Everything you need to know about Pugs

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Louisa Lane
26th May 2022
8 mins read
The Pug was once a cheeky canine companion of Chinese emperors that’s now a popular pet. Sadly, due to some inappropriate and irresponsible breeding in pursuit of a specific look, this breed’s distinctive brachycephalic shape has led to the majority of them succumbing to a plethora of serious health conditions.

Key Stats

25 to 33cm
6 to 8kg
Small (Toy)
10 to 15 years
40 to 60 mins
Mischievous, lively, loving

Breed History

Pugs are an ancient breed of dog from China, where they were bred to be lapdogs and companions for the Chinese imperial family.
During the Renaissance, the Pug became the dog of choice for aristocrats throughout Europe.
Recently, Pugs have surged in popularity again, but they look much different to how the breed was even just a century ago. Modern Pugs have much flatter faces and shorter legs.


Pugs are a brachycephalic dog breed with very flat faces and short skulls.
Their head is proportionally large for their bodies, highly domed, with V-shaped “button” ears.
A Pug’s body is often square shaped and stout, with short sleek fur, and a double curl tail.

What colours are Pugs?

Pugs don’t come in many colours, in fact there are only four recognised within the breed standard. These Pug colours are:
  • Black
  • Fawn with black mask
  • Apricot with black mask
  • Silver with black mask
Other colours outside of the breed standard do exist.


Pugs are another example of a little dog with a big personality. The typical Pug temperament is lively and playful, with a cheeky or mischievous streak.
Because they were bred to be companions, the Pug's temperament tends to be affectionate and sociable, and they get on well with people of all ages as well as other animals.
Sadly the breed has often been described as “lazy”, but this is a misconception.
A dog’s laziness, as well as noisy breathing and snoring, is usually a sign of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS). BOAS makes breathing difficult and exercise intolerable, turning a cheerful and active Pug into a sad, slovenly pooch.

How much exercise do Pugs need?

Pugs should have 40 to 60 minutes of exercise per day, ideally split into two smaller walks. Daily exercise is vital to help keep your Pug happy and healthy, and it helps to prevent obesity.
Care must be taken when exercising a Pug, especially in warm or hot weather, because their brachycephalic shape can easily lead to overheating and heatstroke. Pugs are more vulnerable to heat than other breeds, and have been known to become ill when exercised in warm weather or if left for a very short period in a warm car.

How to groom a Pug

Pugs have minimal grooming needs thanks to their short, sleek coats. They only need a quick brush every now and again, maybe once a week or so, to get rid of any dust or dirt on their fur.
However Pugs are relatively heavy shedders, so you might want to brush your dog more regularly to help get rid of any loose hair.
Your Pug might need occasional baths (every 2-3 months). Having said that, Pugs tend to develop skin sensitivities and allergies, so they might need more regular baths with a medicated shampoo as directed by your vet.
You might also be advised by your vet to wipe your Pug’s wrinkles and folds of skin every few days. This is to prevent bacteria from overgrowing within their wrinkles which can lead to nasty infections called skin fold dermatitis. Their ears will need similar cleaning to help prevent infection.
Ideally, you should trim your Pug’s claws every month to prevent them from overgrowing. Pugs generally dislike having their claws trimmed, so it’s really important that you start doing this from puppyhood as part of their socialisation period to build up a happy and confident nail clipping association that’s much less stressful for you and the dog.
Like any dog, you should also take your Pug to the vet for routine dental checks and professional teeth cleaning, as well as brushing their teeth at home every day to prevent dental disease.

Common Pug health problems

All dogs can be prone to certain medical conditions. Unfortunately, the Pug's distinctive brachycephalic shape predisposes them to a number of health complaints.
When looking for a Pug puppy, keep an eye out for good breeders who have thoroughly health tested both parent dogs.
To find out more about the health problems linked to brachycephalic breeds, like the Pug, and what owners can do to ensure the future health of these breeds listen to this episode of our podcast.

Breathing problems

Being a brachycephalic breed, Pugs are prone to a number of breathing problems, including an increased risk of respiratory tract infections, increased risk of pneumonia, collapse, and death in some cases.
These breathing problems manifest as noisy breathing, excessive panting, snoring and snorting, and laziness. These signs aren't typical or normal for healthy Pugs (or any dog in fact,) they are actually a sign of BOAS.


The most serious of these breathing problems is brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS).
This is a collection of physical abnormalities including a short nose, elongated tongue and soft palate, and stenotic nares (tight nostrils) which make breathing difficult and reduce a dog’s lifespan by an average of 3 years.
A Pug suffering from BOAS is sadly almost guaranteed, as 93% of the breed have some grade of BOAS.
Dogs with BOAS often require surgery to try and alleviate their symptoms and help them to be able to live and breathe more comfortably.

Eye issues

Due to their conformation and brachycephalic nature, Pugs suffer from a number of eye conditions.
This is simply because Pugs have bulging eyes that are not fully covered and protected by the eyelids and they have shallow eye sockets, meaning their eyes are exposed and at risk of trauma.
Pugs can suffer from a horrific condition called proptosis where their eye pops out of their socket with the slightest of trauma.

Dry eye

Pugs are predisposed to a condition called dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca) where their eyes do not make enough tears.
This is worsened by the fact their bulging eyes do not allow the eyelids to fully close so the remaining tears cannot be dispersed across the eye correctly. (It’s like a faulty windscreen wiper that can’t spread screenwash.)

Corneal ulcers

They are extremely prone to corneal ulcers, particularly in the centre of the eye.
These ulcers can rapidly progress and worsen within 24 hours, so if your Pug develops a corneal ulcer this should be treated as an emergency.


Their wrinkled faces and brachycephaly also make them vulnerable to entropion, a painful condition where their eyelid rolls inwards and the eyelashes irritate the eye.
This causes scarring to the eye which can limit vision (pigmentary keratitis) and cause corneal ulcers.


A Pug's excessive nasal fold can lead to a condition called trichiasis where the hairs from the wrinkled skin grow towards the eye. Again, this irritates the surface of the eye and can cause corneal ulcers.

Skin problems

Like other brachycephalic breeds, Pugs are predisposed to a number of skin disorders and allergies. This can manifest as itchy skin, ongoing ear infections, and recurring skin infections.
They commonly suffer from skin fold dermatitis in their nasal and tail folds due to the skin on skin contact causing an overgrowth of bacteria.
Other common skin problems affecting Pugs include interdigital cysts or interdigital furunculosis.

Ear infections

Because Pugs are prone to allergies, this often causes recurring or chronic ear infections called “otitis externa” which will cause your dog a lot of pain until treated.

Spinal disorders

Because of their shape, Pugs are often born with spinal malformations. This can be because of their double-curl tail. Pugs are also predisposed to some neurological problems and seizures.

Hip dysplasia

Whilst we commonly see hip dysplasia in larger breeds, little Pugs are in fact one of the most common breeds to suffer from it.
Hip dysplasia is a multifactorial problem but it is linked to genetics.
It can lead to osteoarthritis and painful, limited mobility and may require medication, physiotherapy, or surgery to treat.

Dental disease

Due to their brachycephaly, Pugs are prone to dental problems because there isn’t enough space in their short jaws to accommodate all 42 of their teeth.
This leads to severe dental overcrowding, causing food and bacteria to trap and overgrow. It also makes them prone to periodontal disease, which results in smelly breath, infected gums, and tooth loss. Napo insurance includes dental cover, which includes professional cleanign to treat periodontal disease.


Pugs are prone to obesity, partly because of their greedy nature, and partly due to the misconception that they are meant to look chunky. 60.8% of Pugs are obese and it's the most common preventable disease affecting the breed. Beong overweight can make other illnesses, like BOAS, worse. You can find out more about obeseity in pets in our podcast with Louisa the vet.
Looking for Pug insurance? Napo can offer lifetime dog insurance for your furry friend.

Frequently asked questions about Pugs

Are Pugs good with kids?

Because of their sociable, playful, and comical nature Pugs are often thought to be great family pets. They are affectionate and friendly dogs so they usually get on well with children and other animals with proper socialisation.
However, because these dogs are predisposed to one or a combination of the conditions mentioned above, they aren’t always suitable for every family. For example, extremely active owners would be better suited to find a dog that can exercise for longer.
It’s also really important to consider the potential (and likely) cost implications to protect and care for these dogs throughout their lifetime, including vet bills.

Are Pugs smart and easy to train?

Pugs are naturally inquisitive and bright, but they’re not the most intelligent breed.
They’re also not the easiest dog to train. Although many Pugs are eager to please, or won over with food, Pugs can sometimes have a stubborn streak or get bored or distracted with repetitive tasks. (Like trying to make them sit however many times.)
But they are definitely trainable, and with some patience and positive reinforcement, you should be able to teach your Pug house rules as well as a few tricks.

Are Pugs hypoallergenic?

No dog is 100% hypoallergenic, and Pugs definitely aren’t. They will shed fur and dander, so expect to find a few loose hairs on your clothes and furniture. Regular baths and brushing can help to get rid of any loose fur and minimise shedding.

Can Pugs swim?

Pugs aren’t naturally strong swimmers. Because they’re top-heavy, with large heads and broad chests, they can struggle to stay afloat and keep their head out of the water. They can also struggle to breathe safely while swimming as dogs suffering from BOAS are more likely to breathe through their mouth. Pugs should never swim unsupervised and might need a life jacket to aid buoyancy.

What are “retro pugs”?

You might find Pug puppies or Pug crosses being sold as “retro pugs”.
Since the start of the 21st century, many European countries have bred “retro pugs” which are a crossbreed between Jack Russell Terriers and Pugs. (Pugs x Jack Russell)
The aim of the retro pug movement is to recreate dogs that look like the Pugs of the 20th century and earlier, with longer legs and noses.
It’s also hoped that these dogs will have improved health and fewer breathing problems, but further study is needed to confirm if there is any improvement in their welfare.

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