The Chug, a cross between a Chihuahua and a Pug, is a hybrid, also known as a cross-breed, mixed breed or just plain mutt. Opening your heart and home to a hybrid dog is like opening a beautifully wrapped package on your birthday: you never know what’s going to be inside. It’s often assumed that a hybrid will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t always work that way. The way genes combine and express themselves is not always subject to a breeder’s control, even less so when two different breeds are crossed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a Chug.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

A Chug can have a wide range of personalities, depending on whether he takes after his somewhat suspicious and imperious Chihuahua side or his sweetly comic Pug side. At his best, he is friendly and affectionate, and at weights ranging from 10 to 20 pounds or so, he is a comfortable size for most homes. But because he is a cross breed, his traits are not fixed, so there is not a guarantee that the Chug puppy you purchase will fall into the size range predicted by the breeder.

Don't forget that while a Chug may inherit the cute appearance of the Pug or Chihuahua, he may also inherit not-so-desirable traits, such as the Pug's propensity for breathing problems or the Chihuahua's tendency to be yappy. Both of these breeds tend to have an overload of self-esteem and may need to be protected from themselves. Chihuahuas and Chihuahua mixes, in particular, can be aggressive toward bigger dogs. Socialize a Chug extensively and take him to puppy kindergarten to help prevent this problem.

Chugs have a low to moderate activity level that is adaptable to their owner's lifestyle. They will enjoy a nice walk or active playtime each day, like any dog, and if you're interested and talented at training, they can participate in such dog sports as obedience and rally. Chugs can also make great therapy dogs.

If your Chug takes after his Pug ancestors, you can bet that he will enjoy his meals, perhaps a bit too much. Take care not to overfeed him. Excess weight can exacerbate health problems, including hip dysplasia and breathing difficulties, which are not unusual in Pugs and Pug mixes.

Chugs are smart and learn quickly, but they can also be stubborn or have a short attention span. Keep training sessions short and fun. If you begin socialization and training early and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play and food rewards, you can successfully train a Chug.

Chugs may have a short, smooth coat or a longer coat if there's a longhaired Chihuahua in their family tree. It's likely that a Chug will shed, based on his Pug heritage. Pugs are one of the biggest shedders around. Brush the Chug coat daily to remove shedding hair, bring out shine and reduce the amount of dog hair floating around your home.

If your Chug has facial wrinkles, it's important to keep them clean and dry. Wipe them out with a damp washcloth or baby wipe, dry the folds thoroughly, and apply baby powder or corn starch to help them stay dry. Some Chugs require this wrinkle treatment daily, while others can get by with having it done once or twice a week or every three to four weeks.

In addition, trim a Chug's nails at least monthly --more frequently if necessary --keep his ears clean and dry to prevent ear infections and brush his teeth as often as possible. Small dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease.

Chugs are companion dogs. They love their people and need to live in the house, never outdoors.

If you do choose to buy one, however, select a breeder who has done the health testing to ensure that her puppies won't carry the genetic diseases common to both Pugs and Chihuahuas. And while there are no guarantees in life, it's also a good way to minimize the possibility of big veterinary bills in the future.

Health Issues Common to Chugs

All hybrid dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as purebred dogs can and just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the Chug is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the Chug and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.

Chugs may develop health conditions common to both Chihuahuas and Pugs, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, eye diseases such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, or dry eye. Both breeds are also prone to eye injuries.

Hip dysplasia is a deformity of the hip socket and can cause lameness or arthritis. Many toy breeds and small dogs have a condition known as luxating patellas, in which one or both knees are unstable and occasionally slip out of place. Depending on the level of severity (1 being mild and 4 being severe), luxating patellas can be a minor issue that cause the dog little problem or pain or serious enough to require surgical correction. Dry eye occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears to lubricate the eye properly.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have patella certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) Medium $200-$1,000

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Chug Puppy

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Chugs aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Chugs can live 15 or more years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Chug to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Chugs

Pet insurance for Chugs costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Chugs are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Chugs are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Chug is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.