How Smart are Pugs?

Pugs… they’re cute, they’re cuddly, and they’re mischievous. But are they smart? If you own a pug (or have ever spent more than a few minutes with one), you’ll already know the answer. Pugs may be many things, but enigmatic they are not: if they have any smarts to know about, you can guarantee they won’t be hiding their light under a bushel. So, what’s the story? Just how smart are Pugs? The Pug is a small but muscular breed with an impish personality and a surprisingly distinguished history. Once upon a time, these little bundles of fun were the regal companions of Chinese emperors. Once news of their playful ways and cutie-pie good looks spread to Europe, they were fast adopted as the official mascot of Holland’s royal House of Orange. Since those days, the Pug has left the palaces and wormed its way into the hearts of millions. Characterized by their big, round heads, their wrinkled, expressive brows, and their huge sparkling eyes, Pugs have become something of the ideal house guest. They’re polite, they’re amicable, and they’re always appreciative of whatever food you put in front of them… so much so, in fact, you’ll have your work cut out keeping them trim. More than anything else, these are dogs that love to love and be loved in return. Simply put, they’re adorable. But are they adorable dunces or adorable geniuses?

How Smart Are Pugs?

Pugs have been around for several hundred years. But unlike breeds like the Labrador or the Border Collie, Pugs were never bred with a specific purpose. Not a working purpose, in any case. Whereas breeders would deliberately choose only the smartest, most athletic, and most physically capable dogs to breed as working animals, the Pug was never gainfully employed in that way. The only job they ever had was as a companion. Breeders didn’t have to worry about whether a Pug would be able to outwit a flock of deer or go into battle with a water hog. If they weren’t able to warn their master of impending danger or protect their human family from intruders, it really didn’t matter. All they had to do was be sweet, attentive, and affectionate. So rather than choose the brightest Pugs to breed, breeders selected the nicest instead. All these generations down the line, we’re left with a dog that would rather dote over a burglar than warn them off. Genetics don’t dictate a dog’s intelligence, but they do play a big part. Make no mistake, a Pug is context-clever – in other words, they’re doing exactly what they’re meant to. They were bred to please and that’s exactly what they do. But are they clever in the usual sense? The evidence would suggest not.

How Smart Are Pugs in Comparison To Other Dogs?

If you look at a ranking of the ‘World’s Smartest Dogs,’ you’ll have to scan a long way down before you land on the Pug. As thesmartcanine.com writes, famed researcher and professor of canine psychology Stanley Coren once organized a series of obedience trials to determine the intelligence of various breeds. During the trials, Coren tasted the number of repetitions it took for a dog breed to learn a new command (the fewer repetitions, the smarter the dog), along with the success rate of a dog obeying a known command on the first attempt (the higher the success rate, the bigger the brain). At least 100 Pugs participated in the study. Overall, they ranked 108th out of 138 different breeds, placing them into the below-average category. Typically, Pugs needed between 40 to 80 repetitions to learn a new command. They fared much better when it came to obeying a known command on the first try, displaying a 30% success rate. Even so, their results paled in comparison to breeds like the Siberian Husky, Australian Shepherd, Great Dane, and Boxer, all of whom managed to learn new commands with 25 to 40 repetitions and obey a known command on the first attempt at least 50% of the time.

Why Aren’t Pugs Smarter?

The evidence seems clear. Pugs are many things, but intelligent (at least in the traditional sense), they most certainly aren’t. But why? What makes a Pug less intelligent than a Labrador or a Poodle, for example? Genetics have a large part to play. Basically, Pugs never had cause to use their brains in the way that working breeds did. It simply didn’t matter if they were capable of learning new commands and following instructions. The only criteria that went into determining a ‘good’ Pug was how loving it was. The breed was therefore developed by selectively breeding only the sweetest Pugs, rather than the most intelligent. As thehappypuppysite.com explains, another factor that’s gone into determining the breed’s smartness is their face shape. A good supply of oxygen is vital for brain activity. As a lack of oxygen can have big consequences on learning and memory formation, it’s not too surprising that the flat-faced Pug isn’t the brightest bulb in the box. Thanks to the particular shape of their face, Pugs live in almost a constant state of oxygen deprivation, making them physically less capable of intelligence than other breeds.

Can You Train a Pug?

A Pug might not have the same level of intelligence as a Boxer or a Poodle, but don’t make the mistake of thinking this makes them untrainable. Granted, they won’t be able to pick up new commands with little instruction or practice, but with the right teaching methods, a Pug can be trained in any number of things. As blackpugsite.com notes, with patience, Pugs can be taught to follow commands like other dogs, especially if you can keep a large bag of treats to hand. To train your Pug, avoid any training technique that uses punishment. Not only can punishment set back progress, but it’ll also jeopardize the bond you share with your dog. Instead, use positive reinforcement techniques to reward and encourage good behavior. Once your Pug learns that certain behaviors and actions get them praise and a tasty treat, they’ll be far more inclined to do them again. After all, this is a breed that loves to please. Show them how proud you are of their achievements, and pretty soon, your Pug will be trained to perfection.

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