Looking for Pugs in All the Wrong Places

Because pugs are so popular, many people breed them just to make a fast buck. It's easy to find a pug from these people, but the thing to remember is that you get what you pay for. These breeders usually don't start out with high-quality pugs, and they don't do the pedigree searches and health screenings that characterize hobby breeders. With this in mind, here are some places to avoid when looking for that perfect pug puppy.

The Pug Next Door

Not every breeder is a hobby breeder who's knowledgeable about and committed to the pug breed. So-called backyard breeders are usually pet owners looking to get a little money back on the purchase price of their dog or who are under the mistaken impression that their little Petunia needs to have a litter before she's spayed. They're often unfamiliar with the breed's health problems, and they don't do any health checks before mating her with another pug that may or may not have health or temperament problems.

How can you recognize backyard breeders? They usually advertise their pups in the newspaper, unlike hobby breeders, who often have a waiting list before they ever breed a litter. Other tip-offs that some-one is a backyard breeder include use of the word “thoroughbred” to describe the pups (instead of “purebred”), a failure to screen buyers carefully, or willingness to let the pups go before eight weeks of age.

Run of the Mill

Commercial breeders, often referred to as puppy mills, produce puppies on a large scale and wholesale them to pet stores. Their pups are not raised in the home but in kennels, which may or may not be well kept. Because the numbers of pups they produce are so great, they're not able to give the dogs much human attention during their early formative weeks, when they should be learning to love people.

Commercial breeders don't usually sell to the public, although there are some exceptions. These people may have three or more breeds, and they always have litters available. Hobby breeders, on the other hand, breed once a year or sometimes only once every two years. Their goal is to improve the breed, not to make money. If a breeder can't show proof of involvement with the breed — Pug Dog Club of America membership, conformation championships on their breeding stock, health screening for the breed's genetic problems — walk away. Puppy millers and backyard breeders don't do these things.

How Much Is That Puppy in the Window?

Without a doubt, a pet store is the most convenient place to find a pug puppy, but it's definitely not the best place. At a pet store, you can't meet the parents or other relatives. Nor do you have any way of knowing the conditions in which the pup was raised or whether the parents were screened for health problems.

The puppies at pet stores come from puppy mills, not reputable breeders. Even if the pet store says its pugs come from local breeders rather than being trucked in from the Midwest (where most puppy mills are located), that's still no guarantee of quality. No reputable breeder sells puppies to a pet store. Hobby breeders want to screen buyers directly to ensure that their pups are going to good homes.

Another consideration is that a pet store purchase is often an impulse buy. You see an adorable pug puppy in the window, and you just have to have it immediately. There's no time to research the breed's temperament and health problems — and all breeds have them. A few weeks or months later, that cute puppy turns into a regretted purchase and often ends up at the animal shelter or passed on to another family.

Is it always bad to get a pug from a pet store? Not necessarily. Some pet supply stores don't sell pups themselves but instead team up with a local animal shelter or breed rescue group to offer pets for adoption. This is a win-win situation. Pups get the visibility from being on display, and the adoption group can still screen adopters before letting the pup go.

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