A healthy Pug standard

This breed standard has been developed to encourage Pug breeders to work towards a Pug that resembles the “normal dog” more and is less brachycephalic. In order to do that we need a modified breed standard that takes scientific research and knowledge about canine anatomy as a point of departure. This work has been started above all by German breeders who already 20 years ago began to develop breeding clubs with modified standards of the Pug. The Germans commonly call Pugs with this conformation “altdeutsche Möpse” (“Old German Pugs”). Later, German breeders also saw the necessity to crossbreed in order to have a genetically and anatomically healthy Pug. We work in line with the latter and hope to contribute to the spreading of those ways of breeding the Pug. We welcome all Pug breeders to take this new path to give back health to the Pug.

© Therese Rodin

What do we want the Pug to look like and why?

We want to work to ensure that the Pug breed can maintain its lovely, pugish mentality and have an exterior that more closely resembles the Pug as it looked like in the 18th and 19th centuries. The focus of our work is on the Pug’s health and its ability to be a dog fully, with the senses, the anatomy and in activity. This Pug ideal means that the appearance of the Pug approaches the “normal dog” somewhat from the perspective that “Excessive deviations from the normal dog’s exterior may mean that the breed has health concerns” (Lindholm et al. 2015, 33, my translation from Swedish).

1. Skull

The head shall be proportionate to the body. It shall not be too large, nor too wide, with too flat rear head and nose, i.e. not extremely brachycephalic. The forehead may have wrinkles, but they shall not be too heavy, and wrinkles are not necessary.

Comment: The reason for the need of a less brachycephalic skull is that it correlates with breathing problems as well problems with the eyes and the dentition. Furthermore, too large a head of the puppies leads to whelping difficulties for the bitch. Excessive wrinkles can host fungi and bacteria and shall therefore be avoided. (Read more about BOAS, eyes and dentition, as well as whelping in the breeding strategy.)

Photo: Liane Seemann
Mopszucht vom Ilexwald

2. Nose

The nose shall be 20–35% of the length of the skull, seen from the stop to the occipital protuberance. A nose fold is not needed. If extant it shall be minimal and preferably split.

Comment: Research has shown that the risk of BOAS (brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome) at a nose length of 3% of the length of the skull is 95%. This risk is halved when the nose reaches 20% of the length of the skull, and at 50% of the length of the skull, the risk disappears in principle altogether (Packer et al. 2015, 8). A short nose also leads to inferior or basically no cooling of the body during heat because the folded mucous membrane of the muzzle which manages the cooling does not have enough space in a short-nosed dog (Bodegård and Hedhammar, 3). (Read more about BOAS here.)

As we see it, a dog with a muzzle that is longer than about 35% of the skull length from the stop to the occipital protuberance begins to look less and less like a Pug. The breeders of Old German Pugs and Retro Pugs have shown that it is possible to breed dogs that still look like Pugs, with a good nose length, that at the same time have no breathing problems. The Retro Pug below has a nose length that is 31% of the length of the skull. The nose of a Retro Pug will not get much longer than that (and most have a bit shorter noses).

Photo: Nina Tissen
Mopszucht von den Herzenshunden

If the nose fold is too large and the nose is short, it can block the breathing through the nose. It also often presses skin towards the eyes so that fur reaches the eyes, which usually leads to pigmentous keratitis in Pugs. Even the nose fold itself can chafe against the eyes and cause the same problem. (Read more about eyes here.)

The nose truffle shall have well-open nostrils.

Comment: Pinched nostrils have been shown to be an external indicator of BOAS in one study (Liu et al. 2017, 5-7, 9). The dogs that are used in breeding shall have as open nostrils as possible. (Read more about nostrils under the section “Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)” in the breeding strategy.)

3. Jaw

The jaw shall be well developed with space for the teeth.

Comment: The Pug needs to get a better dental status for reduced suffering with less need to go to the veterinary dental specialist. A Pug with a short nose usually has too little space for the teeth in the mouth, which means that they are placed obliquely and very close to each other. This in turn leads to increased difficulties in keeping the teeth clean. The need of tooth treatments is rather a rule than an exception in Pugs. Tooth cleaning because of periodontal disease is also something that the dog owner does not receive compensation for from the insurance companies so bad dental status can be costly. (However, compensation is commonly given in Sweden to remove persisting milk teeth and cysts. Ask your insurance company what they compensate.) (Read more about dentition here.)

4. Eyes

The eyes shall be embedded in the skull and not protruding. A normal dog eye is almond-shaped, which also the Pug’s eye shall be.

Comment: When the eyes are embedded in the skull, we avoid getting mechanical damage to the Pug’s eyes. Eyes that bulge often come in contact with the surroundings, which leads to the eye protecting itself by producing pigments. Likewise, eyelashes growing in the wrong places, irritating the eye, rolled-in eyelids and problems with the tear fluid as well as a too large nose fold, can cause the eye to form pigmentous keratitis to protect the eye (see e.g. Wallin Håkansson et al. 2014). A round eye shape combined with one or more of the mentioned eye diseases is a sign of brachycephalic ocular syndrome (BOS). In order to avoid BOS, the eyes of the Pug shall be almond shaped. (Read more about eyes here.)

Photo: Gitte Babbel
Mopszucht vom Minzenbach

5. Ears

The ears shall be triangular, small, thin and soft. They are set roughly in line with the upper part of head and the tip of the ear extends down to approximately eye level or slightly longer. There are two types of ears: rose ears and button ears. Rose ears have a fold along the ear that makes the ear opening visible. The button ears cover the ear opening.

Comment: Variation is encouraged since it reflects genetic diversity. (Read more about genetic diversity under the section “Genetic diversity” in the breeding strategy.)

6. Neck

The neck shall be well developed so that the trachea and esophagus get free passage.

Comment: Problems with breathing can occur also in the trachea and bronchi. The root cause is the brachycephalic skull form, which brings with it defects even further down the airways. Therefore, the skull of the Pug must become less brachycephalic. (Read more about this under “Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS)”.)

7. Skin

The skin of the body shall be tight and shall as far as possible be free of skin folds.

Comment: Skin folds increase the risk of fungi and bacteria in that areas.

Photo: Katja Schuchtmann
Retromopshunde vom Pappelbusch

8. Back

The Pug shall have a straight back with normally rounded lumbar area.

Comment: A compact back often causes defects in the vertebrae. Therefore, the Pug shall have a normal back length and be rectangular in its shape. (Read more about vertebral anomalies here.)

Photo: Gitte Babbel
Mopszucht vom Minzenbach

9. Legs

The Pug shall have sufficiently long legs with normal (straight) front and back legs. The hind legs shall be well but not excessively angled.

Comment: Sufficiently long legs give the Pug a good step length and stimulate free movement.

“When the dog trots, harmony between the angular conditions in front and back is very important because good balance gives a light and rhythmic gait that requires minimal effort and energy.” (Lindholm et al. 2015, 44, my translation from Swedish)

10. Paws

The paws shall have a shape in between that of a hare and a cat. The toes shall be spread and the metacarpus strong.

11. Tail

The tail shall be curled or lie over the back. It shall be well but not too high set.

Comment: There are scientists who have argued that the curled tail of the Pug is linked to vertebral anomalies (see e.g. Kuhly, “Hemivertebrae”). We believe instead, that it is the compact back that creates vertebral anomalies, since there are many breeds that have a curled tail without having any problems with vertebral defects. In addition, we see that vertebral anomalies in Pugs disappear when they get a normal length of the back, such as in the Old German Pug (“altdeutscher Mops”) and the Retro Pug. We believe that exaggeration can lead to problems, so we think it is an advantage if the tail is not too tightly curled and does not have a double curl.

12. Body size

The Pug shall preferably weigh between 8 and 12 kilos.

Comment: Small dog breeds more often have problems with e.g. teeth and patellar luxation. When comparing to other breeds, we see that these problems occur to a lesser extent in breeds from about 7 kilos (c.f. the Parson Russell Terrier, Danish Swedish Farm Dog etc.). Therefore we see 8 kilos as a good lower guideline. The Pug shall still be a lap dog, and therefore 12 kilos is a good upper guideline. (Lots, or perhaps most, Pugs (Standard, Old German and Retro) weigh within the range of 8 to 12 kilos, so this suggestion is in accordance with how the Pug population looks like.)

13. Body shape

The body shall be muscular and rectangular in shape.

Comment: A rectangular body creates space for the organs and gives the Pug the opportunity to extend the step without having to resort to walking “crosswise” (See Lindholm et al. 2015, 46).

14. Colors

Fawn and black are traditional Pug colors but historically we also see e.g. white, brindle and piebald Pugs.

Comment: Through a variety of colors we get a higher genetic variation in the breed, which is generally desirable for increased health and fertility. We only dissuade from colors that are linked to defective genes such as merle.

Pacco, a black-and-tan boy
Photo: Gitte Babbel
Mopszucht vom Minzenbach

15. Mentality and agility

The Pug shall be open and happy and like humans and other dogs as well as other animals. It has an agile body and likes to run and move, jump and climb.

Comment: The Pug is well suited for freestyle, agility, parkour, nosework, tracks etc.

16. Genetics

Genetically the Pug needs new genes from a donor breed for improved health.

Comment: The proportion from the donor breed should be within the range of 20–5%. In addition, it is good if breeders own dogs that have a higher proportion of genes from the donor breed that can be used in breeding. (Read more under the section “Genetic diversity” in the breeding strategy.)

Photo: Katja Schuchtmann
Retromopshunde vom Pappelbusch

Sources and further reading

Bodegård, Göran and Åke Hedhammar, ”Det brakycefaliska syndromet”. Svenska Kennelklubbens Andnings-DVD-projekt. Manuscript on SKK:s home page. https://www.skk.se/globalassets/dokument/utstallning/brakycefaliska-syndromet.pdf 
Accessed 200817.

Kuhly, Patty. ”Hemivertebrae”. https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/health/hemivertebrae
Accessed 220817.

Lindholm, Åsa, Catharina Linde Forsberg and Ingalill Blixt. 2015. Hunduppfödning i teori och praktik. Svenska kennelklubben.

Liu, Nai-Chieh et al. 2017. “Conformational risk factors of brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) in pugs, French bulldogs and bulldogs”. Plos One 12, 24 s.

Packer, Rowena et al. 2015. “Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome”. Plos One 10, 21s.

Wallin Håkansson, Berit, Sheila Crispin and Nils Wallin Håkansson. 2014. ”Hundars ögonhälsa”. https://www.skk.se/globalassets/dokument/uppfodning/externa-artiklar/ogon-berit-w/hundars-ogonhalsa.pdf
Accessed 200619.