John Walton
Written by John Walton

Small and playful, Pug dogs are some of the most beloved companion dogs these days. At the beginning, they were adored by people from the Chinese dynasties and even by the Tibetan monks. They quickly became popular throughout Europe and beyond.

The Pug was illustrated in paintings, used as a cartoon character and appeared in movies and TV series. Its temperament is balanced, friendly and it is full of love too. As any other dog breed, this one is characterized by certain peculiarities. Even so, it is often confused with the French bulldog or with miniature copies of Mastiff or Bullmastiff. They are also unrelated with the Shar-Pei dogs.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessHigh
Exercise NeedsHigh

Dog Breed Group:Companion Dogs
Height:Generally 10 inches to 1 foot, 2 inches tall at the shoulder
Weight:Generally 14 to 18 pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

There is much debate regarding the origins of this dog breed called Pug, but the most viable option is China. There is also a discussion regarding its ancestors. Some say it is akin to the Pekingese, while others argue that there are chances to be linked to the Bulldog and the Mastiff. In terms of history, it is known for sure that this dog breed was used as companion for the Buddhist monks from Tibet. Over time, the Pug has become popular in Europe, especially among royal persons.

For example, Napoleon’s wife, Josephine, who had such a dog, used it to send secret messages to her husband in prison. Both the Pugs and the Pekingese were brought to England in 1860. Its popularity is continuously growing since it was recognized as a distinctive dog breed in 1885.

Regarding the name of this dog breed, there are 2 theories as it follows. The first theory says that “Pug dog” means “dog with the face of a monkey”. This is due to the fact that these dogs have become fashionable in Britain along with the marmoset monkeys, which have very similar faces. Germans call this dog Mops because that is the slang word from the UK used for naming the marmoset monkeys.

The second theory says that the name of this dog breed has Latin origin and it means “clenched fist”. In Latin, “Pugnus” means fist and the name refers to the wrinkled head of this dog that looks very much like a fist. Among the other names used for this dog breed are Chinese Pug, Dutch Bulldog, Mastiff Mini, Carlin and others.

Main Highlights
  • A dog similar with the Pug we know these days belonged to the Buddhist monasteries from Tibet before 400 BC.
  • Originally from China, the Pug was considered a real treasure by Chinese emperors. These dogs had luxurious living conditions and some of them had guards at their disposal who watched their every step.
  • They got different names in the European countries in which they have gained popularity, such as Carlin in France, Dogullo in Spain, Mops in the German kingdoms, Caganlino in the Italian peninsula, Lo-sze in China and Mopshond in the Netherlands.
  • The Pug is a small dog with a jovial character, a round and wrinkled head, a short nose, a rigid body and a curled tail.
  • The Pug is an active dog that needs daily exercise. An hour walk is enough in order to maintain its weight and physical condition at normal levels.
  • The Mops has inner calm, it is sociable, sensitive, affectionate and intelligent, but it can also be stubborn and tends to snore.
  • A malleable dog, funny and cuddly, the Mops is easily kept under control and accommodates very well to a life in an apartment.
  • These dogs love to romp and run, but intense workouts should be avoided. Also, they must be protected from hot and really cold weather.
  • They are prone to deformations of the mouth and nose, eyelid and eye problems, heat stroke, hip dysplasia, Legg-Perthes, hip dislocations and dog encephalitis.
  • William Hogarth was the first person to paint a Pug. Goya also painted his famous pug, in 1785.
Breed History

The origins of the Pug were placed in China, their age being estimated at over 2000 years. The first written description of a similar dog called “dog with short snout” was recorded around the year 600 BC. In the complete dictionary of Chinese characters ordered by Emperor Kang Hsi around the year 950 AD are recorded a “short-legged dog” and a “dog with short head”, descriptions which, according to experts, make reference to the Pug. However, there is some controversy about its origins.

Some experts believe that the Pug comes from the Lower Lands and that Dutch traders actually brought it from the Far East. Its ancestor is believed to be a variety of Pekingese with short hair. Another theory says that the Pug is the result of interbreeding between varieties of small sized bulldogs or French Mastiffs.

Since the sixteenth century, the Pug became a toy dog for the aristocrats from the European royal courts, reaching a maximum of popularity in the Victorian era. Later, it appeared in Japan and Europe, becoming the favorite of the royal courts. By the mid-sixteenth century, the Pug was popular in the Netherlands as well.

Finally, when the British soldiers attacked the imperial palace in Beijing in 1860, they found several copies of Pug and Pekingese dogs that they brought with them back in England. This dog breed’s popularity continued to grow and copies were soon imported to the United States. The Pug was admitted to the American Kennel Club in 1885. Over time, they became famous all over Europe, but known by different names, such as Carlin in France, Dogullo in Spain, Mops in German kingdoms and Caganlino in the Italian peninsula.

Pugs had important roles in history, such as when a copy of this dog specimen was really helpful to Prince William of Orange because it saved him from the Spanish troops by announcing their arrival.

Also, a Pug has accompanied King William III and Queen Mary II to the throne in 1688. In 1790, Josephine, wife of Napoleon, used a Pug to send messages to Napoleon while he was imprisoned. She was hiding the papers in the dog’s collar. As for art, William Hogarth’s “House of cards” is the first painting in which appeared the Pug. This dog’s debut in the select world of art was depicting it playing cards. In addition, Goya also painted a Pug in 1785.


The Pug is categorized as a companion dog, but it is also referred to as toy dog. Therefore, it can safely be said that the Pug is the largest of all toy dogs. Females are 2 inches shorter than males on average, measuring between 10 and 12 inches. So, male Pugs are around 12 to 14 inches tall. Both weight between 14 and 18 pounds, but they can easily exceed the maximum weight because of their tendency to gain weight. They are categorized as small to medium sized dogs.

Personality and Character

About the Pug’s personality it can be said that it is impressive despite its small size. They are among the funniest dogs in the world. Also, they are very affectionate, they get attached quickly and they prefer the human company more than the canine company. They need attention and, in turn, they offer even more attention to their owners. They often follow their owners from one room to the other.

The Pug reconciles with a small living space, but it tends to occupy the whole house if its owner lets it. Pug dogs are lively, loyal, affectionate and loving, with a happy disposition. They are playful and charming by nature. Intelligent and mischievous, they have a big heart.

However, they can be very stubborn at times, as well as arrogant. Since they are intelligent dogs, they get bored easily especially when they have the same routine daily. Pugs are very sensitive to one’s tone of voice, so they need patient owners who don’t yell at them. They are good as watchdogs, but they don’t bark excessively.

Pugs, also called German bulldogs, are full of life, exuberant, loyal, affectionate and caring, always with an optimistic attitude. They are playful and fascinating, intelligent and mischievous. They can become easily stubborn and inflexible at times. Pugs love to socialize and become best friends with everybody. Remember, however, that it requires attention and becomes jealous if its owner ignores it.

Health and Potential Problems

The Pug is among the dog breeds with significant risk in terms of spinal congenital abnormalities, along with other dog breeds such as Bulldog, French Bulldog, Yorkshire Terrier and Boston Terrier. The greatest dangers in the event of such involvement are the neurological disorders that can result.

  • Diseases of the vertebrae. The wedge-shaped vertebrae of the spine are most likely to cause neurological complications if they are affected. Their development leads to faulty spinal deformities, such as kyphosis and scoliosis. The effects are dramatic in time, resulting in general instability of the spine, sprains or fractures of the vertebrae. Among the symptoms are weaknesses in the hind limbs, paralysis, urinary and fecal incontinence, chronic spinal pain. The most probable cause is incomplete irrigation of the vertebrae, which prevents normal development. Treatment is usually conservative and consists of surgical procedures.
  • Necrotizing meningoencephalitis. It is an inflammatory disease of the central nervous system that often occurs in young, small sized dogs. Chihuahua, Pug and Bichon Maltese are most prone dog breeds to this condition. The meninges and the brain of the affected dogs is inflamed because of unknown causes. Specialists think it might be an autoimmune disease. Necrotizing meningoencephalitis is fatal without the administration of an aggressive immunosuppressive treatment and, unfortunately, keeps a high fatality rate even after such treatment.
  • An eye condition, entropion manifests as a rash on the surface of the eyeball caused by friction. The eyelashes come in contact because the eyelids are slightly rolled to the inside. Sometimes the cause is an irregular spasm of the eyelid, sometimes the process is continuous. The problem is usually inherited and starts at young age, between 1 and 2. Usually this disease manifests itself in both eyes. In acute forms the treatment is surgery, excess skin being removed.
  • Hip dysplasia. This represents a major problem for Pugs. No less than 60 percent of all Pugs are affected by it. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is the one releasing these statistics and also says that the Pug is the second most affected dog breed. Hip dysplasia is the abnormal development of the hip-femoral joint. It is usually met in large dogs, but the Pug is an exception. Hip dysplasia is characterized by an excessive laxity of the joint, associated with degenerative processes. Factors that cause the disease are varied: fast growth, excessive movement, unbalanced nutrition and in hereditary.
  • The Pug is one of the dog breeds that are most affected by demodectic mange, also known as Demodex. This condition is favored by immune system weaknesses. Demodex can be easily treated, based on appropriate medications and the use of lotions available in veterinary pharmacies. Demodectic mange is caused by a microscopic mite, called Demodex Canis. All pups are born free of this disease, which is not contagious, unlike sarcoptic mange, but mothers who have this parasite transmit it to their puppies.
  • Stenosis of the nostrils and extended soft palate. This long denomination actually means that the respiratory channel becomes narrow, fact which makes a Pug breathe with difficulty and snore. Only surgery can fix this problem, but only if it is so severe that the dog cannot breathe properly and has symptoms that get worse often.
  • Obesity. It is often seen in small dogs, especially in those with a lower energy level, such as the Pug. Although it may seem harmless at first, obesity is a medical problem that may have complications in time, including pancreatic disorders, bone, joint and kidney problems. In such case, an overweight dog should eat according to a food plan made especially for its nutritional needs. Keeping a Pug slim would be much better than putting it on a diet.
Care Features

Pugs are dogs with short, strong and straight legs. They need daily walks and enjoy energetic games that maintain their health. A Pug owner should be careful not to overdo it and stop exercising if he or she notices the dog begins to breathe with difficulty. Although they are considered toy dogs, they need more exercise than the other breeds because they are prone to obesity. The best way to maintain a Pug’s weight is to keep daily walks consistent and take it to the park for a short run.

The Pug’s perception about its own size is not the real one. It can be said that a pug feels like an elephant when it comes to its size. Therefore, in order to train such a dog good coordination and cooperation are necessary. A quality, intelligent training style is the only one that works in case of Pugs.

These dogs are easy to watch and their actions can influence every owner. Especially during its young months, a Pug is active, temperamental, alert and stubborn. It learns everything it sees its family members doing and these habits are difficult to be corrected afterwards. The Pug is a big dog in a small body. This aspect must be considered in case of training.

Endowed with a strong will and a sharp intellect, the Pug gets bored quickly if a command is repeated too often. Despite the fact that it is a small dog, it proves to be effective as a guard dog, but not aggressive in its approach. Any trends that might look violent or aggressive should be corrected as soon as noticed because they are considered a deviation from the standard. The most influential person in the Pug’s life should be the one training it. That person is the one who gets the most attention from the dog. Thus, the best results can be obtained in the shortest time.

Feeding Schedule

Pugs are dogs that tend to get fat. Since they would like to eat all day long, it is difficult to keep a Pug in great shape. A dog goes through 4 periods of life, puppy, adolescent, adult and senior. The amount of recommended food changes according to a dog’s period of life. Therefore, a puppy Pug should be fed 3 times per day with 1/3 cup of food every time. In case of an adolescent Pug, feeding should be done 2 times per day with 3/4 cup of food each time.

As for an adult Pug dog, it should eat twice per day, half a cup of dry dog food at each meal. Last, a senior dog should eat less, namely 1/3 cup, twice per day. Taking these instructions in consideration is essential for your dog’s health. Every type of dog food has its own instructions, but vets usually do not recommend anyone to follow those because they are not correct.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Pugs have a smooth and shiny coat that is easy to keep clean with a brush made of pig hair. They shed seasonally, but abundantly. As for bathing, they should be washed only when it is absolutely necessary and where is needed, not all over. After bathing, they must be towel-dried or blow-dried quickly because they are very sensitive and get cold easily.

During the cleaning sessions of a Pug, special attention should be paid to cleaning the folds of its skin from its face and neck. These folds allow external parasites to adhere to the skin. So, these folds should be carefully cleaned and disinfected with special solutions recommended by the vet. A simple cleaning session with water is also effective. Cotton should be avoided when cleaning a Pug’s wrinkles because it might irritate its skin.

Because of a Pug’s big, pretty eyes, it can get infected very quickly. Therefore, its owner should clean its eyes carefully 2 to 3 times per week or whenever there are secretions around its eyes. In addition, owners of these dogs should wash their teeth several times per week.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

Even if the Pug is an ancient dog breed and quite famous, people are still concerned whether or not they get along well with children and other pets. These dogs are children’s best friends because they are playful and childish. Pugs can play for hours with children or just sit with them. Considering the size of this dog, it should not be left unsupervised with children because they might hurt it without realizing.

On the dog’s side there is no problem because they are not a danger and are known not to fight back. Therefore, a Pug is compatible with the life of a family from every point of view. Puppies should grow among all family members rather than isolated for safety reasons. When it comes to a Pug’s interaction with other dogs or pets, it is tolerant and behaves impeccably.

If we take a look around, we can easily see that the Pug is much more popular and wanted than the Golden Retriever. Once at the top of the list, the Golden Retriever was people’s top choice in terms of friendly, loyal and companion dog. Now, the Pug comes first even if it has wrinkles, bulging eyes, it is small and sometimes fat.

Considered both a classic and in trend, the Pug has never been so appreciated as it is these days. Not even when it served as a lap dog for the royalties. This is one of the reasons why breeders trick people and do not sell them pure breeds. They take advantage of their lack of knowledge when it comes to characteristics. The Pug is a sickly and sensitive dog, so choose wisely!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.