Pugs are “a lot of dog in a small package,” says Blanche Axton, foster coordinator of Pugalug Pug Rescue in Toronto. Her organization, featured in the CBC Docs POV documentary Pugly, has provided medical care and foster homes for more than 300 pugs looking for a “forever” home.

They’re great companions, and, according to Axton, “pugs are bold and love to live their lives outrageously.” Bright and lively, pugs enjoy people and don’t require a lot of exercise, making them excellent candidates for life in the city. 

But they’re not a perfect fit for everyone, so Axton advises doing your research to make sure a pug is the right fit for you. Here are a few things potential owners should know about pugs:

  • Pugs are pretty low maintenance, but they shed a lot, so if you value a spotless home, you’d better be prepared to clean up after them.
  • Jogging and fetching are not inherent skills, so they’re generally not good dogs to exercise with.
  • Pugs are the ultimate “velcro breed” and need human friends that can appreciate almost constant attachment.
  • Like most dogs, pugs need training. They’ll naturally want to jump and greet everybody in their path, so owners will need to invest time and money to develop good behavioural habits.
  • Pugs are “weather weenies.” They’re not fond of inclement conditions, which can make them harder to house-train — and to exercise.
  • Pugs have some common health problems. At Pugalug, Axton sees a lot of dogs with bladder issues, a higher than normal rate of seasonal and environmental allergies, and bad knees. She also sees many pugs that are overweight, often the result of a lack of exercise.
  • Pugs love to eat, and they will get fat if you don’t walk them regularly, which makes costly health problems more likely.

If you’ve decided that you’re ready to welcome a pug into your family, find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. “Don't get a pug simply for the look,” says Axton, "you want to be sure the breeder you are considering is breeding for health and temperament first.” 

Axton has the following suggestions for new owners seeking to adopt a healthy pug:

  • Make sure the breeder is in good standing with their regional breeding club. 
  • Don’t work with breeders that sell niche pugs such as “super-small pocket pugs” or pugs in exotic colours.
  • Don’t buy from a pet store; these pugs largely come from puppy mills.
  • Ask to see mom or dad. The breeder should also be able to answer questions about the pugs’ background and family health issues.
  • Avoid breeders who have a lot of dogs that are readily available and who sell multiple breeds. Look for quality over quantity.
  • Choose pugs with deep-set eyes, be sure that they breathe clearly when active and a walk with a normal gait. Be aware that some health problems won’t show up until they become adults.

You’ll probably need to wait months to get your pug, says Axton, because reputable breeders want to make sure their pugs are going to a good home. “Most of all, don’t sign a contract with a breeder unless they’re prepared to take the dog back if there are any issues,” Axton advises.

And don’t be afraid to consider a rescue pug. These dogs come with a mature personality and have usually been tested with cats and kids. “What you see is what you get,” says Axton.

Buying a pug is a commitment, just like owning any dog. “All dogs are work; they need time, energy and money,” stresses Axton, “their evolutionary niche is living with us. They become part of our lives and our family.”

Watch Pugly on CBC Docs POV.