You have to love a dog who has their own motto—in Latin, no less!—“multum in parvo,” which means “a lot in a little.” And that’s what the Pug dog breed is in a nutshell: Pugs are little love-bugs whose wrinkled brows, flat Pug noses and big, round eyes give them almost human expressions.
Once beloved by royalty, the Pug remains a popular pooch today. One reason: These sweet-natured dogs can adapt to all sorts of environments—urban studio dwellings or country estates, young or old pet parents, large families or small.
The Pug dog is a petite member of the toy group, with the ideal Pug weight clocking in at 14 to 18 pounds. Also worthy of note, the pug life span can reach up to 15 years.
- Breed Group: Toy
- Height: 10-13 inches
- Weight: 14-18 pounds
- Life Span: 13-15 years
- Coat: Short-haired, smooth coat
- Color: Fawn and black
Pug History: Regal Lineage in a Pint-Sized Package
Where did Pugs come from? Pugs originated in China over 2,000 years ago, and they boast a very noble lineage. Pugs were bred to be amusing companions and lapdogs, kept by the Chinese emperor and his entourage in the imperial court, alongside Pekingese and Shih Tzus.
Dutch traders brought these Chinese Pugs to Holland and other parts of Europe in the 1500s. Again, they became a hit with royalty, in Holland and in England. Queen Victoria was a huge fan of Pugs and kept a pack of them.
Common folks embraced the Pug, too, and by the 1900s the breed became a favorite family pet. Today, they rank 28th in the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular breeds. Pet parents prize them for their funny Pug personalities, their expressive faces and their Velcro-like tendency to stick with their people. They love their family members and want to be loved in return. These naturally friendly dogs also take to strangers without a second thought.
It goes without saying that Pug puppies are especially cute. Be sure to get your pup from a reputable Pug breeder. As for the average Pug price, you may have to pay over $1,000 (and as high as $2,500) for a pup, but for that money you should receive a Pug puppy who’s been screened for health and temperament issues. You can also find Pugs for adoption at Pug-specific rescues and at your local animal shelter.
What Does a Pug Look Like?
The first thing you notice about the Pug dog breed is their pushed-in face and Pug nose. Pugs are brachycephalic, which essentially means flat-faced, like Pekingese and Bulldogs. They have large, round heads and dark, prominent eyes. Their small ears are folded over and feel as soft as velvet.
Pugs sport short necks and short, stocky bodies with curled up tails—a double curled tail is considered the height of Pug perfection. They are short-haired dogs, with smooth, soft coats that come in two colors: fawn and black. Black Pugs are black all over, while fawn Pugs have a black mask, ears and line (or trace) on their backs—and the blacker the markings the better.
Sometimes that fawn color is so light it appears silver. But these Pugs aren’t standard-colored—meaning they don’t meet the breed standard, which is only black or fawn, and are frowned upon by the Pug Dog Club of America. There also are no miniature or teacup Pugs. What is billed as a miniature Pug is actually a cross between a Pug and Chihuahua, so these dogs are Chugs, not Pugs.
That adorable face and body also is comically expressive, exhibiting perceived human emotions such as surprise, happiness and curiosity. Those funny little faces are, in part, what has drawn humans to Pugs for centuries.
Pug Temperament: Charming Entertainers
The Pug is essentially a clown in dog form. From their fun-loving Pug personality to their adorably wrinkled faces, Pugs are the embodiment of charming entertainers. They’re always ready to play with their people, but the contented Pug is also a willing couch potato when it’s time to relax.
Based on their comical appearance, it’s easy to question if Pugs are smart, but they truly are clever dogs who don’t always get the credit they deserve for their intelligence. Though they’re not bred to perform a job (outside of a steadfast companion), Pugs are quick witted and capable of mastering basic training. They can be mischievous and stubborn, but their loving nature makes up for their occasionally ascendant personality.
Because they’re affectionate and playful, the Pug dog breed is a great family dog. They’re generally tolerant with children, making them a great addition for families that know how to play hard then chill out.
A Pug’s flat face means the little dog is capable of a variety of unusual noises. From wheezy breathing to snoring to occasional barking, life with a Pug is usually a symphony of sounds.
Keeping Pug Dogs Healthy: 5 Issues to Watch Out For
Pug health problems are common, and there are several conditions that Pug parents should watch for in their pooches. By recognizing Pug health problems early on, you can seek treatment sooner.
Pugs have prominent eyes that are prone to several eye disorders, including dry eye, eyelash and eyelid disorders and eye infections. Pug eyes also are easily injured.
Pugs are known to have problems with demodex mites, skin infections and irritated skin folds around the nose and vulva.
Also called brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS), this syndrome is common in brachycephalic, or short-headed, breeds, including Pugs. These breeds can develop difficulty breathing from this condition, due to an elongated soft palate and/or narrowed nostrils. Surgical treatment is available to cure this syndrome.
Mitral valve disease is more common in smaller dogs, like Pugs, so it’s helpful for pet parents to know the signs of this heart disease. Mitral valve problems can manifest as coughing and loss of energy. There are many treatment options your veterinarian can offer to manage this condition.
Hip dysplasia is a developmental disorder of hip joints that can result in pain, difficulty walking and arthritis. Hip dysplasia can be managed surgically, medically and by keeping your pup at the ideal Pug weight.
Caring for Your Pug Dog
Knowing how to take care of your Pug can help prevent many problems, both health-related and behavioral. All Pugs need love, exercise, grooming and proper nutrition.
Pugs have easy-to-care-for haircoats. Weekly brushing will help remove your Pug’s loose hair, and if you’re a potential pet parent wondering, “Do pugs shed?” rest assured that shedding isn’t much of an issue for this short-haired breed.
The main concern with Pug grooming is making sure the skin folds are clean and dry, and monitoring the skin and haircoat for signs of hair loss, redness or itching, which can be signs of infection. Nasal and labial folds can be cleaned easily with a pet-safe wipe like Earthbath Hypo-Allergenic Grooming Wipes.
Another grooming concern with Pugs is anal gland issues. These scent glands are located in the anus. If you notice your dog scooting or excessively grooming back there, then it could signal an anal gland problem that needs veterinary attention.
When it comes to Pugs, how much you are feeding your Pug is as important as what you are feeding your pooch. Obesity is a common problem with this breed and can predispose Pugs to other diseases, such as dog arthritis, diabetes and high blood pressure. You usually can tell that a Pug is at a healthy weight when you can feel their ribs with your hands but not see them. You can use the feeding chart on the dog food container as a guide to how much to feed your Pug. It also is helpful to talk with your veterinarian about how much your Pug should be eating and a weight recommendation for your dog.
As for the best dog food for Pugs, this breed, like all dogs, can benefit from a complete and balanced, commercially formulated dog food, whether dry, canned or a combination of both. Royal Canin offers a breed-specific food specially formulated for Pug needs and available in adult and puppy formulas. A small-breed dog food, like Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food, is another option for your adult Pug.
If you choose to cook at home for your dog or feed raw dog food, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete and balanced diet.
Pugs need exercise like all dogs, but it is important to not overexert them or exercise them in very hot or humid weather. Because Pugs have narrowed nasal passages, they often experience difficulty breathing in these conditions. Most Pugs do quite well with a daily moderate walk and playing some games.
Because their facial structure makes it more difficult to breathe, swimming is not a Pug’s best sport. For safety, always put a dog life vest on your Pug when around bodies of water. And consider sports like agility, obedience training and rally instead for this sturdy and playful breed.
Training Your Pug Dog
Pugs are extremely food driven, so despite their strong-willed reputation, they excel at reward-based, positive-reinforcement training. When it comes to how to train a Pug, keep in mind that short, energetic training sessions are a good fit for these creative dogs. Because Pugs can pack on the pounds quickly, it’s wise to keep training treats small.
Pugs enjoy being the center of attention, so teaching simple tricks is a great way for a Pug to show off and keep their busy brain engaged.
When training Pugs outside, remember that their shortened faces make them more likely to overheat, even in mild temperatures. Active Pugs also are more likely to overextend themselves, so always keep an eye on your Pug’s respiration rate when working outside.
The Pug dog breed was bred to love their pet parents and be their constant companions. If you want double the love, get two Pugs (or a pack!). Pugs don’t mind the company, and they don’t mind being your solo pooch either.