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A dog’s behavior is often heavily influenced by the original purpose of his particular breed. Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers, for instance, were both bred for hunting and retrieving; at the dog park, both breeds are commonly seen flying after a tennis ball. The National Disaster Search Dog Foundation has flagged both of these breeds as highly desirable as search and rescue dogs because of their drive to chase and hunt after toys; as rescue dogs, they chase and hunt after missing people, using the same behavior in a different way.
But not all dogs stick to their conventional roles, and my Pug Bruce could only be described as unconventional. Pugs are bred to be companion dogs; they typically do well as lap dogs and couch potatoes. Bruce, however, obviously never received the memo from his Puggy parents that he was bred to be lazy and relaxed. Instead, Bruce is a Marley-like Labrador living in a Pug’s wrinkled, smashed-faced body. Bruce was not born for the confines of the couch; Bruce was born to retrieve.
The breed standard also missed Bruce when it comes to not enjoying heavy exercise like the majority of flat-faced, brachycephalic Pugs. Bruce easily keeps in step with more naturally athletic canines. Before we even get into the dog park, Bruce is already yipping in anticipation of being able to stampede with the big dogs as they race after the zooming tennis ball. Bruce never balks at the size of retrieving dogs three times his size; instead, he throws his 20-pound body into full flight as he sprints to beat the other dogs to the ball.
Further adding to the spectacle of a Pug fetching is the way Bruce screams like a little girl to get the ball thrown and will let out an even shriller shriek as soon as the ball is in the air and he begins scrambling after it. Supposedly wolves and dogs will let out a shriek just before they go in for the kill on prey. Also, like Beagles, Bruce loves to howl. It’s hilarious to watch him throw his head back and howl just like the big dogs do when he gets really excited. Perhaps Bruce is going back to his ancestral roots of taking down big game when he screams, but it never ceases to draw a laughing crowd at the dog park to watch a screaming, baying, fetching Pug.
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