It's hard to imagine a more incongruous mix than the loving, playful, lap-sitting Pug and the independent nose on four legs known as the Beagle, but that's what a Puggle is. While both breeds are short-coated, small, cute and popular, that's about all they have in common. At their best, Puggles are people-friendly, enthusiastic, trainable best friends. At their worst, they're stubborn, selectively deaf, uncooperative and just not that into you. But the worst thing they are is a top money-maker for puppy mills and unscrupulous breeders.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

If you're lucky enough to find one of the rare conscientious breeders of Puggles, your puppy should have the best character traits of the Pug and Beagle, and be a robust, healthy little dog with a playful spirit, a sense of humor and a desire to please. You won't find a good backyard dog, however; the Puggle is a companion dog and needs to live indoors with his family.

In theory, the Pug influence is meant to temper the Beagle's independent ways and offset the little hound's tendency to be an escape artist and a roamer with the Pug's love of home and family. The Puggle has a short coat, usually some shade of tan but sometimes other colors, frequently with the familiar black "Pug" mask. His forehead is slightly wrinkled and his ears hang down on either side of his head, giving him a perennially puppy-like look.

The short Pug-type coat sheds, but doesn't need much care beyond a daily brushing to keep it to a minimum. Hanging ears need to be kept clean and dry. Trapped moisture in the ear canal can lead to bacterial and fungal infections, and repeated infections can cause so much damage to the ear canal that the dog will lose his hearing. Severely affected ears may require surgery to control the infections.

Unfortunately, as is the case with many purebred dogs as well, it can be extremely difficult to find an ethical breeder who is dedicated to producing healthy, temperamentally sound pets from genetically tested backgrounds. There are a number of reasons for this, but the main one is that almost no ethical Pug or Beagle breeders will allow their dogs to be used in breeding Pug/Beagle mixes, and it can be quite difficult for Puggle breeders to continue to find Beagles and Pugs to use to produce new generations of Puggles.

Variations of the Puggle

Crossbred puppies like the Puggle -- even within the same litter -- can look very different from each other, and can look the same as or different from their parents. The Puggle's size, color, coat type, temperament, activity level and health risks will vary depending on what traits of the two breeds an individual puppy has inherited from his parents.

Health Issues Common to Puggles

Puggles are susceptible to the health problems of both the Pug and the Beagle, although possibly at a lower rate than purebred dogs. Beagles, Pugs and Puggles alike can share the same health problems common to the smallest breeds of dog, such as kneecaps that easily slip out of place (luxating patellas), breathing difficulties caused by a collapsing trachea, and dental problems.

These risks also include Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, which causes reduced blood supply to the head of the thigh bone, which in turn causes it to shrink. The first sign of this disease is limping, which usually appears when the puppy is 4 to 6 months old. It can be treated with surgical removal of the head of the leg bone, after which the puppy will have a relatively normal life other than an increased likelihood of arthritis.

Pugs can also suffer from a number of neurological problems, but the most frightening of all diseases that can strike the breed is the one known as "Pug Dog Encephalitis," or PDE. This is an inflammation of the brain that causes seizures and death. There is no cure and no way to prevent this condition. The Pug Dog Club of America is aggressively supporting research into the cause of PDE, and it's currently believed to be a genetic disease. There are no genetic screening tests available at this time for PDE, but a good breeder will tell all prospective puppy buyers about any affected dogs in your puppy's ancestry.

Both Pugs and Beagles have a tendency to overeat and can easily become obese, so keep your Puggle's weight under control. Beagles and Pugs also can suffer from spinal problems, so watch your Puggle carefully for any signs of painful movement, especially in the neck, and seek early veterinary attention if any are observed.

Puggles are also prone to hip dysplasia, a genetic malformation of the hip socket as well as luxating patellas, where the kneecaps pop out of place, and anterior cruciate ligament tears -- another painful condition that usually requires surgery.

There are a number of other health conditions that can occur in Beagles, Pugs, or both -- and thus in their offspring. Your puppy's breeder should be able to provide you with documentation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that your puppy's parents are free of hip and elbow dysplasia, Legg-Calve-Perthes, luxating patellas and thyroid disease.

She should also have test results from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) that her dogs are clear of genetic eye disorders known to occur in the Pug and the Beagle, and documentation of Musladin-Lueke Syndrome status as determined by the University of California, Davis, Veterinary Genetics Laboratory.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Puggle before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Hip Dysplasia Medium $1,500-$6,000
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Medium $1,000-$3,000

7 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Puggle Puppy

Do not under any circumstances buy your Puggle puppy from a pet store, nor a breeder who sells puppies to a pet store or through any kind of third party retailer.

Make sure you seek a breeder who is less interested in the capitalizing on the fad of designer dogs with cute names and is more interested in crossbreeding for the sake of reducing the incidence of certain hereditary problems. Careless breeding, or the idea of that "crossbreeding" somehow magically eliminates genetic disease, can result in puppies with serious genetic problems.

Before you buy a Puggle, take a look at the puppy buyer's guide of the National Beagle Club of America and that of the Pug Dog Club of America, and see if the breeder or seller can live up to those standards.

Don't accept excuses and lies like, "I know my dogs are healthy because the vet checked them," or "I don't have those problems in my lines," or "Those problems only affect purebred dogs." Those are the standard lines of a bad and irresponsible breeder. Wishful thinking is no substitute for genetic testing and ethical breeding practices.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Pugs, Beagles and Puggles aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.

Puppy or adult, take your Puggle 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.

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 Puggles

Even if you find a good, responsible breeder, your Puggle is still at risk of accidents and various illnesses. There is no guarantee that the puppy will be free of the hereditary conditions common in the breeds of its parents, so it is always a good idea to insure your pet.

While Puggles are not purebred dogs, these hybrids or crossbreeds are more likely than mixed breeds to make claims for some hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat. Therefore, their insurance will cost slightly more than for mixed breeds, but not as much as for purebreds.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Puggles are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Puggle 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.