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French Bulldog vs Pugs: Which breed should you choose?

A french bulldog and a pug in splitscreen
(Image credit: Getty)

Some may question why we're pitting French Bulldog vs Pug. Aren't they pretty much the same breed? At first glance, they definitely look as if they are related and it's easy to become confused as to which is which. But there are some distinct differences between these wrinkly dog breeds as we're about to discover.

To that end, it makes sense to put a French Bulldog up against a Pug and see which of these small bundles of joy are more suitable for you. We're going to look at their origins, temperament, exercise and grooming requirements and find out which of them are most likely to remain goofy for their entire life.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: Origins

Here's a fact: French Bulldogs don't actually originate from France. They were originally bred from British bulldogs in England and used for bull baiting until the pursuit was outlawed under the Cruelty to Animals Act of 1835. At this point, these small dogs simply became prized for their cuteness and they landed in France courtesy of lace workers from Nottingham who moved to Normandy after being displaced during the industrial revolution.

Pugs, meanwhile, are thought to have hailed from China around 400BCE. It makes them one of the oldest breeds of dog and their role was to entertain Chinese emperors – a position which saw them being treated like royals to such an extent that they even had their own mini-castles and protective soldiers. Buddhist monks kept them as pets in Tibet and they ended up in Europe in the 16th century where they became popular in more royal households, including that of Queen Victoria.

Short answer? No. Although Bulldogs and Pugs look similar thanks to their flat faces, wrinkles and small build, there is no genetic connection. Scientists have proven this by carrying out DNA tests which clearly show Pugs sharing origins with the Pekingese rather than Bulldogs. Of course, this merely serves to make the similarities between these two breeds all the more curious. There is, however, a genetic mutation linked to flat faced dogs and, in that sense, they do at least have something inherent in common.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: What's the difference?

These breeds are similar in so many ways. As well as having short snouts and small bodies, their flat faces make breathing difficult, the both drool and they can pack on the pounds. They also have a very playful nature but you want to know what's different about them, right?

Well, pugs are generally between 10 and 14 inches tall (25 to 35 centimeters) and they also weigh between 13 and 18 pounds (6 to 8 kilograms). French bulldogs are generally larger overall, between 12 and 13 inches, (30 and 33 centimeters) and they also weigh more, between 18 and 33 pounds, (8 to 15 kilograms).

In that sense, you could put the two breeds side by side and see which is bigger and stockier. But the differences don't stop there. French Bulldogs have sticking out, bat-like ears and a straight tail while pugs have smaller, floppy ears and a curled tail. Frenchies also come in many different colors such as white, fawn, brindle and cream whereas pugs are fawn or black. A French Bulldog's fur is fine, smooth and short but a pug's fur feels more coarse and it's generally thicker.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: Temperament

French Bulldog vs Pugs

(Image credit: Getty)

Here is where the similarities come into play again. Both Frenchies and Pugs are a joy to have around and they are among the friendliest dog breeds. They are affectionate and loving, fitting in well within any family. They also get on incredibly well with younger members of a household and (if they've been socialized early) any pets you may have too.

Neither are particularly active, though. While they're sufficiently motivated to follow you around the house, they spend most of their lives asleep. Even so, they have plenty of time to play and, of the two, pugs are perhaps the goofiest, which is why they're known to be the clowns of the canine world. Pugs will also remain very child-like throughout their lives while a Frenchie will “grow up” as they get older.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: Intelligence and trainability

Ever wondered how to train a French Bulldog or a pug? Well, you'll have little trouble training either of these highly intelligent breeds. Since they are eager to please, they are very good at learning and following your commands and instructions. You just need to be firm and consistent in your training and, in the case of pugs, be aware that they can become easily distracted: something that can be sorted with a light tap on the nose to get them to focus or the best dog treats for a job well done.

The main area of concern is potty training! Both Frenchies and pugs are stubborn little dogs and it can take many, many months to get them to control their bodily functions so be prepared for a messy household in the meantime (of the two, the pug is more challenging). It doesn't help that both breeds have small-capacity bowels and bladders which means they need to empty more regularly. But with consistency and patience, they'll eventually get the message.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: Exercise needs

There are two conflicting realities here. On the one hand, both breeds need exercise otherwise they can become obese (Frenchies in particularly love to eat – and fart, as we discuss in our six fascinating Fench Bulldog facts!). On the other hand, getting either breed to engage in 30 minutes of walking each day, split into two sessions may be a little tricky: neither breed will be champing at the bit to get outside for a walk. They're rather lazy and they'd generally like to chill.

In many ways, you can't blame them. Flat-faced dogs have difficulty breathing so if you can actually get them out of the best dog bed and ready for exercise, don't force them to become over-active. It's always a good idea, with both breeds, to let them take things at their own pace by engaging them with the best dog toys. And be wary of leaving them alone for too long – you'll need to know how to reduce separation anxiety in dogs if you're going to bring one of these breeds into your home.

French Bulldog vs Pugs: Grooming

There's a big difference here! French Bulldogs are relatively low maintenance. They are light shedders so they only need to be groomed once a week using the best dog brushes and you can get away with bathing them monthly. That's not to say, they are a cheap breed to own since other factors come into play (see our guide to how much a French bulldog costs to own for more details) but grooming isn't going to set you back all that much.

Pugs, however, are heavy shedders as we point out in our 10 facts about pugs so you really need to be investing in the best vacuum cleaners for pet hair if you have this breed. Grooming three times a week will help to prevent too much mess but be aware that black pugs tend to shed more than the fawn-colored ones because they are double-coated.

David Crookes has been a journalist for more than 20 years and he has written for a host of magazines, newspapers, websites and books including World of Animals, BBC Earth, Dogs and Canines, Gadget and The Independent. Born in England, he lives in a household with two cats but he’s also keenly interested in the differences between the huge number of dog breeds — in fact, you can read many of his breed guides here on PetsRadar. With a lifelong passion for technology, too, he’s always on the lookout for useful devices that will allow people to spend more time with their pets.