Adopting a dog is a very big decision. It’s not all about cuddles and playtime when it’s convenient for you. Owning a dog comes with a lot of responsibilities that spans across their entire lifetime. A person’s experience and previous ownership of dogs must also be factored in when deciding on a dog breed. Some breeds will be too much to handle for first time dog owners. As mentioned in the title, this is why I’d get a pug as a first time dog owner.
Pugs have a temperament that makes them very adaptable to new and experienced owners. They are loyal, affectionate, and a bundle of joy; making them great family pets. While small in stature, their sturdiness makes them easy to handle. Pugs are also adaptively smart and don’t require much exercise.
While there are many reasons why pugs make great first pets, there are also factors to be mindful of when caring for a pug. That includes the amount of maintenance involved, potential health problems they can face, their clinginess, as well as issues related to their weight. All of which are manageable as long as they’re adequately cared for, so don’t let it deter you from owning a pug.
Pugs were bred to be loyal lap dogs and are known for their tight companionship. They want nothing more but to be able to cuddle up next to you and to stay by your side. For this reason, this breed is often referred to as “velcro dogs”, meaning pugs will follow you around as if they’re attached to you, like they’re your shadow. If this is what you’re after and have the capacity for it, then a pug is the right breed for you.
Have you ever noticed puppies all snuggled up together in a pile when sleeping or napping? Well, this is because they feel more secure and comfortable this way. Naturally, a pug will emulate this with their owner to get that same feeling of warmth and comfort. It proves their loyalty to you as they see you as part of their pack. This attachment is a strong sign of trust for their owner.
While it does makes them more dependable; this trait is very desirable for those that want a dog to stay with them through and through. You can trust that they will defend and protect their loved ones when the situation calls for it. Pugs are unlikely to run away from their families like some other breeds, and will stick with their pack for a lifetime.
2. Highly Affectionate
Pugs are a very loving breed and natural people-pleasers. As mentioned, they love nothing more but to be on your lap or to snuggle up beside you. Their eagerness to please also means they’re willing to listen and do what you want to do. As long as they’re part of the action, you can decide to relax, play, or go for a walk without any resistance. Showing their affection can come in the form of licking, jumping, exposing their belly, and bringing you their favorite toys. In fact, they’re so attentive to their owners that you’ll often catch them staring at you. Constant eye contact is believed to help release the “love hormone” oxytocin, and this chemical is signifies their fondness to someone.
3. Charming & Jovial
Imagine coming home from a stressful day at school or work, and you’re greeted by a cheerful pug. They keep the mood positive and are great entertainers. A pug is always ready to have a good time and play with their owners if the opportunity arises. When neglected, it does bring about their mischievous side. While some find this entertaining, it can definitely keep you on your toes, so there is never a dull moment. Most people find them irresistibly charming, and it’s no surprise that they’ve becomes one of the most popular dog breeds on the market. Their happy-go-lucky attitude will no doubt brighten up your day!
4. Energy Level: Their Calming Nature
An adult pug can sleep up to 14 total hours per day are considered to be a low-medium energy breed. They only require 20-30 minutes of daily exercise, and are more than willing to chill by your side on the couch without any fuss. This is great for new owners who aren’t used to or willing to spend 60-90 minutes per day exercising their dog. With more passive tendencies, pugs will usually let you prod them without much risk of getting nipped at. If you have kids, this is a must-have quality when selecting a dog breed.
5. Intelligence: Adaptively Smart
Contrary to popular belief, pugs are actually quite smart. Yes, they can be slow learners due to their stubbornness but they are adaptively smart, and learn from experiences. They know right from wrong, and are obedient (for the most part). When it’s time to play, a pug will keep up with you and play. But when it’s time to sleep, eat or rest, a pug is more than happy to cater to that as well.
However, pugs can be independent at times and it’s because they know what they want. When it comes to training, pugs have been known to be stubborn, as they get easily bored with repetitive tasks. As long as you show them positive reinforcement, they are definitely trainable. Check out our article on pug training 101 for more information.
6. Very Sociable
Their sociable nature makes them easy to care for in public. They love making new friends and you won’t have to worry about them attacking kids or other pets. Pugs will rarely show signs of aggression unless they perceive someone as a threat. It’s highly likely that they’ll initiate a conversation for you at the park, so they can really help bring naturally introverted people out of their shell.
7. They Make Great Family Pets
Deciding to own a dog for those that have families is often an even bigger decision to make. You’re not only responsible for looking after the new pup, but also your kids and existing pets. You need to make sure that the dog is adaptable and non-aggressive. For those reasons, getting a pug is a fantastic choice. Not only are they sociable, affectionate, and flexible, they’re also said to be a “match made in heaven” with kids.
Balancing your time between caring for a family and a new dog can be hard. And for those with less of it, they probably don’t want a high-energy dog breed. They would require much more attention and overall effort. On the other hand, pugs are much calmer and require minimal daily exercise as long as you manage their weight appropriately. Most likely, you can probably get away with throwing the ball around in the yard, or supervise them while your kid tires them out. Grooming can take up some of your time, but it’s a fantastic way for everyone to bond, and for the kids to learn new responsibilities. Maintaining a pug is very manageable as long as you stagger the tasks appropriately.
Pugs are also great in helping your children grow their confidence and develop in other ways. For example, a playful pug can help loosen a kid up and detach them from fears of the unknown. New experiences can be frightening, so seeing a pug’s social and outgoing nature can help them build a stronger attachment to their environment and community.
Additionally, children that have difficulty speaking can benefit from training a pug. While they’re notorious for being harder to train due to their stubborn streak; a benefit of this is that this helps improve a kid’s communication skills. Spending that extra time teaching and giving commands can improve their underdeveloped speech. Pugs are also great listeners, they can snuggle up to them, letting your child talk to them without giving any judgement for hours!
8. Size: Small but Sturdy
For those living in apartments and smaller spaces, they have to be more selective with the pets they can adopt. Aside of body corporate regulations, some (usually larger) dog breeds don’t cope well in cramped environments. For those reasons, they should consider a toy breed like the pug. They are one of the best options because they don’t require much space and is largely considered to be one of the best dogs for apartment living.
While small in size, pugs have a very solid body structure. This means they’re not easily hurt if something is accidentally knocked over. By not being so fragile, they’re also easy to handle for new owners. Some toy breeds like the chihuahua can get easily hurt if accidents happen, or if rough play is involved. Adult pugs weigh 14-18 pounds on average, and stand 12-13 inches tall.
For families, a pug’s size means that they are small enough not to hurt children but durable enough for kids that play rough. Some dogs don’t know their own strength, so bigger dogs may post a risk to smaller pets and household members. Bumping into or whacking a kid with their tail accidentally may cause harm, leading them to potentially losing their trust. Having a pug avoids these concerns, as they’re the perfect size for kids.
The only thing to note is that you may need to watch out for episodes of ‘Frenetic Random Activity Periods’ (FRAPs), or otherwise known as the “Zoomies”. It’s a short but very intense period of hyperactivity, by which you may see your pup sprint a lap around the house, exude excitement through their eyes, and jump at you like they’re going to attack. If large objects are around, they may accidentally knock them over, in turn posing a risk to the child. Pet-proofing your house, just as you would child-proof it can hep prevent such incidents. For example, keeping electrical outlets out of reach and moving large vases out of the way. This is not unique to pugs but a factor to be mindful of nonetheless.
9. Longer Life Expectancy
Pugs have an average life expectancy between 13 and 15 years, according to the American Kennel Club. It’s widely believed that the average female will live approximately 13.2 years, which is slightly higher than their male counterparts at 12.8 years. While they don’t have the absolute highest life span (18-20 years for some breeds), it does sit in a higher average range. Having more years together is an absolute blessing, as some dog breeds like the Great Dane only live for about 6-8 years.
Dog owners understand that their companion won’t be there forever. So providing adequate care is vital to prolonging their life span, and it starts with finding a responsible breeder. Factors like diet and nutrition, exercise, grooming, regular vet checkups, and having pet insurance are all crucial to extending their years. Losing a pet is never easy on anyone, so having a breed like the pug will mean more time together with your companion.
10. Noise Factor: Pugs Don’t Bark Much
Pugs don’t bark much when compared to other breeds, and this makes them especially great if you have kids. Excessive barking will not only wake up young infants from their slumber, but it’s also very distracting for the household. If living in apartments or densely populated areas where you’re in close proximity to your neighbours, this is a very welcomed trait to have in a dog. However, because the pug is so loyal, they will bark when it’s necessary. For example, if a strange approaches the house and is perceived as a threat to their pack.
11. Variety in Colors
When it comes to appearance, and you’re someone that wants more than one option in the color of a dog’s coat, then consider getting a pug. They come in black, fawn, apricot, silver, and brindle. There are some minor differences like fawn pugs having two coats while black pugs only having one. That just means more grooming for fawn pugs as they’ll shed more. The price of each color will also differ due to their popularity and rareness. Black pugs are cheaper compared to fawn pugs as they’re less in demand. The more unique colors like brindle, apricot, and silver usually get their prices marked up as they’re much more unique.
The Cons of Owning A Pug
Pugs have many fantastic qualities and personality traits that make them suitable for first time dog owners. Their non-aggressive and sociable nature means that owners can easily maintain control without needing to worry about anyone’s safety. They are known to be affectionate, loyal, calm, and very playful. These will check a lot of boxes for people deciding on a dog breed. However, this article wouldn’t be complete if we didn’t cover the cons as well. Pugs aren’t perfect and there are things that a new owner should be mindful of if they decide to own one.
Sourcing a pug from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere between $1.5k USD to $3k USD. If you’re looking for a pedigree grade pug that’s show quality, they can cost up to $6k USD. The most affordable option is to adopt from a rescue shelter, which means you may only need to pay as little as $300 USD. The upfront cost of purchasing a pug can be expensive, but what are the ongoing costs of owning one throughout its lifetime?
Firstly, this dog breed has quite a long lifespan of 12-15 years. According to the 2019-2020 pet owners survey, conducted by American Pets Products Association (APPA), US dog owners spend approximately $1,381 USD per year on basic expenses (American Pets Products Association, 2020). If you extrapolate that out over the lifespan of a pug, that’s a total of $16.5k USD to 20.7k USD. Below is an annual breakdown by APPA of some of these basic costs:
|Surgical Vet Visits||$426|
Looking at this table from APPA’s 2019-2020 survey will give you a good indication of additional costs associated with owning a pug. However, there are a few things that you should also factor into the above list of expenses. Some of these include, dog insurance ($400/year), medicine ($250/year), dog walking ($500/year), dog beds ($50), dog diapers ($500), and other supplies ($200). While all of these are estimates and will differ depending on the location, frequency, and level of service, it can bring that lifetime total up to $25k USD. That’s a yearly average closer to $1.5k to $2k USD if you want to look at this more conservatively. While it ultimately depends on the lifestyle you want for yourself and your pug, they are no doubt a fairly expensive breed to own. For more information, visit our complete guide for buying and owning a pug here.
Health Issues that are Most Common in Pugs
Like all dog breeds, pugs aren’t perfect. So if you do decide to own one, it’s crucial to understand which health problems they are most prone to. This allows us to identify symptoms early, so that diseases can be diagnosed and treated by the professionals before it becomes too late. And just so we’re clear, age is not considered to be a disease, but rather, senior pugs may develop age-related problems. These include:
- Respiratory Issues – Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) is common with pugs because they’re a brachycephalic breed (flat faced and short nose). While these unique features define the pug, it can be problematic when it comes to upper airway issues. Airflow gets easily obstructed due to the excessive soft tissue present in their airways. For those reasons, you should avoid excessive exercise and extremely hot weather. It can lead to a pug gasping for air and even overheating. You should always remember to provide lots of fresh water and to take breaks in the shade when playing outdoors.
- Skin Infections – can come in many forms including protozoal, viral, fungal, and bacterial. Skin infections are also very common with this breed due to the skin folds present on their face/mask area. Moisture often gets trapped in there when left untended, which often creates an environment for bacteria to thrive. Keeping their face and wrinkles clean by wiping them daily can help prevent such problems.
- Hip and Joint – a pugs body structure predisposes them to some bone and joint problems. Hip Dysplasia is a skeletal condition and occurs when a hip joint ball and socket do not adequately fit. Separation of the bones within the joint will cause dogs to walk with a sway or “bunny-hopping” gait. The pain will make everyday tasks and activities harder to do, if not impossible. Obesity can increase the severity of this disease as the extra weight will intensify the degeneration of a pug’s hips and joints. Hip dysplasia can be treated with weight management, exercise limitations, physical therapy, joint supplements, and anti-inflammatory medications.
- Eye Problems – A pug’s large protruding eyes leaves them open to more irritants and debris from entering. When this happens, it can lead to allergies and even conjunctivitis. They can also suffer from corneal ulcerations as a result of trauma to the eye. Their bulging eyes leave them more open to damage if they accidentally run into obstacles or unintentionally scratch their eyes. A vet should be consulted immediately when any of the following symptoms are noticed: excessive tearing, thick discharge, swelling, and unusual activity with the eyes.
- Neurological Disorders – refers to disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord and nerves. Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE) is the most fatal and common neurological disorder. This disease causes inflammation in the brain, thus leading to seizures, lethargy, and loss of muscle control. PDE is breed specific and only affects pugs. This can be screened through a DNA test.
Higher Maintenance: Grooming
All dogs need to be properly maintained to promote good hygiene and health. Unfortunately for pugs, they require more care when it comes to grooming, and some of these routined tasks may need to be performed daily. This might sound overwhelming but if you stagger these elements and break it down into a simplified checklist, it becomes much more manageable. Below is a helpful table that breaks down each specific grooming detail and the suggested frequency in which they’ll need to be performed. For a more information and a comprehensive guide, check out our article on grooming and maintenance.
|Brushing their teeth||2-3 days|
|Brushing the coat||3-7 days|
|Ear flaps||3-7 days|
|Nose care (only if necessary)||1-3 weeks|
|Paw care (only if necessary)||2 weeks|
|Ear canals||6 weeks|
Behavioural: Dealing with Separation Anxiety
Pugs are known to be quite clingy and are often referred to as “velcro dogs”. This essentially means they’re likely to be stuck to you and will continuously follow you around like they’re your shadow. The reason being is that they were bred to be companion dogs, so giving you their constant attention and being a lapdog is one of their main priorities in life. While they were specifically bred to be more dependent, sometimes it can lead to a more detrimental behavioral problem known as “separation anxiety”.
The key difference is that a clingy pug will prefer to be by their owner’s side but will be quite independent when alone. In contrast, a pug suffering from separation anxiety will panic when their owner is not there. For this reason, you must be able to manage their clinginess before it develops into a problem. Otherwise, you can forget about leaving your pug home alone during the day. Training your pug to be more independent be achieved through:
- Physical and mental stimulation – daily activities that exert energy will help calm your pug for the rest of the day. This can be achieved through walks, jogs, fetch, and playing tug with your pup. Not only is this good for controlling their hyperactivity and maintaining their weight, but it is also great for their mental stimulation as they’ll likely be exposed to new environments. They’ll get tired more quickly and probably prefer to sleep and relax for the rest of their day. I recommend 20-30 minutes of exercise per day.
- Desensitizing your dog to specific actions and movements – certain actions and movements of their owner may trigger a dog’s anxiety. Your pug will associate specific actions negatively, and to them, it will mean that you’re about to leave them alone. For example, putting on socks and shoes or grabbing your keys usually means that you’re about to leave home. A great way to desensitize your dog is by performing these everyday actions purposely but without leaving them alone. Eventually, they’ll see it enough times and get tired of responding to these triggers.
- Give your pug the attention that it needs – it can be as simple as giving it the right amount of attention that’s needed so that it won’t feel neglected. Sometimes, it’s not enough to go on a 30-minute walk. The quality of your interactions makes a big difference too. Take the time to play with your dog and give them a much-deserved belly rub!
- Setting boundaries – when your dog is exhibiting clingy behaviors like whining, whimpering, pawing at you, or jumping on you, it is advised to ignore them, as giving any attention to them will enable that behavior. They’ll repeatedly do this as they’ll know it’ll catch your attention, and a response will be given to them. Additionally, teaching them to “wait”, “stay”, or “stop” when they tend to follow you is a great way to set boundaries. If they follow your command, make sure to reward them with praise and treats to reinforce this more desired behavior.
- Create a safe space for them – give your pug an alternative special place to go when you’re looking for some privacy. Rather than deterring them from following you into the bathroom, create a safe and comforting space for them where they can feel at ease. Perhaps it’s their bed or playpen, and you can decorate the area with your dog’s favorite toys, blankets, and long-lasting treats. This would be a great spot to keep them in when you need to leave the house.
Hopefully, these tips can be implemented to successfully manage your pug’s anxieties. It will certainly take some time and even a combination of these techniques to make your dog feel at ease while left alone. Being patient and disciplined with your approach is essential if you want your pug to become more independent.
Can pugs be left alone during the day? Yes, while they can be quite clingy, it is possible to leave an adult pug alone during the day with proper training and adequate care. However, they can develop separation anxiety if overly neglected.
Which dogs are best for first time owners? Pugs, Papillion, Boston Terrier, Greyhound, Golden Retriever, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Pomeranian, Havanese, and more.
Are pugs good family dogs? Yes, they’re highly adaptable and very social dogs. They get along great with kids and other pets. Pugs don’t require much exercise and they don’t bark much.