Its frowny face and Dutch nickname of mopshond, meaning "to grumble," belie the Pug's playful, loving disposition. Known in Britain since the time of William of Orange (1689-1704), who brought several of these dogs with him when he ascended to the British throne, the Pug was first thought to have originated in Holland. More recent theory claims that the Pug is an Oriental breed and is probably a smooth-coated, long-legged version of the Pekingese. Two explanations for the breed name prevail. One is that it derives from pugnus, the Latin word for "fist." The other explanation is that it was taken from the Old English word pugg, which was a term of endearment. The breed reached its peak of popularity during the reign of Queen Victoria, as evidenced by the many pottery likenesses of Pugs that were created during that time. This is a compact breed, weighing from 14 to 18 pounds. The fine, short, smooth coat may be solid black or silver, or apricot-fawn with clearly defined dark markings. With deep wrinkling on the forehead and large, lustrous, dark eyes, the Pug has an almost human expression. Gentle weekly brushing keeps the coat in shining condition; eyes and head wrinkles should be checked and cleaned as needed. The Pug gets by with a minimum amount of exercise, but watch its diet because this breed tends to gain weight easily. Pugs cannot withstand hot temperatures, but do well as a pet in town or country, as long as you don't mind its snoring and snorting. These sturdy little dogs have a special affinity for children.
Pugs possess an easy-going disposition that harmonizes well with a variety of human personality types and a gentleness that makes them trustworthy around people of any age. A Pug is, by design, far removed from predatory instincts and will happily share its home with other pets, including dogs, cats and guinea pigs. Pugs will curl up contentedly in a city apartment, country house or motor home on the road. They may carry their love of people to the extreme.
"These dogs would hold the flashlight for the burglar," says Jean Anderson of the Pug Dog Club of America and proprietor of Kesander Pugs in Naperville, Ill., where she and her husband, Bob, have raised Pugs for nearly 30 years.
The Latin motto "multum in parvo" means "a lot in a little" and is used to describe the ideal Pug. It refers primarily to the Pug's physical characteristics-a compact, stocky and muscular dog - though enthusiasts agree it applies equally to this dog breed's personality because the Pug has abundant affection, humor and playfulness packed into a neat little package.
Pugs: Past & Present
Centuries ago in the monasteries of Tibet, tiny yet sturdy dogs with large eyes and wrinkled, expressive faces were bred and kept as companion dogs. These were the earliest examples of the Pug dog breed. With a history predating 400 B.C., the modern Pug remains a good companion dog. From Tibet, the breed was introduced to Japan, then Europe, where it became a favorite in many royal courts.
The Pug's loyalty is legendary. A Pug is credited with saving the life of William, prince of the House of Orange in Holland, by warning of Spanish invaders in 1572. In France, when Napoleon's wife, Josephine, was imprisoned, she is said to have sent secret messages to Napoleon hidden in her Pug Fortune's collar.
The name Pug may have originated from the dogs' resemblance to marmoset monkeys, which were popular pets in Europe at the same time and were called Pugs as well. The American Kennel Club accepted the breed in 1885.
The Pug's face is unique among toy dog breeds and reflects distant Mastiff ancestors. Round, soft eyes; short, flat muzzle and deep facial wrinkles give the Pug a face that can seem almost human.
"At first, many people think they're ugly, but after a while, they grow on you," says Kathleen Madison of Kashmir Pugs in Brighton, Colo. "When you talk to them, they respond. Pugs will frown or cock their head. They have so many facial expressions."
Fawn or silver Pugs have a sharply contrasting black mask and ears, and diamond or thumbprint in the middle of the forehead. The trace, a line of darker hairs running from the base of the skull to the tail, should be as black as possible. Black Pugs must be pure black with no white markings. The tail curls tightly over the hip, ideally with a double curl. The gait should be "free, self-assured and jaunty," according to the Pug breed standard.
As with most short-nosed dog breeds, Pugs make an assortment of respiratory noises. "They can sound almost like a pig, and that bothers some people," says Andrea Szewczyk, chair of Michigan Pug Rescue, whose family shares their Washington Township home in suburban Detroit with three (and sometimes many more) Pugs and a Labrador Retriever. "Pugs don't drool, but when they sniff you, they actually snort on you," Szewczyk says.
Pugs can snore loudly, which might keep awake light sleepers who like their dog to sleep at the foot of the bed. "Owners have to accept the snoring," Anderson says. "I love it; to me it's such a soothing sound." Smith agreed: "To those that adore the breed, the snoring is a positive."
While training a Pug doesn't require the patience of a Buddhist monk, Pugs do have a stubborn streak. Food rewards for good behavior can be powerful training tools because a Pug "will sell its soul for a hamburger," Smith says. House training can go by the wayside in cold weather if owners aren't firm in insisting their Pugs brave the weather.
A Pug in touch with its inner self is a born clown. "They're a riot," Szewczyk says. Pugs are what more people should be like. They couldn't care less what others think about them. As long as they're having a good time, they'll just go right on doing it."
Pugs have taken several Best in Shows in conformation but are less outstanding in obedience competition, where their comic sense and stubbornness can factor in. Madison's dog, Trinket, took to clowning in the middle of their first Utility competition. "She rolled in the grass and lay there with her legs up in the air on a blind retrieve. On the go-outs she stopped, looked at me, tucked her tail and went racing around the ring, jumping all the jumps two or three times. The more the spectators laughed, the worse she got - you could just see her scanning the crowd."
Compared to many popular toy dog breeds, the Pug coat requires minimal grooming, but brushing at least once a week ultimately will reduce workload on the household vacuum. Pugs shed a little all the time, and their hair is notorious for weaving permanently into whatever fabric it lands on. "A husband and wife, both members of the Minneapolis Symphony, contacted me, wanting a black Pug," says Anderson, who specializes in breeding black Pugs. "They owned a fawn Pug but had problems with the fawn hairs always sticking to their black tuxedos."
Wiping the skin folds on the Pug's face, using plain water, is important to prevent dermatitis and accumulation of debris. Routine nail clipping will keep the paws neat and comfortable. Daily brushing of a Pug's teeth is recommended because crowding of the teeth in the shortened muzzle encourages plaque accumulation and dental disease. To read more about dog dental care, click here.
Picking Your Pug
Devoted enthusiasts worry the Pug's increasing popularity may lead to indiscriminate breeding and a rise in inherited health problems. Prospective owners should take time to find a reputable Pug breeder. Healthy puppies should be playful, well-fed, have smooth coats and bright, not weepy eyes. Also, their home environment should be clean, and the puppies should be inquisitive and friendly, obviously used to handling and petting.
Genetic health problems in Pugs include luxating patellas (loose kneecaps) and Legg-Perthes disease, which destroys the ball of the hip joint and requires surgery. Pugs can suffer from stenotic nares, narrow, restrictive nostrils that interfere with breathing, and elongated soft palate, which causes respiratory difficulty and may require surgery.
Pug encephalitis is a rare but serious disease that affects young adult dogs and results in seizures and death. The cause is unknown.
Pugs may suffer from several eye disorders, including entropion, or inverted eyelids, and "dry eye" caused by lack of tears, which if left untreated can result in blindness. Responsible breeders select only the healthiest dogs, so the incidence of these diseases in well-bred Pugs is low.
Lark and Brian McClure of Castle Rock, Colo., researched 20 dog breeds before settling on a Pug. Brian McClure had grown up with large dogs, including a German Shepherd and a Collie, but since their current home doesn't have a big yard, they needed a small dog breed.
"We didn't want a yapper or a drooler, though," he says. "We needed a dog that would get along with children and strangers because I run a business at home." Their careful selection paid off. Eight-month-old Mick is part of their family, making everyone feel special.
Pugs aren't designed for aerobics; they're better adapted for snoring in an armchair. While they need daily walking, these dogs are not jogging partners and might get dangerously overheated if exercised in warm weather. Pugs make enthusiastic playmates for children, but kids need to be aware when their Pug pal is getting tired and needs a break.
Individuals with pristine furniture or an aversion to dog-wool-blend tweeds shouldn't consider a Pug because they're the consummate lap dog. "They're supposed to be on the furniture," Szewczyk says, "and if they're not right up there with you, they're very unhappy."
A Pug will not herd, hunt, guard or chase rats, but it will always be a true companion. That's all they know and want. A Pug is a professional at wriggling its way onto the couch, onto your lap and into your heart.