"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."
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.
Amy - Concert pianist, composer, lecturer, teacher, adjudicator, pug lover, dog trainer, soap and candle maker, owner Unique Boutique for Pet Owners, and co-owner Pickwick Pugs along with her husband, Dr. Jeff McLelland, concert organist, music director, and awesome care giver of the grumble.