A Worldly Favorite

Pugs are hard to miss: Along with large expressive eyes and a wrinkly face, this small dog breed has a larger-than life personality.

Featured in box office hits such as "Men in Black," "The Adventures of Milo and Otis," "Pocahontas" "Marie Antoinette" and in popular TV shows such as "The King of Queens," "Spin City" and "The West Wing," pugs are in high demand. They've even crossed over to the video game genre, staring in the Nintendo game Nintendogs and as the "Perky Pug" in World of Warcraft.

Even off-screen, pugs are seemingly everywhere and are consistently one of the most popular dogs in the United States — a status that appears to be deeply rooted in the dog’s fascinating history.


Pugs are thought to have originated from East China, however this remains unclear. During his reign, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang, had all records, scrolls and art of the breed destroyed sometime between 221 and 210 BCE.

None the less, the pug continued to be a favorite of the Chinese rulers, bred specifically to be lap dogs during the Shang dynasty in 400 BCE. Even Confucius made reference to the breed, writing about a "short mouthed dog" in 551. As their popularity grew, the pug became the companion of choice for Buddhist monks in Tibet, then for families in Japan and Europe.

During the 16th century, the pug was imported by the Dutch East India Company, a Netherlands shipping and trading business operating in Asia. The royal monarchy of Netherlands adopted the pug as the official family dog; most famously, their dog "Pompey" thwarted the assassination of the Prince of Orange with his incessant barking. Today, the prince's faithful companion is immortalized along with him: Pompey is carved at the feet of the William the Silent monument. At the time, the pug was also known as the "Dutch mastiff."

The pug's popularity expanded to England, France, Spain and Italy, where they most often resided with the upper class — including England's King William III and Queen Mary II, as well as Napoleon Bonaparte's wife Joséphine, Empress of the French — but in addition to being dressed in frou-frou clothing sometimes made to match their owners' own clothes, the pug was also enlisted by the Italian military to track animals and people and served as guard dogs.

The pug arrived in America during the 19th century, where it became a family favorite.

Pugs can suffer from a variety of health conditions, including overheating and obesity.

Black pug

The pug may have a strong-willed personality, but rarely is the breed aggressive in nature. This makes the dog a good choice for families with children, with whom the breed is known to be quite fond of.

Typically quiet, gentle and submissive, pugs also enjoy a good game of tug-o-war and can make good guard dogs. As history has made it clear, pugs can be very alert and, as they're often described, "yappy."

Pug puppy

Although the pug appeared as a lean, taller dog with a longer nose and cropped ears in 18th and 19th century paintings, the modern pug has short legs with a deep chest and a very short muzzle. Along with its compact square body, the pug is known for its curly tail and ultra-fine, glossy coat.

One other telltale characteristic of a pug: the dog's lower teeth protrude a bit further out than their upper teeth, forming an under bite.

The pug's coat can be one of a variety of colors: fawn, apricot, silver or black. The rare white pug is due to breeding or albinism.

Pug catches ball

Pugs can suffer from a variety of health conditions, including overheating and obesity. While these may be common medical conditions, your pug will not necessarily develop these issues, including those listed below.

  • Skin irritation and infection can occur if proper care isn't taken to clean the folds of skin on a pug's face.
  • Hip dysplasia is a crippling hip joint abnormality that causes arthritis.
  • Pharyngeal Gag Reflex is caused by fluid or debris getting caught under the pug's elongated palate, irritating the throat and causing what is commonly referred to as "reverse sneezing," when the dog gasps and snorts strenuously. Not typically harmful but may be frightening to the owner, these episodes usually resolve themselves if you calm the dog.
  • Demodectic mange, also called Demodex, is caused by a mite (Demodex canis) that is a normal resident of the skin. It is transmitted from the mother to puppies during suckling. Genetic factors and immunologic response play a role in the development of the disease. The disease is treatable and not considered contagious.
  • Eye injuries can occur more commonly due to the pug's short skeletal brow ridge and protruding eyes, making them susceptible to puncture wounds and scratched cornea.
  • Breathing issues are due to the pug's short snout and compromised airway. Anatomical and functional abnormalities of the airway limit the dog's ability to breathe properly and regulate body temperature. High humidity and temperatures during the summer months aggravate the condition and may cause severe respiratory distress and even death.
  • Obesity can become an issue for pugs if they are overfed and sedentary. Extra weight on a pug can also lead to even poorer breathing abilities. A pug's weight can be easily managed with routine exercise and a healthy diet.
  • Necrotizing meningoencephalitis (NME) is also known as pug dog encephalitis (PDE), an inflammation of the brain and surrounding membranes. Pugs and Maltese breeds are thought to be genetically predisposed to this rare disease. The prognosis is extremely grave and most dogs do not survive after the appearance of clinical signs.
  • Hemivertebrae occurs when one side of a vertebral body is incompletely developed. The condition can be present without clinical effects but may occasionally cause intervertebral disk herniation, vertebral luxation and spinal cord compression causing pain and paralysis of the rear limbs.
As with any pet, be sure to regularly consult a veterinarian for routine care and medical advice for your four-legged friend.