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The Pug-Zu: Shih Tzu ‘cross’ pug

pug dog advice
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There’s a new kid in town: the Pug-Zu, a crossbreed born of a pug and a Shih Tzu. But be warned, although the squashed-faced canine is popular, vets and animal activists warn us of the perils of owning such a dog.

By Nick Whittle

The demand for dogs with ornamental faces has finally given way to concerns about the health of the offspring of multiple squashed-faced unions. Nevertheless, let us for now put these concerns to one side and look at what is good about the type. At the very least, lovers of pugs and Shih Tzus will be excited to learn of the rise of the Pug-Zu.

Both parents of the Pug-Shih Tzu mix are toy dogs, bred by the ancient Chinese and others to be companion dogs to emperors, kings and queens. They enjoyed nothing more than cuddling into their powerful owners and being treated like little furry deities.

The Pug-Zu is no different today: devoted to their owner, if not a little clingy and protective. However, they are not generally considered to be the best addition to families that have not owned a dog before because of their health problems. Furthermore, young children may accidentally injure such small dogs.

The appearance a Pug cross Shih Tzu

Because of its toy dog heritage the Shih Tzu ‘cross’ pug adult will only grow to about 12 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 8 and 16 pounds. Some may be born with the extra folds of skin seen of a pug but others may have the more slender shape of the Shih Tzu. The Pug-Zu adult is as likely to have the short legs of the pug as it is the longer legs of the Shih; neither gene pool is dominant.

Shih Tzus are born of various colours although these can change over time. Pugs on the other hand tend to be black or fawn. The issue from a union of these two pedigrees results in a Pug-Zu that may be black, brown, fawn, white, apricot or sable or any mix of the six.

How to train a Pug-Zu crossbreed

Pug-Zus are by all accounts easy to train but it must not be assumed that a dog that is easy to train does not need training. And some owners may even consider the dog’s diminutive size as reason enough for her not to require training and socialisation. However, this gives rise to the much-talked-about behavioural problems of the unadjusted small dog.

Any dog that is not socially confident will exhibit poor behaviour. ‘Poorly socialised pups turn into badly behaved adult dogs,’ according to vet Pete Wedderburn.

Pug-Zu puppies enjoy training and it should therefore be something undertaken by the whole family when the puppy reaches six months of age, and in a consistent manner. Should training not be forthcoming of these dogs you will find that the natural headstrong stubbornness of the pug will dictate their behaviour.

What is the Pug x Shih Tzu temperament?

The pug and the Shih Tzu have some similarities of temperament but there are also some subtle contradictions. Here are some of the most notable traits of both:

Pug:  Attentive, Charming, Clever, Docile, Playful, Sociable, Stubborn

Shih Tzu: Active, Affectionate, Alert, Clever, Friendly, Loyal, Playful

From these two lists we can reason that the pug x Shih Tzu (its being a mix of both dogs in equal measure) may be more likely to be clever and playful. Indeed, most owners of Pug-Zus have remarked that their dogs have a streak of playfulness about them but will also not play if they don’t feel like playing. They also tend to be affectionate if not a little haughty at times


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Pug-Shih Tzu cross health problems

Pugs and Shih Tzus like any other breed will pass to their offspring their propensity for certain illnesses. As a result of their genetic heritage, Pug-Zus are prone to respiratory conditions and complaints of the eyes and sinuses. They must also contend with the ubiquitous conditions of small dogs in general such as arthritis, pancreatitis and tooth decay. Some illnesses specific to the Shih Tzu ‘cross’ pug include:


A hormonal condition that leads to a reduction or absence of thyroxine in the blood. Thyroxine is integral to the regulation of metabolism and immunity. This condition is easily treated with supplemented thyroid hormone.

Intervertebral disk disease

Toy breeds such as the Pekingese, Basset hound and Welsh corgi are especially prone to this disease which brings about a degeneration of the intervertebral disks of the spine. Anti-inflammatories or holistic therapies are recommended to treat IDD.


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Breathing problems

Respiratory complaints are common of both the Shih Tzu and the pug. Additionally, Pug-Zus may be prone to pinched nostrils. Specific to short muzzled-dogs, this congenital deformity restricts the dogs breathing. Furthermore, neither breed tolerates heat especially well; over-exertion can exacerbate breathing problems and cause the dog to become asphyxiated.

Hip dysplasia

Some regard joint dysplasia as a hereditary ailment, but it is more commonly found of any dog that has been bred to be small. Hip dysplasia can cause an early onset of arthritis. Overweight dogs or dogs that have injured their legs will also suffer with this condition.


Seizures are often caused by a dog ingesting a toxin. A dog of any size can suffer with epileptic seizures, but pugs are more prone to seizures caused by an inflammation of the brain.

Pug-Zus are no more prone to behavioural problems than any other dog. Upbringing, socialisation, interaction and training are what determines the adult Pug-Zu's manner. The responsible dog owner will be the one who is not only instrumental in fine-tuning their dog’s social skills but who is also vigilant of their dog’s health, especially when it comes to afflictions associated with the brachycephalic dog.

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