian. I commonly experience backlash from other veterinarians for my choice to breed Pugs and Boston Terriers, yet in most cases, upon meeting my dogs, they come to understand how these breeds are meant to be and see how healthy they truly are.
I plan, over the next few weeks, to compile a review of scholarly articles that support the fact that brachycephalic dogs are not inherently unhealthy. I would also like to conduct a research study of cases seen by veterinarians in general practice to evaluate overall health of these breeds. I welcome any colleague who is interested in joining me in developing this.
I refuse to continue to see false information and biased studies cited as reasons to target an entire group of dogs that fill such an enormously important role in the world. Brachycephaly is not synonymous with illness, just as doliocephaly is not synonymous with health. I refuse to stand idly while breeders are losing their right to preserve the breeds they love." Maryanne R Mack DVM
OFA testing for hips, elbows, etc. are based upon things that are pretty easy to measure. But it's a little trickier to test how a dog breaths. Is it calm? Is it stressed? Has it just exercised? What's the temperature?
However, there are studies now where they are attempting to quantify grading systems, such as the one developed a few years ago at the University of Cambridge.
There are 2 parts of the Cambridge study:
1) The dog is put in a chamber that measures how much air they're bringing in, how hard they're working to breath, it measures all the pressure, the oxygen, the carbon dioxide levels, and gives a good information of the dog at rest and how its moving air.
2) Then they do an evaluation of the dog at rest, how it's breathing, is it making any noise? is it having increased effort or panting? (FYI, this is what ethical breeders have done for hundreds of years).
3) Then they make the dog do light exercise for 3 minutes and then repeat the evaluation. And they grade the dog on a scale based upon the result. It is pretty exact for predicting how affected the dog is by BOAS issues.
Noisy breathing usually increases when exited or exercising. Stertor (low pitched due to nose narrow or palate vibrating) and or stridor (high pitched due to laryngeal collapse) can also be affected by other factors. Is the pug overweight? Noises normally increase when excited or exercising. Snoring maybe evident during sleep.
Just recently, they have now developed a similar test/BOAS screening in the USA and they are gradually training more and more vets across the country how to administer the testing.
Personally, I feel like these evaluations need to have a larger scope. (Think more like the amazing and ethical preservation breeders throughout the past who have kept the breed alive over the past 2,500 years.) A broader scope would include questions such as "does the dam and sire breath well?" "Did the grandparents?" Looking laterally, "how do the siblings breath?" "Is it allergy season with a lot of pollen?" "Is the pug overweight?" "Is the pug in season?" "Did the pug just eat?" "Did the pug just travel a long distance?" "Is the pug socialized so not unduly suffering from anxiety during the testing process, travel to test site, meeting of strangers etc.?" There are a lot of factors to consider so, in my mind, one test will not solve BOAS issues. Common sense and the strength and conviction to spay or neuter a poor breathing pug is the only real answer.
I'm reminded of something I observed when visiting the Hill Country pug breeders in Texas. There was a large group of young puppies in the den. They were letting the pups grow-out before deciding who would be the picks who stayed in their breeding program. One puppy made a noise (indicative of a BOAS issue). The breeder asked her husband "put a mark on that puppy" and they put a dot of fingernail polish on it to make sure it would not be considered in the mix to stay as a show dog.
Standards. Guts. Professionalism. That's what it takes to create more Macintosh pugs. (Incidentally, Macintosh's sire was a Hill Country pug). A longer skull on a pug just creates a mutt who will probably have a greater chance of developing BOAS issues because only backyard breeders would choose to breed a pug that does not conform to breed standard.
I've seen a judge in the ring excuse a pug because it couldn't breath. It was an air-conditioned building and, of course, the pugs are leisurely gaiting about the ring. Yes, sometimes stress and fear can cause a pug to tighten which causes a bit louder breathing but, when examining this pug outside the ring, the breathing was poor most of the time. This brings to mind that the entire 'village' -- breeders, handlers, judges, owners, vets, researchers, politicians, activists, rescue organizations -- need to work together, supporting, encouraging each other, to breed responsibly. It takes a village.
The new Tracheal Hypoplasia Evaluation may not necessarily improve the breed within the realm of reputable breeders (as they already have high standards when choosing which pugs to include in their breeding program), but perhaps the concrete scores/gradings will allow for the amazing pug breeder in the Netherlands to once again register her incredibly healthy and gorgeous breed standard pugs.
The Dutch Ban involves 12 Brachycephalic breeds (Affenpinscher, Boston terrier, English and French bulldog, Griffon bruxellois, Griffon belge, Petit Brabancon, Japanese Chin, King Charles spaniel, Pekingese, Pug and Shih Tzu).
To those animal activists, and "Vets against Brachycephalics", think on this: how do these ancient breeds still exist among us? How have they survived since the time BEFORE CHRIST?
Pugs have existed since around 551. Your organizations since 1980s.
Have pugs really changed that much? Many of the "puggle" pugs you see in photographs from the Victorian era might perhaps just be poorly bred backyard puggle pugs (just sayin'). If Confucius was referring to the pug breed around 551, he described it as a "short-mouthed dog".
So, the lo-chiang-sze or foo dog BRED TO BE LAPDOGS for Chinese monarchs, were most likely "short-mouthed" in their original conception. They haven't changed that much guys! Or, if you don't want to go all the way back to the 500s, let's just go back to 1759.
If breeders of brachycephalic dogs over the years had NOT held high standards in selecting healthy dogs who could breath, we would not have these ancient breeds with us in the 21st century.
Perhaps before jumping on band wagons, conducting unnecessary BOAS surgeries, altering breed standards, and shame blame, one might remember that these activists' hidden agenda is to ban us all from owning a dog, any dog. Keep this in mind folks. Use common sense.
This is a direct quote from one of their sites: "[Our group] believes that it would be in animals' best interests if they were no longer bred to be dependent on humans ... Humans routinely subject their companions to cruel "convenience" practices ... they lock up (dogs) like prisoners in their own homes." (FYI, in our opinion at Pickwick Pugs, owners of domesticated companion pets should NOT feel guilty about crating their dogs in a responsible way.)
Perhaps consider the fact that the domestic dog has been a partner with humans for at least 15,000 years and the animal domestication process started perhaps 12,000 years ago. Again, these activist groups were formed around 1980.
And, if you are somehow starting to be brainwashed by these activists, perhaps you might read articles such as this one or this personal account of a former employee www.huffpost.com/entry/whistleblower-peta-employee-allegations_b_6648696 - "I was told regularly to greatly overestimate the weight of animals whose euthanasia we recorded, in order to account for what would have otherwise been missing "blue juice" (the chemical used to euthanize); because that allowed us to euthanize animals off the books. I was told regularly to say whatever I had to say in order to get people to surrender animals to me: lying was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.) "In 2019, [the group] killed 65.2% of the animals they received. Since 1998, [the group] has been directly responsible for the death of 41,539 animals." "Data collected by Virginia's state government shows that the activist group's euthanasia rates for cats and dogs at the shelter is exceptionally higher than other shelters in the state."
The Washington Post reported that in 2015, the activist group "euthanized more than 80 percent of the animals in its care last year, a rate so shockingly high that Virginia lawmakers passed a bill [SB 1381] in February—nearly unanimously—to define a private animal shelter as a place where the primary mission is to find permanent homes for animals in this life, not send them on to the next."
Again, we'll save this for a future blog post. But, regarding the Norwegians and Dutch, perhaps they should research a bit more before eliminating ancient breeds. I guess it just boils down to the fact that the people in these countries don't have common sense. Somehow it must have been bred out of them.
Testing might help with the naysayers and, to a degree, assist breeders in restrictive countries, but BOAS is complex, progressive, and unpredictable and can change over the course of a dog's lifetime.
BOAS is complex, progressive, and unpredictable and can change over the course of a dog's lifetime. "
BOAS appears to be more prevalent in those dogs which are overweight with heavy short necks and narrowed nostrils. That's one reason we always look for a pug with a beautiful neck and open nares when choosing the pugs we will include in our breeding program at Pickwick Pugs. We never breed a pug who has obvious breathing problems and makes a lot of noise in breathing. We re-evaluate regularly.
Once the testing becomes available we will add the tool to our toolbox, but more as a means to add more data and concrete proof of our assessments and perhaps contribute to the development of future testing with additional data.
In the European countries utilizing the evaluations, it is recommended to do the assessment at 12 months and then every 2 years thereafter until breeding stops but the Cambridge study recommends yearly assessment from 1 year until they are stable (usually around 5 years of age).
The grading is typically along this line but, just as with OFA hip screening, susceptible to the individual assessor (some vets grade more strictly or, with hips, compare pugs to other breeds who are built entirely differently).
Grade 0 = the dog is clinically unaffected and is currently free of respiratory signs of BOAS.
Grade 1 = the dog is clinically unaffected but does have mild respiratory signs linked to BOAS. These signs do not affect their exercise performance.
Grade 2 = the dog is clinically affected and has moderate respiratory signs of BOAS that should be monitored and may require veterinary treatment.
Grade 3 = the dog is clinically affected and has severe respiratory signs of BOAS and should be seen by your own vet for a thorough veterinary examination with treatment. We do not recommend that you breed from your dog.
Again, these tests are common sense and basically preservation breeders have been doing already for centuries. Yet, now, the ethical breeders will have to pay even more money, making breeding even less feasible, in a futile attempt to weed out the unethical/inexperienced breeders. But that's how much preservation breeders care about the breed they are preserving. I have to wonder if these tests will truly reveal something that an experienced, ethical breeder doesn't already know.
Breeders do not need to hide behind these health screenings."
Breeders do not need to hide behind these health screenings, though. I'll probably catch some flack for saying this and, really, this is topic for another blog post in itself ... addressing breeders who do the testing, get a chic number, but still breed dogs who are not worthy.
"Bad hips? Worst possible OFA score? Breed anyway!" (Yes, breeders have personally told me this.) The same thing can happen with BOAS screening. Another concern would be if a breeder rested on the laurels of a good score when the pug was younger, but did not retest a year later. A pug who received a grade of 0 or 1 at age 1 would need to be retested again annually throughout the breeding life of the dog.
Even if these tests are used responsibly, they STILL cannot guarantee that a puppy from two unaffected parents will be free from BOAS.
At some point, these tests in themselves will irradicate these ancient breeds, though, if the activists don't first, because the ethical, smaller hobby/show preservation breeders simply cannot afford all of these health tests. Perhaps if the activists really cared, they would start paying for these health tests. That would be the best solution.
One last thought. The problem pugs with the BOAS issues are primarily bred by backyard breeders, not by ethical preservation breeders.
Dr. Mack mentioned that approximately 95% of pugs she dealt with who had breathing issues had been purchased from a backyard breeder or pet store.
Backyard breeders do not do health testing. Any health testing. These are the pugs that need the screening, so how will the tests aid in preventing backyard breeders from including poor breathers in their breeding programs?
The big picture has to be even bigger.
One thing that IS certain however is that changing type and breed standard (by "adding a snout") is not the answer. Again, using common sense, look at ALL of the pugs produced by backyard breeders who have long noses -- the puggle type pug -- who are still bad breathers!
Testing in it and of itself is not the answer. Education and ethical preservation breeders working together is the answer.
WOW! What a bombproof little showgirl Tory is turning out to be. At just 6 months, she held her own in the ring with 29 other major pugs from all over the country. She won her 1-9 puppy class each day and held her stacks like a pro. Most importantly, she honestly had so much fun!
Robert had fun preparing for Rally Obedience (he's not quite ready to compete yet, though), and just having a chance to be away from home and the 'only boy'. He and Tory both enjoyed the hotel room and time to relax in between shows. And thank you so much to Gary Williams, the President of the Pug Dog Club of America for your help in evaluating the puppies. We appreciate your input and learning opportunity so very much .... we also appreciate all you do for the Club. The pups met so many people on the trip and had a blast.
jagger's 1st campfire!
Bridget, Scarlett, Lilibeth, Tory, Marie Claire, and Jagger all joined me for a week at Winter Wonderland Cluster in Perry, Georgia. From rally obedience to conformation, to Beginner Puppy 4-6 months, we had a blast! I think Jagger's favorite part was seeing his first campfire and relaxing after winning Winners Dog and his first purple ribbon! (Purple is a good color for dog shows .... it means an important win, plus points toward a championship!)
Here is Tory, from the Coffeehouse Litter, (Pickwick's Worship the Ground I Walk On), showing off her ribbons after winning Best of Breed at 4 different BPUPS, plus 2 nice Toy Group wins.
fun meeting goats and ducks!
Lilibeth had fun going on a walk in the beautiful weather and showing her Poldark litter puppies around the park. Bridget and Jagger also met goats for the first time and had fun barking at the ducks ;)
Lilibeth is great at toenail trims
Not ALL pugs have to be bad at toenail trims (but, I'm not vouching for Sebastian, KK and a few others .... we call in the National Guard for them).
Amy Aberg McLelland, co-owner Pickwick Pugs