My guilty secret is… I love pug dogs. Why guilty? Because I’m a veterinarian and have seen firsthand the awful suffering those (adorable) flat faces cause. But it doesn’t alter the fact I have a weakess for those big brown eyes and baby-like features…but I get it. I’ve been suckered. These dogs have been deliberately bred, over the decades, to appeal to people just like me and make them oxytocin-inducing, endearing, and irresistible puppies to purchase. But at the unacceptable cost of not being able to breathe freely or keep cool without struggling.
You will be relieved to know this post isn’t about BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome), but a reflection on the changing face of the pug. Indeed, by recognizing the appearance of the modern pug has changed almost beyond recognition from their ancestors then we might return them to their roots.
Did you know, that centuries ago the pug looked like the dog we know as the puggle (pug cross beagle)? For the sake of transparency, let me say straight out I’m owned by a puggle. My choice of breed is no accident. It’s a nod to the pugs I love, but the dash of beagle blood gifted Pogs a longer nose. And I’m sure you’ll agree, it is striking how much she looks like the pugs of yesteryear (well, 18th century for sure.) Compare my dog Pogs with this statuette of William Hogarth’s (18th-century artist and painter) famous pug called Trump.
Another example of pugs with noses is found in the painting below by Edwin Landseer (1802-1873). The painting shows two black pug dogs shackled together. This is an allegorical painting with an interesting story of its own. The piece was inspired by Harriet Beecher Stowe’s anti-slavery novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Landseer adapted the book’s message by using dogs in place of people, to convey the message. The painting shows the two pugs shackled together for sale, which represents Uncle Tom and his wife. You may notice the whip on the right-hand side of the image, another nod to the message of servitude. But in addition, focus on the profile of the dog on the left-hand side of the image…see…he has a nose!
As the saying goes, a picture paints 1,000 words. Compare the traditional pug nose above with their modern-day descendants below. Cute, adorable…I so get it…but just not right or fair on the dog. Let’s have dogs with noses so we can all breathe easy and do right by our dogs in the future.