The Versatile Pug
One of the many virtues of the pug is its adaptability. The pug can be a family friend, show dog, obedience or agility competitor, or therapy dog. All of these aspects can be found in a single pug, or you may have a dog that excels in only one or two of them. Whatever the case, the following information will help you find the pug that's just right for you.
What you want in a dog will determine the type of pug you look for. The qualities of a companion dog vary, depending on your life-style and whether you have children. A show dog, of course, must have a certain appearance and personality. A pug that excels in the obedience ring may have a very different personality and physical abilities than one that excels in agility or as a therapy dog. Decide what you want in a pug before you start looking at puppies.
The Family Pug
Your family dog is a big investment, and you should want to get the most for your money. A pug that's going to be a family companion should have a calm, stable temperament. He should come from parents that have this same temperament and that have health certifications indicating healthy eyes. Ideally, a puppy's parents have proven themselves to be good examples of the breed by earning a championship in the show ring.
Even the best-quality pugs don't produce all show-quality pups, however. Don't be concerned if the puppy you're interested in is labeled “pet-quality.” That term doesn't mean substandard. It simply means that the dog doesn't have what it takes to compete successfully in the show ring. He can, however, be a winner in your home.
The Show Pug
Show pugs, besides having the potential for excellent conformation — it's impossible to know for sure at eight weeks of age, no matter what a breeder may tell you — have a charisma that's obvious even in puppyhood. Dog-show judges often say that the dogs they choose are “asking for the win,” and it's this level of appeal that can help ensure a show dog's winning career. If you want to show your pug, choose a pup with no obvious disqualifications and only minor faults. Naturally, the parents should have the same health certifications you would expect if you were buying a family dog. They should have proven themselves in the show ring by earning a championship.
Conformation is the form and structure of a dog as defined by the breed standard. A conformation show is a competitive event where dogs compete in several classes at various levels to determine the one that most closely resembles the breed standard. Dogs that earn the required number of points earn the title of champion.
Pugs aren't the most athletic of dogs, but they are certainly capable of competing in various canine sports, including obedience trials, agility trials, freestyle, and tracking (yes, tracking!) tests. Any pug, family companion or show dog, can participate in these types of events if it has positive training, a patient owner, and a love of performing in public. The only possible bars to a pug's performance in canine sports are structural or movement faults that might affect, say, its ability to jump or run well.
It's well known that simply petting a dog can lower blood pressure. A visit from a dog to patients at nursing homes and hospitals can raise spirits and soothe agitation. Therapy dogs, or facility dogs as they're sometimes called, receive training from organizations such as Therapy Dog International, the Delta Society Pet Partners, and Love on a Leash. Therapy dogs don't need formal obedience training, but they are expected to have certain skills. These include being able to meet strangers in a friendly manner, sit politely for petting, walk nicely on leash, walk through crowds, be comfortable around walkers and crutches, and get along well with other dogs.
Not surprisingly, the good-natured and comical pug is a natural at therapy work. Pugs enjoy meeting people and love being petted. Their ability to learn tricks and willingness to play dress-up can earn them smiles, laughter, and applause as they make their rounds, all of which are strokes to the pug's healthy ego.
Besides being personable, pugs have other advantages that make them good therapy dogs. Their short coats are easy to groom, so they're good to go on short notice. They're small enough to be portable, yet still sturdy enough to withstand all the handling they'll receive. All of these traits and attributes combine to make the pug a desirable and successful therapy dog. Therapy work is a great way to spread the pug love around.