For many people there is little cuter than a Pug puppy. Keeping things in perspective, before falling for that cute puppy and taking him home make sure you are prepared for all that owning a Pug entails. Remember the cute puppy look wears off then what you have left is an adult that is what you made him. In the right hands that is a small dog with a big heart.
So valued was this little dog historically they were guarded by soldiers of the Emperors of China. One of three breeds to be so honored, the Pug is Chinese in origin and dates to as much as 700 BC. They are related to the Pekingese but not, as many believe, to the bulldog.
The AKC first recognized the Pug in 1885 after having been brought to the USA via England and Holland by traders. They became very popular then at the turn of the century their popularity cooled somewhat. Today he’s between common and rare – identifiable but without as much of the negative that so often threatens highly popular breeds.
The Pug should have a round head with a square body. For a show standpoint this means not too leggy or too long in body, although these Pugs still make awesome pets! Ideally they are compact with 14-18 pound bodies that are well muscled not just fat. They are a toy breed and, as such, although not defined by height they must be compact in body. Excessive size often loses that compact, cobby look the breed is known for.
The head of a Pug is distinctive and should be broad and round when looking at the Pug from the front. Too much or not enough chin is objectionable and the head should be in proportion to the rest of the dog. The eyes are bold and prominent but not bulging out. The Pug has a natural expression of intelligence, affection and curiosity with just a spark of mischief mixed in.
They may be silver, apricot-fawn or black. A short coat means little grooming even for show with trimming nails and whiskers allowed. The breed is shown natural. This is an even tempered, playful breed that is outgoing and self-confident. The down side to that, of one wishes to look at that, is they can be willful and stubborn! Be prepared to have patience in dealing with training a Pug along with a big dose of humor. They are not normally nervous, make good alarm dogs and love to play.
Like many breeds the Pug has some health issues to be aware of. Due to the very short face they can have severe issues dealing with the heat as well as cold weather. Exercise your Pug around weather extremes. The breed is known for the short face which can restrict breathing. There is surgery available to correct this, but surgery to alter a Pug for show is not allowed in the breed ethics. From a health standpoint for a pet this is not a factor.
The short head also means more teeth in a small place – with an increase attention needed to dental issues. The Pug’s head needs extra care due to the folds in the skin. Clean his ears regularly and clean the nose roll and in the wrinkles to keep the free of debris and moisture that can cause irritation and problems. Some Pugs need this daily while others less so, but it is something to watch if you take on a Pug.
There is a type of mite that causes a skin condition in the Pug called Cheyletiellosis or Walking Dandruff. If your Pug appears to have heavy flaky dandruff down the middle of the back and is extremely itchy consider having him checked for this.
Don’t assume here – this could also be due to mange, allergies or infections of the skin, all conditions that can affect Pugs.
There is also a disease unique to Pugs called Pug Dog Encephalitis or PDE that is very serious. It is a fatal inflammatory disease that appears to occur just in Pugs. It is unknown why they get it, how they get it or how to treat it and it cannot be tested for except through the brain tissue of dogs that have died from it. Research is being done at Cornell University trying to determine if it might have a genetic component. There is also research being done at Texas A&M. The disease expresses itself in seizures, blindness, circling, coma and death.
Be sure to have your dog seen by a veterinarian and do not assume a dog with seizures has PDE. Epilepsy is also known to happen in Pugs and CAN be managed with correct diagnosis.
Some older Pugs can also be prone to a nerve degeneration, which doesn’t have a name and little is known about. Some dogs might drag the toes, or stagger in his hindquarters or have difficulty jumping up or down. They might have an arch to their back and become incontinent. This is progressive and at this point anti-inflammatory medicines don’t seem to help.
A few eye issues can become serious and warrant mention. Corneal ulcers and dry eye are common and need veterinary attention. Dystichia and entropion involve the eyelashes or lids causing irritation to the eye. Because of the Pug’s eyes, a bite or damage near the eye can result in the eye getting pushed out of the eye socket. There are still nerves and muscles keeping it attached but it is a medical emergency to have any chance of saving the dog’s eyesight in that eye.
Vertebrae issues can occur as young as 4-6 months with signs including an uncoordinated gait. Legg-Perthes is a disease that results in interrupted blood supply to the head of the femur, which begins to break down at the pelvis. This can show up at the same age range. Luxating patellas can happen and the breed is second only to bulldogs for hip dysplasia.
Yes there are many health issues that confront the Pug that are out of our control. There is one that is not, however, and Pugs are prone to it. This is obesity. Limiting your pet’s food intake is the #2 way you can show him you love him (right behind a good training program!) and that is prone to shifting.
Pugs reason for existence is to be a pet for man. While some breeds were developed to hunt, or herd or do other jobs, the Pug’s “job” is as a companion. However, they are absolutely intelligent and trainable enough to do things! They can be outstanding in obedience and agility, providing their physical issues are kept in mind and with positive training. Because this is a breed that exists to please you, harsh handling can create problems as can lack of training and discipline. A balance is needed for any breed but it can be a careful balance with Pugs.
Like many breeds pushing popularity the Pug has an issue also, not with so much purebred Pugs but those purebreds being used to create “Puggles”, an essentially crossbred dog some produce to sell for large amounts of money as a designer dog. The Puggle is a cross between a Pug and a Beagle, and supporters claim they are healthier than either due to hybrid vigor.
The problem is genetics don’t work that way. Both breeds have a tendency towards many of the same issues including obesity, epilepsy, seizures and other issues. There are fully 97 issues that can affect Beagles with several, including some fatal ones that affect Pugs. Crossing them can actually INTRODUCE deficiencies into the pups that the parents don’t have. Additionally it crosses the instincts with physical characteristics, which can result in a dog with eye issues putting that short nose on the ground after something and creating eye injuries. Most breeders of both Pugs and Beagles advise avoiding these crossbreds at all costs.
Be prepared for the health issues when you take on a Pug – the worst case warnings sound bad but they are just that – worst case. There are many healthy, happy and lovable Pugs who live for years. Choose your dog wisely and be prepared for what comes. Remember this is a companion breed – they were developed to be with you!