Kent and Sussex Courier published Miniature marvels are all the rage with families

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Feb 11, 2013 in Rat Answers | Subscribe

“I LIKE animals,” said Debbie Jagger, carefully guiding a foaming toothbrush around a tiny black pug’s teeth before giving his nether regions a brisk once-over with a flannel.

“I wasn’t allowed them as a child because my brother had asthma, but since I left home I’ve had everything from parrots and monkeys to hamsters and horses. And dogs of course, I’ve always bred them.”

  1. CUTE:   A pug

    CUTE: A pug

  2. PUG-NACIOUS: Pugs’ appeal has endured since they were first bred as lapdogs over 2,500 years ago.

  3. TOOTHPASTE TIME: One of the pugs gets its teeth cleaned

  4. CUTE: A pug

  5. HER PRIDE AND JOY: Debbie Jagger (left) with her pugs and her assistant Donna Gatton at Grosvenor Pet Centre, in Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells TWPL20130111D-002_C

When she and her husband, Scott, met, it wasn’t long before his St Bernard got together with her black German Shepherd to produce a litter of fluffy black-and-tan puppies. In the 20 years since, a steady stream of hounds has accompanied them each day from their nearby home to their shop, the Grosvenor Pet Centre, in Grosvenor Road, Tunbridge Wells, all treasured family pets and many appearing regularly at national dog shows.

But it is the pugs, with their all-seeing eyes and ancient wrinkles, glossy black or fawn coats and sturdy stance, which have taken over her life in recent years.

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“There’s something about them. They are so endearing and have such character,” said Mrs Jagger, who was approached by the producers of hit TV show The Only Way is Essex to provide the prancing dogs for the opening sequence.

“I said I would, but in the end it was impossible to fit in with their tight schedules.”

In a business as subject to the vagaries of fashion as any other – animated mouse Stuart Little triggered a craze for pet rats and Paris Hilton’s penchant for chihuahuas spawned a whole fashion wardrobe for the tiny creatures – the miniature dogs, which have attracted pet owners for centuries, are having one of those moments. Families are queuing up to buy the famously child-friendly dogs at up to £1,500 each, and her own pets’ faces adorn everything from calendars to greetings cards.

“But I also love showing them and, as I breed them too, up to four litters a year, it’s fascinating to try to produce the best possible mix,” said Mrs Jagger.

“When I look at one I’ve bred, I can see its lineage, which characteristics it has inherited from each parent, and my aim is to breed better and better puppies.”

She said: “My black pug, Phoebe, is a beautiful shape, which is something she got from her dad. Crystal, who is fawn, has a particularly nice face and Sweep is a wonderful apricot colour.

“Putting two perfect dogs together wouldn’t produce a perfect pup, but you look for things which complement each other, like milk with coffee, trying to improve the overall mix. I can spot a winner soon after they’re born, so I keep the best and sell the others.”

A member of the Kennel Club and a regular competitor at Crufts, where two of her dogs have won the right to compete for life, and part of the Tunbridge Wells Canine Society, Mrs Jagger has won her share of trophies but the most coveted of all, best in show, still eludes her.

“We go to about two dozen competitions a year and now I’ve stopped being scared, I really enjoy meeting other owners and talking nonstop about pugs.

“It’s very hard to win prizes because the pug classes are so big, but of course I dream of breeding a champion.”

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