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Labrador Retriever vs. Pug: Breed Differences & Similarities

Comparing the Labrador Retriever vs the Pug? These two dog breeds are almost polar opposites. But both breeds are fiercely loyal and can make excellent family companions. We compare these two breeds, including the types of homes each breed will thrive in.

Emma Braby Picture

Last Updated: May 18, 2021 | 10 min read

Labrador Retriever vs Pug

Deciding which pooch to invite into your family home is a huge life decision. And when thinking of the ultimate family pooches, the Labrador and the Pug couldn’t be more different in size and appearance. But they do share some similarities, especially with their love for their human owners.

If your dog’s size is a factor and you want a smaller dog, then there’s not even a comparison between these two breeds. But if you aren’t concerned with size, but are more concerned with the right temperament to fit your lifestyle, both these two purebred pups can make excellent family companions, and have different traits to consider.

Neither breed is suited for every lifestyle. Labs will need to be paired with an active family, while Pug families can be a little more laid-back in their daily regime. So which breed is a better fit for your needs? Let’s compare these two dogs in every aspect to help answer that question.

Breed Comparison

Labrador

  • Height 21.5-24.5 Inches
  • Weight 55-80 Pounds
  • Temperament Friendly, Active, Outgoing
  • Energy High
  • Health Average
  • Lifespan 10-12 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Pug

  • Height 10-13 Inches
  • Weight 14-18 Pounds
  • Temperament Charming, Mischievous, Loving
  • Energy Average
  • Health Below Average
  • Lifespan 13-15 Years
  • Price $1,000 and Up

Breed History

Breed history is surprisingly more important when learning about a dog breed than most people think. Not only will it tell you what their breed purpose is and what characteristics they may have, but it can also tell you what type of family they need. Plus, it’s also interesting to know all about your new four-legged bestie!

Labrador

Black Dog Lounging Outside
Labrador Retrievers have been around since the 1700s.

The Labrador Retriever is a relatively old canine breed, and he dates back to the 1700s. He was the waterdog of choice for fishermen and duck hunters from Newfoundland.

It’s not known exactly what dogs were used to create him, but it is believed the St. John’s water dog plays a huge part in his genetics, with a little Newfoundland thrown into the mix. His role was to chase fish towards his master’s fishnets and collect ducks and other birds his master had shot.

Every year the American Kennel Club (AKC) lists dog breeds in order of popularity. And for the last thirty years, the Labrador has been the most popular dog breed in America. This family favorite is also a top choice for assistance dogs, search and rescue, and other therapy settings.

Pug

Fawn and Black Dog Peeping Out From a Box
These flat-faced fellas have been around for thousands of years.

The Pug is an ancient dog breed believed to be thousands of years old. He originates from China, where royalty was fascinated with small, flat-faced breeds. Pugs have always been a companionship dog, never asked to work or lift a paw. He was viewed as a sacred pup for centuries. But when visiting Dutch travelers saw him, they fell in love and took him back to Europe.

He has earned lots of different names around the world, Mophond in the Netherlands, Mopsi in Finland, and Doguillo in Spanish-speaking countries. You might have also heard him being referred to as the Dutch Mastiff because of his similar wrinkles, coat color, and stocky shape like a Mastiff, albeit in miniature form. According to the AKC, Pugs consistently rank in the top 30 dog breeds in America.

Appearance

Brown and Fawn Dogs Sitting and Looking Happy
These two breeds couldn’t look any more different.

These two dog breeds are completely different-looking canines. Of course, they have four paws, two irresistible eyes, and a wet nose, but that’s about it!

Let’s start with the obvious difference, their size. The Labrador is the bigger pup out of the two breeds. He measures up to 24 ½ inches and weighs up to 80 pounds. Making him a large-sized pooch. Pugs measure up to 13 inches and weighs up to 18 pounds. Making him a small-sized pooch.

Their size often dictates which breed is a better fit for your lifestyle. Labs are better suited to larger apartments or homes with access to a private yard. Compared to the Pug, who is happy to live in the smallest apartments, with or without a yard. Labs are popular in the countryside, and Pugs are a top choice for city dwellers.

Surprisingly, both breeds have a coat that’s quite similar in appearance and length. They both have a thick, dense double coat that is straight, which is short to medium in length. The Pug’s coat is smoother and silkier to the touch compared to the Labrador’s, which is slightly coarse in texture.

Labs have the option of three coat colors, which are yellow, black, and brown. Sometimes Labs can be fox-red in color and have some other controversial coat colors that aren’t recognized by the AKC. Pugs have two coat colors, black and fawn. You will rarely find a white-colored Pug, but these are usually suffering from albinism or leucism.

The Lab’s tail is long, thick, and straight. His tail is his secret weapon to steering himself in the water. The Pug’s tail is curly and sits up his back, and if he has a double curl, it is seen as the perfect Pug tail! They are both stocky dogs, and Pugs have additional skin rolls many dog lovers can’t resist. They both have large and irresistible puppy eyes. A Pug’s eyes appear larger, and they protrude from his face.

Finally, we couldn’t compare the Pug’s appearance without mentioning his adorable flat face. In the doggy world, this is known as being brachycephalic. Although it is adorable, it can often lead to many health issues. Plus, it also means he snuffs and snores loudly. Some dog owners can ignore his snuffles, but it drives some people nuts. So, this is something to take into consideration. The Lab has a proportionate and square-shaped muzzle.

Temperament

Happy Brown and Fawn Dogs Outside
Both dog breeds enjoy human companionship, though Labs can be a bit more laid back.

Both dog breeds love humans. The Lab has forever worked for and alongside his master, and Pugs are possibly the original companionship dog. Meaning they are both top choices for dog lovers who are seeking the best canine companionship. Their love of humans means they settle into family life well.

Both dogs are outgoing and confident pups who are the life and soul of any party. The Lab is confident, knowing he is America’s top dog. And the Pug and his little stature have always got something to prove to the crowd. They are both comical pups who love to make people laugh. Both dogs find it easy to make friends, both the four and two-legged kind.

They both love to have fun too. Pugs don’t take themselves too seriously, and due to their energy levels, Labs always need an outlet. They also both like to nap throughout the day because they also have a lazy side. Pugs are typically lower energy, and make better cuddling companions if you are looking for a low energy breed.

When considering noise, Pugs bark quite a bit more than Labs. So, if you’re seeking a watchdog, the Pug is a great choice. Pugs were a favorite breed of royalty because of their watchdog abilities. Nothing or no one would get past the Pug! Whereas Labs will wag their tail and invite everyone in for dinner without telling you.

Labradors are usually best with their humans, but can also be happy to spend time alone. You’ll often find him belly up on the sofa when you get back home. Of course, he’ll be happy to see you, but he won’t fret while you are away. Compared to the sensitive and anxious Pug who hates to spend any time alone. If you are looking for a laidback dog who is less dependant, Labradors are a better choice.

Exercise

Brown and Fawn Dogs Being Active
Labs need more exercise than Pugs do because their sporting origin means lots of energy.

This is possibly the biggest difference between these two breeds. The Labrador is a sporting dog who has lots and lots of energy. He needs at least 60 minutes of exercise every day to be healthy and happy. But Pugs only need around 30 minutes of exercise a day.

The Lab’s exercise should be much more intense to get his heart pumping. But the Pug’s exercise should be steady to avoid overexerting him. His flat face can cause breathing and overheating issues you need to be wary of.

Labradors are an intelligent dog breed that also needs much more mental stimulation throughout the day. Otherwise, he’ll become frustrated and destructive. Think lots of challenging dog toys and interactive playtime! And although Pugs need mental stimulation throughout the day, he is content spending most of the day on your lap.

Training

Yellow and Fawn Dogs Sitting Outside
Pugs are more stubborn and, therefore, more difficult to train than Labs.

Training is another huge difference between the two. The Lab is one of the most popular canine choices for assistance dogs. Yes, it’s partly because he is friendly and loving, but it’s mainly because he is very intelligent and well-balanced. The Lab takes well to training and will transform into an obedient pooch without too much trouble. This makes him ideal for first-time dog owners.

And then there’s the Pug. This little chap is an independent (ahem, stubborn!) dog who likes to think he knows better. This can make training the Pug tricky, so he is not the best choice for novice dog owners. If you want a fully obedient pooch, the Pug is not a great choice. To train them, you need to have a good idea about dog training and plenty of patience! Although some would describe him as a dumb breed, he’s more stubborn than he is dumb.

All dogs need to be socialized well as a puppy, and the same goes for both of these breeds. Otherwise, they’ll grow into rude dogs who lack confidence. A great way to socialize them both is to take them down to your local doggy park and let them meet lots of other dogs and people. Just make sure the Pug doesn’t get too big for his boots!

Both breeds respond best to positive reinforcement training. They are both motivated by yummy treats, so use these to your advantage to help with training. Don’t overdo it, though, because their eyes are far bigger than their belly. If you think the Pug is winning the contest for your next pup, you need to do a little research into small dog syndrome. Be sure only to reward him for good behavior and not undesirable behavior, as this will lead to problems.

Health

Happy Dogs With Their Tongues Out
Both breeds have their own genetic health concerns to be aware of.

The Labrador Retriever is an averagely healthy dog breed. And like all dog breeds, he will experience his fair share of health concerns. Unfortunately, Pugs are more prone to health concerns than Labs. Not only is dealing with poorer health sad for the whole family to deal with, but it can also be more costly. This needs to be considered if you are thinking about taking the Pug on.

Like most other large dog breeds, the Labrador is predisposed to hip and elbow dysplasia. It is usually caused by genetic inheritance and/or rapid bone growth. The second most common concern for the Lab is eye conditions. Cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) are the most common. Exercise-induced collapse is another worry for Lab breeders, which is why many of them test for it with a DNA test.

Pugs are also prone to hip dysplasia and patella luxation. Pugs are also susceptible to many eye concerns, including cataracts and PRA. They can also suffer from corneal ulcers and dry eye. And because his eyes protrude from his face, he is prone to general eye injuries too. Pug dog encephalitis is a neurological disorder that affects the central nervous system, which is eventually fatal.

Finally, the flat-faced brachycephalic syndrome plays a key difference between the health of these two breeds. Essentially, the flat face causes breathing problems for the Pug, which is why Pug owners need a dog harness. Plus, it can also affect heat regulation which is why he should avoid intense exercise and does not do well in hot climates. The Lab does not suffer from this.

Nutrition

Dogs Eating From Dog Bowls
Smaller pups, like Pugs, require less food than larger breeds, such as Labs.

Another key difference between the two breeds is what and how much they consume. The Pug is a small pup who needs much less than the Lab. As such, the monthly food bill will be less costly.

Pugs will consume approximately one to one and a half cups of food per day. Compared to the Lab, who will eat between two and four cups of food a day based on their size. The Pug will eat dog food designed for small breeds, and the Lab will need dog food for large breeds.

Both dog breeds are equally greedy, so be sure not to free-feed or overfeed them. Keep human and toxic foods out of reach too. If you find that they are piling on the weight more than they should be, switch them to a weight management kibble. Get their lazy butts moving! Obesity is a real problem for these guys, so don’t let it get that far.

Grooming

Dogs Being Dried Off After Baths
The Lab and Pug should get a bath every two months, but Pugs need more attention on his face wrinkles.

Both dogs both have high-maintenance grooming regimes, but Pugs more so. The Labrador is a heavy shedder. He needs brushing two to three times a week throughout the year and daily during the shedding seasons. A de-shedding tool is the best brush for the Lab job. Because the Lab is much larger, there is more hair to brush, meaning it’ll take much longer to groom him too.

The Pug also sheds, but not quite as much as the Lab, plus there’s less hair to deal with. He needs brushing several times a week and slightly more during the shedding seasons. The Pug’s skin is much more sensitive than the Labs, and his skin rolls need additional, and sometimes daily, cleaning. The Pug’s smaller mouth means he needs his teeth brushing more than the Lab. Plus, his nails will need to be trimmed more frequently, too, because he isn’t as active.

The Lab is a water baby, so he is bound to enjoy bath time more than Pugs do. But thankfully, Pugs love to be pampered too. Both need bathing once every two months or so. When bathing the Pug, always use a shampoo designed for dogs with sensitive skin. The Lab’s thicker jacket will benefit from a concentrated doggy shampoo to penetrate his undercoat.

Puppy Price

Puppy Dogs Sitting and Looking at the Camera
Both dogs have purebred puppy costs when they are adopted.

Prices for both purebred dogs starts at right around $1,000. Pugs are less common than Labradors, meaning there are fewer reputable breeders. The birthing process of the Pug can be difficult, meaning it requires extra care and attention.

It’s important to work with a reputable and responsible breeder. Both dogs are purebred pups, meaning AKC registered breeders are a great choice. Never work with unreputable breeders or those you aren’t confident about because you might get an ill pup.

The ongoing lifetime cost of both breeds is surprisingly not that different. Although the Lab is much bigger, eats more food, and needs larger products, the Pug’s health concerns often bump the price up.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, these two pups are very different dog breeds. Although there are similarities, they both need different types of families who can meet their unique needs. The Labrador needs to be placed with an active family who has a larger home. The Pug doesn’t need as much exercise as the Lab and will happily live in small apartments owing to how small he is.

They both love to snuggle with their families, and they are both confident dogs who command attention. The Pug makes a fantastic watchdog and can easily fit on your lap. And although the Lab will also lay on your lap, he is less needy and can spend time alone too. The Pug’s health is something you need to be prepared for. But all in all, they are both charming canines suited to family life. So, Team Lab or Team Pug, that is the question!

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