pug puppy and french bulldog puppy playing

Pug Vs French Bulldog: A Short Muzzled-Face Breed Comparison

These funny, lovable dogs are great as family pets and might look somewhat similar.

Their short muzzles, constant snoring and small, square frame make them an amazing choice for small homes, apartment-dwellers and people who just want a dog to snuggle on the couch with.

If you’re wondering “should I get a pug or a French bulldog?”, check out our in-depth breed comparison guide. We’ve got all the info you need to make the best choice for your family and your future pet.

Dr. Sara Redding Ochoa | Doctor Of Veterinary Medicine


Sara is Wileypup’s Veterinarian Adviser and helped compose this article to ensure the information is up to date and accurate. For more information on Sara click here



French Bulldog Vs Pug: Similarities

  • Brachycephalic breeds: These two dogs have a short muzzle and flat nose that gives them their signature look. Those physical traits, although funny-looking, also come with different health issues and will prevent your dog from engaging in moderate exercise. Keep that in mind before adopting one of them and always use a harness for Pugs or harness for French Bulldog, depending on which breed you have.
  • Smart, lovable and funny: Both the frenchie and the pug are smart and love to make their owners laugh. They’ll come up with weird “jokes”, make faces and overall share their feelings with you as best as they can.
  • Perfect for small homes: Because of their physical traits and small size, neither of these breeds can do heavy exercise, run or jump. They will spend their days at home, sleeping on the couch and asking for extra treats. This is great if you don’t have a lot of backyard space and want a pup that will be happy with a few square feet to roll around in.

Pug vs French Bulldog: Differences

  • Bat ears: French Bulldogs have unique “bat ears”. These are erect, high-set with a rounded edge. In contrast, Pugs have either rose or button-type ears that flop.
  • Colors: Pugs come in a somewhat limited color palette: they all have a black mask and can be fawn, chocolate, or black. In contrast, frenchies can come in many shades, although the most common are white, cream, fawn, or a combination. Rare coat colors among frenchies also include grey, black, brindle, merle and lilac.

Pugs & French Bulldogs: Their History

Most dog breeds have a relatively short history, because many of them only appeared a couple hundred years ago or even less. This is the case of the French Bulldog, that appeared as we know it today in the late 19th century.

However, the Pug’s history spans for several centuries. In fact, this breed is one of the oldest we know about! These wrinkled, lovable pups came from Asia. Many specialists state they are a kind of smooth-coated, long-legged Pekingese variation. Wherever they come from, Europeans know them since the 16th century, while Chinese royalty used them as companions since 400 B.C.

“Pugs are a smooth-coated, longer-legged type of Pekingese” – UKC, Pug breed standard [5].

The unique facial structure of the Pugs was one of the reasons Chinese royals loved the breed so much. In Ancient China, nobility preferred pets (both cats and dogs) with somewhat flat faces. That’s why many Chinese breeds, like the Pug, the Shih Tzu and the Pekingese have that flat muzzle.

Once the Europeans started trading with Asia, the Pug’s looks granted them a spot as merchandise, and they slowly became a known breed in Europe. Dutch royalty started breeding pugs, and soon enough British fanciers started to develop the breed.

“According to a legend, Pugs became Dutch favorites when one saved the life of the Prince of Orange barking to alert him of an attack on his camp”.

In contrast with the Pug’s long history, French Bulldogs are a relatively newer breed. In spite of their name, this breed originated in England as a smaller version of the standard bulldog.

Regular-sized English bulldogs were used as sport dogs (to “catch” bulls), and their strong prey instinct came in handy when they stayed at home. Because of it, English breeders started raising smaller bulldogs to keep them company while also getting rid of rats and bugs. Many lacemakers had pugs to keep their homes clean and guard against strangers.

After the industrial revolution, many British lacemakers and other artisans moved to France, where they could find better jobs. Their little dogs traveled with them and became a hit among French artisans. Their small size ensured they fit comfortably in the small European stores, but their attitude helped them excel at catching mice and keeping stores vermin-free.

Those smaller English bulldogs were crossed with other breeds in France. Eventually, the French version became a completely different breed than its English counterpart. At this time their signature “bat ear” was introduced to the breed.

The French Bulldog we know today has mastiff genes, as well as some terrier in them. That mix accounts for their unique looks and strong personality.


Difference Between Pugs & French Bulldogs: How To Tell Them Apart?

French Bulldog (7 months old), Pug (8 months old)

To the untrained eye, pugs and frenchies might look somewhat similar. However, their similarities end as soon as you take a closer look!

Let’s start with the Pug, for example. This is a stocky dog, muscular dog with a very square body. Their signature wrinkled face gives them a relatively wide range of expression. Many pug owners enjoy watching their dog react to new things! Pugs have a short muzzle and dark, prominent eyes. Most pugs have an undershot bite [2].

This breed can have two distinct ear types: rose or button. Rose-type ears drop and fold over and back. In contrast, button ears are semi-erect with tips folding over.

Another key feature of pugs is their tail: although it isn’t short, it looks like it! A pug’s tail is very curled, and many breeders strive for the coveted “double curl”. In general, pugs are somewhat wrinkled all over their bodies, and usually have several deep folds at the base of the tail, at the shoulders and on the neck.

Then we have French Bulldogs. While frenchies are also stocky dogs with powerful muscles, this breed is less wrinkled than pugs. French Bulldogs are square, strong pups that look athletic [1].

Although this breed also has a flat muzzle, it’s slightly less so than pug’s, and their nose is slightly upturned.  French Bulldogs head shouldn’t be excessively wrinkled, and wrinkled should be limited to a furrow between the eyes.

The frenchie’s ears are one of their more prominent features. These so-called “bat-ears” are unique to the breed and no other bulldog has them: they are erect, with a broad base and a round top.

Pro Tip: An easy trick to tell apart Pugs and French bulldogs are their wrinkles. Pugs are wrinkled all over, especially on their head. This breed has deep wrinkled on the skull all the way through the neck. Frenchies, on the other hand, don’t have a wrinkly head and should only have a furrow between the eyes.


Pugs vs Frenchies: Coat & Color

Pug puppy and French Bulldog puppy, 8 weeks old

Their different coats is also one of the differences between pugs and frenchies. On the one hand, we have pugs: they have different colors and should always show a mask, unless the dog is completely black.

Pro Tip: White pug puppies aren’t purebred pugs. Pugs don’t have white coat genes, so white pugs don’t have pedigree and are likely crossbreeds. While there are some albino pugs, these are easily distinguishable from “white pugs” thanks to their eyes: albino dogs always have blue eyes, while white pugs will have dark eyes and nose, with a white coat. Be careful: albino dogs, pugs included, usually present different health issues you should be aware of before adopting.

In contrast with the masked pug, we have the frenchies. French Bulldogs come in more colors than pugs: fawn, brindle and solid colors, all with or without a mask. Most dogs are white, cream, fawn or a mix of those. However, this breed can also be born in lilac (light grey), chocolate, all-black, merle and other combinations.


How Should You Groom Your Pug or French Bulldog?

Because these two breeds have the same shiny, short coat, their grooming needs are very similar. You’ll have to dedicate around an hour every week to brushing them with a curry brush. You should also clean their eyes: given they’re so big, they tend to get tear stains and discharge.

Although both pugs and French bulldogs have wrinkles, cleaning those deep folds is especially important for pugs [6]. If you don’t pay close attention, debris, sweat and bacteria can gather in there, causing skin issues down the line. Wipe down each skin fold and take care to absorb any excess humidity after baths. Regular care will prevent any yeast infections in your pup’s skin.

Pro Tip: Towel your pug off after they get wet, whether they got a bath or they were caught in the rain. This will prevent skin problems in the future.


French Bulldog & Pug: Personality, Training & Behavior

When it comes to choosing between these two breeds, Pug or French bulldog personality might be the deciding factor in your decision.

Frenchies are remarkably friendly. In fact, they love pretty much anyone they meet and will curl up with any guest that lets them. As a family pet, French Bulldogs will want to spend time with you and usually be happy following you around without much attention.

This breed tends to be quiet, so when they bark you should check it out! Although frenchies aren’t big on exercise, they love their toys and enjoy gnawing their faves. If you get a French Bulldog be ready to invest on toys: they tend to be destructive and will need replacements.

“French Bulldogs don’t bark a lot, making them great for apartments and small homes where neighbors are very close”.

When it comes to training, frenchies can be difficult to convince. They aren’t especially motivated by praise, but usually a good treat will be enough to teach them the basics. Owners should be patient and only use positive reinforcement methods: it’s the only way for them to learn and remain happy dogs. This breed loves to make their family laugh, and will usually goof around just to see you smile; making them great companion for kids. Keep in mind frenchies have a very short muzzle and although they need exercise, they shouldn’t run, or do heavy exercise.

On the other hand, Pugs are also lively, intelligent dogs that enjoy their family’s company. They love playing around and kids will spend hours rolling around in the backyard with them. Nevertheless, just like other brachycephalic breeds, they don’t do well with running or heating up.

Raising a Pug can be challenging but very rewarding, they are head strong, but usually strongly food-motivated. In general, if you use a gentle tone and praise them with snacks, they’ll learn what you want them to. With pugs, it’s important to use a soft voice and never yell at them: these are sensitive dogs that only need gentle guidance to understand what’s needed of them.

Pugs are usually friendly with cats and other dogs, but early socialization should be a priority. In spite of its size, these dogs have mastiff genes and can get mouthy if left to their own devices. Avoid future issues by exposing your puppy to all kinds of situations and showing them other pets.


Pug & French Bulldogs: Health

French bulldogs, 3 years old

Both pug and French bulldogs have specific health concerns related to the unique shape of their heads. As we already mentioned, both breeds have short muzzles and that so-called “flat face”. This condition is also known as “brachycephalic airway syndrome” [4]. This makes it more difficult for them to breathe than other dogs with longer muzzles, and can be dangerous in certain situations.

In hot and humid weather, brachycephalic dogs have a hard time breathing, especially if they are overweight. However, their flat nose makes it difficult for them to exercise heavily and high intensity activity isn’t recommended. Owners should be very careful with their pug’s and frenchie’s diet to avoid overfeeding: it’s easier to keep these dogs at the right weight than trying to make them loose some pounds.

Their head shape also makes both pugs and French bulldogs heavy snorers. In general, a healthy dog that isn’t overweight will snore on occasion and shouldn’t be a huge nuisance. Nevertheless, even a couple extra pounds will make snoring louder, which makes choosing the right food option super important. Some dogs will need a small surgery to correct the pinched nostrils if the snoring gets in the way of them getting enough rest.

Of course, these two breeds have other specific health conditions you should keep an eye out for.

For starters, pugs can suffer from PDE, or Pug Dog Encephalitis. This is a genetic condition that causes chronic seizures and death. However, breeders don’t know the specific gene and dogs can’t be tested for the disease yet.

Pro Tip: Ask your breeder if your puppy has any related dogs with a history of seizures. A good breeder should tell you and avoid crossing dogs with seizures, but you should always ask and avoid adopting a pup with those health concerns.

Pugs are also more prone to orthopedic problems like Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (a hip deformity) that causes limping at an early age, as well as a deformed spine (hemivertebrae dogs) and luxating patellas. None of these conditions can be diagnosed from genetic testing, but a professional breeder will avoid crossing dogs wit any of these issues. In general, you should keep an eye out for limping, pain or limited mobility and take your dog to the vet if any of these appear.

On the other hand, French Bulldogs are also prone to some orthopedic issues. One of the main conditions you should be aware of is “intervertebral disc disease”, a spinal malformation that causes pain and in severe cases, paralysis.

“In 2009 […] the Animal Health Trust [tried] to identify the gene responsible for Juvenile Hereditary Cataracts, HSF-4. The initial research data revealed 24% of all French Bulldogs tested, carried at least one copy of the gene.” – French Bulldog Club of America [3]

Frenchies should also be spayed and neutered as soon as possible: thanks to their big heads and small pelvis, birth problems are the norm and you shouldn’t breed your dog unless you’re an expert breeder.

You should also watch out for cataracts, knee and elbow luxation and allergies. In general, the biggest issue with this breed is obesity: extra weight can lead to joint problems, spinal deformities and a lower quality of life.

Pro Tip: Ask your frenchie breeder for a Canine Health Information Center certificate for your pup and its parents. This ensures your dog has been cleared by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation, a hip evaluation by any of the certified examiners and an OFA patella (knee) evaluation. The French Bulldog Club of America mentions this certificate greatly reduces the chances of your dog having any hidden chronic conditions when you adopt them [3].


Frenchie vs Pug: Which Breed Should You Get?

Both breeds make great family companions, especially if you want a gentle dog that doesn’t need a lot of exercise. For those looking for a pet to go on runs with, neither of these dogs will fit the bill. But for those with a small home that want a pup to cuddle on the couch, these two are a great option!

If you’re wondering if a pug or French bulldog is the best choice for your family, here’s our final roundup to help make up your mind:

The French Bulldog might be the best option if you:

  • Want a very social dog that enjoys mingling with strangers
  • Would love a dog with a big personality, that loves to make you laugh
  • Want a dog that rarely barks
  • Are comfortable keeping an eye out for damaged toys and offering constant replacements.

A Pug would be a better fit if you:

  • Want a couch potato to snuggle up with
  • Live in a mild climate or can offer AC throughout spring and summer.
  • Can commit to keeping your dog’s wrinkles clean
  • Want a pup that will get along with young kids & other pets

FAQ

Are Pugs and French Bulldogs related?

Not really. Although these two breeds are brachycephalic, they aren’t related at all. Pugs are Asian dogs with a strong mastiff heritage. On the other hand, French Bulldogs descend from standard English Bulldogs initially used as blood sport dogs, and were later refined in France.

Nowadays, some people cross frenchies and pugs either due to ignorance or to achieve different colors among pugs. That’s how those “white pugs” came to be, although you should know they are a crossbreed and you won’t be able to register them.

Are French Bulldogs smarter than Pugs?

These two breeds are equally smart. However, frenchies love making their family laugh and usually learn a few “tricks” that are a sure way to gain attention. French Bulldogs also tend to learn what you teach them and then add their own spin to those tricks.

In general, pugs are lovable, smart, and strongheaded, but use their brains to figure out new ways of asking for extra food and treats.

References
  1. American Kennel Club. French Bulldog. Consulted on June 2020. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/french-bulldog/
  2. American Kennel Club. Pug. Consulted on June 2020. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/pug/
  3. French Bulldog Club of America. Health Testing and Registries. Consulted on June 2020. https://frenchbulldogclub.org/health/testingregistries/
  4. https://ivcjournal.com/signs-brachycephalic-airway-syndrome/
  5. United Kennel Club. Pug. Consulted on June 2020. https://www.ukcdogs.com/pug
  6. Vet Street. Pug Dog. Consulted on June 2020. http://www.vetstreet.com/dogs/pug#grooming

Vedrana Nikolić (B.A. in Cultural Anthropology) - Professional Writer.

Vedrana is a writer, anthropologist & dog lover. Currently pursuing a Masters degree in Semiotics studying, among other things, the communication between animals and humans.

For more info on Vedrana click here

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