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Responsible Dog Ownership

This topic is so wide and deep that it is hard to cover it adequately on any one site, but I will attempt to do that here at least a little. Some of the things that we face in rescue make it so that we have to take a stance on issues. We can't help it, it comes from what we see each and every day.

For those of you locally, did you know that the Fayetteville Animal Shelter has to kill 2/3 of its incoming dogs, and only 1/3 get reunited with their owner or placed in a new home? Do you know that despite all the precautions that they get an outbreak of Parvo at least 2 or 3 times a year? The only thing that will stop this tragedy is responsible dog ownership.

First of all, dogs are not a throw-away commodity. In my opinion, when you take on dog ownership, you should take on it's responsibilty for the life of that animal. If it is unruly, take it to Puppy Kindergarten or buy a training book. If it is not 'getting' housebreaking, look into crate training and other techniques that are tried and true. Also, read up on your breed, you may be expecting too much. We get lots of people who expect a 6 week old pug to start learning potty training and they should still be with their mother and siblings!!

A lot of this stems from the lack of knowledge of the breeder. Pugs are a special breed, they are quite different in look and temperament than most other canines. Knowing a little bit about them can go a long way. For instance, pugs can take longer to mature than some other breeds. Most responsible breeders will not let a pug puppy go until they are in the 10 - 12 week window. I know few breeders who would let them go any earlier than 8 weeks anymore. At 6 weeks they are simply too little and too immature emotionally and physically.

So, you know someone or maybe you yourself brought home a 6 week old puppy and that pup survived just fine. I have heard this and yes it happens, but it is risky. First of all, the pup doesn't have all of its proper behavioral skills at 6 weeks and it can cause several temperament problems later on. Puppy kindergarten and plenty of socialization can certainly help, but then there is the tricky thing of immunizations that crops up.

Did you know that the University of Colorado had come out with a new vaccination protocol January 1, 1998 in answer to the health problems they have been seeing due to over-vaccination? Did you know that many regions are not giving lepto vaccines to toy groups and other sensitive breeds? Puppies are not supposed to get any vaccines younger than 8 weeks of age!! The vaccines take a few days to set in and so there is no way that a responsible breeder should let a pup go out the door earlier than 8 1/2 weeks. The next vaccines are given at 12 weeks and 16 weeks and then rabies by itself at somewhere in the 17 - 20 week window. So how do you socialize a 6 week old puppy who can't even have its shots yet?

And what might happen if the shots are given early? Demodex mange is one problem because it taxes the immune system to the point where it can't keep the demodex mites in check. Early weaning and high stress (like being taken away from the mother and siblings too early) can also lower the pup's immunities and predispose them to demodex. I would like to do a whole page just on demodex and what helps and what doesn't, but for right now you can look it up on the web if you are curious, or contact me privately.

Severe allergic reactions can result from overvaccination, and cause everything from hives to death. Its onset can be quick and deadly. Others have reported temporary neurological abnormalities, and some dogs have reportedly even developed life long seizure problems. Make sure that you are not over immunizing or immunizing too early. The results can be heartbreaking. You can do research starting with Catherine O'Driscoll's book Who Killed The Darling Buds of May?

I hope I am painting a clear picture of the things you risk when you let a pug puppy go from the litter too early OR if you buy from an uninformed breeder who uses these practices. If you are having problems with your new pug, find help from your local kennel club or from topic groups on the web. The Pug Dog Home Page is an excellent source of information and a good place to start. Do your research, the help is out there for you.

Also, breeding a female too young can cause problems as well. A pug female is not fully mature mentally or physically until they are about 2 years of age, so why would you want to breed a female that is only a year old? At that age they are the physical equivalent of about a 10 year old human girl. A funny thing happens at 2 years old that I will explain on another page, but you are able to screen the dogs for genetic health at that age, so why not wait? I suppose I probably should devote a page on the dangers of breeding too early because just the story of my one litter alone will probably scare you away from breeding altogether!

Okay, maybe you are not buying a puppy or thinking about breeding, but, you have had this pug and you now have to give it up because of a trauma in your family (death, divorce, etc.), what do you do? Personally, I would not just give my dog away in a free to good home ad because you have no idea what that person will ultimately do with your dog. Animal shelters? No way! They are overcrowded as it is and your pet will only have a certain amount of time to be adopted or else (if it is a kill shelter). I think Rescue organizations are the best alternative since they will properly vet your dog and socialize him and then thoroughly screen their new home. Placement usually happens after the obligatory spay/neuter operation.

Rescue groups are available at just about all points across the United States and sometimes band together to get a rescued dog from point a to point b. Rescued dogs are not free. There is NO guarantee that a rescue dog will be available to you within a certain period of time. Rescued dogs have usually been through enough in their lifetimes and are placed in the best possible home, not necessarily on a first come first served basis.

That's it for now. As I have time I will add more on demodex mange, responsible and safe breeding techniques and possible breeding problems, genetic testing, and a variety of other topics. I hope that I have helped some of you on their way to doing some research about whatever subject is pertinent to you. Good luck!

Catherine Donnelly
Founder, Pug Rescue of NW Arkansas

Special Supplement
Where Did This Dog Come From?
Provided courtesy of Ruth Backhaus

The USDA requires the registration of animal breeders that churn out more than X number of animals per year. While a USDA license does not necessarily prove someone runs a puppy mill, it's an indication that they're mass-producing their stock at a pace beyond what most good-guys would. And if nothing else, the licensing allows us consumers to check the inspection records. Here's how:

1. Obtain the name & address of the litter owner (if the dog has "papers", this info can be found on the AKC Dog Registration Application).

2. Go to which is the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

3. Scroll about half-way down to "List of Facilities" on the far right-hand column and click on "Dealer List 98." (To view this file, you will need Adobe Acrobat Reader which can be downloaded for free by clicking the link at the top of the USDA web page).

4. Licensed dealers are listed first by state, then alphabetically by last name. If you don't see the breeder listed, keep scrolling down -- there is another section of breeders below. (For an explanation of the various license types, visit

5. If you find the breeder, jot down the license # shown in the far left-hand column. (I found my pug's breeder here and was NOT amused ... and a peek at The Yellow Pages told me the same guy runs a used-car lot on the same street).

6. You may review a summary of their compliance history here: (the "s" after HTTP is not an error -- it indicates a secure web server).

7. Type in the breeder's license number which you obtained in Step 5, hit Search, then go to Inspection History. The rest should be self explanatory.

8. If you want a copy of their official USDA file, then you must request this information through the FOIA office. Their address is:
4700 River Road, Unit 50
Riverdale, MD 20737-1228

If anyone would like assistance with navigating thru these instructions, please feel free to contact me!

The APHIS site has some other super stuff too, such as the Missing Pet Network and Pet Travel info. I emailed them for further info and got immediate courteous help.

Ruth Backhaus of Winsted, CT
Rhodie & Skippy ("Woo-Woo for the Freedom of Information Act!")

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