Monday, October 20, 2008

Meet the real mini molosser!

Did you know a baby platypus or echidna is called a puggle?

I think this is arguably the best word we as humans have ever come up with. I was actually kind of delighted the first time I heard there was a dog with the same name.

I almost giggled the first time I saw one, too. Like baby platypuses, puggles are small and wrinkly and begging to be picked up and held. Unlike platypuses, they look for all the world like miniature mastiffs, putting the efforts of Dakota Winds to shame. A puggle is the offspring of a beagle and a pug, if you didn't know, and with those chests and little barrel bodies pugs actually are part of the molosser family, which accounts for that mystery. But the puggle doesn't strongly favour either parent, and if you didn't know any better, you could almost swear it was some obscure, adorable purebreed.

And I think we should all know by now that I like cute dogs.

THE PROS: Note that the puggle actually has a muzzle to speak of. I knew somebody who had a pug that would follow me all over her place, snuffling nonstop. I would have to shove it out of the bathroom with my foot and I could hear it snorting away outside the door the whole time. When I showed up at her house, the dog would practically go into respiratory arrest. I don't know what his fixation with me was, but it's nice to think that if I ever picked up a puggle stalker, I wouldn't hear that sinister, snuffly wheezing sound lurking just behind corners.

In short, the beagle genes make it easier for the offspring to breathe. Which is good.

I'm hearing that puggles are quite healthy, but I'm not sure I believe it. It is true, however, that, like beagles, they don't seem to suffer from the dreaded hip dysplasia. And in my personal opinion, a puggle sounds healthier than a pug.

Lastly, you get some degree of predictability (which I am always always advocating), at least in appearance. The puggle has a pretty uniform look: namely, that cute li'l squashed-molosser look. (Although Wikipedia does say otherwise.)

THE CONS: Unfortunately, both beagles and pugs tend to suffer from "cherry eye", epilepsy, skin infections, luxating patellas, and back ailments, among other things. Puggles can also have problems with harsh weather, like extreme heat or cold, and since you can never quite know what you're getting with a mutt, your pup may have just a little difficulty with his breathing, or he may inherit the pug's compacted airways and struggle to breathe efficiently. Combined with the beagle drive to run run run, this can spell disaster for puggles. Some people are saying they've known these dogs to run themselves to death. Yikes.

Nobody knows where the puggle came from, but the theory is that it was an "oops" puppy. I can certainly believe that, because if you're breeding pugs, you want to be very very careful. A slapdash approach to breeding will give you extremely unhealthy dogs. I imagine much the same goes for Pekingeses and other "bricked-in-the-face dogs" (my affectionate term). If you have to have a puggle, you will definitely need to get a close look at the pug parent, but that won't tell you everything about the health of your baby. I'd say I hope we have some really responsible breeders out there, but to be perfectly honest, if they were truly responsible they wouldn't be breeding puggles. Landing other dogs with pug breathing issues is a bad idea. How about we take the UK's lead, and start developing healthier pugs before we start experimenting?

Moving on: They have no purpose. Whatsoever. I won't even bother with the last section, regarding the dog's function. People breed them to be family dogs, and we've got way too many of those running around already. They're not hypoallergenic, even though some confused people will tell you they are, because ... apparently all hybrids are hypoallergenic. This must be some magical muttpuppy gene, because pugs and beagles sure aren't!

Some owners will say they're high maintenance, others will say they're not. Some say they shed a lot and some say they're very low-shedding. Who knows! Most owners are in agreement, though, in that these puppies are not the easiest to train or housebreak. They say the extra time spent training them is worth it, though I'm not so sure.

I wanted to go easy, puggles. I really did. You've got cute cute faces and big eyes. But you are a fad breed. Left alone, you will disappear quietly, I'm afraid. I hope.

Readers, just stay very still and quiet ... if it doesn't see us, it will go away on its own. Shh...


Kristina said...

Now I know! Sure they're cute, but I can see how purposely breeding anything with a pug is bad for the resulting mutt. Run itself to death? Yikes. And of course there's the fact that they have no purpose besides being a fad dog, even if an adorable, bug-eyed one.

On a side note, we get a puggle puppy in named Junior, and petting him is like petting a steel trap. XD His mouth is full of pointy little fangs, and he uses 'em. But once you pick him up he's all eager kisses. Unlike the pug, Lola, who starts barking up a storm if you try to pick her up. lol

muttpuppiesontrial said...

I'm of the opinion that pugs make for some of the cutest puppies in the world. They're like tubby tubes with little faces squished on top! And the wrinkles! So you'll have to tell me if puggle puppies inherit the adorability factor, because that can be a real deal breaker. ;)

Gapper said...
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an American in Copenhagen said...

I don't think it's cute when a dog gags on his own soft palate. Or when it gets skin infections because his skin is wrinkled so tight. Or when he slips a deformed disk because the A-hole who bred him thought he should have two spirals in his tail and didn't care that meant weakening his whole spine. A pug crossed with just about anything is going to be an improvement on the Pug health wise.

Part of the problem with Pug health is that people have been purposely breeding them to have non-functional anatomy. The other problem is that their gene pool is incredibly small. Fact: The average pug in the UK has LESS genetic diversity than a giant panda. As a result of the small gene pool genetic diseases that have nothing to do with their looks (hip dysplasia, pug dog encephalitis, etc) are quite common as well.

There is no way on God's earth you are going to be able to correct pug health without some outcrossing. In my dream world some industrious pug loving folks are going to take the lead of the bulldog folks and create a "Victorian pug" that resembles the original pug seen in historical paintings and pictures--less extreme face, curly but not corkscrew tail, etc and expand the gene pool in the process. Outcrossing the healthiest pugs with healthy individuals from other breeds and then backcrossing to other healthy pugs would result in a wider gene pool and it would allow breeders to re-establish a less extreme look for the breed. The resulting dogs would be more physically and genetically healthy and would therefore make them better, more desirable pets.

I can't really think of a better candidate than the beagle for my fantasy pug outcross/backcross project. However, most puggle breeders aren't trying to re-establish a healthier pug and are screening neither pug nor beagle parent for health problems. That said, just because the intentions and execution are poor doesn't mean the idea is completely off base. People like Pugs but no one likes their health problems. So far the backyard breeders and puppy mills seem like the only ones with a brain when it comes to figuring this out. Their intentions and execution might be poor but they're not totally off base--they're creating a pug-like dog for pug lovers who want better odds on avoiding health problems.

Successful backcross/outcross projects that I know about:

Two brothers in the UK created Victorian Bulldogs which look more like the dogs seen in historical photos and paintings than purebred bulldogs do today. They have less extreme faces, a more athletic body, and tend to be slightly larger but are never mistaken for anything but a bulldog. They have the same friendly nature and love of life that purebred bulldogs do--just significantly fewer health problems. Purebred bulldogs were crossed with other bully breeds to achieve this result. A similar breed, the Olde English Bulldogue has been re-created in the US and more and more breeders are jumping on the band wagon, too.

Working bassets who get an occasional injection of hound to keep the pack from becoming too extreme in type and the gene pool from getting to tight. Pet basset breeding could easily follow this example.

Dalmatian backcross project which used a single outcross with a pointer to re-establish a gene responsible for uric acid production in a line of Dalmatians. The few who managed to squeeze into the AKC before they decided to exclude future backcross Dalmatians from registration are winning in the show ring against 'normal' Dalmatians. (100% of purebred Dalmatians lack this gene and are more prone to urinary crystals and associated blockages and infections as a result.)

In anticipation of a ban on tail docking in Europe a well respected Boxer breeder in the UK outcrossed to a naturally tailless Corgie and then backcrossed to produce naturally short tailed 'Bobtail-Boxers' that win against purebred boxers in the ring.

Off my soap box for now. I hope that plants a seed for you. I don't think Puggles are the answer to our problems but I do think they might be the first generation of steps in the right direction.

Katie said...

I have a wonderful puggle named Ginger. She is nine months old and is not only adorable but SMART!

Although it seems many people are spouting about how hard these little pups are to train, ours was VERY EASY to train. She sits, shakes, high fives, lays, crawls, and rolls over on command. She comes when called, understands "NO" and "BAD DOG" as much as she understands "GOOD DOG."

As for potty training, it takes patience like with any other dog breed. She actually understands the command "Go Potty." Does she have accidents? Yes, when she gets really excited and she hasn't been out in a while. (probably my fault, really).

Only problems we are running into right now is that she excessively licks faces and ears of anyone that sits in our house. She also jumps on people without permission. Both things I'm hoping we can work on while she is a puppy to correct.

Anyway, I would hate to see the breed totally disappearing. I've seen puggles that have beagle faces, and puggles that have pug faces with longer snouts for easier breathing. I think that the latter is cuter (but that's b/c my Ginger is a puggle with a pug face :o)).

Both types are big hits at the local dog park, and they get along with other dogs really well. Some big dogs have issues with little dogs b/c that is their way, but for the most part my dog is very social and loves others.

So, if you are in the market for a puggle and are curious about how they are as a house pet, don't always take just one persons opinion. Get all your facts and read about other people's experiences.