What makes a Pug? Round Head, Square Body, Curly Tail

    black pug dog head photo

    We are all excited to get back to dog shows after our COVID hiatus. We want to restore that little bit of normal back into our dog life. It feels like we were all put on pause, there was a rewind, and now we are starting fresh. We are raring to go. With this in mind, I would like to take the opportunity to refresh readers’ understanding of some of the points of the Pug standard.

    I want to emphasize a few of the nuances that make a Pug, a Pug. I want to address the high points of type in our standard. My hope is that anyone officiating in the ring already has a firm grasp of what moderate angles, moderate reach and drive, double tracking, and a level back mean. So, I’ll leave that for another discussion.

    What makes a Pug | Round Head, Square Body, Curly Tail
    Here is a beautiful example of square, level back, the correct underline, and profile.

    Overall Appearance of the Pug

    I would like you to remember three important words when you think about a Pug; round head, square body, curly tail. These three words sum up the shape a Pug is expected to be. Say it again, “Round head, square body, curly tail.”

    Pugs are short-bodied, thickset, and square. We measure square from the point of shoulder to the ischium, and from the top of the withers to the ground. The standard calls for a Pug that is “multum in parvo,” which literally translate to “a lot in a little.” Basically, we are the concrete block of the Toy ring. Calling for a lot in a little requires substance that is not overdone; nor should it ever be coarse. A fat Pug doesn’t have substance, he is just fat, and a scrawny adult clearly lacks substance.

    Admittedly, our standard can be confusing because it only addresses substance in terms of weight, stating weight from 14 to 18 pounds (dog or bitch) as desirable. And admittedly, today’s exhibits are often slightly larger than the “desired” weight we address in the standard.

    However, the Pug should be evaluated on the merit of its bone, muscle, and cobbiness as it relates to breed type. Always keep in mind that the Pug is a Toy breed of moderate angles. We never want to see Pugs that are excessively large, weedy, leggy, short-legged or long-bodied. Pugs never have a tuck-up. Our back is parallel to the ground and our underline is virtually the same. Think thick as a brick.

    Pug’s Tail

    Let’s move on to the curly tail. Our standard says the tail is curled as tightly as possible over the hip. The double curl is perfection. A Pug’s tail is a very distinctive characteristic, and a Pug carries his feelings on his tail. While a double curl is perfection, a tight single or 1-1/2 twist is perfectly acceptable and pretty much what you can expect to find. No daylight should ever be visible from within the curl. The tail should always remain curled tightly to the body—and this applies when moving too.

    A low-set tail, a tail that doesn’t hold a curl, flops open when moving or shows daylight are all undesirable. It is not unusual for a puppy, or an exhibit that may have been startled by a noise, to drop its tail for a moment. However, when recovered, the tail should be carried high with that tight curl. (I joke that there are only three times a Pug’s tail comes undone; when he is ill, when he’s sleeping or when he’s dead.)

    Pug’s Head

    I have saved the discussion of the head for last as the head is complicated. Remember that word “round” head? If only it were that simple. I find that understanding the correct head is the hardest thing for many to grasp. Yes, the standard says our head is large, massive, and round. However, keep in mind that our head is large and round when viewed from the front. When viewed from the side, our face is flat.

    The head must always fit the body, meaning it should be in proportion to the body. The head should never be so large that it is out of balance with the rest of the dog. This is as unappealing as is the dog with a head that is too small. The head should always exhibit a firm lip line, thick cushioning under the eyes, substantial cheeks, and a strong, wide underjaw.

    But to really understand the Pug head, one must also understand the nose, eyes, shape and set of the ears, head wrinkle, muzzle width, and the bite as these all fill and fit into the round head.

    So, look at the head from the front and “draw” in your mind an imaginary circle around the head. Every inch of the dog’s head should reach out and touch or fill the edges of that circle. Now, let’s get a little more specific.


    We’ll start with the nose. Draw an imaginary horizontal line across the top of the nose to the outer edges of that circle. That horizontal line should run through the center of the eyes. It should bisect the center of the eyes for the dog to have proper nose placement. A nose that is set too low gives the face an up-and-down or rectangular look. For the Pug’s head to be balanced, half of his face will be above that horizontal line and half of it will be below. The stop of the nose is always concealed by the nose wrinkle. The nose is always black, wide, and flat.

    What makes a Pug | Round Head, Square Body, Curly Tail
    What makes a Pug | Round Head, Square Body, Curly Tail

    Nose: Although the Standard does not mention the nose, a short discussion is necessary. The nose is black, wide, and lies flat when viewed in profile. The top of the nose bisects the center of the eyes. The stop is concealed by an over-the-nose wrinkle. An unbroken wrinkle, set on the nose, unifies the face. Undesirable: A nose wrinkle covering a significant portion of the nose so as to negatively affect the Pug’s ability to breathe comfortably; a nosepad that is too large; lack of noseroll.


    The eyes are the soul of this breed and they should be dark, very large, and round. “Globular” in shape means round, it never means bulging. The expression of the eyes is soft and lustrous, but full of fire when excited. The expression of a Pug is extremely dependent on their big, dark, wide-set, appealing eyes. The eyes should never be small or beady, nor close-set, nor light. The whites of the eyes should not show, nor should the eyes be east-west. The center of the eyes should always be in line with the top of the nose. The rims of the eyes are black. Expression, size, shape, and color are of
    primary importance.


    The ears frame the head. They are thin, small, soft (like black velvet), and come in two shapes—rose or button—with preference given to the button ear. The ears are set wide on the head. The fold of the button ear is level with the top of the dog’s skull.

    When alert, the tip of the ear reaches no further than the outer corner of the eye. The rose ear appears smaller and folds differently, with the inner edge against the side of the head. The inner burr of the rose ear does not show like that of a Bulldog. The rose ear is small, neat, and tends to give the head a rounder appearance. Ears are always black, and both ears should be of the same type.

    Head Wrinkle

    Head wrinkle is another trait essential to a Pug’s expression. The standard says no more than the wrinkles are large and deep. In the fawn Pug, the wrinkles are set off by a darkening within the folds of the wrinkle. Wrinkles in the black Pug are more difficult to discern, so be sure to take a good look. Wrinkles can conceal an incorrect skull shape.


    The Pug’s muzzle is short, blunt, and square, but it is not up-faced. The muzzle is almost half of the dog’s face and is extremely important. It should be flat when viewed in profile. The cushioning of the muzzle should appear to be equal to the width of the skull. The width of the muzzle should be in line with the outer edge of the eye. The underjaw is wide and deep. The upper lips should be full and the lip line firm. When viewed from the front, the muzzle should not fall away under the eyes. To complete the round head, there should be sufficient fill and cushioning under the eyes.


    The bite of the Pug is very slightly undershot. An overbite distorts the expression and gives a lippy appearance. Too much underbite makes the dog look up-faced. Kindly remember that we are a “thumb breed.” There is no need to lift the lips, pry open the mouth or stick your fingers in there. Use the flat of your thumb over the mouth to feel the bite. We highly recommend that the bite check should be the last part of the table examine.

    Pug Colors

    I said in the beginning that I wanted to hit the points of our standard that are essential to Pug type. However, there are two other points I want to touch on before I close this discussion. Pugs come in fawn or black. Period. Fawn or black only; any color other than fawn or black is a disqualification. It is the only disqualification in our standard.

    While fawn comes in many shades, black is black. It is important to remember that a small amount of white on the chest in either color is perfectly acceptable.

    Another note on color: Pugs should be judged with no preference for color.

    My final note in our conversation today is that Pugs should also be judged with equal consideration afforded to both dogs and bitches.

    Welcome back to the ring, and let’s hope that we never have to take a hiatus like this one again.

    Photos provided by PDCA.

    Are you looking for a Pug puppy?

    The best way to ensure a long and happy relationship with a purebred dog is to purchase one from a responsible breeder. Not sure where to begin finding a breeder? Contact the National Parent Club’s Breeder Referral person, which you can find on the AKC Breeder Referral Contacts page.

    Want to help rescue and re-home a Pug?

    Did you know nearly every recognized AKC purebred has a dedicated rescue group? Find your new best friend on the AKC Rescue Network Listing.

    Pug Dog Breed Magazine

    Top Notch Toys is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Toy Group Breeds.

    Read and learn more about the charming Pug dog breed with articles and information in our Pug Dog Breed Magazine.

    Error embedding FlippingBook shortcode, please check the flipbook url. (https://digital.topnotchtoys.com/view/387775254/)

    Patt Kolesar Stoltz, JEC PDCA | Tupelo Pugs

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