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Describing the Ideal Pug, AKC-Style

If you have your heart set on a Pug, you probably should spend some time brushing up on your choices (puppy or adult, fawn or black, show dog or pet) before you actually bring home the Pug who you want for your own. After all, you do want yours to be the most perfect dog ever, don't you? Sure, you want companionship and a healthy, good-natured puppy, but you also want your Pug puppy to look like a Pug. You're selecting this breed precisely because you're drawn to the Pug's unique appearance (see Figure 1).


Figure 1: A beautiful Pug head showing good expression.
© Judi Crowe

Believe it or not, the Pug doesn't look the way he does by accident. He's the result of several generations of careful planning by many conscientious breeders who have been following the same design.

The design for the perfect Pug was first formulated by Pug lovers in England in 1885 and reaffirmed in 1931 by members of the Pug Dog Club of America. Recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the design, or breed standard, describes exactly how the Pug should look and act.

This standard includes the dog's ideal structure, personality, gait, and general overall appearance. When breeders match sires (fathers) and dams (mothers) together, they hope that the puppies they produce come as close as possible to the ideal breed standard.

Figure 2 shows how breeders and veterinarians describe parts of a Pug's body. You may want to refer to this figure as you read the following list, which explains the main physical characteristics of a Pug.


Figure 2: Parts of the Pug.
  • General appearance: From any angle, the Pug has a square shape. Measure his height from the ground to his shoulders, and the measurement should be about equal to what his length is from the front of his chest to his rear.
  • Head/face: To meet the standard, the shape of a Pug's head should be round when you see him from the side and square when you look at him face to face. The bottom of his black velvet ears should fall to his eye level. His large, round, dark eyes have a soft expression. Although he looks sweet, the Pug should also look animated and excited during playtime.
    A Pug's snout, or muzzle, is very broad. When his mouth is closed, you shouldn't see his teeth or tongue. All those marvelous wrinkles around Puggy's face fold over his black nose and add character to his expression.
  • Neck, topline, and chest: To support his big round head, the Pug's neck should be strong and thick. What's a topline? If you were to draw an imaginary line from the top of a Pug's shoulders down his back to where his tail begins, breeders refer to that area as a topline. It should be straight and level, without dipping in the middle, and it shouldn't slope downward or upward. The Pug's chest should be wide and full.
  • Body: If you stand in front of your Pug, you should see straight, sturdy, short little legs connected to broad shoulders and chest. A Pug is not a Bulldog, so don't expect to see feet that turn outward. The Pug's chest should extend over the front legs. The Pug's rear legs should look strong and be parallel to each other from the back.
  • Coat: The Pug's coat should be fine, smooth, short, and glossy (never hard or coarse). Both fawn and black Pugs have the same coat type, which is soft when you touch it.
  • Color and markings: Pugs come in two basic colors — black and fawn — although the standard mentions a silver color that has become rare in the United States. The silver coat has been described as the color of moonlight, while the true fawn Pug's coat is sunlike. Sometimes the silver Pug is confused with a smutty fawn-color Pug, but there's a distinct color difference between the two.
    Black Pugs should be a shiny, jet-black color. If there is any white on the black Pug, it's called a mismark. Fawn Pugs may have a white mark on their coats, too, but it blends well into the lighter coat and doesn't show up as easily. Fawn Pugs are more popular than the black dogs, and the contrast between the black muzzle and the fawn Pug may be one reason. The contrast is striking and should be very distinct.
    Another interesting Puggy marking is a darkened spot centered on Puggy's forehead that is known as a thumbmark or a diamond. This area is formed by the wrinkles on the forehead but looks like a thumbprint.
  • Gait: His legs should swing forward easily, with each leg moving in a straight line. Neither one should be flinging outward, and the path of one leg shouldn't cross over the path of the other one.
    Going away from you, the Pug's legs should move in a parallel pattern along the same line as the front legs without any motion flinging outward. When Puggy speeds up to a trot, his legs should move toward a center line.
  • Personality: Pugs are even-tempered and stable, and they love to have a good time. They can also be dignified, yet very charming, when the situation requires it — they seem to be able to tell when it's necessary to act mature instead of silly. Puggy is intelligent and curious, yet ready for a game.
    Although the breed standard calls for the Pug to be steady and charming, his average behavior ranges anywhere from very active to least active. So, when you're choosing a Pug, remember that the typical Pug personality is anything within that range. Not all Pugs are couch potatoes or high energy. Somewhere in that broad temperament spectrum is the perfect Pug for you.
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