One of the oldest breeds of dog and a lover of children, pugs are small dogs with round heads, short muzzles and large eyes. The face is wrinkled, sometimes deeply, and the high tail curls over the back. The short, smooth coat comes in silver, black, fawn and apricot with a darker mask on the face and dark coloration on the ears.
Pugs can live an average of 11 to 15 years. Pugs weight between 13 and 20 pounds and average a height of 10 to 14 inches depending on gender.
Some debate surrounds the origin of the pug breed, but most agree there is an Oriental influence. Proof of the breed dates back to around 400 B.C. The breed shares similarities with the Pekingese, another short-nosed breed. The pug is said to be descended from the Lo-sze, or “Foo” dog. The breed is linked from China and was a favorite among royals and Buddhist monasteries.
Pugs have been owned by several notable people throughout history. Napoleon’s wife Josephine used her pug “Fortune” to sneak messages to her husband by tucking them under the dog’s collar. A pug reportedly saved the life of William, one of the princes of Orange, when he alerted his owner to approaching troops in 1572.
British soldiers returned to England with pugs and pekingese dogs after invading the Imperial Palace in Peking in 1860. The pug was first exhibited in England in 1886 after being registered with the American Kennel Club in 1885.
The pug has been owned by royalty, celebrities and lovers of the breed. Pugs have been featured in commercials and movies, such as Men in Black. This video shows a pug named Mushu portrayed as an alien named Frank:
Pugs were not bred to perform any specific work for humans but were companion animals. Today they additionally compete in conformation, agility, obedience and tracking.
These small dogs can hold great personalities. Pugs are even-tempered, playful, outgoing, affectionate, eager to please, loyal and very intelligent. They are good watchdogs but don’t bark excessively, and they respond well to positive reinforcement training.
Pugs need daily walks and/or play to stay fit. They do well in apartments but can be less active indoors. They are also prone to overeating yet still act hungry, so pay attention to food quantity and feeding times.
The short coat is easy to groom once per week. More detail needs to be given in checking the ears, folds of the skin, nose and eyes to keep them clear. Pugs can be bathed as necessary and should be dried immediately after being wet due to their sensitivity to cold. In addition to brushing you should expect to clean the teeth and clip the nails regularly. Because of the small size of a pug’s mouth, talk to your vet about additional ways to reduce tarter if you have trouble.
Pay special attention to the ears and nose for discharge, and any heavy snoring or breathing/wheezing should be brought to your vet’s attention. Shedding can be seasonally heavy.
Common Health Problems
Pugs are known to be a brachycephalic breed (also called short-faced or short-nosed). Breathing can be difficult and may be caused by pinched nostrils or an elongated palate. Surgeries are available to treat these issues if needed. Some airlines restrict breeds with brachycephalic syndrome, so check your airline before reserving travel. Pugs may also suffer from reverse sneezing.
Sensitivity to heat, humidity or cold is common in this breed. Pugs can also have skin problems, allergies, brain inflammation at a young age or eye problems which include inflammation, ulcers and eye proptosis. As mentioned in the exercise section, they have a tendency to overeat and keep eating as long as food is offered.
Is the Pug the Right Dog For You?
The big personality in a small package is great for people who want a spunky dog without the size. Pugs are easily attached to their owners, love kids and are known to be affectionate and loyal. Their high intelligence makes them easy to train with consistency, but they don’t respond well to harsh discipline. They do well in apartments and adapt to situations easily. Grooming isn’t overly demanding but will take some regular attention, as will paying attention to the common health problems your dog may experience. If all of this sounds like the dog you’ve been looking for, then a pug is a breed worth considering.
Adopt, Don’t Buy
Purebred dogs end up in rescues and shelters every day. Check out our adoptable pet search or check with your local rescues to find a pug already waiting for a home. If you do choose to go to a breeder, be sure they do not exhibit any of the warning signs of operating a puppy mill.
- American Kennel Club’s Pug Page
- Pug Dog Club of America
- Pug Rescues (listing by state)