Breed of the Week - Pug

Malta en Parvo” means “a lot in a little” and I cannot think of a better description of the Pug.

The Pug is considered a member of the toy group and is, in fact, the largest of the toy breeds. But there is nothing small about this dog’s demeanor or its popularity.

It has been said that Pugs are so ugly they are cute, and it has even been said that Pugs are like potato chips, you can’t have just one.

I have been a big dog person all my life and it was our son who wanted a Pug, after falling in love with Frank from Men in Black. So we brought a Pug home to become a member of our family and a companion to our 5 year old male Boxer. I remember my mom saying, “that Boxer will eat that Pug up in one bite”, however, nothing could be further from the truth. Our new Pug puppy was jumping up on her expen, not the least bit afraid of our Boxer but instead wanting only to play with him. Such a little dog had such a big dog attitude that I instantly became a Pug lover. It was not long before she asserted herself as the head of the dog household, and our Boxer became her companion, not the other way around as we had expected.

I’ve discovered while swapping Pug stories with the many Pug enthusiasts I have come to know, that people drawn to this ancient and noble breed are among the most passionate breed enthusiasts there are.

The ancient Pug’s origin dates as far back as 1000 BC to ancient China where they were owned primarily by royalty and often treated as such, with some ancient Pugs bestowed with titles of rank. The Pug migrated to Holland thanks to the trade routes that opened in China. In Holland the breed was at first called the Dutch Mastiff, which is pretty funny considering the size of the Mastiff breeds we see today. The Pug became quite popular in Europe around the 16th century and was especially prized by the royal families there also.

The Pug as we know it today did not get its name until the 17th or 18th century. Pugs are named after the nickname given to Marmoset Monkeys, which were popular pets at the time; these pet monkeys were called Pugs. The Pug we know today shares many of the facial characteristics of these monkeys and so the name stuck.

While our Pug was still a puppy we discovered that she looked an awful lot like a Bat when we held her ears straight up. I am sure glad that the folks in 17th century Europe did not try that trick- Bat would not be as cute a name for this awesome breed.

The Pug we know and love today is one of the oldest breeds recognized by the AKC. The first Pug was registered with the AKC in 1885. The Pug is also one of the most popular among the 165 breeds recognized by the AKC, consistently ranking in the top 20 of all breed registrations.


Pugs can be fawn in color, with a black facial mask and black ears or all black. According to my son, Pug’s also come in an illusive silver color, and I have only seen one of these in all my years of Pug enthusiasm.

The Pug is the largest of the Toy Breeds and is a squarely built dog with a relatively large head embellished with deep wrinkles. The wrinkles in the forehead were one of the characteristics that endeared the ancient Pug to Chinese royalty, if the wrinkles resembled the symbol for a royal rank these Pugs were prized above all others. The face of the Pug is perhaps its most distinctive characteristic because of its pushed in “brachycephalic” nose and bulbous eyes. Because the Pug has such a short muzzle, it must pass a large volume of air in a small space so you must be prepared to be serenaded by your Pug’s rhythmic snoring and snorting. It is one of the Pug’s unique and endearing qualities.

The Pug stands 10-11 inches at the shoulder. The optimal weight for a Pug of average size is 14-18 pounds. Our Pug weighs 20 pounds but has a defined waistline and is considered svelte at our vet’s office where almost all the Pugs they see are overweight.

Pugs have button or rose shaped ears which hang from the side of their heads and always feel like velvet to the touch, as soft as a baby’s bottom. Speaking of bottoms, the Pug’s tightly curled tail which is carried up over its back, makes them all the more cute as they sashay away from you.


Loyal, affectionate and friendly to most strangers, Pugs are an endearing breed. I have seen my Pug be tenacious and stubborn but easily redirected with the promise of a cookie. An intelligent breed, they are highly trainable, but can be stubborn if not properly motivated. Just uttering the word “cookie” makes my Pug down right cooperative.

Someone once described the Pug to me as gaily mischievous, I have seen this first hand as our Pug will wait until one of our other dogs has finished their treat and then coyly walk past them with her treat still in her mouth and sit in front of them while she finishes it. This is a playful breed always ready for a game, but not particularly adept at fetch because their pushed in muzzle and bulbous eyes do not make them great retrievers. Pugs can be good alarm dogs and are very patient with children. They enjoy the company of other dogs however, they particularly enjoy the company of other Pugs. This may explain why Pug owners often own more then one at a time.

Although Pugs were not bred to do any specific work like dogs in the working group or sporting group, Pugs are trainable. In fact, Pugs compete in every sport which they are eligible for, including obedience, agility and tracking. It is great to see Pugs compete in these events; it keeps their sharp minds sharp and provides them with the exercise they need to stay healthy and avoid the obesity seen in many Pugs. There are training books available and training classes are offered all over the country. Check around for an experienced trainer or a class near you.

Even if you do not intend to have your Pug be anything more then a companion, you should still consider obedience classes, especially basic obedience classes that are offered for puppies over 6 months of age. Pugs are smart and social dogs that really enjoy class. Organized class gives them an opportunity to flex their brains and their muscles.

The Pug is one of the easier pets to groom based on their size and their short coat, however, they do require some special attention because of they have facial folds and bulbous eyes. It is important to clean under their facial folds and wrinkles. The easiest way to do this is with a cotton ball or Q-Tip dipped in a mild cleaning solution ( you can use an ear cleaner so there is no need to purchase additional grooming products) Be sure to dry under the folds after cleaning as moisture under the folds is a breeding ground for fungus.

A word to the wise, Pugs shed excessively Our little Pug sheds more than our 70 pound Boxer. Because of this, I strongly recommend that you brush your Pug daily. The best brush to use is a bristle brush and the one I recommend is the Chris Christensen Ionic Boar Bristle Brush. This brush distributes the coat oil through the coat while removing dander and dead hair. A curry mitt is also an acceptable choice. You can use a shedding tool like the Furminator or Andis Power De-shedder, but my Pug is never cooperative when I try to use these. Frequent baths, every 6 weeks, will also help keep shedding to a minimum but be sure to use a gentle or all natural shampoo like Richards Organics Moisturizing Shampoo and Conditioner.

Pug mouths tend to have a lot of teeth in a small space and they are crowded and crooked so it is extremely important that you brush regularly. There are many good products available to help make this task easier.
General upkeep of your Pug should include keeping his nails short, either by cutting them or perhaps grinding them with a rotary grinder, like a Dremel. Another word to the wise, Pugs are notorious for not wanting to have their paws touched. Clipping or grinding their nails is often an arduous task if not undertaken with much love and a little bit of courage. You may decide to leave this particular task to the professionals. Before I clip my Pug’s nails I will give her a dropper full of Richard Organics Pet Happy, an all natural solution of plant extracts to mellow her out so she is a bit more cooperative. It is best to clip nails on a counter or a grooming table, someplace she is not accustom to standing as this will help focus her attention away from what you are actually doing.

Pugs are a very long lived dog and will be subject to certain ailments and conditions that affect most breeds. However they do have some unique health concerns. With their short, pushed in face, Pugs can have trouble breathing, especially in high heat and humidity and even when traveling by plane. They must be kept cool and exercised with caution in the summer. Skin allergies can be a concern, but these can often be alleviated or eliminated by changing the Pug’s diet. Stay away from foods that contain corn, wheat or soy as these are common allergens.
Pugs’ eyes are bulbous and protrude so care must be taken to avoid scratches to the eyes. The Pugs eyes also have a tendency to pop out of their sockets. This unfortunately happened to my Pug while playing with one of our other dogs. The eye could not be saved. It was a sad day in our house, but our resilient Pug has bounced back. Because of the tendency for Pug eyes to pop out when pressed or pushed some people do not recommend that Pugs take up residence in a house with cats, as cats are known to use their paws to bat the faces of their play mates.

Pugs are a joy to own and a joy to watch! I highly recommend this ancient and noble breed.

written by Claudia Loomis

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