The Jug: A small dog with a big dog personality

I was that kid growing up—the one who melted over every dog I passed, begging my parents to let me get a puppy, only to end up with another goldfish. Once, I convinced them to buy me a hermit crab at the beach, but that was as adventurous as my parents got with pets.

Since I couldn’t get my own, I spoiled my neighbor’s dog. I think the medium-sized lab mix spent more time in my parents’ yard than in its own.

Fast forward to adulthood. I met my husband when I was a freshman in college. Among other good qualities, he was a dog lover. His childhood pup was a German Shepherd mix, and later, his parents got a Collie.

We bought our first house three weeks after we got married. Finally—my house, my space, my rules. Time for my first dog.

My husband and I loved big dogs—Shepherds, Labradors, Rottweilers, Collies. These breeds were energetic, loveable, and loyal. They were big enough that you could tussle with them but well-behaved enough to listen when it was time to stop.

Our new house was just outside Philadelphia (a very dog-friendly city!) in a small twin home with virtually no yard. So, we had to think smaller.

I poured over websites, researching different breeds and mixes. How small is too small? How big is too big? What health concerns did each breed face? Were they good with kids? What about other dogs? How much did they shed? Could they run with me?

Choosing a dog, especially my very first one, seemed like an overwhelming task at times. But then, without trying, I found her. Six months after we moved into our new home, I discovered the perfect pup. I fell for a teeny, clumsy, energetic ball of fur known as a Jug.

I didn’t anticipate getting a Pug and Jack Russell mix. We named her Kona, both for her coffee coloring and our recent Hawaiian honeymoon. She was so small and light the day we brought her home that when I placed the four-month-old pup on a sofa pillow, she toppled right off, not even making a dent in the cushion.

We welcomed Kona into our family in 2007, right as the popularity of the Jug mix was on the rise. It’s no wonder! These dogs are adorable with have beautiful coloring and a great demeanor. Kona is caramel in color, with black ears and a black snout. Fortunately, her face is longer like a Jack Russell, which means she doesn’t have the breathing issues most Pugs face. She has a curly tail, as most Jugs do, and a goofy underbite, which gives her a lot of personality.

Kona was an amazing choice for me as a first-time dog owner. Jugs embody the best of both breeds—they are happy, energetic, and loyal like a Jack Russell as well as playful, mischievous, and smart like a Pug. We always said Kona was smart enough to be extra stubborn.

As Kona gained confidence in her new home, we quickly learned just how energetic she could be. She ran, and ran, and ran, and ran more. I thought for sure she would wear a figure eight into our downstairs carpet. On more than one occasion, she slipped through her collar when we took a walk and enjoyed a rousing game of Catch Me If You Can with the neighborhood kids. She would be nearly an arm’s length away, wait for you to reach, then take off again. She loved every second of it and left us exhausted.

When visiting my aunt’s house once, Kona taunted my aunt’s three older West Highland Terriers by outpacing them in their backyard. It didn’t take long for my aunt’s dogs to give up, retreating in the shade under the deck. Obviously enjoying her win, Kona continued to run and quickly veered right. Unbeknownst to Kona, she headed straight for my aunt’s inground pool, and, almost like an old Tom and Jerry cartoon, hovered over the water for a second before plunging in.

I thought for sure I’d be in the pool next—this was Kona’s first experience with water outside of a bath, and I didn’t know if she could swim! Thankfully, she popped up and paddled over to the side. Needless to say, she hasn’t wanted to swim since then.

Kona’s Jack Russell side was very evident on our walks. She always was very social, curious, and fast. She would sense a squirrel or bird from a mile away and practically jerk the leash from our hands. When she was older, my husband witnessed her chase and pounce on a baby groundhog. He said she was equally proud and confused, having no idea what to do with it next. She hesitated long enough, though, that the groundhog squirmed free and dashed into the woods.

We had Kona for five years before we had our first child. Watching Kona with our son was amazing. She never really cuddled with our kids but was tolerant, protective, and playful. When our son started crying in the crib, she immediately went to his side, jumped onto her hind legs, and peered into the crib until we came over.

The two of them always were together. If my son was on my lap, so was Kona. If I was rocking him to sleep, she was on my feet on the ottoman. We walked together, slept together, and played together.

We have three very active boys now, and they all interact slightly differently with Kona. She’s eleven now, and not nearly as energetic, but, when we’re all outside kicking a soccer ball or tossing a Frisbee, she is in the middle of the action with her puppy energy in full swing. (The only downside, as is common with this crossbreed, is as Kona has aged, her hip can pop out of place when she runs too much.)

My youngest absolutely loves Kona. When he first started cooing, he actually had a different tone when “talking” to the dog. He’s almost two, now. “Puppy” was one of his first words, and Kona is his best friend. Kona isn’t overly affectionate with my toddler, but she is incredibly patient and responsive to him.

Kona is the dog my husband and I never knew we always wanted. She’s perfect. At just under 20 pounds, she’s compact in size but sturdy enough to play hard. She is wicked smart, silly, stubborn, and playful. She’s loyal and protective. She’s quirky and fun. She fits a big personality in that little body.

We thought we wanted a big dog, but we found all we wanted in a Jug. And, we wouldn’t change it for the world.