Why Do Pugs Look Sad? A Look At These Brachycephalic Dogs

Pugs are great dogs!

They’re playful, friendly, and sociable. They have a charming personality and they’re very smart. Pugs are a great example of what “man’s best friend” is supposed to be. They’re happy, healthy dogs but, unfortunately, they might not always look like it.

You may be wondering why your Pug doesn’t look happy if he is happy. I was curious too, so I decided to find out why.

why do Pugs look so sad

Why Do Pugs Look Sad?

Pugs are members of a group of dog breeds known as brachycephalic dogs, also sometimes called squish-faced dogs. Scientists believe that suppression of a gene called SMOC2, which is responsible for normal face development in dogs and fish, is what gives pugs a flat, sad-looking face.

So, genetics is the culprit to why your pug always looks sad.

Before we leave it at that, here is something to think about. Why does your pug look sad to you? It’s because we are comparing a pug’s face to a human’s face. If a person has droopy eyes and turned-down mouth corners, it indicates that a person is sad.

Pugs aren’t human!

This means that we can’t project our expressions onto a pug’s face. So maybe your pug doesn’t look sad after all. Maybe it’s just our perspective. To other pugs, your dog might look like the happiest dog they’ve ever seen.

When Does a Pug REALLY Look Sad?

how do you cheer up a dog
Dogs experience grief and depression, but it differs from human emotions.

Pugs are usually in a good mood which is why their facial expression can be so confusing. However, there are times where your dog may give signs that he is sad or depressed. Your pug will show some of the same signs that a depressed human might show. Examples are:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of interest
  • Avoiding you
  • Licking his paws

If these things occur, then there is a good chance that your pug looks sad because he is sad. When your pug gets happy again, he’ll still have the same, sad look so you’ll have to watch for the above signs to disappear to know when your pug is really happy again.

Here are some distinctive signs to be aware of to tell if your Pug is happy.

Does a Pug Always Look Sad?

To some people, a pug always looks sad. To others, a pug has a happy face. You know what they say – beauty is in the eye of the beholder. In this case, happiness is in the eye of the beholder.

With that being said, I think it’s interesting that pugs do smile from time to time. However, their smile can sometimes look more bizarre than happy because the rest of the pug’s face will still have the sad expression. When a pug smiles, it’s not a sight that you’ll easily forget.

Another thing to consider is that, like people, every pug is different. It’s said that there are over 100 facial expressions for dogs, but your pug may have different facial expressions than the next pug.

As you get to know your pug, you’ll begin to understand him more. You’ll begin to notice his facial expressions. They may be overlaid with that “sad pug” look, but you’ll begin to see different variations. Eventually, you’ll get so used to your pug’s facial expressions that your pug no longer looks sad all the time to you.

Does a Pug Look Sad or Does He Look Stressed?

dog breeds that look sad
Brachycephalic dogs tend to look sad because of their flat faces.

You may be interpreting your pug’s look all wrong. It’s easy to confuse a sad pug look with a stressed pug look. After all, the “sad” look never really goes away unless your perspective changes.

If your pug’s eyes get big and you can see a lot of the “white” part of the eye, it means your pug could be stressed about something. This is called the “whale eye”. (source) Your pug’s eyes could get so big to the point that they bulge out. However, some pugs’ eyes naturally bulge out so you need to be familiar with the normal size of your pug’s eyes so you can tell the difference.

Another sign is your pug’s tail. If it’s not curled on his back, then you can interpret the sad look as a stressed look. It might be straight out or hanging down, but it’s curled when your pug is calm and relaxed.

Do Pugs Look Sad When They’re Sleeping?

One of the only times that a pug’s general facial expression fits is when he is sleeping. Having the eyes closed sort of “neutralizes” the sad look. In fact, it can make your pug look like he is dreaming about some intense dreams. Maybe he is – we don’t really know what dogs dream about.

What To Do If Your Pug Is Sad?

why are pugs always sad
Dogs don’t stay sad for long and there are some things you can do to cheer them up.

It’s not unusual for your Pug to experience grief and depression, especially, if something terrible happens in their life. For example we had a Labrador named Charlotte and she was Mindy’s playmate.

However, when Charlotte passed away, Mindy got depressed. We thought it was because she noticed our depression. However, after doing research, I realized that dogs experience grief and depression like us.

The great news is that it doesn’t last long.

If your pooch looks unhappy or you’ve noticed some behavioral changes, you should contact your vet.

Once you know that your Pug has a case of the blues, you can take some steps to snap them into a better mood. Some things you can try are:

  • Give them a special treat. (this should cheer up your dog quickly)
  • Take time out and take them for a brisk walk.
  • Go for a ride in the car.
  • Set up a doggy playdate to play with their favorite canine friend.
  • Offer them something to chew on.
  • Prepare a special homemade treat for them.
  • Cozy up for back scratches and belly rubs.

Respect your pup’s feelings and don’t try to project your human emotions on them. You know how you feel when your dog spends time with you, especially, when you’re sad. If you spend enough time with your pooch, their behavior will start to change.

Final Word On Why Does My Pug Look So Sad?

Just like us, Pugs can change their facial expression to make them look sad, happy and relaxed. If your pup looks sad quite a bit, then it may be because they’ve figured out that they can get what they want when they give you those “sad puppy dog eyes.”

If you think your pup is sad and may not be feeling well, it won’t hurt to contact your veterinarian. After all, it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your four-legged friend.

References And Further Reading

Cesars Way – Warning Signs of Dog Depression

NCBI – Canine Brachycephaly Is Associated with a Retrotransposon-Mediated Missplicing of SMOC2

Black Pug Site