The Story of Gritz!

Sadly, aggression in Pugs is no longer unheard of and must be dealt with. While our rescue organization has continually dealt with medical issues, we now must deal with temperament issues more frequently. The medical conditions mostly have answers; aggression in a breed that for decades has been promoted as “the perfect family pet” now must be addressed. Rather than face the problems that surface, the dogs are cast aside.

Aggression in Pugs

The Story of Gritz – by Pam Mayes

“We need your help. There is a pug living in a ravine, who is not being fed regularly. The owner said the dog belonged to her son, but he didn’t live there anymore.”

The call came in the middle of 104-degree temperatures; and we could not make contact quick enough with the caller. By the time we did, the dog had been moved closer up toward the home and tied outside on a cable. We were able to contact the owner who was more concerned that we may breed her for a profit, than for the dog’s well being. Finally, plans were made to retrieve the dog.

Gritz had a history that worried us because if what we had been told was the truth, we could only imagine what parts were left out. Gritz only had one eye; apparently she was the victim of a dog attack early in her life. She had reportedly killed one of the other dogs, a small dog, at one time because it attempted to steal her food. There was no a health history, a local vet who was no longer in the area (typical) had sewn the eye up. There were no shot records (naturally), and the dog had been bred, but again, there was no need to use a vet.

If there was a pinhole of a portion of her body that was not covered by a flea, we missed it. She was filthy beyond words, full of intestinal parasites, and of course heartworm positive. She was anemic because of the fleas and dehydrated. Within 24 hours she was brought home with us to start her journey to the rest of her life.

Our home takes in the special needs rescues and those requiring long term treatment such as those that are heartworm positive. Gritz would be spending the next 3 months just to complete her heartworm treatment; and then she would be spayed. The search would then begin for her “forever“ home.

We are heavily experienced in the proper introduction to the “pack” and we knew immediately we had a problem. Gritz became almost frantic at the sight of the other dogs and would run and pace among them, daring eye contact and shouldering them out of the way. She seemed to become dangerously excited at the older and sickest, so typical of the alpha mentality in a pack situation. She was kept on lead at all times, and she was only allowed off leash in the yard under close supervision.

Oddly, she became the most stressed when she was outside of the house. Inside, she was nervous, but she sought refuge in her assigned crate and we noticed that she collapsed with exhaustion when the crate door closed. After discussing some of her behavior problems with our veterinarians, it became very apparent that Gritz’s anxieties and aggressions stemmed from having to defend her entire existence; she had to defend her right to live. Living outside in a breeding situation resulted in a defense that promoted the killing of another dog. We understood why, given the history and the condition of the dog; we just did not understand how to “fix” it.

Sadly, aggression in Pugs has become more common in the last few years and we have seen Gritz’s story mirrored in other rescues. These are dogs that were bred to be companions, totally, yet our society has taken away this ability by making this breed, and others too popular, too available and too easy to obtain. They are purchased as possessions, and once the “shiny” wears off, they are cast aside and neglected. Dogs that were bred for “partnership” cannot coexist with others because of the inability to share their worlds. This is a learned behavior; just as is the need to defend their food, and the dirt they have been forced to lay on. Thanks to irresponsible inbreeding we now face not only severe medical issues, but mental ones as well.

I have heard and confirmed several stories this year where Pugs have killed Pugs. All were in situations where they were removed from earlier homes because of abuse or neglect, or because they were allowed to breed continuously in deplorable conditions. When moved to a situation that becomes out of their “norm”, they just do not know how to exist. Because this is a breed so long trusted for temperament, there just has not been the belief that there is danger in lack of knowledge; people do not even consider this type of behavior as a possibility in pugs.

We have seen Duchess, a beautiful young Pug enter rescue this year with six puppies, an attempt to keep up with the designer dog craze. From the beginning Duchess was over protective of her puppies, but once her litter was placed, the need to protect her foster mom became as strong, if not stronger. She charges other dogs often literally knocking them off their feet, and then runs for cover. She just doesn’t know how to react other than to defend those around her. She was a puppy having puppies, repeatedly, and this was her world. She has never allowed herself to be loved without the need to defend, and she has given all she has had to give to protecting the lives around her.

Sadly, aggression in Pugs is no longer unheard of and must be dealt with. While our rescue organization has continually dealt with medical issues, we now must deal with temperament issues more frequently. The medical conditions mostly have answers; aggression in a breed that for decades has been promoted as “the perfect family pet” now must be addressed. Rather than face the problems that surface, the dogs are cast aside. These are Pugs, their needs go beyond food, shelter and water. They need “family” and the responsibility that goes with it. They need boundaries, and they need discipline, and above all, they need love.

If one lives with a Pug that exhibits any type of aggression, please do not believe in the fallacy that Pugs just are not mean. Research pack behavior, become knowledgeable in the warning signals, and seek the advice of reputable behaviorialists and veterinarians. Most rescue organizations have years of experience and while they can offer sound and reasonable advice, the success of changing a pattern lies with the owner. Any display of aggression is an area that should not be ignored, and just because a situation has never “gotten that bad” doesn’t mean that it won’t worsen. Removing the dog from a home environment that it has been with for years is not necessarily the answer, but there has to be the commitment to rethink the situation and the willingness to change owner behavior as well as the behavior of the dog.

If you apply to adopt an older dog, always be willing to accept the responsibility that comes with an unknown history. Our rescue organization is skilled at matching personalities appropriately, and sadly, we now have reached a point where we are seeking “only dog” homes for those such as Gritz. Five years ago, I would never have made such a statement. However, because our breed has been so misused, we now are picking up the pieces of their past. If we can take away the stresses that have robbed them of their heritage by placing them in single dog homes, then their future will be one of being an only pet. And, it must be in a home that is willing to protect that same future. This is the least we can do to “rescue” what is left.

Gritz’s self-esteem is beginning to return and we now have placed her on the appropriate medication to allow her to relax enough to learn that the protection of her very being is now out of her paws, and in our hands. She is loving, has learned a sense of humor, is now beginning to understand that her food is her food, and her bed is her bed, and she will always sleep and eat in an area that will not ever have be shared or that she must defend. However, no matter how she progresses, she will never be placed in a situation that triggers what we understand, because it is what we will never understand that must be protected, and “for the life of the dog” that will happen.

If you are interested in adopting a Pug such as Gritz or Duchess, and can commit to the responsibility that surrounds them, please begin the process by completing an application. You may be the difference they need for the rest of their lives.

For Angel – because the commitment to understand remains
And for Heidi – because the love will always live on

Pam Mayes
President, Alabama Pug Rescue and Adoption, Inc.
November 2007

Alabama Pug Rescue and Adoption, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization