The pug is a very distinctive-looking small dog breed that tends to polarise the opinions of dog owners as a whole – you either love them and wouldn’t consider owning anything else, or find them weird-looking and don’t understand their appeal!
When it comes to toy dog breeds, the pug is one of the best-known and historically most popular, with a large following of enthusiasts in the UK and lots of people of retirement age and older having owned dogs of the breed for most of their lives. Even as more breeds from outside of the UK have become more widely-known on our shores and risen in popularity accordingly, the pug has always been among the nation’s favourite breeds overall, currently standing in third place out of a total of 239 dog breeds and types advertised here on Pets4Homes.
However, the pug has seen a lot of competition over the last decade or so when it comes to other popular breeds that fit into the small and toy dog categories, with the Boston terrier and French bulldog both gaining traction and becoming more and more popular year on year – to the point that the French bulldog is today the UK’s most popular breed overall.
In this article, we will consider whether or not the pug is still a highly popular breed in the UK – and why – and shine a spotlight on their enduring appeal among dog owners. Read on to learn more.
Up until the middle part of the 20th century, toy dogs weren’t really heard of in great numbers in the UK. A much larger number of working roles for dogs existed than do in modern times, and so dogs of working breeds that performed a certain job were much more common. Even among owners of pet dogs, toy dogs were often considered to be the preserve of the rich and people with a lot of leisure time, whilst the average working-class family would be more likely to own a mixed breed or a larger pedigree dog breed that could perform double duty as a pet and a guard dog.
However, by around the middle of the century, pugs were becoming a more common sight in cities, where their small, compact size and easy-going personalities enabled them to fit into a modern urban lifestyle. As a number of high-profile celebrities of the day picked pugs as their dogs of choice, so too did their popularity filter through into the modern consciousness.
By the 1960’s and 70’s, small and toy dog breeds were on the rise in a big way, but the number of small and toy dog breeds that were readily available to buy within the UK were much smaller than today – for instance, the French bulldog, now the UK’s most popular breed, was relatively unheard of here until this side of the millennium.
All of these factors combined made the pug one of the main breeds of choice for people looking for a small or toy dog to keep as a pet rather than as a guard dog or for a working role – and their versatility, unique looks and great personalities helped to spread the word too.
The pug has always been one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and along with the Chihuahua, reliably comes in towards the top of the list of popular breeds over the last few decades.
However, the ease with which UK dog buyers can source and buy breeds that were historically uncommon in the UK, with many of these being small and toy dogs too, means that there is now a lot more choice for puppy buyers looking for a small dog to suit their lifestyles.
For dog lovers who like small, stocky or muscular dogs with a flat brachycephalic face, there are many more alternatives today than there used to be – which means that even among pug enthusiasts, there are several other notable breeds that bear consideration too.
Pugs have also changed very significantly from their original historical appearance over the course of the last century or so too, with the modern pug being much shorter, stockier, and having higher body fat ratio than their ancestors, and generally, a much flatter face.
Selective breeding to exaggerate these traits and appeal to buyers have left the pug breed as a whole plagued with a number of hereditary health concerns and congenital defects, which means that potential pug buyers will often have to go to some lengths to ensure that they choose a pug bred from health tested parents without congenital defects or a predisposition to problems.
Given the popularity of the breed as a whole, there isn’t a huge amount of genetic diversity within the pug breed either, which makes breeding out congenital defects and hereditary problems more of a challenge. This means that committing to own a pug means taking something of a gamble on the dog’s health and longevity – which in turn, comes with higher prices for insurance policies, and a greater risk of expensive vet’s bills, as well as the worry and distress involved in caring for a dog that might not be completely fit for life.
Whilst steps are being taken by pug breed organisations and The Kennel Club to build health testing protocols and breeding guidelines into the breed standard and registration procedures, there is still a long way to go before the pug breed as a whole can be considered to be out of the woods in terms of hereditary health problems and physical flaws that impact on the dog’s quality of life.
Even taking into account the competition from other breeds and the potential health issues that are prevalent within the pug breed, the pug remains one of our most popular breeds overall, ranking in third place across the UK.
They’ve maintained this position for the last few years, and the chances are that they will continue to remain towards the top of the list in coming years too – even given the many up-and-coming small breeds that are also becoming popular and quickly growing their following.
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