Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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A combination of the loyal, affectionate Shih Tzu and the confident and clownish Pug, the Pug-Zu is a delightful cross-breed that has inherited many of the best attributes from each of its parents. A good combination of placid and playful, the Pug-Zu is equally happy to join in a game or to curl up on their owner’s lap and relax.

Short in stature, Pug-Zus rarely reach heights of over 30cm and have a long back, giving them a rectangular shape. Their face is quite ‘squished’ and they have a very short muzzle indeed. The large, dark eyes of the Pug-Zu give them a calm and noble expression and they know just how to use these beautiful eyes to get what they want!

About & History

Take two of the most unique looking and popular oriental dog breeds and mix them together and you have the Pug-Zu! Despite their parents’ success, Pug-Zus have yet to become a well-known hybrid and were only developed relatively recently. With such a short history, we should take a closer look at each of their parent breeds to get a better understanding of where they have come from.

The Pug

The Pug hails from China and originated at the time of the Han Dynasty around 2,000 years ago. They have always been highly thought of and were owned by royalty and emperors who treated them like little celebrities. They were seen as a status symbol and only the elite would have been able to own a Pug. Most experts agree that the first Pugs were brought to Europe by sailors in the 1500s and they were most likely imported by Dutch traders who gave the breed the interesting name of Mopshond.

Pugs appear in many paintings during the 1600s and 1700s and it is clear that they were still held in high regard by the upper class. It was in the 1800s that efforts were made to standardise the breed and a stud book was created. It was at this time that they were brought to America and the AKC first recognised the breed in the late 19th century. Over the next century or so, interest in the breed waned but they have seen a huge surge in their popularity in recent times with many celebrities endorsing them.

The Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are known as Little Lion Dogs and are thought to come from either Tibet or China, where they would have existed as long ago as the year 800 B.C., making them older than even the Pug. It is generally believed that the Lhasa Apso and the Pekingese both contributed to its genetics.

As is true of the Pug, the Shih Tzu was loved by the royals of ancient China and the level of respect it was given is evident from the many portraits and statues recovered from that time. Many in the UK know the Shih Tzu as the Chrysanthemum Dog, having received this nickname because of the way their facial fur grows; resembling a blossoming flower. Shih Tzus have always made remarkable pet dogs and some are even used as therapy dogs today.


Some would say the Pug-Zu has a face that only a mother would love and it is true that they have a rather unusual look! With their rounded dark eyes, domed skull and short muzzle they bear close resemblance to an Ewok from Star Wars. They have triangular ears that flop down and are often set high on their head and well-spaced apart. Their bodies are long and robust, making them more sturdy and powerful than they initially seem. They have short and stumpy limbs that may bow at an angle. While some will have the curled tail of the Pug that lies along their back, not all will.

The Pug-Zu is a small dog that measures from 20cm to 30cm and will weigh anything between 4.5kg to 10kg. The fur of the Pug-Zu is relatively short and should not shed very much. Some individuals will take more after their Pug parent and will have shorter fur than others. A variety of coat colours are possible, including fawn, black, red, white and cream. Though solid colours are common, it is not exceptional to see a Pug-Zu that has two coat colours, such as fawn and black.

Character & Temperament

It is never easy to predict the temperament of a cross-breed, but the Pug-Zu tends to have a rather uniform and even character. A fun-loving dog with a big heart, the Pug-Zu craves human companionship and relies on their family for support and comfort. They will show a great deal of affection and are always loyal to those they love. They will bond well with the entire family, though may choose one person in particular that they devote themselves to.

Great fun to have around children, the Pug-Zu knows to be gentle and has a lot of patience. They are happiest when playing games and will keep the little ones entertained for hours on end. The Pug-Zu is so tolerant of people that they make poor watch dogs, as while they may emit a quick yap or two to say hello, they will soon be asking the new arrival to make friends!

One of the main issues with the Pug-Zu is that they are prone to separation anxiety and can find it very difficult to stay on their own. They become distressed if left alone for prolonged periods, so would not be suited to a household that is often left empty. Crate training can be helpful and dogs should be given plenty to do to keep them entertained when there is no-one else about.


Curious, alert and smart, the Pug-Zu takes to training like a duck to water. They can master basic cues quickly and enjoy showing off. Some individuals will possess a stubborn streak and may understand the task that is asked of them but simply choose not do it when it doesn’t quite suit them. As many Pug-Zus will be food motivated, owners can use this to their advantage and reward positive behaviour with delectable treats.


There are several health issues present in the Pug-Zu breed that must be closely monitored for. Breeding the healthiest individuals will ensure a population that lives long into the future.

Patellar Luxation

When knee caps do not sit in their place as they should, they are said to ‘dislocate’ or ‘luxate’. This may happen in one or both knees and tends to be an issue in small dogs. Owners may notice a ‘skipping step’ when the knee cap pops out and it may only stay out for a few moments before returning to where it should be. Treatment will depend on how severe the luxation is and how much the dog is affected by it.

Atopic Dermatitis

Itchy skin can cause a dog to lick their paws, scratch themselves excessively and rub their face along the ground. Skin may become bright red and is often broken in places where a dog has chewed or scratched. This reaction is associated with an allergy, which may be to a number of things, such as parasites, food or grass.

Dry Eye (KCS)

Dogs with chronically dry eyes will present to the clinic for repeated eye infections and ulcers. They may squint and (counter-intuitively) may have eyes that water excessively. A simple test called a Schirmer Tear Test can be carried out to determine if an eye is not producing enough tears and medication, such as replacement tears, may be required.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A good half hour of daily exercise should be enough to keep the small Pug-Zu satisfied. Caution is advised when exercising them in hot, humid weather as they can be prone to over-heating and need frequent breaks and plenty of drinks in the shade.

Owners can keep the mind of their Pug-Zu engaged by playing lots of different games, using interactive toys and puzzles and encouraging them to get involved in different canine activities, such as Fetch and Frisbee.


Most require brushing every two or three days and will need a professional groom and trim several times a year. Their face needs cleaning regularly and can become matted quickly, particularly if fed a wet diet.

Owners should ensure their Pug-Zu is used to having their eyes and face cleaned from a young age. The pendulous ears of the Pug-Zu should also be cleaned out weekly if they tend to get waxy build-ups.

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