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The Suffering Inbred Pug

Schatzie has bachelor's degrees in animal science and English and a master's in education.

The breeding of pugs involves significant ethical issues.

The breeding of pugs involves significant ethical issues.

The Ethics of Creating the Purebred American Pug

The American pug has a very specific and ideal appearance. Pugs that successfully exhibit this appearance are the result of intensive inbreeding and selection over many generations and eventually are themselves inbred with the purpose of perpetuating these characteristics into the next generation. This goal ensures a nice profit for breeders and an aesthetically pleasing animal for buyers.

However, the joy these perfect pugs bring to breeders and owners alike is overshadowed by the pain and the suffering of a majority of the dogs created through the process. Many of the offspring of inbreeding die or are killed, and many that survive undergo severe health complications that jeopardize their quality of life. The fact that these animals suffer severely, both directly and indirectly, renders the process of inbreeding ethically unacceptable.

The domestic dog is our creation, and as such, relies upon us for protection as our dependent and our companion. We are under a moral obligation as hierarchically superior humans to protect that which would not exist but for our interference with nature. Because humans have deemed it necessary to create organisms that cannot survive naturally or properly defend themselves, it is our duty to protect them from their weaknesses, which we have indirectly created.

This prohibits the culling of helpless puppies and disallows the exploitation of pugs in a process that has been scientifically proven to cause prevalent disease and diminished quality of life in the pugs. It is wrong to cause pain and suffering for the objective of creating a dog companion with a specific purebred look when there are humane ways of creating dog companions.

A pug at a dog show exhibiting conformational and coloration characteristics considered ideal by American breeder standards.

A pug at a dog show exhibiting conformational and coloration characteristics considered ideal by American breeder standards.

American Standards for Pugs

The American standard for the pug describes conformational and phenotypical characteristics considered ideal for the breed.

Such characteristics include:

  • a symmetrical overall appearance with a square frame,
  • a compact and proportional body with defined muscle, and
  • a wide chest and strong straight legs.
  • Ideal weight varies from 14 to 18 pounds. (Thomas 139-40).

Eyes, Ears, Head and Feet

  • The feet of the animal should be of the correct length with black nails.
  • The muzzle should be short and square, and the head should be large and round weith no skull indentations.
  • Eyes should be large and dark.
  • Ears should be small and thin and either rose or button-shaped.

Other Physical Characteristics

  • Markings should be clear—the mask, the ears, the moles, the diamond on the Pug's forehead, and the black-trace extending from the occiput to the tail should all be black.
  • Wrinkles should be large and deep.
  • Tails should be curled tightly at the tip and preferably double-curled.
  • The coat should be glossy and short and of a silver or apricot-fawn coloration (139-40).

Goals of Inbreeding

Animals viewed as perfect specimens of the pug species have these characteristics in common, characteristics which breeders work hard to attain in their animals and to pass on to the next generation. In order to maintain these preferred characteristics in their animals, breeders inbreed their pugs. Inbreeding consists of mating pugs that are closely related, anywhere from parent to offspring to sibling to sibling.

The goals of inbreeding are to concentrate the ideal characteristics of the two parents—the stud and the bred bitch—in their offspring. However, although "all the good points are doubled through such matings, [...] all the bad points may be so strongly established in a line that it may make it impossible to breed them out" (199). Despite the fact that breeders run the risk of attaining permanent and undesirable characteristics in their lines, they inbreed their pugs to achieve the "genetic purity" that people demand in purebred pugs.

This purity is readily achieved since "pugs, being so inbred to begin with, all go back to essentially the same dogs in every pedigree" (219). What breeders and buyers consider pure and ideal and a means to create a breeding stock of dogs that will breed true for the most desirable characteristics of their breed in five or six generations of sibling inbreeding is detrimental to a vast majority of the resulting offspring and is therefore unethical.

In order to maintain preferred characteristics in their animals, breeders inbreed their pugs, parent to offspring or sibling to sibling, concentrating any good (and bad) characteristics in future generations.

In order to maintain preferred characteristics in their animals, breeders inbreed their pugs, parent to offspring or sibling to sibling, concentrating any good (and bad) characteristics in future generations.

During those five or six generations of inbreeding, all resulting puppies that are considered inferior to their siblings or parents are culled. The success of the line is also jeopardized by surviving puppies maturing into infertile animals as a result of this inbreeding, and "close breeding such as this may be responsible for infertility, monorchidism, and cryptorchidism, and you can expect a decrease in the size and vigor of the offspring" (199).

Therefore, working towards a goal of pure and characteristically flawless animals puts breeders in a situation of eliminating a lot of their stock based on imperfections and an ultimate termination in the line if enough animals become infertile. When these potentially costly symptoms begin to occur in their animals, breeders then mate the dogs to outcrosses, or animals not closely related to them, to re-introduce "hybrid vigor" into the genes of their lines of purebreds (199).

The purpose of breeding to outcrosses is to diversify genetics and prevent too high a concentration of undesirable characteristics in the dogs. It is again only the threat of monetary loss that prevents the dogs from the most unethical form of hybrid vigor—the breeding of two separate lines of pugs each created through five or six generations of sibling interbreeding. This process would temporarily eliminate genetic disease in the next generation, but only at the cost of exposing countless animals to death and health complications to create those two genetically pure pugs.

This situation of mating two sibling inbred lines has occurred in different animals and created successful genetic diversification, but is not used for pugs because breeders consider the process to be too expensive: "the time and money required to keep two or more lines progressing by direct brother-and-sister inbreeding, to cull and destroy pugs and keep only the best pair as breeding partners to accomplish such a program of inbreeding is much too costly" (200).

The program would also be destined to fail, as it is acknowledged that inbred lines of pugs result in deformities of a physical and mental nature, often fatal or crippling to the animals (200). Another process of inbreeding, called backcrossing, produces similar harmful results in pugs. The process involves finding a superior parent dog and breeding it to its offspring and to the offspring of each subsequent generation produced down the line, back to the original parent dog (200).

Animals become crippled, and only for the purpose of determining the genes of the original parent dog. Faults of the parent dog can be identified as they become more and more concentrated with each passing generation, as "inbreeding does not correct faults. It only makes them recognizable so they can be eliminated" (200). The inbreeding of countless animals and predisposing them to bodily and mental harms so as to determine the genetics of a single dog, and determine if that dog can be used to make the most profit, is unethical on many levels.

Hip dysplasia in a German Shephard, a common ailment seen in inbred pugs as well. Because of the improper fitting of the hip joint into its socket, hip muscles are noticeably wasting away.

Hip dysplasia in a German Shephard, a common ailment seen in inbred pugs as well. Because of the improper fitting of the hip joint into its socket, hip muscles are noticeably wasting away.

Common Effects of Inbreeding

Firstly, breeders are taking ignorant and defenseless animals completely at their mercy and forcing them into situations that the breeders know will be harmful. It is known that puppies will be born displaying genetic mutations, which the breeders are directly responsible for creating, and for which the breeders then cull them.

The breeders, in fact, want such genetic disorders to occur so that they can select against them by selecting parents to breed that have the correct alleles for those traits. The genetics of the parents must be determined through backcrossing, which concentrates the unwanted alleles in every subsequent generation, to the detriment of each litter produced. In each litter, undesirable puppies are killed, and those who live on have a great chance of developing health complications later on in life.

Hip Dysplasia

An example of a defect common in pugs that develops later on is the crippling disorder of hip dysplasia, inherited from parents to offspring. In this affliction, the hip joint does not properly fit into the hip socket creating lameness, stiffness, an unwillingness to exercise, and wasting away of the hip muscles (Robinson 223). This disorder can develop after as much as a year and a half of age and creates severe crippling effects (223-34). The only benefit from inbreeding animals and predisposing them to such health complications is an increased profit for breeders and an unnatural "ideal" specimen of what Americans believe a pug should look like.

Other Common Afflictions

The strongest argument against the use of inbreeding, other than that by doing so we further the damage we have already done to the purebred dogs, is the data collected detailing the health complications it creates in the animals. Pugs have many health problems inherited through the generations.

These afflictions include:

  • cleft lip and palate,
  • canine intersexuality,
  • patella luxation,
  • canine hip dysplasia,
  • legg-perthes,
  • pug dog encephalitis,
  • progressive retinal atrophy,
  • trichiasis,
  • entropion,
  • elongated palate,
  • and collapsed trachea (Thomas 219-226).

Entropion is related to the ideal diamond-shaped eye and eyelid of the pug, as well as the looseness of the skin around the face which causes irritation of the eye and can cause serious damage if left untreated (Robinson 214).

The traits that are idealized in the American standard for pugs—large dark eyes and skin with deep and large wrinkles—are, in fact, health complications to the living animal. Both characteristics contribute to eye inflammation and can develop into serious afflictions if not treated. Therefore, the intense and inhumane selection of animals for these characteristics is completely detached from any concern over the animals' welfare.

Healthier animals—animals which do not fit the standards but have a more natural and healthy phenotype—are killed, and only those with unnatural and potentially harmful characteristics, but characteristics pleasing to the eye, are kept alive and inbred as to pass on these afflictions to subsequent generations and to predispose them to complications such as entropion.

Entropion is related to the ideal diamond-shaped eye and eyelid of the pug dog together with its loose facial skin which contribute to eye inflammation.

Entropion is related to the ideal diamond-shaped eye and eyelid of the pug dog together with its loose facial skin which contribute to eye inflammation.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Another disease believed to occur through recessive heredity is progressive retinal atrophy. Similar to hip dysplasia this ailment does not occur until later on in life-from a year to nine years of age depending on breeds as well as individual animals (Robinson 217). Like entropion, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an affliction of the eye; however, it is a more severe case.

The retina of both eyes degenerate, eyes dilate, and cataracts may form, ultimately leading to blindness in the animal (217). In efforts to control PRA, it is suggested that animals undergo electroretinograms which can identify the ailment before actual symptoms appear. However, the result of these tests is not simply healthier animals, by disallowing diagnosed animals to breed, but the death of many more individual dogs.

Although it is ideal in detecting "homozygous PRA animals before any breeding is undertaken, much earlier detection of heterozygotes by more rapid assessment of their young, and possibly allow test-matings to be performed which would otherwise be impractical because of the time involved" (Robinson 218), the afflicted dogs are culled-the affected parents and all affected offspring of such matings.

The testing procedure may prevent diseased animals from being produced by identifying homozygous animals for the trait, but it allows for more intense and extensive inbreeding of heterozygotes which would not be practical if such a test were not available.

Again, improvements to the symptoms of inbreeding are not for the benefit of the animals but only to save costs for the breeders and to eliminate genetically afflicted animals yet more quickly. The improvement made here has been to save time, and hence money, due to test results-not to facilitate methods of disease prevention with the knowledge gained but just to more quickly select against it through multiple earlier cullings.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

In addition to hip dysplasia and retinal atrophy, Legg-Calve-Perthes disease is also a heritable ailment that is passed through recessive alleles. It is a case of femoral head disintegration which is then improperly repaired-leading to lameness in the rear legs (Robinson 225). Furthermore, "there is evidence of pain felt by the dog" (225).

Clearly, there can be no counter-argument that the animals created through intensive inbreeding do not suffer, as evidence proves otherwise. Not only are pugs forced to suffer through crippling hip dysplasia, infection and degradation of their eyes and loss of eyesight, and lameness in their rear legs due to genetic predisposition, which cannot be argued to be minute or irrelevant afflictions, but they do so with severe discomfort and pain.

Except for rapidly treated eye infections, all of these painful afflictions are chronic, and the pugs are forced to live through them. That is unless symptoms occur early enough in their lives so that breeders cull them for the defects which the breeders bred into them.

The characteristics of pugs that are so valued should be seen as potentially harmful to the pug's wellbeing and consequently abandoned as unethical to perpetuate.

The characteristics of pugs that are so valued should be seen as potentially harmful to the pug's wellbeing and consequently abandoned as unethical to perpetuate.

Humans Are Responsible for the Negative Effects of Inbreeding

Pugs are totally dependent upon humans for their welfare, and as creators of pugs, humans are responsible for providing that welfare. It is morally unacceptable to cause unjust and intentional harm to an animal so dependent and defenseless because of human interference with nature.

Humans have no right to flatter their vanity and create the "ideal" animal through intensive inbreeding while simultaneously subjecting pugs to extreme forms of cruelty. The characteristics of pugs that are so valued should be seen as potentially harmful to the pug's wellbeing and consequently abandoned as unethical to perpetuate, and the animal's welfare should not be ignored and exploited for the sole goal of making a profit or owning a "pure" animal.

It has been proven that inbreeding concentrates undesirable as well as desirable traits, and some of those undesirable traits have been proven to subject animals to intense suffering and pain. The practice of eliminating these undesirable traits is harmful in itself by producing so many afflicted animals born only to be culled and other animals that often show symptoms of genetic disease later in life due to their genetically mutated inbred genetics. Therefore, it is mankind's responsibility to cease such exploitation and inhumane action and to stop abusing an animal that has no means to defend itself against such torture.

Works Cited

Robinson, Roy. Genetics for Dog Breeders. Elmsford, New York, 1982.

Thomas, Shirley. The New Pug. New York, NY, 1990.


Schatzie Speaks (author) on July 31, 2019:

Lorraine, thank you for your comment. All we can do is try to spread awareness about issues like these and support organizations fighting against such practices. Hopefully in time it will make a difference.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on July 31, 2019:

Poor thing, that's a very sad memory.

Abraham Balzar on July 15, 2019:

This is an atrocity. My parents had a pug and I remember everyday hearing it struggle to even function. It felt like it was just waiting for death.

Lorraine on December 21, 2018:

Thank you. I wish people would do just a little research to realize what a horrible idea it is to buy a dog from a breeder. I have members of my own family who have done this and I'm in agony whenever the dogs are around. I love them but feel constant guilt & pain knowing I couldn't stop them from being part of this cruel and disrespectful business.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on January 03, 2014:

Hi Melissa

Thanks for the comment! I have an animal science degree....but I don't see why it should be considered a requirement to having a worthwhile opinion. If one properly researches a topic and uses the information they find to come to a supported, logical conclusion what more is needed? Degree or no degree, facts are facts! I relied on the words of experts, not my own, to prove my point and I would have found these resources whether or not I received a subject-related diploma. The library is my best resource.

All the best,


Melissa A Smith from New York on January 02, 2014:

Great article. I think the comments suggesting you need a degree and need to be a dog breeder (also morally questionable, which is an oxymoron) in order to speak the truth about this inhumane practice is laughable.

Nathan on October 05, 2013:

After living with my housemates Pug and a dog lover, with a very spoilt Kelpie X Lab , I have to say I am absolutely appalled by people who would deliberately buy a dog knowing it has such a hard time functioning on a daily basic. I really don't understand what you guys class as a healthy Pug? Even when they are "healthy" they spend all day sniffling, gunky eyes in the morning and trouble breathing if doing any form of activity. And this is ok because? YOU like the look of it? Disgusting! I am sure you would be offended if I started breeding dogs with in-turned front paws because when they ran it made me laugh? So I would really like to know how you justify buying a dog that is flawed from birth? To say you are a dog lover and a Pug owner is an oxymoron at best.

cindy via-parker on April 02, 2012:

i agree that inbreeding and line breeding is a monstrous thing to do, why cant we love our pugs for what they are, oh, i am sorry, us, people with a consious do love our pugs for what they are, it is the money hungry pieces of shit that put their pugs thru hell for the almighty dollar, but i also believe they will answer for their horendous behavior at the end, how could you ever look into a pugs eyes or any animal for that fact and say to yourself, i am going to put this cute little guy thru the worst hell he/she could possibly imagine for an extra dollar in my pocket.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on February 09, 2012:


Robinson, Roy. Genetics for Dog Breeders.

Elmsford, New York, 1982.

Thomas, Shirley. The New Pug.

New York, NY, 1990.

I would never use Wiki as a reliable source. I don't know where you came up with that idea.

Proud Pug Lover on February 09, 2012:

Hmmmm. It says you got your sources from Wiki. So I believe you are false.

Pug Ranch and Retirement Home on November 16, 2009:

Lady, you cite many inaccurracies and what you seem to present as "truth" is in fact mostly your opinion. Spend your time and words knocking out puppy mills!

Joanne on March 21, 2009:

I don't know about you in America but I breed pugs in the Island of Malta in the Mediterranean and have been breeding for the past four years. I own 13 pugs and never inbreed mine. They are all healthy from adults to puppies and I also show 5 of them. I can never imagine to inbreed my pugs and I will not even be issued with a 5 generation pedigree if I had to do so!!! Are you crazy inbreeding or line breeding your pugs!!! Even if you do not inbreed them you will have purebred show dogs! Just breed with the right dog and you will have the best healty beautiful puppy you like!!!

Betty on November 04, 2008:

Hi, I agree, I'm so sick of seeing so many dog's in bred I could scream. I have a beautifull pug i had to have nutered because he was a crypt . It broke me heart because i wanted to use him for breading & hopefully better the bread in our area.Maybe if we all place ourselves in the same situation we would think twice about how to bread . My dog came from father and daughter breading. We don't have the right to do to our dog's what we would not do to our selves. Please do not tell me they are just dog's??????

Pug Lover on September 20, 2008:

And how long have you been breeding dogs and have you ever owned a purebred dog? What degree do you posess? Just curious, as you seem to have a very strong opinon taken from the works of others but no real experience to speak of yourself.

Alex on July 29, 2008:

Inbreeding and Linebreeding doesn't CAUSE recessive genetic disorders, it just brings them out. If a pug is a carrier for a disease, it can produce puppies with the disease no matter what animal it breeds with, there is just a smaller likelihood. If a breeder decides to Inbreed/Linebreed, they should be ready to see any recessive genetic diseases that their dogs already were carrying. IF the dogs aren't carriers, their puppies won't get the disease, which is why Inbreeding is not advisable with lines of dogs that the breeder isn't already very familiar with. Inbreeding can be used as a tool to identify and eliminate these problems completely, whereas the alternative is to just roll the dice and fewer pups would be born WITH the disease, but there would be a large amount of carriers without being able to identify them. However, it is more inexperience, unscrupulous breeding, and lack of testing that causes the propagation of genetic diseases than purely the practice of inbreeding.

Sometimes puppies are born with diseases that mean they must be euthanized, but, properly used, inbreeding can sometimes be used as tool to lower the incidence of these genes in the overall pug population.

I would like to add that this article is very poorly cited, and breeders don't "kill" puppies without proper wrinkles. They neuter/spay them and adopt them out. What is this the middle ages?

BJ on June 25, 2008:

Are you for the breeding of so-called "pugs of color"? I thik they are really cute and would love to own one, but I keep hearing how it's terrible for people to breed white, silver or brindle pugs.

Schatzie Speaks (author) on June 08, 2008:

Since your parent dogs have no line relation for 6 generations you have introduced 'hybrid vigor' into their offspring’s genetics by breeding parental ‘outcrosses’, or animals not closely related.  The puppies from such a mating will have much lower concentrations of undesirable genes than their parents.  However, although I cannot make assumptions about your specific breeding pair as I don’t know their exact lineage, most ‘pure’ dogs mated to restore hybrid vigor in their offspring are highly inbred themselves.  It is likely that your breeding pair has sibling matings and backcrossings in their individual lineages.  There is definitely a difference between purebred animals and ‘show’ animals.  Animals selected to be purebred without the need to be ‘show standard’ are healthier as they are less intensely selected for, and because ‘standard’ traits are not the healthiest for the animals.  Not to mention the fact that ‘non-standard’ animals are not destroyed and allowed to live long fulfilled lives. Although, I must add that some of those diseases and unfavorable characteristics you said aren't present in your puppies don't in fact present themselves until later in the dog's lifetime. 

sheila on June 08, 2008:

So...the point of your argument is that there should be no purebreeding going on, or just that inbreeding to produce "Show-Standard" Pugs should be stopped? I would agree that the breed standard as stipulated by the PDCA, and therefore the AKC, does promote the breeding of inheriently unhealthy dogs. ( just look at the "breed ideal" picures on their website...YUK!!) However, I do feel that maintaining breed purity is important, and it can be done without either in-breeding or line-breeding, if the breeder is careful in checking pedigrees and breeds accordingly. I don't have any "line relation" for 6 generations in any of my breeding dogs..and suprise, suprise, I don't have dysplasia. skin allergies/atopies, entropion, elongated palates, stenotic nares, PRA pr LCP in my puppies. and yes, they still look like, and are, purebred pugs.

hungal on May 21, 2008:


I like your article! It's awesome! Good job! :)