While most Pugs appearing in eighteenth century prints tended to be long and lean, the current breed standards call for a square, cobby body, a compact form, deep chest, and well-developed muscle. Their heads, carried on arched necks, should be substantial and round, the better to accentuate their large, bulging, dark eyes. The wrinkles on their foreheads should be distinct and deep,. The ears should be smooth and soft, like black velvet and come in two varieties: "rose" (small, round and folded with the front edge angled toward the mask, giving the head a more rotund shape) and "button" (level with the top of forehead and folded at a sharp ninety degree angle). Breeding preference goes to "button" Pugs. The legs are very strong, straight, of moderate length, and are set well under. The elbows should be directly under the withers when viewed from the side. The shoulders are moderately laid back. The pasterns are strong, neither steep nor down. The feet are neither so long as the foot of the hare, nor so round as that of the cat; well split-up toes, and the nails black. Dewclaws are generally removed.The lower teeth should protrude farther than their upper, meeting in an under-bite.
Their fine, glossy coats can be apricot, fawn, silver or black. A silver coat is characterized by a very light coloured coat, absent of black guard hairs. Some unscrupulous breeders call "smutty" Pugs silver. A "smutty" Pug typically has a very dark head, with no clear delineation at the mask, and dark forelegs. The markings are clearly defined. The muzzle or mask, ears, moles on cheeks, thumb mark or diamond on forehead, and the back trace should be as black as possible. The mask should be black. The more intense and well defined it is, the better. The trace is a black line extending from the occiput to the tail. The tail should curl tightly over the hip; a double curl is considered perfection.
Pugs of different coat types shed to varying degrees, but they all shed quite a bit year round. Fawn Pugs, which have both an undercoat and an overcoat, are the most notorious for shedding. Pug owners have gone to great lengths to control this Pug characteristic. Partial solutions to the problem involve using special shampoos, supplementing or changing the Pug's diet, or even trimming the Pug's coat. Alternatively, regular coat grooming can keep the shedding down.
Because Pugs lack longer snouts and prominent skeletal brow ridges, they are susceptible to eye injuries such as puncture wounds and scratched corneas and painful Entropion. Pugs also have compact breathing passageways, leaving many pugs unable to breathe properly or efficiently or their ability to regulate their temperature through evaporation from the tongue. These complications can lead to accelerated injury or death should they be left in hot locations where cooling cannot properly take place such as cars on hot days or in outdoor conditions in temperatures over 80 degrees Fahrenheit (27°C).
Pugs living a mostly sedentary life can be prone to obesity, though this is avoidable with regular exercise and a healthy diet.
Pugs can also suffer from a chronic form of granulomatous meningoencephalitis (an inflammation of the brain) specific to the breed called pug dog encephalitis (PDE). There is no known cause or cure for PDE, although it is believed to be an inherited disease. All dogs tend to either die or are euthanised within a few months after the onset of clinical signs, which usually occur anywhere from 6 months to 3 years of age.
Pugs, along with other brachycephalic dogs (e.g. boxers, bulldogs), are also prone to hemivertebrae. The screwtail is an example of a hemivertebrae, but when it occurs in others areas of the spine it can be devastating, causing such severe paralysis that euthanasia is a serious recommendation.
The Pug, like other short-snouted breeds, has an elongated palate. When excited, they are prone to a "reverse sneeze" where the dog will quickly, and seemingly laboriously, gasp and snort. This is caused by fluid or debris getting caught under the palate and irritating the throat or limiting breathing. "Reverse sneezing" episodes are not harmful to the Pug but are usually resolved by the owner calming the dog and gently rubbing the throat to induce a swallowing action; the symptom may also resolve itself without intervention. Owners typically recognise this phenomenon as a pathological symptom rather than as an endearing behavioral pattern.
As with all small breeds, some problems may arise in pregnancy and during birth. The most common problems include the need for a Caesarian section birth and new mothers being disinterested in the puppies, sometimes accompanied by the mother not opening the birth sac.
As Pugs have many wrinkles in their faces, owners normally take special care to clean inside the creases, as irritation and infection can result from improper care.. It is very important that the drainage from their eyes is cleaned from their wrinkles.
Pugs are one of several breeds that are more susceptible to Demodectic mange, also known as Demodex. This condition is caused by a weakened immune system, and it is a minor problem for many young Pugs. It is easily treatable, however, some Pugs are especially susceptible to the condition, and will present with a systemic form of the condition. This vulnerability is thought to be genetic, and good breeders will avoid breeding dogs who have had this condition.However, inbreeding can cause some pugs these problems.
The breed was first imported in the late 16th and 17th centuries by merchants and crews from the Dutch East Indies Trading Company. The Pug later became the official dog of the House of Orange. In 1572, a Pug saved the Prince of Orange's life by barking at an assassin. A Pug also traveled with William III and Mary II when they left the Netherlands to ascend to the throne of England in 1688. This century also saw Pugs' popularity on the rise in other European countries. In Spain, they were painted by Goya, in Italy Pugs dressed in matching jackets and pantaloons sat by the coachmen of the rich, and in Germany and France. Pugs appear several times as footnotes to history. Sometimes, they were used for Scent hounds. They were used by the military to track animals or people, and were also employed as the guard's dogs.
In nineteenth century England, Pugs flourished under the patronage of the monarch Queen Victoria. Her many Pugs, which she bred herself, included Olga, Pedro, Minka, Fatima and Venus. Her involvement with the dogs in general helped to establish the Kennel Club, which was formed in 1873. Victoria favoured apricot and fawn Pugs, whereas the aristocrat Lady Brassey is credited with making black Pugs fashionable after she brought some back from China in 1886.
The Pug arrived in the United States during the nineteenth century (the American Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1885) and was soon making its way into the family home and show ring. In 1981 the Pug Dhandys Favorite Woodchuck won the Westminster Kennel Club show in the United States, the only Pug to have won since the show began in 1877. The World Champion (Best in Show or BIS) at the 2004 World Dog Show held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil was a Pug, Double D Cinoblu's Masterpiece. The Crufts show in England has not had a Pug win BIS since it began in 1891.
In a May 23, 2007, web issue of The Onion, Pugs were lampooned in a fake news article titled Dog Breeders Issue Massive Recall Of '07 Pugs. The piece satirized Pugs and Pug breeders by speaking of the dog and its characteristics as a faulty product, "evidenced" by a fictional quote from the American Pug Breeders Association director, "While pug owners are accustomed to dog malfunction, the latest animals are prone to more problems than just the usual joint failures, overheating, seizures, chronic respiratory defects, and inability to breed without assistance. The latest model Pug is simply not in any way a viable dog.