Introduction to the Pug

Fawn Pug with Big Eyes

The Pug originated China, apparently due to the Chinese passion for small breeds of dog with a short face! We think that in the 16th Century, this cute little breed of dog was then taken to the Netherlands, where it became popular in court circles. It was soon noticed by the aristocracy in England and went on to become an enormously popular breed.

It is part of the Toy group of dogs and maintains its popularity as a companion dog. Pugs have a great personality, great charm, dignity and intelligence. They are lively, even tempered and very friendly, making them extremely popular pets.  They are loving little dogs who will ‘melt your heart’ with their large, round soulful eyes.

They are solid, chunky little dogs which are compact in form with a lot of hard muscle. Ideal weight is 6-8kg, but since they are very enthusiastic about their food, they do have a tendency to become overweight quite easily.

Coat Type in the Pug

Pugs are a short-coated breed of dog with soft, short and glossy hair. They do shed quite profusely and can have a strong doggy smell.  This requires them to be washed fairly regularly. Most owners bath their pugs every 1-8 weeks, depending on how much they shed their hair and how quickly the doggy odour appears.

Pugs can be silver, apricot, fawn or black in colour. The paler coloured pugs have a gorgeous black mask, giving them their characteristic cheeky appearance. The muzzle, ears and the moles on the cheeks are black and they have a diamond on their forehead which is black.  This diamond accentuates the characteristic rolls and wrinkles of the face.

The fawn coloured pugs (fawn, fawn-silver and fawn-apricot) have a different type of coat to the black pugs.  Black pugs have a single coat, made up of black guard hairs. Black pugs tend not to shed as much as the fawn varieties.  Fawn coloured Pugs have a double coat which consists of a soft, downy undercoat covered with the second (top) layer of coarser guard hairs.  Fawn Pugs shed more hair because the undercoat tends to push out the guard hairs of the top coat.

The pug’s little paws are rounded, with well separated toes and black nails.

Fawn Pug with Black Mask

Why Does My Pug Smell Bad?

Unfortunately, our cute looking pugs do give off a bad smell.  There are a number of possible causes:

Anal Glands – Pugs produce more scent oil in their anal glands than most other dogs do.  This is why they generally have more of a doggy odour than normal. Regular baths can help to reduce the smell, but ensure that you use a good quality, organic shampoo that will not dry out the skin.

Wrinkles and Skin Folds – the pug’s adorable wrinkles are a nice, warm breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, especially in warm climates. Keep your pug’s wrinkles warm and dry by gently wiping them with special canine wipes or a damp make-up pad.  Gently wash the wrinkles during the bath, but be sure to dry the area well with a dryer, soft cloth or absorbent tissue.

Ears – if your pug’s ears smell, it generally means that there is a yeast infection, so you will need to get them checked by your vet.

Mouth – always check the gums and teeth of your pug (or any other pet, for that matter). Rotting teeth and gingivitis are the common causes of smelly breath. Not only is it unpleasant for us to smell, but it can be extremely painful for your dog. Toothache and red inflamed gums are painful and need to be attended to by your vet.

Skin and Hair – pugs often excrete an odour from their skin, especially in hot climates.  In Cairns, which has a hot and very humid Tropical climate, I had several owners who came to me to have their pugs shaved on a regular basis (I used to do it 4-6 weekly).  I shaved them in the opposite direction to the hair growth with a number 7F blade and then bathed them in a beautiful organic shampoo with primrose oil. Shaving them not only helped with the problem odour, but also reduced the amount of hair being shed on the client’s floors. In temperature climates it’s not necessary to shave your Pug.

Grooming Your Pug

Black Pug

In the previous paragraph, I recalled my experience of shaving Pugs in Cairns, Australia. The only reason for this was to help the dogs cope with the high temperatures and humidity, or to reduce the amount of hair shedding.

Generally speaking, you would not shave your Pug. It is purely a personal preference and totally your choice whether you do it. In cold or hot temperatures, the Pug needs its double coat to insulate it and to protect it from the sun. So if you do choose to shave him or her, then you must take care that your Pug doesn’t get either cold or sunburnt.

Brushing your Pug regularly is a must. I would recommend daily. Keep the soft undercoat free from dirt and dander, to ensure its good insulating properties. Brushing or stroking the top coat regularly will keep the oils flowing, thus keeping the hair beautiful and shiny.

A rubber curry brush, or a soft bristle brush or a soft slicker brush are the best tools to use on your Pug. The coat is not thick, so it’s essential to use a soft brush.  A hard brush will scratch the skin. The goal is to brush out all the dirt, dander and dead hairs. This will keep your Pug and your floors in your house nice and clean.  If you’re using a rubber curry comb, then you can gently massage the skin and remove the loose hair.

Trim the nails regularly, to ensure that the tips of the nails are above (or just touching) the ground when your Pug is standing on a flat surface.  Use a pair of nail trimmers or a grinder to keep the nails neat, short and rounded.

If your Pug has untidy hairy feet, you could use clippers or scissors to lightly trim the hair around the paw pads.

Trimming the whiskers is your personal choice. Some people love the neater look of trimmed whiskers on their Pug, but make sure that you do not trim them right down to the skin, as the hair could become ingrowing and painful for your dog. Each little whisker hair grows out of a black mole, so be very gentle.

After the bath, be sure to wipe all the skin folds on the face with a soft cloth. The skin folds must be either washed in the bath or wiped with a damp cloth the clean them.  Then carefully dry the folds, so that no moisture stays in the crease. A warm damp atmosphere will encourage the growth of bacteria and yeast.

After the bath and blow dry, smooth down the coat with a grooming mitt or a soft cloth, to ensure that the last few dead hairs are removed and the coat is smooth, shiny and lying flat on your Pug’s body.

Bathing Your Pug


Pugs need a bath every 1-12 weeks, depending on your lifestyle, your preference and your level of tolerance of the ‘Puggy’ smell.

Use an everyday shampoo which is organic or gentle on the skin because regular bathing can cause the skin to dry out.  Wash twice and then condition the coat, unless there is a contra-indication to do so; for example, a medical condition which requires special treatment.

Use your fingers or a rubber curry comb during the shampooing process, to scrub deep down into the coat. When the shampoo is worked into the skin, it will remove dead hair, dirt and dander from the skin and bring it to the surface to rinse off. If you have a soft bristle brush, you can use it to gently scrub the feet and legs.

Carefully wash in the skin folds, in the paw pads, around the groin and bottom and in the ear canal. Avoid too much water in these areas, but be sure to remove any grime and then rinse well. Don’t leave any shampoo residue on the coat.

Always shampoo twice. The first one removes most of the dirt and dead hair and the second shampoo really cleans and shines the individual hairs.

Condition the coat with a special canine conditioner, working it through the coat and down to the skin. Then rinse well, ensuring that no product residue remains on the skin or the hair.  It should be ‘squeaky clean’ by the time you finish.

Use a chamois cloth (or water magnet cloth) to start the drying process. Then use a towel to give your Pug a delightfully brisk towel-down. They usually love this part of the routine. Finally, if your Pug allows it and you have a good dryer, you can blow dry the hair. Avoid too much heat as you may burn the skin.  Blow drying will fluff up the coat and blast out the last of the dead hairs. Always blow the coat in the direction of the hair growth.

Sometimes your Pug may shed more after the bath, as the bathing and massaging process lifts the dead hairs.  If this happens, then you may need to put in an extra brushing session.

So, there you go! One clean and happy Pug.  Enjoy the process.

If you’d like to learn more about grooming your own dog or becoming a professional groomer, please check out my Dog Grooming Courses on the Smooch a Pooch website.