If someone shares a cute dog video on social media, nine times out of ten it’s going to be a pug. Recently, these weird looking things have become the ‘It Dog’ in the genre of Cute Animal Videos. With their smushed faces, bug eyes and lolling tongue, pugs have taken the Internet’s heart with their ugly (or pugly) cuteness. Everywhere you can find t-shirts, phone cases, and bags displaying cute cartoon pugs with nauseatingly quirky captions like ‘Pugs not Drugs’ and ‘I Didn’t Choose the Pug Life, The Pug Life Chose Me’. They occupy the perfect space of ironic ugliness, where looking a bit strange means you’re cool and eccentric, a space also containing ugly jumpers and kitsch house decorations (both of which I have found displaying pugs). Of course the reason for this endearing ugliness found so perfectly in pugs is anything but fun.
Pugs are constantly inflicted with various health problems as a result of their unique looks. Their cute short and stumpy legs? Gives them walking difficulties. Their adorable pig-like muzzle? Gives them breathing difficulties that lead to them fainting or collapsing due to a lack of oxygen. Those hilarious bulging eyes? Makes them prone to eye conditions, making them more likely to actually pop out of their socket and often lead to blindness. These are only a few of the many problems that pugs face due to overbreeding in an attempt to create and maintain that unique pug look that the Internet loves.
I don’t blame the pugs for it; it’s not their fault that they’ve been saddled with a whole host of health problems because we want them to look a certain kind of cute. I blame the breeders and the Internet for their obsession with these dogs. By pushing this kind of dog into the spotlight as a desirable and funny pet, people will want one too, which ups demand and encourages dog breeders to produce more at a cost of the dogs themselves. Pugs shouldn’t look like this but because we have decided that it’s the ideal dog to have, the poor breed has been exaggerated and warped into a messed up creature that, biologically, cannot and should not exist.
There is hope, however. In Germany there is an attempt to revert pugs back to a functional animal with a new breed called Retro Pugs. With extended muzzles, longer legs, and eyes that actually sit in the head, the breed combats many of the health problems normal pugs face. Hopefully this current interest in pugs will die down, and people will become less interested in them, but in the meantime, if you desperately want a cute little pug because you saw a funny video of one, please think again. The ugly cute has an ugly cost.