Friday, September 16, 2011

Pug whiskers and sensitive eyes: How to groom your pug's face

Liam the pug has a lot of long whiskers near his eyes

Like most pugs, Liam has a very short muzzle and very big eyes. This is part of what makes pugs look so appealing. They have tiny, expressive faces. However, these smashed faces can also be the site of a serious amount of trouble.

For example, since Liam's muzzle is compressed, his whiskers really have nowhere to go. He doesn't have a snout for the whiskers to encircle, so they sort of point every which way. Some point forward, some point down and some point straight upward.

These upward-pointing whiskers often point directly into his little eyes. Imagine having a whisker poking you in the eye all day and all night. It can't be pleasant.

When this happens, Liam will rub at his eyes, as though he was a sleepy child. If I don't get the hint, he'll rub his entire face on me until I pay attention. Often his eye is watery, and his cheek is wet with tears.

Typically, I just cut the poking whisker and hope it will grow back in a different direction. Plucking just seems too painful and too mean. Liam stands quite still for me, which is a blessing because I do get nervous when I use sharp objects near his eyes. I also use dull child's scissors for this task, so he'll have a bit of protection if he jerks away.

Apparently, show pugs often have all of their whiskers trimmed for the ring, and there's a bit of a debate about this in the pug world. (To see some of that thread, click here.)

I don't think it's necessary to trim every single whisker from a pug's face. These guys use their whiskers to help them navigate the world. Each whisker is a little like a curb bumper, and when they're hit, the pug knows to pull his/her face away. Those whiskers could keep pugs from hurting their eyes or noses, so they need to stay in place.

But a weekly whisker orientation is wise. I stand above Liam and have him look forward and then up. Usually, I can spot whiskers growing the wrong direction. Once they start to hit his eyes, they get trimmed. Otherwise, they stay put.

Chalk it up to one more task pug lovers must do every week!