Breed of the Week: The Pug


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You just have to love Pugs. They’re just about a ton of cuteness, wrapped up in an adorable little package. Originally bred as lap dogs, Pugs love spending time with their humans. They’re natural entertainers, too, and many owners claim that the Pug has a great sense of humor.


Pugs are an old breed, with its known history going back to the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC to 200 AD). They were kept by Emperors, and lived a life of privilege, often even having soldiers assigned to protect them. The breed increased steadily over the centuries, and in the late 1500s, when China opened trade routes with Europe, Pugs found their way to Holland, where they became royal favorites. In fact, legend has it that the Pug saved the life of William of Orange, by warning him of the approach of invading Spaniards.

This may or may not be true. However, it is known that the Pug was considered to be the House of Orange’s “official dog.” Other European Royals who have owned Pugs include Josephine Bonaparte and Marie Antoinette.

By the early 1800s, Pugs were still closely entwined with the royal and noble families. In England, Queen Charlotte founded what was known as the “Morrison line,” while Lady Willoughby d’Eresby established a line that was founded upon Pugs that were imported from Hungary and Russia. In China, Pugs were still being bred, and when the British invaded the Imperial Palace in 1860, several Pugs were among the booty they made off with. Two (Moss and Lamb) were bred to the Morrison and Willoughby lines, and the results set the standard for the breed as it is known today.

Queen Victoria was also quite the fancier of Pugs, and bred them, as she did several other breeds. Her line was predominantly fawn. The black Pug comes from another breeder, Lady Brassey, who began her breeding program with black Pugs that she acquired during a visit to China.

The Pug made its way to America shortly after the Civil War, and in 1885, was recognized by the AKC. In the beginning, the breed was extremely popular, but within the next 15 or so years, only a few breeders remained. By 1931, though, the breed was on its way back. Today, it is the 32nd most popular breed in the United States, on the AKC’s list of 189 breeds.


A Pug of either sex will usually weigh 14-18 pounds, and will stand 10-14 inches at the shoulder.


As previously stated, Pugs were bred as companion animals. So, they’re not going to guard your home, retrieve your game birds, or dig you out of the snow if you end up buried in an avalanche. What a Pug really wants to do is cuddle in your lap. He will, however, play with you enthusiastically.

A Pug’s personality can be affected, as is the case with any other breed, by training, heredity, and how well-socialized he is. If you’re picking out a Pug puppy, look for one that seems happy and curious. Be sure to meet the mother; if she’s a sweetie, then chances are your puppy will be, too. Meet the father, as well, if you can, but don’t worry if that’s not possible; much of the time, the person who owns the mother will not be keeping a male, so there will have been an offsite breeding.


The first part of the puppy’s socialization takes place when he’s with his mother and his littermates. Once you take your puppy home, it’s up to you. You want him to be exposed to as many different experiences, situations, and people as possible. So go hang out with the neighbors, take him to the park, bring him inside stores that permit dogs, and maybe even enroll him in a puppy kindergarten. By doing this, you’ll be helping to foster a sense of confidence, and you’ll be ensuring that your little guy grows up to become a well-rounded dog.

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There are quite a number of conditions that Pugs can develop. Don’t let the sheer volume of what you’re about to read alarm you, though. The reality is that most Pugs are pretty healthy

Pug Health

1. PDE (Pug Dog Encephalitis)

As you can tell from the name, this is a disease that affects only Pugs. It’s a fatal inflammation of the brain, and no one knows why it happens. There is no test for it, and no treatment; sadly, the only way you’ll ever know if your dog had PDE is if he dies. Then, the brain tissue can be examined and a diagnosis made.

The condition usually occurs in young dogs. Symptoms can include seizures, blindness and circling. Ultimately, the dog will slip into a coma and die.

2. Demodectic Mange

This disease is caused by the demodex mite. Usually, this mite can live on dogs without causing any trouble. However, when a bitch has puppies, if their immune system is weak, the mite can cause scaly, reddened skin. It usually clears up on its own. However, since the condition is genetic, females who pass it on to their puppies should be spayed.

3. Allergies

Pugs can be prone to allergies. If you find that your Pug is pawing at himself or licking excessively, an allergy could be the culprit, so see your vet.

4. Yeast Infection

Yeast infections commonly affect the neck, inside the ears, the armpits, groin and feet. It manifests as smelly, itchy, thickened and darkened skin. Your vet can prescribe a treatment for your Pug’s yeast infection.

5. Staph Infection

A staph infection can look like hives, or like ringworm. A vet can make a diagnosis and recommend a course of treatment.

6. Walking Dandruff (Cheyletiella Dermatitis)

This is another condition that’s caused by a mite. It causes heavy dandruff, particularly down the spinal area. This condition can be passed from one animal to another, so if you have more than one pet in your home, they will all require treatment.

7. Nerve Degeneration

This condition sometimes occurs in older Pugs. The cause isn’t known. Affected dogs may have difficulty jumping, might stagger or drag their hind end, and could also become incontinent. The condition seems to progress slowly, and does not appear to be painful. Medication can ease the symptoms.

8. Epilepsy

Pugs can be vulnerable to a condition known as idiopathic epilepsy; in other words, seizures that occur for no apparent reason. Your vet can recommend treatment.

9. Dry Eye

This is actually two conditions: keratoconjunctivitis sicca (an inability to produce enough tears to keep the eye moist) and pigmentary keratitis (black spots on the cornea that can lead to blindness if not treated). They can occur separately or together. Medication is available to moisten the eye and dissolve the black spots.

10. Corneal Ulcers

Because your Pug’s eyes are so prominent, they are vulnerable to injuries and ulcers. If it looks as though your dog is “tearing up” a lot, or his eyes are red, see your vet. Corneal ulcers are treatable but if not treated, could lead to blindness or even cause your dog’s eye to rupture.

11. Other Eye Problems

Pugs are also vulnerable to proptosis (a condition in which the eyeball pops out of its socket), distichiasis (eyelids growing too close to the eyeball, causing irritation), PRA (progressive retinal atrophy, a degenerative disorder that can lead to blindness) and entropion (a condition in which the lower eyelid rolls in toward the eye and causes irritation).

12. Hip Dysplasia

Much of the time, people think of hip dysplasia as being a disease that affects large dogs. The fact is, though, the little guys can get it, too. It’s a deformity of the hip joint, and is genetic. Dogs that have the disorder should not be bred, but the reality is that most of the time, a Pug can live a full, happy life with hip dysplasia. It’s usually controllable with medication and sometimes, it needs no treatment at all if no symptoms are present.

13. Legg-Perthes Disease

This disorder also affects the hip joint, and is not uncommon in toy breeds. With this condition, the femur (the large bone in the rear leg) doesn’t get enough blood, and it begins to deteriorate where it joins the pelvis. Symptoms include limping or loss of function in the leg muscles, and usually occur before the age of six months. It can be corrected surgically.

14. Hemi-Vertebrae

Often, brachycephalic breeds have vertebrae that are misshapen. If only a few are affected, the chances are good that the dog will not be adversely affected. If several are affected, the condition could manifest as a lack of coordination or a weak gait. This condition also manifests before the age of six months. The cause is unknown, but sometimes, surgery can be beneficial.

15. Patellar Luxation

This is a condition that can be painful. It occurs when the kneecap slips in and out of alignment. It can be crippling, but with proper veterinary care, a dog can often lead a fairly normal life.

16. Vaccination Sensitivity

Some Pugs can be sensitive to the vaccinations they need in order to be healthy. The most common symptoms are lethargy, soreness, facial swelling and/or hives. Very rarely, vaccination sensitivity can be fatal. Keep an eye on your Pug after he’s received his shots, and if anything appears out of the ordinary, call your vet.

I know this sounds like a lot of potential problems, but keep in mind, these are just things that could happen, not things that are likely to happen.

Care and Feeding

Pugs are low-maintenance and not “barky,” making them an ideal breed for apartment-dwellers. They do love to go for walks, though, and enjoy playtime. Just avoid outdoor play in the hot weather since their short noses make it hard for pugs to breathe when it’s overly warm or humid.

As to feeding, Pugs can be prone to obesity, so free-feeding is not advised. Depending on your Pug’s size, he’ll probably need somewhere between half a cup to one cup of good quality food daily, spread over two meals. Of course, you might need to adjust the amount of food a bit depending on your dog’s age and activity level. Usually, elderly dogs will need fewer calories than they did in their younger days.

Coat and Grooming

Pugs have short coats, but because they’re double-coated, they will shed a fair bit, and they also require grooming. As to color, pugs are usually fawn or black, although the fawn coat can have a tinge of silver or apricot. Regardless of coat color, all pugs have black muzzles.

Most Pug owners find that brushing is best done daily, and a bath once a month will keep a Pug from being smelly. The facial wrinkles in particular need to be kept clean, since they’re ideal for hiding bacteria that can cause infections. Between baths, you can clean the wrinkles with baby wipes and then dry them. Also, since Pugs are mainly house dogs, they need to have their nails trimmed regularly; they don’t wear them down the way more active breeds do.

Pretty much all breeds can benefit from having their teeth brushed regularly, but it’s particularly important with Pugs. They’re quite susceptible to gum disease, so try to brush your Pug’s teeth every day. If that’s not possible, at least try for two or three times a week.

During your grooming routine, keep an eye out for any signs of infection, sores, inflammation, rashes or tenderness in the mouth, eye, and nose areas, and on the feet, as well. If you check for these conditions once a week, you can identify health problems and deal with them in their early stages.

Kids and Other Pets

The Pug is a really good choice for families who have young kids, and want a small breed. This is because even though the Pug is classed as a toy breed, he’s not delicate in the way that so many are. The only problem with Pugs and kids is that the Pug will tire out from playing before the kids do.

I know I say this every time I do a “Breed of the Week,” but I really don’t think it can be said too often: no matter how kid-friendly your dog is, don’t leave any dog unattended with children.

Pugs are good with other animals. They get along well with other dogs, are usually fine with cats, and can usually even be trusted with rabbits.

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The Final Word

If you’re looking for a great family dog as opposed to an athletic partner, a Pug could be the right dog for you. The breed is playful, but not overly energetic, and prefers “cuddle time” to vigorous exercise.

There are several diseases that could affect Pugs, but although the list is extensive, the likelihood of your Pug developing any of them is not high. The main things you’ll have to watch out for is the possibility of injuries to your dog’s protruding eyes, and the danger of him having difficulty breathing in hot, humid weather.

For fans of small dogs, the Pug is sure to please.