Are Pugs Easy to Train? Good Luck

Many Pug owners don’t bother with training. They are cute ‘straight out of the box’ and they do it well. They are wonderful companions and always fun to have around. They usually have a happy attitude and seem to want nothing more than be with you, cuddle or play with you. All that is good, but at some point, especially with puppies, or when you have received your Pug, that you want to be able to communicate some basic day to day actions. This could be things you want your Pug to do or to not do. If you have been around Pugs, you may have also observed that Pugs actually know what they want and at times can be quite stubborn and insistent.

So how difficult is it to train a pug?

Pugs are definitely trainable. They may not be the easiest dogs to train but they can be trained. Pugs respond well to positive reinforcement. It will take some patients and, in the beginning, this will be dependent on treats, but the more you progress, voice commands and reassurance may be sufficient. Pugs can be trained for basic obedience, commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay ‘and ‘don’t touch’. Potty training can also be achieved and training for Separation Anxiety may also be accomplished.

Pugs will love to sit and cuddle, and unless you get them excited may prefer to stay at home, lay on the couch and just breath. On the other hand, when playing, they get over excited and can’t seem to focus for a second. Getting around to get their attention, convey your will to them, make them do it and give them feedback is a cycle of actions we will need to learn and repeat. In this article we will cover the stages and the different approaches to get your Pug and yourself through training.

Pug Attitude

When it comes to training your Pug, it’s important to remember that we are not trying to achieve just blind obedience. One Pug is different than the other and they are both different from any other type or breed. Training a Pug is having a higher level of communication and understanding where long sentences and explanations are not nessesarry to convey intentions. The fact that Pugs are stubborn doesn’t mean he or she will not oblige if your intention is clearly conveyed.

The negative

They are stubborn, and getting to the point where your Pug both understands your intention and responds to it positively may take time and persistence.

The positive

Pugs are people pleasers and your Pug will want to please you more than anybody. When you meet a Pug at a point where he seems to comply with your wish remember, even when a Pug is being stubborn, there is always room for negotiation.

Motivation

Just like us, a Pug can achieve a lot more than he though, if given the right motivation. It doesn’t matter if you are trying to teach your Pug simple obedience or fancy tricks, when she figures out that a certain action will get her your affection, she will gladly do it. It’s getting to that point that’s tricky. The two main motivators for a Pug are food and your affection

Methods

There are different methods and approaches to dog training, they vary with different breeds and the purpose of the training.

Negative reinforcement

Some trainers use punishment, physical or verbal, along with choke collars, shockers to ‘set the dog straight’ when misbehaving or acting in a ‘negative’ fashion. While this type of action may give the result you aimed for, in the short run, it may do the exact opposite in the long run. A dog will certainly stop whatever he is doing to avoid pain or verbal abuse, but at the same time may not understand the reason and build resentment or fear. Pugs in particular are very sensitive to the tone of your voice, tend to take scolding to heart and seam to genuinely get hurt. They will get very confused and frustrated and may not even associate the punishment with the same act you were punishing for. This will lead to even greater miscommunication and unwanted behavior.

Positive reinforcement

Petting, a kind word, a ‘Good Boy’ and of course a treat will be gladly received by your Pug. A desired action, followed by a reward is the key for most successful training. When your pug manages to create the direct link between her action and the reward, she will want to repeat it. Giving a treat and enforcing it with a good word and a friendly touch will send the message. As with negative reinforcement, the feedback should immediately follow the action for your pug to make the connection and avoid confusion. Unlike negative reactions on your part, treats and encouragement will always be met with happy tail wagging, but will miss the point if not done in direct proximity to what you are trying to teach. In fact, it may be received as random affection and disconnect your Pug from the training.

Accessories (See more on our ‘Recommended Gear’ page)

  • Treats: Food will be your number one motivator when it comes to Pug training. It should be bite size, you don’t want your Pug wondering off to chew on some chunky treat in the middle of training. In the beginning, use the treats for training only so not to confuse the dog. It will be easier to make the connection of command- action- feedback (treat), if you maintain this type of consistency.
  • Clicker: Some trainers use a clicker (a bit like Pavlov’s Bell) to help the dog associate the action with the positive re enforcement she is about to receive. This is especially effective if you are at distance and want to give the feedback immediately. ` The clicker is also more distinct and consistent than your voice.
  • Collar: Collars in general, are not a good accessory for Pugs. Being Brachiocephalic (short nosed) they already have a hard time breathing. Putting more pressure on their Trachea could make things even worse. On top of that, many Pugs’ necks are almost as thick as their jaw, which will make you have to tighten the collar even more for it not to slip. The General consensus for Pugs of all ages are harnesses of different types. I prefer the softer, more hugging types.
  • Training Harness: These are harnesses which have the clip on the chest instead of the back. If the dog pulls too hard, he will get swayed and may lose balance. It is very effective, even on large dogs as they will quickly learn the extent to which the can pull, and not choke in the process.
  • E-collar: Another type of training gadget. Not to confuse with other electric training collars that shock your dog into obedience, this one is supposed to be gentler and also has a ‘vibration only mode’. It is described as more of ‘tap on the shoulder’ than a warning or painful punishment. It has very fine tuning (100 levels) and some trainers advise to try it and calibrate it on yourself, which makes sense to me.
  • Potty Doorbells: Personally, our Lev just sits by the door and gives a single bark to indicate she wants out to potty. Since we have a yard, we just let her out, and she will come back when she is done and will signal with single barks that she wants back in. I think Potty Doorbells Can be a very elegant solution too.

Attention

Your Pug will not always be stubborn, but even when in a good playful mood (which is most of their waking time) it is hard to grab his or her attention for more than a few second. Being able to grab and keep you Pugs attention is going to be key to any type of training you plan on doing later. Start this at a quiet place, without too many distractions to begin with. Have treats ready, but out of sight (another distraction) There are a few simple steps you will need to repeat until you get this down:

  • Touch the tip of your pugs nose
  • Give the command ‘watch me’, or ‘attention’ or Focus’ (Choose one and stay with it)
  • Bring your finger up to you nose and wait for her eyes to follow
  • When she makes eye contact, give her positive feedback in the form of treat and a kind word.
  • If you want to incorporate a clicker in your training, this is a perfect place to start that too.

That’s it. Now you need to repeat it a few times a day while trying to prolong her attention each time. With time you will not need the treat or the finger and the mere command will draw her attention. After a while you can save the treat and only give every two or three times, but never give the treat without direct cause, it is essential to the training to only associate the treats with feedback.

Approaching obedience

Teaching your Pug basic actions such as ‘sit’ or ‘stay’ is not just a good start for more complex actions, it will literally help you with everyday care for your dog. It will be convenient for grooming, nail cutting, cleaning etc. These actions may take time tobecome automatic and if you managed to do ir once at home, does not mean it will work tomorrow in the park, with other distraction. Patients and consistency will usually do the trick

Sit

The trick here is to get your Pug to sit without forcing it, and then rewarding him. After you accomplish this you will need to repeat it until the dog makes the connection of the action and reward:

  • Hold a treat before his face
  • Say: ‘Sit’
  • Move your hand up and forward in a way that forces his neck to extend backwards. Keep moving it until his bum is forced to the floor.
  • When the bum touches the ground, praise him and give him the treat.
  • Repeat

Do this until the action becomes voluntary.

Potty training

Puppies have to go potty at relatively short intervals. So, whether you plan to potty train your pug indoors or outside, you are going to have start with fairly short intervals to avoid accidents.

 Outdoors

Take your Pug out every few hours (hopefully before an accident) and wait until they do their business. It may take a while in the beginning. Try and also associate verbal ques such as ‘potty’ to the act itself. Once it’s done, make sure to praise them to the point you would feel awkward if someone saw you. The Praising and the treat need to come right after they are done so they can make the connection. Once they associate the going out with the potty and the treat, they will want to hold it in and wait for the ‘occasion’. In case of indoor accidents there is no point in scorning the puppy, there is no chance of him understanding why you are mad if you didn’t catch him in the act. If you do catch him in the act (and this is at all possible technically) try and make him stop midway, grab him and let him finish outside. Then, give praise and treats. If this works out it will send a clear message of where it should be done. Once You are getting the hang of it, you can also introduce the ‘potty bell’ into the mix. Use the same verbal que you used for the act itself in conjunction with the bell.

Indoors

If you live in an apartment it may not be practical for you to go downstairs every few hours and a litter box may be a convenient solution. Using disposable puppy pads will make cleanup easier. Most dogs would instinctively avoid potty in the same area as they sleep so putting the litterbox in the balcony or some back room would be a good option. The method is fairly similar to the outside and will require persistence and patients. Try and learn the intervals they need to go and beat them to it. Accidents will occur so be prepared for cleanups as well.

Separation Anxiety

Pugs are companion dogs and as such they don’t only like your companionship, they practically need it. Separation Anxiety will manifest in behavior that is not typical of your Pug and can include crying and howling for long periods, restlessness and even some destructive tendencies. If you come home to total chaos with damage to upholstery, plants etc. your Pug is probably suffering from separation anxiety. Do not punish or scorn her, it will do no good and may only frustrate her more. You may also notice restless behavior when you are making preparations to leave to work. Crate training is not a good solution in this case, as it may aggravate the stress and also keep her away from her litter box. Separation Anxiety is not really something that you train your dog for, it’s more like helping to cope with. There are some actions you can take to ease separation anxiety to your Pug:

  • Try to give her some quality time before you leave. Preferably some outdoor activity and not in proximity to leaving. This way she will be fulfilled, tired and will not associate the departure with the activity.
  • Create a safe designated area. This are should be large enough to not feel crowded but will be limited with gate or door. Make it a fun place with toys that are only there when you are away. Make sure to have the litter box and enough water, preferably in a none spilling bowl.
  • Limit external stimulations, such as a view to the street.
  • Leave the TV or radio on to simulate company and mask external noises.
  • Leave her something to chew on, like those toys with a hidden treat inside
  • Leave an article of clothing with your scent
  • Try to start with shorter periods of ‘alone time’ and slowly extend it. If a friend or a neighbor can stop by, it’s also good.

Conclusion

Training your Pug may be challenging and require a lot of patients and consistency, but as a reward you will not just have a better-behaved dog, you will also have better communication and a better relationship with your Pug. And that is a reward by itself. Give yourself a treat.

Additional Questions

Do Pugs shed a lot?

Hands down, the answer is Yes. For some odd genetic reason, maybe to keep them fluffy, Pugs have a double coat much like Huskies and Eskimo dogs who can live in the snow. Unfortunately this Pug does not live in the snow, but in your living room. The undercoat is very soft and fleecy and the outer coat gives the color and the protection. This is why the average Pug will shed year -round and will fill tour home with an amount of her that seems totally disproportional to their size. More on Pug Shedding and hoe to cope, here.

Do Pugs bark a lot? Are they Noisy?

Pugs are relatively quit dogs. They do not stand by the window or in the yard and bark at a cat that passed by twenty minutes ago, and they will usually just give a few gritting barks to strangers who come through the door. Generally, Pugs bark when they think it is necessary and only the amount needed. They will bark when they want food or water. If they want to go out or sometimes just for attention. More on the barking habits of Pugs and all the other noses they make here.

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Are Pugs Easy to Train? Good Luck
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Are Pugs Easy to Train? Good Luck
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Pugs are definitely trainable. They may not be the easiest dogs to train but they can be trained. Pugs respond well to positive reinforcement. It will take some patients and, in the beginning, this will be dependent on treats, but the more you progress, voice commands and reassurance may be sufficient. Pugs can be trained for basic obedience, commands such as ‘sit’, ‘stay ‘and ‘don’t touch’. Potty training can also be achieved and training for Separation Anxiety may also be accomplished.
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