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Acting Strange

When a Pug Dog Acts Strange


The Pug breed is sensitive, funny, charming, and smart. Each day can bring about new surprises in regard to behavior. But, most owners know their Pugs pretty well, and will pick up on strange, out-of-the-ordinary behavior rather quickly.

There is a host of odd, peculiar behaviors that a Pug may display. They may be due to a physical reason, an environmental element, or an emotional issue. 

This section will cover some of the common troubling behaviors that a Pug may have, and the top causes for this. 

Hopefully, this will help you get things right back on track with your Pug puppy or dog. 

When a Pug Acts Tired, Lethargic, or Weak

This is an especially important strange behavior to take note of and should never be overlooked.

Some examples of what may be happening include:
  • Sleeping much more than normal
  • Displaying much less energy than normal
  • Not wanting to go for walks
  • Needing to lie down and rest more often
  • Having no enthusiasm to engage in physical activity
  • Moving around with a low level of energy
Reasons for acting overly tired include:
  • Illness or injury
  • heat stress due to hot weather
  • Not getting enough sleep
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Dehydration
We'll dive into more details on each of these: 
1) Illness or injury

Often, when a condition is in the starting stages, there may not be any other signs. From all outward appearances, a Pug dog may appear to be just fine. 

However, if a dog suddenly does not have his normal energy levels or is acting weak, this is often due to feeling less-than-ideal physically. A fever may be making him feel lethargic. Or discomfort or pain may be causing him to act this way. 

The exact illness or injury could be one of a hundred things, ranging from a tooth infection or kidney disease and everything in between. 

What to do:

There may be other signs; however, this may or may not give you a clue:
  • A Pug may be eating less. Dogs almost always have a decreased appetite if they are not feeling well. At the same time, any sort of mouth pain (tooth infection, splinter in the mouth, etc.) will cause indolence to chew as well. 
With decreased appetite and marked lethargy, do encourage your Pug to drink. 
  • If there is any sort of upset stomach issues; this is a helpful clue. This includes dry heaving, vomiting, diarrhea, runny stools, and/or constipation. Though this itself can be due to a wide range of issues. 
Most common is a quick change to a new food (this should be done gradually over the course of a few weeks), ingestion of a human food high in fat, eating non-food objects (grass, feces, etc.), eating cat food, and rare but possible is ingestion of toxins.   

For lethargy, along with gastrointestinal issues, immediately put your Pug on a bland diet. This would be skinless, boneless, white-meat chicken and plain white rice. To re-hydrate after vomiting or diarrhea, offer plain children’s Pedialyte® mixed with water (50/50). 

If weakness and stomach issues persist passed 1 day or are severe in any way, bring your Pug to the vet asap. 
2) Hot weather 

Pugs can very easily overheat on warm and hot summer days. So, if your Pug is acting oddly tired and it is summertime, you’ll want to assess this, looking for signs that he may be suffering from heat stress.

Early signs include panting, excessive drooling, reddened gums, little or no urination. If he progresses towards heat stroke, signs include increased body temperature, and rapid heart rate. 

Without treatment, a dog may collapse, and this can be deadly via acute kidney failure and organ shutdown.

What to do: If you suspect that your Pug is acting odd due to the heat, immediately bring him to a cool room or if you are outside, into the shade.
You’ll want to place cool, wet rags on him. 

Do not use ice, this can make things worse. 

Inside, use the towels and a fan if possible to circulate the air around him. If you are stuck outside, gently poor water over him (leaving some for him to drink) and if possible, wet your shirt, sock, anything to lie over him. 
Dimpi, at 2 years old, photo courtesy Sahaj
3) Sleep disturbances 

Puppies and dogs can have act overly tired if they do not receive enough sleep during the night
Dogs can have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep and/or wake up to early for a number of reasons. 

What to do: You’ll want to reassess where your Pug sleeps; he should be in a room that is familiar like the living room or kitchen, have a quality bed to sleep on which is vital for this breed that is prone to hip issues, and check for any noises that may keep him up (neighbor’s, birds chirping loudly in the AM, etc.)

4) Hypoglycemia 

This is most applicable to young Pug puppies. This refers to a rapid drop in blood sugar levels. It can happen very quickly and may triggered by stress (such as moving to a new home) or not eating often enough. 

Signs includes the puppy acting as if he is drunk, weakness, dizziness, confusion (the pup may walk into walls, etc.), and/or sleepiness.

What to do: With minor cases, a few different things can help. This includes rubbing honey on the gums, offering a bit of children’s high-sugar cereal, or offering a teaspoon of Nutri-cal. 

For moderate to severe cases, this requires immediate veterinary care which often includes IV intervention, as serious cases of hypoglycemia can lead to coma and even death. 
Puff, photo courtesy of Peter White
5) Dehydration

This is listed separately from hot weather because this can happen year-round, even in the winter. Just a 2 to 3% loss in normal body water levels can cause a dog to have trouble focusing and show signs of lethargy. 

Not all dogs are great at self-regulating their water intake. So, this should always be looked at as a possibility for odd behavior. 

What to do: You can encourage your Pug to drink more by:

•Keeping his bowl filled with cool, fresh water (filtered or spring water is recommended to avoid the high levels of toxins found in the tap water of many towns and cities). 

•Use a canine water fountain like the PetSafe Drinkwell Zen Stainless Steel Fountain. These can be great because they attract dogs via the sound of falling water and dogs are apt to drink more due to this as well. 
• Offer water-rich foods, given as treats or mixed into meals. This includes watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries. 

• Bring water with you whenever you leave the house with your Pug. Using a canine water travel container that also serves as a bowl like the H2O4K9 Dog Water Bottle and Travel Bowl can be an easy method of bringing water along. 

When a Pug Acts Moody or Depressed

The Pug is a pretty happy breed, so if a Pug starts to act moody, down in the dumps or depressed in some why, this is picked up pretty quickly by owners.

Some examples of how a Pug may act are:
  • Decreased interaction with his owner
  • Retreating away to rest by himself
  • Little to no enthusiasm for activities that he previously enjoyed
  • Slowly walking about the house in a depressed manner
Reasons for acting moody include:
  • Illness or injury
  • Hormonal changes (females only)
  • Loss of companion/friend
  • Schedule changes
  • Boredom
We'll dive into more details on each of these:

1) Illness or injury. 

As with any sort of strange behavior, health issues are always a top concern. Not feeling well almost always manifests as changes in mood.  

As we touched on in the previous point of ‘Acting weak or lethargic’, possible health issues are vast, so you’ll want to look for any clues. Any physical issues such as limping, favoring a certain part of the body, or inability to walk or run as usual point to some sort of injury or condition. 

What to do: When in doubt about any possible health issue, contact the vet. Eating changes or gastrointestinal issues are just a few reasons to contact the veterinarian and schedule a checkup.  
2) For unsprayed females - hormonal mood changes.

If you have a female Pug that has not been spayed and is therefore entering in and out of heat cycles, this can cause her to feel moody. 

Heat typically occurs twice per year. It can last 2 to 3 weeks. Due to fluctuating hormone levels at the start of the cycle, during, and at the end, a dog’s mood can be affected. In addition, it is believed that some dogs feel abdominal cramping, which can lend to the bad mood. 

What to do: You can help by allowing your Pug to retreat if she wishes, being sure that she has a great bed to rest on, and if she appears to be in discomfort placing a warm heating pad next to her abdomen can help (be sure that this is set on warm, not hot, and that your Pug cannot chew on any cords). 
Ky Ky, at 2 years old, 
photo courtesy of The Van Allen Family
3) Loss of a companion

If a Pug no longer sees a friend (animal or human), this can have a huge impact on him. This is generally most severe if a person, dog, or other is no longer part of the household. But, a Pug can also feel quite down even if he does not see a regular visitor. 

If your Pug is feeling sad or down for this reason, it will be important to allow him to grieve the loss. If it was a household member that is gone, it will be normal for a Pug to roam the house looking for him, or to gaze out of a window waiting for that person to arrive. 

What to do: It can be hard to watch a Pug feel unhappy like this. While you will want to give him time to accept the loss, there are some things that you can do. 

It can help to engage your Pug in an activity that is new to him. 

This can be a walk in a new neighborhood, or a visit to a new place. Any sort of safe location in which he can see new things, hear new sounds, and smell new scents can help to perk him up. This can be a lake shore, hiking trail, pet store… any place that is novel.
When you find a spot that your Pug seems to enjoy and that has let him shake off his bad mood for a while, try to make that a new ritual for both of you. Take him there as often as possible, but at least once a week at minimum. 
4) A change of schedule

Any sort of change in a Pug’s daily routine can put him in an off mood for a while. And of course, this is applicable to a negative change.

Some examples include:
  • Spending less time with his human 
  • A new household member (human or pet)
  • A move to a new house
  • Changes in the household vibe such as more noise, more visitors, etc. 
What to do: How you help your Pug come out of a funk will depend on what type of change triggered him to start to feel depressed. 

1- If your Pug is having to spend a lot less time with you, you’ll want to take steps to resolve separation anxiety issues, which already is a top concern with this breed. 

2- If a new household member is causing a Pug to feel off, perhaps defensive, sullen or unsure of where he fits in, some changes should be made as well. It’s always best to prep and test a Pug before a new animal comes into the house. But, if the situation is already occurring, you can:
  • Be sure to keep both pets separate in regard to where they eat, rest, and sleep. Even if you envisioned your Pug having a new best friend, that sort of bond cannot be forced.  
Until the two are ready, they should feel as if they have their own areas for food, and to rest both during the day and at night to sleep. 
  • If this is a matter of having two Pugs or two dogs, you may need to help them decide who the leader is. All dogs see the Alpha/Beta pattern. Hopefully, your Pug already sees you as the alpha. But with more than one pet, there is also an alpha dog, the leader of the animal pack.
Normally it is the older dog; but, it is not always so and can also depend on gender. If the dogs are unclear about where they stand, you can help them by doing things for the alpha first. This applies to the order in which the food bowls are placed down, leashes are attached, dogs are let out, etc. 
3- If a Pug is depressed due to a move to a new home, it is best to set things up to match as closely as possible to the old home. Bowls in a certain corner of the kitchen, toys to the side of the sofa, etc. 

Dogs can feel wary until they understand that they are occupants and not just visitors, so it can take some time. 

Each day, walk your Pug from room to room.

And when you take him outside, walk him around the perimeter of the yard. 

4- If the house is more chaotic than normal, this can definitely cause a Pug to act strange. He may seem irritated or withdrawn. 

Any sort of commotions should be kept to a minimum. And if some of these sorts of things cannot be avoided, set up an area for your Pug to retreat to if he has the urge to get away from things.
Now, this kind of odd behavior is just fine!
Lilly (2 years old) and Ky Ky (2 years old),
photo courtesy of The Van Allen Family
5) Boredom

While a Pug may be perfectly happy to sit by you while you watch TV, and may seem just fine laying down while you do some household chores, ongoing monotony can really start to wear on a Pug.

Some windows of down time are just fine. Days, weeks, or months on end can end up making a Pug rather depressed. 
Also, as a Pug matures, issues with boredom can increase. This is because as he ages, his comprehension of the world strengthens. What used to satisfy a puppy may not be enough for an adult Pug.

What to do: 

1- Plan out your Pug’s days. He should have at least 2 walks per day, a session of some type of learning (commands, a trick, heeling, etc.), grooming (brushing, tooth cleanings, etc.), and family time. 

2- Have the right type of toys. If your Pug has a pile of toys that are being ignored, it’s time to reassess what he has. You don’t need a lot, you just need some great ones.

Pugs should have toys that encourage independent play. Some great ones to get are those that speak or make silly noises. The Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Ball Toy is really awesome; it lets out 20 funny sentences like ‘Hey, baby!’ and ‘Good, doggie!’, so that a dog feels as if the toy is really interacting with him.
The Animal Sounds Babble Ball is great too; this lets out 20 funny animals sounds, including frogs, goats, horses, and more.
And if your Pug doesn’t have a talking stuffed animal yet, you may want to check out the Multipet Look Who's Talking Parrot Dog Toy. That is just one, the Multipet line of toys has a bunch of different animals, each is a good sized stuffed animal, sturdy, and lets us fun sounds. 
3- Bring your Pug with you as often as you can. Are there any errands that you run without your Pug that you actually could take him with you for? Nope? Are you sure? 

There’s lots of stores and other places that allow small pets. As long as you have a safe car seat for your Pug, and keep him on leash and harness, let him to be your companion for shopping and running errands as much as possible. 

When a Pug Acts Restless

The Pug breed can get a bad rep sometimes, being thought of as a touch lazy and inactive. But, Pug owners know that this breed actually has a pretty good energy level. With Pugs, there is usually a good balance of activity and rest. 

Mood changes that include agitation, restlessness, or irritation definitely point to some sort of problem. 

Some examples of how a Pug may act include:
  • Pacing nervously
  • Whining, jumping, or otherwise acting as if the Pug doesn’t know what to do with himself
  • Destructive tendencies, often chewing at non-toy items
  • Acting hyper
Fortunately, most of these issues can often be fixed rather quickly.
Reasons for acting restless include:
  • Pent-up energy (most common reason)
  • Health issue or injury (possible)
We'll dive into each of these:

1) Pent-up energy

The Pug is often underrated in this regard. Due to unique appearance with a barrel-shaped body and generally amusing expression, it’s easy to assume that a Pug has a low energy level.   

But, Pugs can get very disturbed if they are not allowed to release their natural energy. 

This is very common in the winter, when weather keeps both owners and dogs inside more often, but can also happen just from not getting outside enough for his daily walks. 
Frank, photo courtesy of Nina Coley
What to do: 

1- If you do not take your Pug for two walks per day, now is the time to start. 

If cold weather is getting in your way, place a lined vest on your Pug like the Kuoser Waterproof Windproof British Style Plaid Dog Vest, be sure that his paws are protected from the cold and he has traction via a good paw wax, and dress warmly yourself. 
If it’s summertime, plans one good walk in the morning, and one later in the evening, keep his paws protected from hot surfaces with a quality paw wax like Musher's Secret Paw Wax, bring along water, take breaks, and try to stay in the shade. 
2- If you already take your Pug out for 2 walks per day, increase the duration. Of course, a concern with this breed is overheating; however, as long as your Pug appears to have the energy, you take a break every 15 minutes, and bring along water to for him to re-hydrate, you can often extend walks. 

It’s suggested to add on 10 minutes per walk and see if this is enough for the Pug to calm down and be in a better mood. 
3 – No matter how many walks your Pug has each day, add in a 20-minute session of some other type of activity. Playing fetch or teaching commands are always good choices. If your Pug knows all of the basic commands, take it up a notch by teaching him some tricks. 

2) Injury or health issue

Take particular note if a Pug is acting weird by not wanting to sit down, sitting in a funny way, holding his body in an odd position, or seeming to have trouble laying down or getting comfortable. 

Any of these sorts of odd behaviors may be red flags of a hip, bone, back, or other physical issue. 

If a Pug is hunched over, is acting panicked, and/or is trying to vomit, this can point to bloat, which is a serious and sometimes fatal condition that requires immediate emergency veterinary care. 

When a Pug Acts Scared with no Apparent Reason

Pugs can be pretty wary of many things, and most owners know to expect this behavior. However, if a Pug suddenly acts afraid for no apparent reason, this can be worrying.

Some common actions seen with this include:
  • Trying to hide (the puppy or dog may try to seek shelter in a closet or other small area)
  • Shaking, shivering, or trembling
  • Being overly clingy, hugging his body close to his owner, latching onto his human’s leg, etc. 
  • Whining and cowering down
Reasons for acting afraid include:
  • Actually being startled or scared
  • Feeling uncomfortable, mostly due to temperature
We'll dive into each of these: 
1) The most common cause is the one you assumed; the Pug is afraid of something. The tricky part is trying to figure out what it is, if the reason is not clear. 

In some cases, this can be related to the incredible sense of hearing that canines possess. A puppy or dog may have heard an alarming noise that his human simply did not pick up on. This may be other dogs barking, police sirens, or other such noises. If so, the episode should be over quickly. 

In other instances, the cause can be a mystery. It can be random things… a dog may see his reflection in a mirror and get spooked (studies show that canines cannot identify their own reflection), or even a former tumble down steps that now make a dog wary when he goes near them. 

What to do: How you act will have a big impact on how your Pug interprets things. Since you are his leader, he will look to you for cues on whether or not his behavior is valid.

If you coddle him, swoop him up, and offer soothing words of concern, that will just be giving affirmation that he should be scared. 

It is best to acknowledge that he has sensed something. And then, show him that all is well and re-direct his attention. 

Be sure that your body language conveys what you are saying. 
Kenda (fawn, 6 months old) and Raymer (black, 6 years old),
photo courtesy of Janet Rafferty
So, a confident, ‘Oh, you’re noticing something?”, followed by a matter-of-fact, “It’s okay, let’s focus on something else” can often help a Pug gain his composure. 

If you coddle him, swooping him up and offer soothing words of concern, that will just be giving affirmation that he should be scared. 

2) Being uncomfortable. Sometimes shivering, cuddling up close, and other such behaviors can be misinterpreted as a Pug being scared, when he is actually trembling and seeking warmth due to feeling chilled.

Though this breed has a thick coat, this does not make him invincible to the cold. And being a small dog, cold intolerance is not uncommon. 

What to do: 

Check your house for drafts and air currents. In the winter, some spots that you do not normally access, but your Pug does, like the floor can have drafts.

In the summer, check to see if cold AC is pouring directly into your Pug’s area.

You may wish to place clothing on your Pug like a soft shirt or vest. Once he has another layer on his core body, he should feel more comfortable. 

When a Pug Reacts to Unseen Things

Does your Pug bark at invisible things? Or use his eyes to follow unseen things across the wall? Maybe you’re thinking that your Pug has a sixth-sense and is picking up on the supernatural.

If so, you are not alone. Lots of dogs react to things that their humans cannot see or hear. 

The reason for this is due to incredible canine hearing. 

Dogs hear things that we cannot hear without special instruments. We only hear things in the frequency range of 64-23,000 Hz. But, your Pug hears things in the much larger range of 67-45,000 Hz.

And, your Pug can hear noises from 4 times the distance that you can.

So, if your puppy or dog is reacting to something that you can neither see or hear, changes are that he is behaving that way for good reason.

What to do: Do the exact same thing as stated above in cases of a Pug acting afraid with no reason. Acknowledge that he is noticing something, and then re-direct his attention.  

A Final Word

It’s important to take note of changes in your Pug’s normal behavior. This is a pretty even-keeled breed, so any sort of strange, weird, or odd behavior usually has a root cause that should be assessed. 

Not sure what your Pug need to really thrive? See a list of what is needed for optimal care, health, happiness, safety, and comfort. 

The top tips and advice to take awesome care of your Pug puppy or dog.
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