'I can’t imagine life without him': People share why they love pugs

pictures of a little pug and a puggle
‘Pugs have become an easy target’ (Picture: Leah Wood/Patrizia Galeota)

In case you haven’t heard, pugs can no longer be considered a typical dog from a health perspective, according to a study.

According to research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), the health of pugs in the UK is now substantially different and largely worse than other breeds. Associate professor Dr Dan O’Neill said: ‘Although hugely popular as pets, we now know that several severe health issues are linked to the extreme body shape of pugs that many humans find so cute.’ Similarly, Becky Thwaites, from Blue Cross, said in a statement following this announcement: ‘We would always urge people to think twice before looking to take on one of these breeds, to consider the health issues associated with these pets and whether they could afford the veterinary treatment they may need during their lives. ‘Sadly, overbreeding to meet demand for flat-faced breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs and Persian cats – which are seen as fashionable and cute – can result in these pets suffering from a range of health issues including breathing problems, eye disease, skin disease, heart conditions, spinal abnormalities and joint disease.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: Dogs have wet noses because it helps to absorb scent chemicals.

‘At Blue Cross, we hope that by educating owners about the health issues associated with these pets the popularity and unrealistic beauty ideals these innocent pets face will be reduced, in favour of healthier breeding practices where the welfare of the animal, and not its appearance, will be front of mind.’

Yes, flat-nosed breeds are not exactly the picture of health, and yes, people need to stop over-breeding dogs just for trendy looks, but somewhere along the way it feels like the pugs themselves have started to be judged, which is a shame because they’re absolute sweeties.

As Becky says: ‘We never want anyone to feel blamed or shamed for sharing their lives with one of these pets – but we as a society must start doing what is best for the welfare of our four-legged friends.’

After all, they are only what humans have made them, and there are pugs all over the nation that still need care and loving homes.

That’s why we’ve chatted to pug owners and lovers about why they love their pets…

Hercules

hercules the pug with owners
‘He’s full of love and happiness’ (Picture: Rachael Fletcher)
This is little Hercules, who is the beloved pet of Rach Fletcher. Rach says: ‘Hercules has a fab personality – he’s full of love and happiness, never aggressive and is always at mine or my boyfriend’s side, especially when we’re making dinner.

‘It’s amazing to come home to your little mate who’s excited to see you, no matter how your day has gone.’

She adds: ‘He’s a perfect little companion for us as a younger couple that work.

‘He comes to the office with me sometimes or when we work from home he’s happy just chilling at our feet and doesn’t need a ton of walking like larger/more energetic dogs.’

Read your dog's body language.

hercules the pug
‘We also get a few jokes about him being ugly which I disagree with’ (Picture: Rachael Fletcher)
When asked if she’s ever had to deal with any negativity from people about pugs, Rach says: ‘Yes, a few people have made comments about pugs being unhealthy/prone to illness which is unfair as most breeds have ailments that they’re likely to face (e.g. Labs are prone to hip problems).

‘We also get a few jokes about him being ugly, which I disagree with.’

Molly

Journalist Jess, whose mum has a pug she adores, says: ‘While I understand that we all have a responsibility to ensure animals are healthy, I think pugs have become an easy target. ‘Golden retrievers and German shepherds are at extremely high risk of hip dysplasia and joint issues, while spaniels commonly deal with cataracts, Cherry Eye and progressive retinal atrophy – yet we don’t condemn owners of these dogs.

‘My mum’s pug, Molly, is the happiest dog; she’s so loved and well cared for, and it shows. For people to assume that she’s some sort of freak of nature is hurtful – and simply wrong – according to her vet, she’s in tip-top health.

‘If vets and charities want to stop people breeding unhealthy pugs, they should look to breeders. They’re the root of the issue, and demonising good dog owners for having the “wrong” type of pet doesn’t solve anything.’

She’s also had to deal with some nasty comments about pugs in the past, explaining: ‘No one has specifically said anything, but I think that’s mainly because she’s quite well-known around their village.

‘We do get stares when she’s out somewhere else, and people have said things about pugs to me not knowing I have one. Someone once said it was cruel to let pugs live, which came across like some eugenicist hot take and did not sit well.’

Dexter

dexter the puggle
Meet Dexter (Picture: Leah Wood)
Dexter the Puggle (a pug mixed with a beagle) was born in Aberystwyth, Wales, and digital PR and content exec Leah bought him as a puppy.

INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOUR PET: More than half of all U.S presidents have owned dogs.

‘Ten years ago,’ she says, ‘Puggles weren’t very common, so I travelled for four hours to get him (I’m from Doncaster) – turns out the litter were an “accident.”‘ ‘Dexter is 10 now and, without being too dramatic, I couldn’t imagine life without him,’ Leah says.
dexter the puggle as a puppy
Baby boy. Baby. (Picture: Leah Wood)

‘He’s such a laid back dog but still gets excited every time I come home. He fits in with my lifestyle so well – I work from home the majority of the time, so I’m usually around most of the day which he likes, as he likes to be around people.

‘He’s not too active, although he knows when it gets to around midday that it’s walk time. He’s sociable and loves visitors, which is a bonus too.’

On why she opted for that specific mix, she says: ‘I chose a Puggle as I thought the mix of characteristics between the breeds would suit my lifestyle. Dexter is happy to sleep all day, but will also happily go for a walk due to the beagle in him.

‘Walking can take a while though – he’s definitely got the sniffer instincts of a beagle, so he could happily stand and sniff the same spot for hours if I let him. Puggles are larger than pedigree pugs, which I preferred too. They’re also very cute’

dexter the puggle out for a walk
Walks with Dexter can be slow because he loves a sniff (Picture: Leah Wood)

Millie

Fergus got his beloved dog Millie (RIP) 21 years ago, from a charity that rehomes pugs who’d bought her because they thought it best to keep her from being bred elsewhere. She passed away aged 13.

He tells us: ‘She really was very much part of the household. They are a very special breed of dog. They’re more like a cross between the dog and the cat and the human being.’

He adds: ‘She was hilarious. Her favourite thing was scrambled eggs and she’s bark at you while they were being made. She wanted it and she wanted it now.

The tick should come out on its own and be stuck to the cotton ball when you remove it.

‘You knew she was in a bad mood because she would stomp her feet at you.

‘There’s nothing quite like a pug.’

Fergus can recall when pugs were less trendy than they are now, saying: ‘I remember walking in Greenwich Park and somebody says: “Hey, mate, you’ve got a pig in a leash.”

‘Now those sorts of people are walking around with pugs. It’s completely changed.’

He addresses their health issues, saying that pugs are possibly a breed ‘not everyone should be having’, citing the overbreeding.

‘They’re not the most robust because of their breathing,’ he says. ‘They don’t like too much heat. And they do have issues, but then the most trendy dogs at the moment is a cockapoo and cockapoos have inherited issues too.’

He adds: ‘They were lapdogs, they were never supposed to bounce around the park with a ball in their mouths.’

While Fergus has had other breeds of dog, he doesn’t think he could ever have another pug.

‘It sounds a little crazy,’ he explains, ‘but I never want another one because I don’t think it could replace Millie. She was very special.’

Willowmina

Beauty and lifestyle PR specialist Patrizia says: ‘I have a pug, and she is the happiest and healthiest pug there is. Her weight is kept under control to keep her happy and healthy – my vet is very impressed as she sees so many overweight pugs.’

Patrizia adds: ‘People have said in the past “why not get a real dog?” as opposed to a “lapdog”.

‘Some have said she is kind of ugly-looking in a cute way because of the nature of her flatter features.’

‘Life with Willow in it brings us so much joy – she is an extension to the family. I classify her as my fur baby.

‘My son is an only child and the happiness she shows him when he arrives home from school and vice versa, it’s just beautiful. My son is eight years old, and I will often find him and Willow on the sofa, with her snuggled in his lap.

‘She has quite a sassy personality, I almost feel she thinks she’s a human sometimes, she is a very sociable dog and suffers from FOMO when not given enough attention should I have friends around. She brings so much to our family.’

Why are dogs’ noses so wet? Dogs’ noses secrete a thin layer of mucous that helps them absorb scent. They then lick their noses to sample the scent through their mouth.

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