Dog Breeds Dog Training

Are Pugs Aggressive? – The Owner’s Guide to Aggression in Pugs

An owner's guide to aggression in pugs.
Written by Richard Jeng

Pugs are mild tempered and affectionate lap dogs. Though they may get into trouble at times, they’re generally good-natured with a charming personality. But if you’re bringing a Pug into a house with kids or dogs, aggression in this breed can be a concern.

So, are Pugs aggressive dogs? Pugs are usually not aggressive dogs. Rather, they’re loving and kind. But if they aren’t properly socialized and trained, they can easily develop aggressive tendencies (such as barking, nipping or growling) due to their headstrong and stubborn temperaments.

Pugs are not known to be aggressive dogs. But that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to grow into friendly dogs, especially without proper training. Let’s discuss what makes them aggressive and how to prevent it.

RECOMMENDED: A Guide to the Chinese Pug

Pug’s Temperament

We explore why Pugs were originally bred to do, along with their rich royal history.

Before we discuss why Pugs show aggression, we need to look into the personality and temperament of these dogs. They’re not as aggressive as you think – or even close.

According to Hills Pet, Pugs are cheerful, laid back dogs (and we tend agree with them). They have a playful nature that’s irresistible to dog owners, kids, seniors and other dogs. They’re truly a special breed.

But despite their playful attitude, they can be serious dogs. Owners have described them as dogs with a “dry sense of humor.” In other words, they’re funny dogs even when they don’t mean to be!

Easily the most relaxed dog I’ve ever met. My pug sun bathes outside for hours every day. Sure, we take her on walks but when she’s not walking she’s just…enjoying being a lazy little dog.

– Jason J. (Pug owner)

As easy-going as these dogs are, expect them to lounge around and nap for many hours throughout the day. There’s nothing they love more than to be a couch potato while hanging with the owners. In fact, that’s pretty much what they were bred for.

For these reasons, they’re usually not big on barking, digging, chewing, lunging or other “bad” dog habits. However, it doesn’t mean they don’t get into any trouble. In fact, they’re infamously known for being mischievous dogs.

In addition, Pugs can be a little headstrong at times with the occasional stubborn streak. Obedience training requires a ton of patience, consistency and firmness – but it’s still very doable.

Regardless of the Pug’s flaws, there’s still plenty to love about these dogs and millions of owners agree. Try spending a day with a Pug and you’ll see what we mean.

Are Pugs Aggressive Towards Other Dogs?

Not all owners have the luxury of bringing a Pug into a home with a “clean slate,” that is, with no other pets. If you have already have a dog, cat or other animal, we have good news for you!

Pugs get along great with other dogs (and pretty much any living animal). These dogs are all about devotion to the pack. This means they’re not only loyal to you, but also to your other family pets.

But just because Pugs are loving towards dogs of the family doesn’t mean they’ll be as kind with random stranger dogs. Without proper socialization, Pugs may be aggressive towards the unfamiliar.

My pug hates other dogs but tolerates and protects her little Siberian Husky sister only. She’s awkward when other dogs sniff her and she’ll freeze up. If they invade too much of her space, then she’ll snap.

– 3ishakaurrr (Pug owner @Reddit)

For your Pug to tolerate stranger dogs, they’ll need to be introduced to as many dogs of all types and breeds early on. Having dogs at home will help, but they’ll still need to meet others to interact with different dog personalities.

If you’re bringing home a Pug puppy into a household with another dog, you’ll need to “introduce” the two canine members of the family.

This may mean meeting on neutral grounds first. One thing to keep in mind is that you should never introduce the puppy to your dog while holding the pup in your arms.

This can make them feel vulnerable. Instead, let them do their thing, such as sniffing, licking or whatever they decide to do to get to know each other.

Pug Aggression Towards Humans

Like with other animals, Pugs are not usually aggressive towards other people, including seniors and kids. With the family, this is especially true.

However, some Pugs do show aggression towards kids by nipping their feet, lunging towards them or just barking at them. It really depends on how they were raised and socialized as a puppy.

My pug is nearly 2 years old, and he’s going through an unfortunate phase of barking aggressively at, well, anyone and anything. Planes flying overhead. Neighbors taking out the trash.

– Crooktimber (Reddit user)

According to The Spruce Pets, one of the leading causes of aggression in dogs is fear. Pugs can be timid, but they’re always going to be small dogs. As such, there can be a lot of scary things in this world, at least to them.

Fearful & Possessive Pugs

If a Pug is showing aggressive behaviors toward other humans, it’s likely that they’re just scared of that person. Though it may sound silly, it happens more often than you think.

Dogs that aren’t socialized with other humans only know the humans in their own pack. Everyone else is a stranger.

Otis (our pug) got used to the baby and is now super protective. He goes out of his way to make sure he’s careful around the baby.

– Ferndiddly (Reddit user)

Another reason why Pugs show aggression toward other humans is because they’re “protecting” their owners, or so they think. As discussed, Pugs are extremely loyal dogs and won’t hesitate to stand their ground if they sense a threat to the pack.

The possessive nature is not unique to Pugs. Many dogs of all kinds can develop this type of behavior. Until the dog determines that there’s no real threat, he won’t back down.

For dogs as devoted and affectionate as the Pug, protecting the pack is one of their main duties (though it shouldn’t be).

Reasons for Aggressive Pugs

The Pug is the most surprising Chinese dog breed that no one knew was from China.

We already discussed some reasons why Pugs can develop aggressive tendencies. However, there are many other potential reasons why your dog may be acting out.

In order to understand what may be causing aggression in your Pug, it’s best to learn and fully understand as many possible causes.

Injuries, Illness & Pain

According to Purina, certain medical conditions such as thyroid disorders, neurological problems, brain tumors and seizures can all cause aggression in dogs. Pugs are no exception.

The telltale sign is if your Pug suddenly starts acting aggressively towards people or dogs, especially if the dog isn’t usually aggressive. These signs can be snapping, growling or outright biting.

Whether from a medical condition or not, pain can also elicit this type of unnatural behavior from your Pug. Many times the pain comes from injuries while playing too hard, as Pugs tend to do.

Other times, pain or discomfort can come from tumors, arthritis, fractures or whatever internal injuries. Whatever it is, make sure to contact your Pug’s veterinarian immediately.

Never give your Pug medication without the consent of your vet. A mistake most owners make is trying to take matters into their own hands. Please, leave it to the professionals.

Pug’s Dominance

It’s not common for Pugs to have an issue with dominance, however it does happen and can lead to aggressive behaviors.

Not only can it happen with other dogs, but also with humans. However, it’s far less common with the latter.

Dogs that suffer from this internal desire to become the alpha of the pack can show aggression in the form of growling, biting, snapping and lunging. Every time they feel as if they’re being challenged, they’ll display these behaviors.

Of course, not all Pugs even want to be the alpha of the pack.

In my 11 years of raising my pug with my other dogs, I have never had this problem with my pug. He’s the most submissive dog!

– Jason J. (Pug owner)

Not every Pug is as laid back and submissive as Jason’s Pug. For example, this Pug owner describes her dominant Pug, saying:

My pug thinks she is the alpha. She pulls pillows off the couch and uses them as her toys. She’ll also bite at me when I’m on the phone and won’t play. She constantly stands at my top of the couch and looks out the window and barks.

– Megan21Elizabeth (PugVillage user)

Aggressive behavior is not the only way a Pug will try to establish dominance in the household. One owner told me that her female dog will hump her leg (and toys) all the time. This is a sure sign of a dog establishing dominance.

The best way to combat this is for you to establish yourself as the clear-cut leader of the pack. There should be no struggle for the alpha spot. So, you’ll need to get them to submit using firm and consistent training.

Food Aggression in Pugs

Food aggression can vary quite a bit among individual dogs within a breed. However, it’s more commonly seen with Pugs because they love to eat.

And according to the AKC, Pugs are one of the 10 dog breeds that love to eat the most.

Despite popular belief, food aggressive dogs aren’t “possessive” of the food, per se. Rather, they’re just resource guarding. In other words, the dog believes he or she needs to defend and protect the food because it’s limited.

For dogs that love to eat, they’re more likely to protect their food. But food aggression has three tiers to it.

The dog can just growl, which is the first tier. The next level would be the dog snapping at a person or animal when they get too close. Of course, the final tier is biting. Fortunately, there are ways to deal with this.

One of my dog was food aggressive, and I’ve always found it odd because we’ve never taken food away from her – only gave. Still, she was protective of the snacks.

Preventing Aggression in Pugs

Not all individual dogs are the same. Some Pugs can feel like the nicest dogs in the world, while others aren’t as hospitable to strangers.

And although it’s true that genetic plays a part, there are things you (the owner) can do to increase the likelihood of a gentle and friendly Pug.

Socializing the Pug

One of, if not, the most important things you can do is to socialize your Pug. Don’t just socialize them with other dogs, but also with humans.

You’ll want to start this process as early on as possible, preferably when the Pug is still in puppyhood. The best window of learning for a puppy starts around week 3 and closes sometime between week 16 and 20.

By socializing your Pug, you’re teaching the dog that other people and dogs are actually “good” and friendly – that there really shouldn’t be much to fear.

Fortunately, there are many options for socializing a dog. The best and my recommended option is the dog park. If you have time, take your Pug to the dog park after work where there will be plenty of kids, adults and dogs.

Dog parks are really the perfect place to socialize a dog. But if there’s no dog park around, you can also take the Pug to a doggie day care a few days out of the week.

The Pug will be able to interact with all different breeds of dogs and the humans that take care of them! It’s a fantastic option for busy people with some money to spend.

Obedience Training

Pugs aren’t considered the smartest dogs ever, but that doesn’t mean they’re dumb. They’re just more stubborn than other dogs when it comes to obedience.

This doesn’t mean you can’t train a Pug, though. You actually should do your best with obedience training, as it can help keep any aggressive tendencies in check, plus it shows that you’re the alpha.

Along with the basic commands (sit, down, leave it, come), a great command to teach your Pug is to “focus.” Because they’re known to be easily distracted, this is the best first command to teach.

Having an obedient Pug means that you may be able to control aggressive behaviors better. Telling them keywords, such as come, no or stop are perfect if they’re in the midst of a tantrum.

Because Pugs are food-driven dogs, it can help a lot with obedience training since you already know what their main motivator is. However, I want to warn that Pugs are prone to obesity, especially with their lazy and relaxed temperaments.

With their short snouts and flat face, Pugs can also have trouble breathing if they’re too overweight. So make sure you don’t go overboard with treats during obedience training.

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About the author

Richard Jeng

Richard has been raising dogs his whole life, including a Poodle, Pomeranian, Corgi and Australian Shepherd. He's always working with animal shelters and dog rescues because of his passion for all dogs. Fun fact: his all time favorite breed is the German Shepherd.

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