Caitlin UltimoBehavior / Breed Lists

Small Dog Breeds: The Pug Personality and Temperament

Pugs are hard to mistake, with their signature small floppy ears, smooshed face and curled tail. The pop culture popularity of the Pug has put this dog breed in the spotlight in recent years; however, the Pug is actually one of the oldest breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club, or AKC. Dating back to 400 BC, the breed originated in China and was one of the first dog breeds to become officially recognized by the AKC in 1885. The breed currently ranks as the 34th most popular dog breed in the United States and is most popular for its role as a family, or companionship, dog.

Dr. Jerry Klein, Chief Veterinary Officer of the American Kennel Club, says that, “Potential owners should research and fully understand breed characteristics, health issues and personality traits,” before choosing which dog breed is right for them and their household. See if Pugs may be the right fit for you!


Pugs are in the toy small dog breed category and can have a fawn coloring, with tan bodies and black markings, or can be all black. The well-defined black “mask” on the muzzles are signature to the fawn Pugs while all Pugs have dark, rose- or button-shaped ears and wide-set, large eyes. Pugs mature at 14-18 pounds, and due to their highly food-motivated nature, their weight needs to be closely watched to avoid obesity problems. A well-balanced diet is critical to keeping a Pug slim and fit.

The Pug’s short muzzle and flat face also lead to a more difficult time breathing than other breeds. Many Pugs snore in their sleep and make snorting noises while exercising or playing to bring in more air and help them breathe. Though most Pugs never get bothered by this, it is a consideration to keep in mind if you are looking for an active, outdoor dog.

Dogs are unable to sweat like humans do, so they regulate their body temperature by panting. Because of the Pug’s short snout, he has a much more difficult time controlling his temperature in comparison to other dog breeds, so Pugs should avoid excessively hot weather to reduce the risk of overheating. Because of this, Pugs do best in a temperate climate.


The Pug temperament is easygoing and devoted. From the time that they are Pug puppies to full-grown dogs, they become very attached to their owners and love being shown affection through playing, petting and belly rubs. The Pug temperament is also playful in nature and, with their moderate activity level, this dog breed enjoys daily running around and playtime. Pugs like outdoor exercise and walks, but these should be limited in extreme temperatures. Though Pugs don’t make great running buddies, they would love a long walk and cuddle time when you get back!

HEALTH: Who Says Wrinkles Are a Bad Thing?

Pugs are generally healthy dogs, but like any dog breed, health issues are possible, especially in old age. Hip dysplasia, eye disease, kneecap dislocation and encephalitis are the most common health issues for Pugs. With proper diet and nutrition, the Pug life span ranges from 13-15 years old.

Another health issue that Pugs deal with is obesity. Though entirely preventable, Pugs need to have their diet closely monitored as they will eat as much food as they are given. Consulting with your veterinarian and feeding the recommended serving size and limiting treats is important to maintaining your Pug’s weight and keeping him healthy and in shape.

Lastly, because of Pugs’ wrinkles, skin irritation is very common. Regular bathing and grooming along with a diet free of allergens will keep your Pug’s skin in top shape.

DIET: Pug Out

From Pug puppies to adults, a specialized diet for small dog breeds can help keep them happy and healthy. According to Dr. Klein, “Some dogs, at certain points in their lives, may benefit from a specialized kibble.” Royal Canin Pug Puppy Dry Dog Food from the Royal Canin line of dog food, is a breed- and life-stage-specific dog food made for Pugs under 10 months old. The formula is specialized to combat Pug health problems by promoting healthy skin, digestive health and natural defenses.

Royal Canin Pug Adult Dry Dog Food is a similar formula, but it is made for Pugs over 10 months old and promotes healthy skin and muscle tone and an ideal weight. This food works to prevent Pug obesity and maintain your dog’s health well into his old age.

Pugs have a brachycephalic jaw, which means they have a large head with a short muzzle, and that makes it difficult for them to grab and chew food. Royal Canin Pug formulas have kibble pieces that are shaped like clovers to make it easier for them to reach and eat the food. “Kibble size should be matched to the dog’s size,” says Dr. Klein. The Royal Canin Pug Adult Dry Food is made with larger pieces than the Pug puppy food formula, but both are tailor-made for toy breeds to promote healthy skin and weight.

GROOMING: The Royal Treatment

All dogs require regular veterinary and oral care, but Pugs are unique in their additional health care needs. The distinctive Pug wrinkles are known for trapping dust, food and other irritants within the folds. Their faces should be cleaned daily to prevent buildup and irritation.

Though Pug hair is short, their double coat is notorious for shedding. A good diet and regular baths with a quality shampoo will help control your Pug’s shedding, but, ultimately, a good vacuum will be your second best friend (only after your smooshed-face, curly tailed pup).

In addition to regular nail trims, Pugs also need to have their ears cleaned regularly to prevent ear infections. Specialized ear washes are the quickest and easiest way to avoid debris and wax buildup. As with any dog, teeth should also be brushed with a pet toothpaste regularly to prevent dental disease. This is especially important in small dog breeds because small dogs have just as many teeth as larger dog breeds, but a smaller, and therefore tighter space to fit them all into.

Pugs are some of the happiest and most affectionate dogs. Their facial markings and curly tail make Pugs unique, and the easygoing Pug temperament sets them apart from other dog breeds. Though they require a little additional maintenance, Pugs make great family pets with their calm demeanor, adorable flat faces and silly personalities.