Doug the Pug has over 2.8 million Instagram followers, 5.9 million Facebook page likes and an appetite for doughnuts.
Doug, a five-year-old pug with millions more Instagram followers than you, is kind of a big deal.
Ever since his wrinkled face first graced social media channels at the tender age of eight weeks—he now has an A-list presence on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook—Doug the Pug has carefully cultivated one of the most loveable online personas. But Doug didn’t do it alone; he’s still a dog, no matter how many human outfits they dress him up in. His owner and self-described “momager,” Leslie Mosier, decided early on that her adopted puppy would have a goofy, snack-loving personality. 2.8 million Instagram followers later, Doug has become a food influencer with a reach that rivals any human one.
“When I started posting photos of Doug, I quickly realized that photos of him with food or a piece of pizza always did better,” says Mosier, who lives in Nashville with her boyfriend and pug co-parent, Rob Chianelli. “Before long, his personality and brand developed, and he became this junk food aficionado. Anyone who loves pugs knows that they’re gluttons.”
Doug’s palate is not refined. His avatar photo on Instagram shows him licking an ice cream cone while wearing another ice cream cone as a hat. A recent post features Doug wearing a rainbow T-shirt in front of a toaster oven, “holding” a half-bitten Pop-Tart; the caption reads, “’There are two kinds of people…either u toast ur Pop-Tart or u don’t.’ – Doug.”
Doug “eats” Domino’s, doughnuts, French fries, Twizzlers and basically all the foods that compel you to cancel Friday night plans and stay indoors feeling sorry for yourself. Unlike other pet influencers, Doug positions himself as a human; every caption ends with “—Doug,” so is meant to be read in his voice. Scrolling through the photos on his feed, you’ll notice he doesn’t partner with pet food or toy brands, but rather ones that people would use, like Febreze and Flonaise. In fact, Doug rarely does any sponsored posts. This was a conscious decision on the part of Mosier, who says, “His voice online is very human.”
In August, Doug landed his first-ever food sponsorship—with Domino’s. Mosier is surprised pizza brands hadn’t approached her sooner, considering how often Doug’s photos feature pizza. In the sponsored post, Doug is wearing a hoodie in front of an open fridge. “’Come over, u know my fridge is stocked’—Doug,” the caption reads.
Loni Edwards, founder and managing partner of The Dog Agency (a management company that focuses exclusively on animal influencers), says it makes perfect sense that Instagram-famous pets would participate in the food space.
“Pet influencers have all the traditional benefits of human influencer marketing with some unique plus factors,” Edwards says. “Pets tend to get higher engagement, and they’re relatable across age, gender and location. There’s also an added sense of security with pets—they won’t get drunk at a party and say something offensive that would reflect poorly on their brand partners.”
She also points out the obvious: Pets make people feel good, and any brand, food or otherwise, should want to get in on that. While giving Doug a vigorous belly rub, Mosier says that her pug’s performative food obsession makes him especially relatable to his fans.
“People say they can relate to Doug because they always want to be eating what Doug is ‘eating,’” Mosier says. “Eating,” of course, is in quotes, because Doug’s diet is the opposite of gluttonous. He never eats the food in his shoots.
“Doug eats like a prince,” she says. “He eats a raw diet and has a nutritionist. When we do food photo shoots, we always have fresh beef treats for him, so he doesn’t get sad to not be eating the people food.” Mosier and Chianelli eat a healthy diet, too, so when brainstorming ideas for photos of Doug with junk food, they’ll walk through the supermarket aisles, looking for inspiration.
While his humans are responsible for the construction of his persona, one aspect of Doug’s fame has taken them by surprise: The pug has become an unwitting restaurant influencer. On a recent visit to Chicago, Mosier and Chianelli took Doug to Giordano’s for some deep-dish pizza. After posting a photo to his Instagram later in the day, Mosier noticed several people tagging him and posting, “OMG I’m eating where Doug the Pug eats.” Once in Nashville, Mosier made the mistake of posting a photo to his Instagram story while they were still at the restaurant. She didn’t even tag the place, but ten minutes later they were swarmed by a crowd of people who had somehow identified the restaurant’s patio and showed up to see Doug.
“It happened at Yankee Stadium, too,” Mosier says. “We held him up for a photo, and people found the exact section we were in, even though you couldn’t see any numbers in the picture. We had a line of thirty people, almost immediately.”
The frenzy doesn’t seem to bother him. Mosier finishes belly-rubbing Doug, and he lets out the sweetest, wackiest dog grumble. The dog is clearly a star.