There is no doubt that the genetics responsible for all of the various patterns, colors, shades, and markings can be very confusing.
People are often confused when they look at the standard colors for a certain breed versus the ones that are actually available. But, what about the 29th most popular breed in the United States… the delightful and incredibly adorable Pug?
Well, there are four major Pug colors, but not all of them are recognized by certain kennel clubs around the world. The two most common colors these pups come in are black and fawn.
Silver and apricot can also be seen on these furballs, and while they are not accepted as standard colors by the American Kennel Club (AKC), they are recognized by the Federation Cynologique Internationale (FCI) and other major kennel clubs.
Brindle-patterned pups of this breed also exist, though they are accompanied by a lot of controversies. Additionally, some unique color markings, such as the trace and the thumbprint can also be found on a non-black Pug’s coat.
In this article, we will cover all of the details regarding various Pug colors, both alternate and standard, as well as various shades, markings, and patterns that can be seen within this breed.
Breed standard colors of the Pug
As far as the American Kennel Club is concerned, there are only two accepted colors of the Pug breed in the show ring:
• black (S 007)
• fawn (S 082)
But, of course, since these pups come in various other color combinations, the AKC also accepts the following alternate colors:
• silver (also known as silver-fawn)
• apricot (also known as apricot-fawn)
• brindle (even though it is quite rare and very controversial)
If your Pug has a non-standard coat color such as apricot, silver, or even brindle, you might be able to register it with the American Kennel Club. The only thing you have to do is send in your registration via postal mail and send photos of your dog that clearly show the non-standard coat. The AKC will then usually grant you registration with the appropriate pattern or color listed, of course, as an alternate color.
Note that even though a Pug of technically any coat color can be registered with the AKC, this doesn’t mean that the particular color is accepted in the show ring. For American Kennel Club’s conformation events, any coat color other than black or fawn is immediately disqualified.
However, this wasn’t always the case. The AKC, which follows the rules set forth by the Pug Dog Club of America (PDCA) used to accept both apricot-fawn and silver-fawn pups!
Next on our major kennel clubs list are the KC (the Kennel Club of the UK) and the FCI (Federation Cynologique Internationale). Both of them recognize and allow four colors for the Pug breed, and they are the following:
Finally, we have the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC), which allows for only three colors within this breed:
It is worth noting that this list includes even more coat colors since “fawn” for CKC registered Pugs can mean any shade, including reddish gold, light apricot, and deep apricot.
Different Pug colors
As canine enthusiasts, you might be wondering what the most common Pug colors are, and if there are more black Pugs or more fawn Pugs in the world today. The answer is that around two-thirds of these little cuties are fawn or fall within the fawn range of colors.
One of the biggest surveys asked the question, “What colors is your Pug?” to pug owners from twenty-seven countries around the world. The majority of votes came from the United States (54%); however, 18% came from the United Kingdom, 7% came from Canada, and 6% came from Australia. The remaining 15% came from other countries, including Mexico, Indonesia, South Africa, India, New Zealand, and the Netherlands, among others.
Here are the results:
• Fawn 65%
• Black 22%
• Apricot 4%
• Silver-fawn 3%
• Brindle 1%
Note that 1% of owners answered “I’m not sure”, and 3% of them answered “Other.” Additional information under the “Other” option included:
• black with white markings
• black with tan markings
• fawn with black/silver on the tips
• fawn with black legs
Pug colors; fawn
With the AKC accepting just two Pug colors, fawn is a very broad-reaching shade. Other major kennel clubs, such as the KC and the FCI have a little easier approach since they accept both silver and apricot coat colors in their conformation shows.
Also, the Canadian Kennel Club allows distinction between silver and fawn by giving the “silver-fawn” option. With these three clubs, the fawn Pug color is described as a light to medium cream.
However, because the American Kennel Club will register both the silver and the apricot variety as fawn (because they are not black), an AKC-registered dog of this breed may truly be fawn in color or technically be apricot or silver. Remember that this club can also grant registration for a silver or an apricot-colored pooch, but it will be listed as an alternate color.
All non-black Pugs, including those with a fawn coat color, should have black masks and black ears. Furthermore, fawn Pugs are not always solid, and there can be variances in the coat.
Many dogs of this breed come with a stripe of black-tipped hairs running down the back. This is usually called a trace, and it breaks up the fawn color in the middle of the back.
In addition, it is fairly common for two shades of fawn to be seen within one Pug. For instance, a light apricot-fawn coat color can blend into a light cream-fawn, and vice versa.
The wrinkles on a Pug’s face are also responsible for different color variances. For instance, a thumbprint pattern may be present in the form of black fur found in the folds and creases of the forehead.
AKC color disqualification
Although the fawn color has a range of light to medium, the AKC states that anything other than black or fawn is a disqualification in the conformation ring. This rule refers to not only what the registration papers say, but also to what color is seen in person by the judges during the competition.
Since there is some difficulty in distinguishing between apricot and fawn or silver and fawn, this AKC rule can be tricky to apply. These colors are commonly found all across the world, but in the United States, show breeders focus their efforts on keeping the fawn color purely fawn without apricot or silver tones.
Pug colors; silver-fawn
This is not a color often seen within the Pug breed. However, many silver or silver-fawn Pug owners can easily label their pups as fawn, especially if that is the color that is stated on the registration papers.
As their name suggests, silver-fawns are considered a type of fawn. Silver-fawn is very light; it is, in fact, the lightest shade of fawn that a Pug can come in. And, as we’ve seen in the survey above, only 3% of Pug owners identified other pooches as silver or silver-fawn.
While the American Kennel Club does not recognize silver-fawn as a standard color, it may grant a registration request for a silver-fawn Pug. Note that the club only responds to registration requests sent via postal mail, and even in that case, the dog will still be registered as an alternate coat color.
On the other hand, both the Federation Cynologique Internationale as well as the Kennel Club allow for silver, and the biggest kennel club in Canada allows for silver-fawn. Keep in mind that both are essentially the same coat color, but different clubs refer to it by different terms.
Silver-fawn or silver purebred Pugs typically have black masks and black ears. Also, they may come with a trace of black hairs on their back and/or a thumbprint on their wrinkled forehead. Both of these markings are very desired in the show ring.
Pug colors; apricot
Apricot purebred Pugs come in a warm undertone of orange. This sort of orange hue is referred to differently in different dog breeds. For example, it may be referred to as fawn in the Boxer breed, or as orange when it comes to the Pomeranian breed.
However, with Pugs, this is a shiny orange hue that can easily be distinguished from the most common fawn coat. It is very common for dogs of this breed to not have a solid apricot-colored coat. They can come with some fawn or even almost white color patches scattered across their body, although they are mostly found on the chest.
This is another color that is rarely seen within the Pug breed. As we’ve seen above, out of all Pug owners across the world, only 4% of them identified their dog as being apricot-fawn or apricot.
With that said, just like silver-fawn or silver, there can also be some confusion with the apricot color. Mainly, the owners may refer to their Pugs as simply “fawn” because that is what the registration papers say.
Also, just like other non-standard American Kennel Club colors, apricot Pugs can be registered as a fawn or as an apricot. It depends on whether the owner wants to have the alternate coloring on the document or the standard one.
On the other hand, both the KC and the FCI recognize and accept apricot as a standard color. As far as the CKC is concerned, however, apricot is not considered its own color, but their definition of fawn includes all hues and shades in the fawn family of colors, including deep to light apricot.
Apricot Pug coat colors usually come with black ears and black masks. And, just like all other non-black Pugs, additional points in the ring of all well-recognized kennel clubs are awarded if they have a thumbprint on the forehead or a trace on the back.
Pug colors; black
It is fascinating how very different the two main base colors of this breed are. While fawn Pugs are a very light cream with a black mask and black ears, solid black pugs are just about the complete opposite, with a rich, pure black coat.
Bear in mind that these pups also come with black ears and masks, but since their entire body comes in black, there is no discernible difference.
Many of these black cuties have solid black coats, but it is not impossible for them to have a small white marking. If the marking is present, it is usually found on the chest, and it can also be found on the paws on rare occasions. This is due to the presence of a parti-factor gene, and it is considered a major fault in show rings of various kennel clubs.
Pugs that have two black genes appear to have a unique bluish-black coat color in sunlight. Also, dogs of this breed that carry two black color genes will always produce black Pug puppies because black is a dominant color.
On the other hand, pugs with only one black gene and one fawn gene will also be black, but will appear to have a rusty brown-ish sheen on the coat in sunlight. These pups will have either black or fawn Pug puppies depending on what color genes are contributed by their partner.
As these black-colored pups enter their senior years, you may notice grey hairs appearing on the face or on different parts of the body. These signs of aging are much more noticeable with black Pugs than with light-colored ones.
As we’ve seen above, black-colored Pugs are much less prevalent than fawn-colored ones, with only 22% of Pug owners identifying their pooch as having a black coat.
Brindle is a pattern of intertwined stripes of light-colored and dark-colored hairs. With the Pug breed, these stripes are typically in the grey to black range.
However, the brindle pattern is not unique to Pugs. In fact, it can be found in quite a few other dog breeds, including the American Bulldog, the Bull Terrier, the Boston Terrier, the Shih Tzu, and the Boxer.
But, unfortunately, the brindle pattern is not accepted by any of the major kennel clubs, and it is a disqualification in the show ring with the CKC, the KC, the FCI, the AKC, and many others. With that said, as we’ve seen in the survey, only 1% of Pug owners identified their dog as being brindle.
Many Pug enthusiasts wonder if a purebred brindle pug can even exist. The answer is yes, but there are some explanations that follow.
On one hand, many people argue that brindle as a pattern does not exist within the Pug’s bloodline. This is somewhat true as this pattern should not be seen with today’s breeding programs since it is not a standard color.
One of the main achievements that reputable breeders strive for is to produce pups that come as close to breed standards as possible. Because of this, brindle is not something that most show breeders, or reputable breeders in general, would breed for, and any dog with a champion bloodline would not have recessive brindle genes.
But, if you are wondering whether the brindle pattern appeared in the Pug bloodline at some point in the past, the answer is yes… it very well could have. This is due to the fact that every single dog breed we know and love today was developed from crossbreeding. When it comes to the Pug breed in particular, we don’t know exactly which breeds were used to create it.
All we know so far is that the Pug breed originates from China. Somewhere around 200 to 225 B.C., all records associated with Pugs were destroyed by Chin Shih Huang who was the emperor of China at the time. It is believed that he destroyed the records in order to hide the “secrets” of the breed.
Unfortunately, he was very successful. The first element to note is that no one actually knows whether brindle was a part of the breed or not. Some paintings from the 16th century show Pug dogs with brindle coats, but the chances are that most of those brindle bloodlines died out.
It has also been argued that brindle Pugs are a myth since the brindle gene is dominant and would eventually take over the entire Pug breed, making black and fawns obsolete. But, this is not accurate. As we see in many other dog breeds, brindle coats do exist and don’t take over. For instance, the Boxer breed comes in both fawn and brindle coat colors.
So, now that we know that brindle Pugs do exist, and that the brindle doesn’t actually take over the breed no matter how dominant the gene is, the question is, where does the brindle pattern come from?
The answer is that brindle had to be introduced into the Pug bloodline by mixing it with another breed of dog at some point. Note that for each individual Pug, this mixing could have been many generations in the past, or it could have been in recent history. Also, keep in mind that there are owners who tested their brindle-patterned pups and their genetic makeup came back as “purebred Pug.”
This may seem contradictory to what we know so far. However, the key thing is to remember the phrase “at some point.”
Your brindle Pug may have another breed (probably a French Bulldog or a Boston Terrier) ten, twenty, or even more generations back. As time passes by, a random brindle pug may appear from time to time, but this pooch may be almost 100% Pug in genetics, with DNA from other dog breeds nearly removed.
If you look very closely at a light-colored Pug, you may notice a few black hairs scattered all over its body. However, this is generally not enough for a dog of this breed to be classified as having smuttiness.
Smuttiness refers to a noticeable overlay of black hairs on a light coat; usually silver, silver-fawn, apricot, or apricot-fawn. These stripes, patches, or spots of black hairs are thin enough so that the lighter hairs can be seen underneath. In general, the more of these patches there are, either in coverage or in density, the more smuttiness the dog has.
Keep in mind that black, or darker-colored hairs, are desired in certain places on a Pug. These can run down the center of the back (the trace) or be seen on the forehead (the thumbprint).
But, when a Pug has large patches of black hairs on areas other than the forehead or the back, the term smuttiness is used. This pattern can appear in just about any area on a Pug’s body, including flanks, legs, head, and saddle (back). In the show ring, smuttiness is not a disqualification, but it is considered to be a fault and points are deducted.
This color pattern refers to a line of darker-colored hairs running down the back of the Pug, and it is, of course, seen only on non-black varieties of the breed.
The trace usually begins on the nape of the neck or a bit lower toward the center of the back. It generally runs in a straight line, for the most part, ending at the base of the tail.
Although a trace is a very desired trait in conformation dog shows, not all light-colored Pugs come with this pattern. However, the majority does, as 77% of Pug owners in the survey reported that their light-colored pooch has a trace on its back.
This marking may be very noticeable during puppyhood and then fade away as the Pug matures. But, it may also not show at all during the puppy years and then become apparent as the pooch grows older.
The trace is thought to give Pug dogs character, and it is considered to be an official marking of the breed. When it comes to conformation shows, the darker-colored trace is the better.
With all of that said, you should know that if your Pug happens to come without a trace on its back, it is nothing to be concerned about. However, when a Pug is being considered by breeders for a breeding program that is focused on producing show-quality dogs, dogs with no trace at all are not their first choice since this marking is a hereditary trait.
A thumbprint on a Pug, also referred to as a diamond or a thumb mark, is a darkened spot centered on the forehead. This marking is also not seen on black-coated Pugs.
Even though this is another highly desired trait when Pugs are judged in the show ring, not all non-black Pugs come with a thumbprint. When polling owners of light-colored Pugs, 77% identified a thumbprint on their dog, which means that 23% of non-black Pugs come without this marking. You can look at this as that around three out of four light-colored Pugs have a thumb mark or thumbprint.
Although it is sometimes referred to as a diamond, the marking may resemble a circle, an oval, or be a totally irregular shape. And, while the typical wrinkles on a Pug’s forehead can cause shading that may appear as a thumbprint, the mark is actually either a splash of black, or dark grey color on the fur.
Thumb marks on the forehead are usually present at birth, and it is quite rare for dogs of this breed born without it to develop one as they age. If your Pug puppy has had a diamond marking from birth, it may become darker and/or grow larger as your pooch grows older.
All light-colored Pugs come with a mask, which is a very defining characteristic of this breed. This, of course, only goes for the fawn, apricot, silver-fawn, or apricot-fawn Pugs.
The mask marking describes an area of black-colored fur that typically starts under the mouth, covers the muzzle, and ends around the eyes. Keep in mind, though, that this is a general description, and the mask can vary quite a bit on each individual Pug.
Also, note that the black mask may extend from the muzzle to the eye area with no interruption at all or, quite contrary to that, the black color may be mainly on the muzzle, and then again with black fur around the eyes, with little connection between the points.
Furthermore, while a very dark-colored mask is highly desired in the show ring, the mask on some Pugs may contain any number of silver, fawn, apricot, or lighter-colored hairs in general.
You might be wondering whether the already cute Pug could be even cuter with mitted, white paws? Firstly, the term mitted is often used when describing cats since it is a much more common characteristic of felines.
However, dogs can also be mitted. The term describes a coloring that falls on the paws, which is different from the base coat color. This gives the appearance as if the pet is wearing cute little mittens.
While white paws on a dog of this breed are very rare and are considered a major fault in conformation show rings, they can occur.
White markings like mitted paws and patches of white fur on the chest are able to exist due to the parti-factor gene. In rare cases, the parti-factor is thrown onto one, some, or all four paws, resulting in purebred Pugs with mittens!
Rare Pug colors
Besides silver, apricot, fawn, and black coat colors, there are other colors that exist within the breed that fall under the trendy or exotic category.
These are the following:
• Chocolate (brown) Pugs
• Black and cream Pugs
• Merle Pugs
• Black and tan Pugs
Note that these colors are quite rare within the breed, and they are often accompanied with a very high price tag. However, they do not follow the breed’s standard, and it is considered bad practice amongst reputable breeders.
If you see a Pug that differs from the breed’s standard colors, it often means that there are unknown factors in the bloodline that lead to the change. And, in most cases, this means that you are not getting a purebred Pug.
To achieve the colors we listed above, breeders have to cross Pugs with other dog breeds. For instance:
• To achieve a merle coat, the Pug is crossed with a merle Chihuahua
• To achieve a white coat, the Pug is crossed with a Pekingese or a French Bulldog
• To get a Pug with longer hair, the pug has to be crossed with a Pekingese or a Shih Tzu.
Also, be very cautious when dealing with a breeder who refers to one of these colors as “rare.” Rare implies that the color happens naturally when the truth is that these puppies were purposefully bred to have this coat color.
When it comes to chocolate-colored Pugs, the coat color is caused by the brown (B) locus, which is also responsible for liver colors in dogs. This B locus can have a recessive (b) allele or a dominant (B) allele.
When a Pug has a pair of bb alleles, they dilute the basic black pigment, leading to a brown coat. However, the brown coat in Pugs is very hard to come across.
When a brown coat does occur on a Pug, it manifests in solid brown color throughout the dog’s body, including the area around the muzzle, nose, and eyes. This means that chocolate-colored Pugs don’t come with a mask, but they can have the thumbprint marking on their forehead.
The black and white Pug, also referred to as panda, is another exotic coat color found in this breed. It is just as rare as other nonofficial Pug colors in this section.
A dog with a panda-colored coat can have more black or more white on its body. However, in most cases, these pups come with black patches around the eyes, which give them the appearance of a panda bear.
Black and cream Pug
Although rarely seen in Pugs, black and cream is one of the common coat color combinations in many other dog breeds.
Black and cream Pugs come with a combination of black as the base color, with cream markings on the ears, chest, legs, face, and around the neck.
A merle coat in Pugs is the result of the dominant merle allele in the M-locus (M). This merle allele randomly dilutes parts of dark-colored coats to a lighter color (usually grey, but sometimes white).
Like other merle dogs such as Chihuahuas, Corgis, Poodles, Border Collies, and Pitbulls, Pugs have irregular patches of diluted skin pigment in contrast to a solid black background. Also, the vast majority of merle dogs come with blue eyes.
Black and tan Pug
Black and tan is another rare coat color combination in this breed. These dogs come with a black coat color on most of their bodies, with tan markings on the ears, head, chest, legs, and tail.
Sometimes, a distinctive pair of oval shaped spots may appear over the eyes.
Rarest Pug color
A pure white coat is probably the rarest within the Pug breed, and it is sometimes confused with albinism. However, the difference is that although albino Pugs also have white fur, they lack black pigmentation on their eyes and nose.
Like all other non-official Pug colors, dogs with a white coat are not considered purebred, and they aren’t allowed in the show rings of major kennel clubs.
Pug eye color
Generally speaking, if your Pug is a purebred dog, it should have brown eyes. Of course, the intensity and hue of the color can vary from one dog to another. Some Pugs may come with almost black eyes while others may come with light brown eyes.
According to the AKC and the CKC breed standards, dogs of this breed should have eyes that are dark in color. The FCI and the KC also state that the Pug’s eye color should be dark.
The color of the coat doesn’t affect the color of a Pug’s eyes. This means that an apricot pug may have darker eyes than a black or a fawn Pug, and the other way around.
Purebred dogs of this breed should not have blue eyes as they aren’t a part of their genetic makeup. However, albino Pugs may come with blue eyes due to the fact that their bodies are unable to produce melanin.
Some dogs that are born with blue eyes have low melanin levels at birth. But, as they grow older, the production of melanin increases and the color of their eyes change to a darker one.
Pug health problems
Pugs are generally healthy dogs, but like all other breeds, they are prone to certain health issues. Note that not all dogs of this breed will get any or all of the following diseases, but as a future Pug owner, you should be aware of them.
The most common health problems this breed faces are the following:
• Respiratory issues – Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) occurs in brachycephalic breeds like French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, and Pugs, to name a few. The symptoms of this ailment include gasping for air and struggling to breathe during even the smallest amount of exercise.
• Eye problems – The bulging eyes of these dogs are prone to several serious eye problems, which can lead to chronic pain and irritation. Also, Pugs have a higher risk of accidentally damaging their eyes by running into obstacles compared to most other breeds. The symptoms you should be on the lookout for are bumping into furniture or walls, weeping eyes, discolored spots on the eyes, a discolored eye discharge, and any unusual appearance in or around the eyes.
• Skin disorders – Pugs are prone to skin allergies of all sorts. In addition, the folds or wrinkles on their skin are great at trapping dirt and moisture, and make for a great place for bacterial skin infections like Pyoderma. The symptoms of a Pyoderma bacterial infection include small red bumps on the skin, pimples, and blisters filled with blood. They are most commonly found near the feet, lips, and skin folds in Pugs.
• Bone and joint problems – Pugs have small legs that support a heavy body. This musculoskeletal structure predisposes these pups to joint and bone problems. Luxating Patella is an issue that causes the knee to become dislocated. Signs that your pooch is experiencing bone or joint problems are hopping, jumping on one leg, favoring one leg while walking and running, and having difficulty getting up and down.
Best Pug mixes
If you are looking for a Pug, but the four standard colors are not really satisfying you, you can opt for one of the unofficial colors we listed above. Or, you can take another route!
There are plenty of awesome Pug mixes for you to choose from, with all sorts of colors, patterns, and markings. Among the following crossbreed dogs, you are bound to find at least one to be your new family member!
Here are, in no particular order, the best and most popular Pug mixes you can come across:
• Pughuahua / Chug (Chihuahua Pug mix)
• Puginese (Pekingese Pug mix)
• Puggle (Beagle Pug mix)
• Bugg / Boston Pug (Boston Terrier Pug mix)
• Poxer / Bug (Boxer Pug mix)
• Pugshund / Daug (Dachshund Pug mix)
• Pug Tzu (Shih Tzu Pug mix)
• Pugshire (Yorkshire Terrier Pug mix)
• Schnug (Miniature Schnauzer Pug mix)
• Pugailer (King Charles Cavalier Spaniel Pug mix)
• Frug / French Pug (French Bulldog Pug mix)
Photo from: @pugs_of_day
The AKC recognized the Pug breed in 1885, and they are currently the 29th most popular dog breed in the United States. Pugs are one of the sweetest companion dogs around, they are friendly and loyal, and they are one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world.
There are various Pug colors to choose from if you are not interested in your pooch competing in dog shows. If, however, you want your pup to be the next champion of conformation shows, you might want to go for one of the AKC-recognized colors.
And, remember that markings such as a black mask, a trace, and a thumbprint are highly desirable in the show ring, so make sure you go for these if you want your pup to get extra points from the judges!
But, at the end of the day, regardless of the coat color, you will end up with a sweet family dog that will be by your side for many years to come.