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This should not be a touchy issue but it has become so given the state of rescue and shelter space right now.

Those of us who have been in the rescue world for some time knew that we were headed for a cliff when the pandemic restrictions eased up. We knew that surrenders would skyrocket. That we’d be seeing dogs with significant behavioral challenges who might not be readily adoptable. And, of course, that is exactly what has happened. Not only are people surrendering their dogs, but adoptions have fallen off significantly. And the really telling thing? It seems that backyard breeders and puppy millers are expecting rescues to take in their unsold puppy “stock” and/or their retired breeding dogs. Not because of medical or behaviour issues, but because they can’t sell them.

This creates a number of problems for rescues…..most of whom are swamped as it is……what do you do when an unethical breeder wants to give you the dogs from which they can no longer profit? Is there a way to intake these dogs and not enable the breeder? Is this basically the same as buying puppies from a pet store and calling it rescue when basically what you’ve done is clear “inventory”?

I have no quick and easy answers here. I struggle with this one a lot. We have taken in puppies that were injured and needed immediate care and the breeder claimed they couldn’t afford that care. What we found was that in many of those cases, the breeder then used us to dump any puppy or adult dog that needed any care beyond basic vetting. They would call us and say “I need you to pick up this puppy cause they need (insert medical care here) and I can’t afford it”….and in most cases, it would happen over and over again. We took in the puppy needing care and the breeder kept on breeding and just assumed that rescue would take in the dogs he/she didn’t wish to treat medically. Could they afford it? I don’t know. Ultimately, I don’t care. I do believe that if you are profiting off the backs of the dogs in your care then you do, in fact, have a duty of care and it is NOT the job of rescues to take in puppies/dogs you choose not to care for properly, can’t sell or for whom you just can’t be bothered finding an appropriate home. IF you can’t afford the vet care for your dogs, then the ethical thing to do is to stop breeding.

And we need to stop being a market for these folks. And by we, I mean all of us. The dog owning public. We need to get our heads in the game and stop just wanting what we want when we want it. We made it easy for unethical breeders to make a fortune during the pandemic. The demand for dogs, any dogs, was staggering and the mills and backyard breeders made out like bandits. And then when the restrictions eased, the very people who bought their dogs from these unethical breeders found themselves with a dog with a host of behavioural issues and they surrendered them in great numbers to rescues/shelters.

Those of us who have been in rescue for long periods of time predicted this. We knew this was going to happen. This was all predictable. While I understand that many people got dogs with no malign intent, they also didn’t give a lot of thought to where they got the dog, what to expect and how to prepare for the fact that there would be a return to a more normal life and many dogs would suffer from separation anxiety/isolation distress, poor/limited/no socialization.

To be fair, there are some damned unethical rescues out there as well. But right now, what I’m seeing are a staggering number of puppies and adult dogs coming into rescue from puppy mills and backyard breeders. Largely, I suspect because they can’t sell them. There is no market and no profit as a result. These aren’t dogs that an owner or purchaser is surrendering….these are coming directly from the breeder. And I have NO reason to believe the breeders doing this are going to stop breeding. They are just getting inconvenient “livestock” out of the way.

How a rescue deals with this is individual. Each rescue makes the decision that works best for them based on their role, their ability, and their own guidelines on what they consider a legitimate rescue job. It’s not easy and it’s not fun to have to make these kind of decisions and leaves us overwhelmed and guilt ridden and angry. So very angry.

Please. I beg of you. Don’t keep providing a market for these folks. DO your research on where you are getting your dog or puppy. There are many, many resources out there on how to determine if a breeder is ethical or not. There are resources on how to spot an unethical rescue as well.

In the final analysis, we created this. Our desire to have a dog. Now. Regardless of who is breeding or how they do it. We created the mills….our own fault. No market? Less likely for a mill to succeed. Think. Don‘t impulse buy. Don’t be mad because rescues can’t take in the impulse dog you now can’t afford or manage. We aren’t being jerks, but we are swamped and tired and may not have the space to take in your dog right this minute. And yes, I do realize that I’m closing the barn door after the horses have gotten out, but I did want people to know what is happening on the ground and it ain’t pretty. Resources:


Part 2 in our series on pugs and food.

This is a very hot topic generally and it’s one that I take very seriously. Hands down, the biggest health challenge we see in the rescue is obesity in the dogs who come to us. Many rescues get dogs that are too thin, but we tend to get dogs who need to lose weight, often significant amounts of weight.

The breed standard for pugs says they should be 14 to 18 lbs. However, it is more common for us to see dogs who are heavier than that in their ideal weight. The point of this blog won’t be “your dog should be 14 to 18 lbs”, but your dog should be whatever their ideal weight is. My pug is within the breed standard at 15 lbs and is, admittedly, leaner than many, but I also do sports with her, hike with her and adjust her food intake pretty regularly.

One of the things that I think confuses people is that pugs in the show ring often are very heavy. Judging notes for pugs say “no waist, no tuck up”. In my not so humble opinion, that makes for a fat dog. So if all you’ve ever seen are pugs in the show ring, then it makes sense that you think that fat is how they should look. There are lots of words used to dodge the “fat” moniker…cobby, heavily muscled, square shaped. But it all essentially ends up being fat if the dog has no waist and no tuck up.

When we get in an obese pug, it also means there are a number of veterinary care items we cannot do until the dog loses some weight. Anaesthesia is significantly riskier with a fat dog of any breed, but especially a brachycephalic breed. As a result, vet care is slowed way down while we get the weight off.

Much as we’d like to believe that pugs are just adorable couch potatoes, we do them a massive disservice, shorten their lives and create joint issues when we let them get fat. And yes, as anyone who has ever tried to lose weight knows, it is way easier to pack it on than it is to take it off. But the basics are the same…..control intake and exercise.

And exercise doesn’t mean you have be out there doing Parkour, but your dogs does need to get regular exercise. Hiking in the many green spaces around Ontario is one way. Classes in agility are another. Fetch and tug and doing regular little work outs in the house all help. I am also going to say that I am a big fan of having dogs that are not only not fat, but are also fit. I like to see muscle on my dogs, not just an absence of fat. There are so many options for keeping dogs fit and trim these days.

Do be aware of what you feed and how much and what the fat content is in the food you feed. You CAN use treats with your pug and not have them get fat. I do a lot of training with my dogs and it always involves a food reward. What I do is make sure they are getting small treats (about half the size of my baby finger nail) and I tend to use single ingredient treats - organ meat, fresh fruit and vegetables (do check that whatever you are using is safe for dogs) and if I’m in a heavy training rotation, I reduce food portions for their meals. I do think feeding twice a day is a better option than once a day. Waiting to eat for a 24 hours is a long wait.

I take my dogs to the vet five or six times a year just to weigh them. I know that because I see them every day, I can fail to notice if they are getting chunky. So if this an option for you (and I know with the pandemic this option is not available all the time), please do it. It also gives your dog a nice visit to the vet where nothing dramatic or scary happens and can help to turn your dog’s attitude around about going to vet (if they are worried about it).

Take a good look at the Body Condition Scale posted below and it will give you an idea of where your dog should be. Bottom line, you SHOULD be able to feel your pug’s ribs without the use of sonar.

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