The Pug is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world and is thought to be at least 2,400 years old. Records of Pug history dated to 551 B.C. by Confucius help indicate the dog's use (watch dog), early names (Lo-Sze) and possible forebears: the Lion Dog and the Pekingese.
If there was ever a time these dogs were not literally treated like (or as) royalty, it has only been in the last century or so. Ancient Pugs were only allowed to be owned by Tibetan monasteries and family members of the Chinese imperial royalty. It was not uncommon for these dogs to have their own guards, palace and royal rankings. Attempts to steal these dogs were often punishable by death.
The dogs were also sent as gifts to nobility and other persons of prime importance in Japan, Korea, and other nearby regions. When the Dutch East India Trading Company eventually became a trading power in the Far East, it was not uncommon for them to have these "Dutch Mastiffs" on board and taken back to Holland. From there, the dogs found their way throughout Europe and to England.
Some Pugs made a name for themselves by acts of heroism. In 1572, Pompey, a Pug owned by the Dutch Prince of Orange, William the Silent, alerted his master to an impending attack by Spanish forces. When the wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, Josephine, was imprisoned, she used her Pug, Fortune, to secretly send messages to her husband.
The William Hogarth Pug painting, produced in 1745, helped create a fascination for the dogs. When the English successfully invaded China in 1860, Pugs were left behind in the royal palaces. These dogs were taken back to England and became even more popular than before. Queen Victoria's advocacy for the Pug breed was essential in the founding of the Kennel Club in 1873.