Pug Vs English Bulldog: Which Breed Would Suit You Best?


Pugs and English bulldogs have a lot of similarities, and often come up in conversation together when owners think about adopting a brachycephalic breed. However, it’s important to know what their unique differences are. While it can be subtle, it may be the differentiating factor for why you would choose one breed over the other.

Besides the obvious distinction in size and appearance, pugs and English bulldogs also have differences in life span, temperament, health issues, grooming, and trainability. Pugs are considered to be more alert and active when compared to the more docile English bulldog.

While there are similarities between the pug and English bulldog, all dogs are not created equally. A lot of the times, these differences will be the determining factor for which breed a person decides to adopt. Owners need to determine what they value most, and which breed will suit their lifestyle and environment more.

Origins

The pug’s origins can be traced back some 2,000 years ago. They’re an ancient breed that were owned by Chinese emperors, the royal family, and members of the imperial court. This made them very exclusive and they were even guarded by soldiers. During the 16th-17th century, pugs were brought over to Europe when China began trading with them. Their popularity continued spreading through the centuries, with some famous historical figures like Josephine Bonaparte and Queen Victoria having owned them as pets.

English bulldogs descended from the ancient mastiffs and were first bred in the 13th century in England. They were originally used as guard dogs and for hunting at first, before eventually transitioning to being entertainment dogs. English bulldogs were used in the sport of “bull-baiting” until it was outlawed in the mid-1800s. This is how they got their name, as they were known to fight and take down bulls. Ironically, they’re now considered to be companion dogs due to their loving and affectionate nature.

Key Features: A Side-By-Side Comparison

PugEnglish Bulldog
Weight14lb – 18lbMales: 51lb – 55lb
Females: 40lb – 51lb
Height10 – 14 inches14 – 15 inches
Breed TypeBrachycephalicBrachycephalic
AppearanceDeep facial wrinkles
Short & black snout
Floppy ears
Bulgy eyes
Curled tail
Large round skull
Short nose
Large jaw & underbite
Dark round eyes
Short tail
ColorsFawn, black, apricot, silver, brindleFallow, fawn, red, white, red brindle,
fawn & brindle, fawn & white,
red & white, fawn brindle & white.
CoatsShort but dense with a coarser textureSmooth and fine
Energy LevelsLow – MediumLow
Life Span13 – 15 years8 – 10 years
PopularityRanked 28th Ranked 5th
Source: Popularity – 2018 ranking by the American Kennel Club

Appearance

These two breeds look vastly different but they also share some similar physical characteristics. Below is a breakdown of their defining features. This will be helpful for those that are less familiar with pugs and English bulldogs.

Face

The shape of a pug’s skull is large and round. This facial structure causes their eyes to be bulgy and often protruding. They have deep wrinkles and skin folds across their face and forehead. A diamond-pattern can be found on their forehead, which is often referred to as an “imprinted thumb mark”. Pugs have a short snout that’s usually black and flat. They can also have moles on their cheeks, otherwise known as a beauty mark.

English bulldogs also have a round skull but is much larger in circumference. The forehead is rather flat and their jaw is exceptionally large with a very noticeable underbite. They have dark round eyes that are front facing and moderate in size. Similar to the pug, they have a short nose but their wrinkles are much more subtle in comparison. Additionally, their hanging cheeks give them their renowned expression of sadness.

Ears

Pugs have floppy ears that fold over onto itself. They’re thin and very soft, with some people referring to them as “button ears”. A pug’s ears hide their ear canal, which often traps dirt, moisture, and earwax. This build up can cause infections, so it’s essential to keep their ears clean by routinely wiping the ear flaps and cleansing the ear canal often.

The bulldog’s ears are wide and thin that sit behind their head. They’re typically folded backwards or to the side, which is often termed as “rose ear” shaped. Similar to the pug, these ear types can trap moisture and lead to infections. With less airflow to the ear canal, it’s vital that they’re regularly maintained to help prevent issues.

Tail

The curly tail of a pug should be tight and sit above the hips. It’s often said that the most desirable look is when a pug has the double curl. This “cork screw” tail is another distinguishable feature for them but pugs can also have a loose tail, especially when relaxed or asleep.

English bulldogs, on the other hand, has a short tail that hangs low, and it can be either straight or curly. Because of how short and stumpy they are, a lot of people confuse this breed for being born with a docked tail. In actuality, all dogs are born with a tail, but some are more visible than others.

Legs

Both breeds have short, stout and muscular legs. The key difference is that a pug’s front and hind legs will be more proportionate, while English bulldogs have longer rear legs. This elevates their loins above the shoulders. Both breeds can be prone to hip and back issues, especially if they’re constantly engaging in high impact activities.

Coat

The two most common colors that pugs come in are fawn and black. Fawn coats are usually double-coated, while their black colored counterparts are generally single-coated. They have short but dense fur with a coarser texture, and tend to shed all year around. The skin around their body is loose, and this elasticity is what gives them their famous skin folds.

The English bulldog has many more coat colors in comparison, including numerous combination mixtures for owners to choose from. Their coat is short, flat, and straight, while being smooth and glossy in texture. Like the pug, they also have loose and soft skin, thus given them wrinkles around the head, neck, and shoulders.

Temperament

Pugs and English bulldogs are both considered to be companion dogs. So it’s no surprise that they have similarities in temperament and personality. Some of these include:

  • Loyal – they are both exceptionally loyal to owners, family and are tolerant of children. They have an unwavering devotion to their masters, so expect them to stay close to where the action.
  • Affectionate – pugs and English bulldogs are very loving breeds and natural people-pleasers. They love nothing more but to be on your lap or to snuggle up beside you. Signs of affection can come in the form of licking, jumping, exposing their belly, and bringing you their favorite toys.
  • Social – they love making new friends and you won’t have to worry about them attacking kids or other pets. Their sweet, mellow nature makes them very easy to care for in public. English bulldogs can sometimes get aggressive towards dogs of then same sex.
  • Clingy – both breeds have a tendency for being clingy, and don’t like being left alone for extended periods of time. If not adequately cared for, they can even develop “separation anxiety”. This behavioral problem can be prevented and dealt with as long as they’re properly stimulated. Check out our article on this issue here.
  • Stubborn – having a stubborn streak means it makes them more difficult to train. However, focusing on their people pleasing nature and ultilizing positive reinforcement can help overcome this.
  • Docile – aside from specific situations like training, pugs and English bulldogs are both very calm, gentle, and submissive. Kids can easily prod and crawl over them without the fear of getting nipped. Both don’t bark often unless something is perceived as a threat.

Of course, they are two completely unrelated breeds, so there must be some differences between them. These are some important factors to consider in your decision making process:

  • Activeness – pugs are known to be slightly more energetic and alert in comparison. Bulldogs tend to have a more relaxed attitude and are more laid back. While both are generally lower energy breeds, pugs are often referred to as clowns of the dog world due to their more jovial and mischievous nature.
  • Intelligence – pugs are believed to be more switched on and as the ranked 57th smartest dog breed. This means it will take 40-80 repetitions to learn a new command. English bulldogs are ranked 77th smartest out of 79 breeds. It can take up to 500 repetitions to understand a new command.
  • Aggressiveness – while both are sociable, each individual dog will be different. This will depend on their upbringing and level of socialization from a young age. English bulldogs can show signs of aggression to dogs of the same sex, cats, and when around their food. However, this also makes them better guard dogs in comparison to pugs.

Training: Obedience & Potty

Both pugs and English bulldogs can be harder to train compared to some other breeds. This is largely due to both dogs having a stubborn nature, so it will take patience and determination. That’s not to say they aren’t trainable, as while it will be challenging, owners can lean on their eagerness to please. As long as you show them positive reinforcement and keep the sessions short and fun, they will be receptive to learning.

If a dog’s trainability is important to you, then pugs are considered to be more intelligent and easier to train between the two breeds. They are adaptively smart and learn quickly from experiences. They know right from wrong, and are obedient (for the most part). Their independent nature can slow things down because they know what they want and get bored with repetitive tasks.

Establishing yourself as the alpha is important because It allows you to command respect. This also helps trigger their pleasing nature, which should overcome their stubbornness. This is a vital step, especially for English bulldogs, because they are known to have a strong-willed personality. If authority isn’t established early on, they can be a problem to train.

The power of positive reinforcement should not be understated. They will thrive off these responses and will result in less resistance when learning new rules and commands. This is also why both breeds can be easily potty trained. Below are some handy tips to house training your dog, but a full guide can be found here.

  1. Establish a routine – implement a regular schedule for sleep, food, play, and bathroom breaks.
  2. Pick a regular bathroom spot – when frequently taken to the same spot to do their business, they will eventually associate it with the toilet.
  3. Positive reinforcement – after finishing up, always reward with treats and praises immediately.
  4. Supervision – keeping a close eye on your pup while they’re inside is very important in preventing them from soiling indoors. You should look for signs like barking, door scratching, circling, restlessness, squatting, and sniffing. 
  5. Keep them leashed – whether indoors or outdoors, you can tether them to furniture nearby as puppies so you can supervise them more easily.
  6. Confinement – when unable to supervise, you can try confining them to specific areas within your residence by limiting their access. The space should be small enough where they won’t want to urinate or defecate in, while big enough so they can comfortably roam in.
  7. Don’t punish – accidents are bound to happen, and scolding them after the mess has been made often does more harm than good. They’re unlikely to associate why they’re being punished.
  8. Contingency plan – when you can’t tend to your puppy for long extended periods of time, you will need to think of a “Plan B”. For example, asking for help from friends, neighbors, and professional dog sitters.

Grooming & Maintenance

All dogs need to be properly maintained to promote good hygiene and health. Both breeds require extra care when it comes to grooming, and that’s because of the unique features they carry. For example, their eyes, ears, and wrinkles are more sensitive to health issues if left ungroomed.

The key differentiator is that pugs shed more in comparison, and will require more frequent brushing. They shed all year round and some even have double coats. This is important because brushing removes dead hairs which creates proper air flow for them to stay cool. Excessive build up of dead fur that’s left in the coat will also cause an unpleasant odor. English bulldogs are single coated so will shed less. But they do drool a lot more and can leave stains on floors and furniture.

Overall, pugs will require more maintenance when it comes to grooming, and should be carefully considered before adoption. 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.

TaskRoutine
Wrinkles/foldsDaily
EyesDaily
Brushing their teeth2-3 days
Ears3-7 days
Brushing the coat (pug)3-7 days
Brushing the coat (English bulldog)Weekly
Nose care (only if necessary)1-3 weeks
Paw care (only if necessary)2 weeks
Bathing3-4 weeks
Ear canals6 weeks
Nails6 weeks

Health Problems

Pugs have a slightly higher life span (13-15 years) compared to English bulldogs (8-10 years). Unfortunately, the latter tends to have more health problems than most breeds. A combination of care, grooming, diet, and exercise is crucial to living a long and healthy life. However, because they’re both brachycephalic breeds, they are more prone to a list of similar issues.

Respiratory issues like Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) is common with both because they’re brachycephalic breeds (flat faced and short nose). While these unique features are cute, 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 them 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 and dermatitis are also very common 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. Additionally, English bulldogs are prone to allergies, dry skin, eczema, and acne as well.

Hip, back and joint problems stem from the make up of their body structures. Unfortunately, it predisposes them to conditions like arthritis, hip dysplasia and luxating patellas. 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 their hips and joints. Hip dysplasia can be treated with weight management, exercise limitations, physical therapy, joint supplements, and anti-inflammatory medications.

Eye problems come about due to having large prominent eyes. It leaves them much more open to irritants and debris from entering. When this happens, it can lead to issues like conjunctivitis, entropion, and juvenile cataracts. They can also suffer from corneal ulcerations as a result of trauma to the eye. A pug’s 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. More commonly for pugs, they can suffer from Pug Dog Encephalitis (PDE). 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.

Cancers like lymphoma and mast cell tumors are unfortunately common for English bulldogs. They are more predisposed to developing cancers than any other breed. This is a major contributor to why this breed has one of the shortest life spans. Preventative care and early detection is key to treating these issues successfully.

Energy Levels

If your checklist for a dog includes one with lower energy levels, then both breeds will tick this box. They’re considered to be on the low-medium side, and only require about 20-30 minutes of daily exercise. It’s worth noting that English bulldogs require less as they’re not as active as pugs are. During their adulthood, they’ll likely spend most of their day sleeping (up to 14 hours). This is especially good if you’re looking for a companion to do more time relaxing on the couch.

Exercise is essential for weight management as well as mental stimulation. As mentioned, there are an array of health problems they can face, and obesity will generally speed those up. Playing fetch, tug, and short walks is enough to suffice their daily requirements. In saying that, these brachycephalic breeds don’t do well in hot temperatures. To prevent overheating, try and limit intense exercise, keep them indoors and in the shade, and feed them plenty of water.

Swimming can be an option during warmer seasons but you’ll need to keep a close eye on them. Brachycephalic breeds have a body structure that makes it more difficult for them to swim. While their natural instincts will kick in, both will find it difficult to stay afloat when compared to other dog breeds. That’s because their short muzzles will force them to tilt their head up excessively to keep it out of the water. Combined this with a heavy body structure, and it’s a recipe for disaster. To avoid sinking, ensure you’ve progressively trained your dog accordingly. A life jacket can be used to keep them safe in the water.

Diet & Nutrition

Pugs generally weigh between 14-18 pounds when healthy. English bulldogs are much heavier, and can weigh up to 50 pounds. This extra weight is largely due to their stockiness and is more muscle than fat. Combining exercise and a healthy diet is key to prevent obesity related diseases. Adult pugs should be fed 1 cup of food each serving, while adult English bulldogs need about 2 cups per serving. It’s advised that you read the feeding instructions or speak to a vet if your dog is on a specialized meal plan.

Adult pugs and English bulldogs should be on a scheduled feeding routine, rather than being freely fed. That’s because they both love food and will most likely eat whatever is put in front of them, regardless of the amount. It’s recommended to feed them twice a day, but you can increase that to three times a day depending on lifestyle. The total daily amount should be the same regardless of frequency. Ensuring that they’re fed high quality foods that are free of fillers is essential to maintaining a healthy weight range.

Avoid anything that has “whole meat” listed as a primary ingredient as that’s mostly made up with water (up to 70% while only containing a maximum of 18% protein). Rather, you want to ensure they’re being fed “meat meal”, which will contain approximately 65% protein and only 10% water. When rewarding either dogs with treats, try an limit high processed items, and refrain from feeding them table scraps. Using dog-friendly treats in the form of vegetables and fruits might be your best and cheapest options.

Price: Cost of Purchasing and Owning

Due to the popularity of both breeds, the price to purchase pugs and English bulldogs have soared in recent times. The combination of surging demand and limited supply has allowed breeders to charge a premium. It also might mean that your decision will come down to whatever is more realistically available in your residing area. Below is an average cost breakdown for each breed, but please keep in mind that these will vary depending on factors like location and coat.

PugEnglish Bulldog
Standard Breeder$1,500 USD – $3,000 USD$1,500 USD – $4,000 USD
Pedigree BreederUp to $6,000 USDUp to $10,000 USD

English bulldogs are generally more expensive than pugs. This is partly because of their high popularity (5th according to AKC), but also because of their difficulty birthing process. They need help from a veterinarian when giving birth, and in most cases will require a cesarean section (C-section), which adds to the cost of purchasing one.

For the absolute cheapest option, you can contact your local rescue shelters to see if there are any available there. They can cost as little as $350 USD. But the likelihood of finding one will be low due to their high demand. You’ll like be put on a waiting list at best. If you are lucky enough to find one, they’re unlikely to be a puppy and may be up there in age. Sometimes, these poor dogs have been physically and emotionally scarred. It will mean a lot more care, attention, and training to overcome.

Cross-breeding: Pug & English Bulldog Mix

The “bull pug” is the result of a pug being crossbred with an English bulldog. If you’re indecisive then this might be another option for you to pursue, as they’re said to include traits for both breeds. They have a calm demeanor and don’t bark much, making them great for families with kids. Physically, they can reach 55lbs in weight and stand at 15 inches tall. Colors will vary due to the many colors that can mix between the two breeds. They’re likely to cost up to $2,000 from a breeder. If you’re lucky, you may be able to find a bull pug to adopt, and have the best of both worlds!

Most Suitable Owners

As a result of everything that’s been covered in this article, it does make pugs and English bulldogs more suitable to some owners more than others. They include: senior citizens, apartment owners, familes with kids, households with other pets, people living more sedentary lifestyles, those looking for a tight companion, and even first dog owners.

If you fit in one or more of these categories, then either breeds will make you happy. However, if you’d prefer to do a little less brushing and more sensitive to allergies, then maybe opt for an English bulldog. If cost is an important factor, then you might want to look at owning a pug, as they’re likely to be cheaper. Ultimately, they’re both fantastic dogs, so whichever decision you make, I’m confident that you’ll be content with it.

Related Questions

Are bulldogs and pugs the same? No, English bulldogs and pugs are not related. While they have many similar characteristics, pugs share their origins with the pekingese, while the bulldog is descended from ancient mastiffs.

Do pugs shed more than English bulldogs? Yes, pugs are double coated and will shed more. They will need to be brushed twice as often as a result.

Is there a bulldog and pug mix? Yes, a pug that’s crossbred with an English bulldog is called a “bull pug”. They share many physical and behavioral characteristics. They can reach 55lbs in weight and stand at 15 inches tall.

References

Dog Breeds List, 2020. Smartest Dog in the World.

Lucy Pet, n.d. 10 Common English Bulldog Health Issues.

American Kennel Club, 2019. Most Popular Dog Breeds – Full Ranking List.

Dog’s Health – Hip Dysplasia in Pugs

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