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Sally Anne Thompson, Animal Photography
The Peruvian Inca Orchid is an exotic blossom from the Andes: a sighthound that comes in hairless and coated varieties. The breed’s name in Quechua, the language of the Incas, translates to “dog without vestments,” or naked dog.
The Spanish conquistadors, who are said to have found these dogs living amidst orchids in Inca homes, called them “perros flora”: flower dogs. They are also sometimes called moonflower dogs, Inca hairless dogs, and Peruvian hairless dogs.
From the long wedge of a head to the tapering tail, the PIO, as he’s nicknamed, has an elegant outline. The hairless variety has prick ears, while the coated dogs have rose ears that bend forward or outward because they are covered in hair. Some have a spot on top of the head, known by PIO owners as “the kiss spot.”
The hairless Peruvian Inca Orchid has smooth, supple skin with a narrow patch of hair on top of the head, sort of like a mohawk. He may sometimes have a little fuzz on the forehead or sparse tufts of hair on the lower tail and feet. His skin can be solid or spotted. The coated variety has a short to medium-length single coat, so he comes in several different looks: short and smooth, long and curly, or long and straight. The texture of his hair can be coarse or soft. Dogs with a longer coat may have feathering on the ears and tail.
The hairless variety is rumored to have a higher body temperature than other dogs, but it’s not true. Because there’s no coat between you and the dog’s skin, the hairless PIO just feels as though he’s warmer than other dogs. Nonetheless, he’s a joy to hold when you’re chilled. In winter the hairless variety needs to wear a sweater or jacket if he’s outside, and that’s not optional. The PIO should live indoors year round and is an excellent choice for city dwellers.
The ideal owner for this breed is already experienced with dogs and their behavior. A Peruvian Inca Orchid has a reserved and cautious temperament, although he should not be timid. He takes his time studying guests before deciding whether to accept them and dislikes having strangers touch him. Early socialization is essential with this breed to help ensure that he is not fearful when exposed to new situations or people. On the plus side, these traits make him a good watchdog. He is sensitive and is best suited to a home with older children who will treat him respectfully.
When it comes to training, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is a quick learner. He responds well to positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards. To hold his attention, keep training sessions short, fun, and interesting. The PIO can be possessive of toys or other objects. Kindly teach him to let you take things from him without any argument.
A PIO needs a moderate amount of exercise daily such as a 20- or 30-minute walk or active play in a fenced yard. If you’re interested in dog sports, he can be good at agility, lure coursing, obedience and rally.
Remember that the hairless PIO is sensitive to sun. Don’t leave him outdoors for long periods during the day, and apply dog-safe sunscreen to his body before walking him. If you can exercise him early in the morning or in the evening, so much the better.
Expect to bathe the hairless variety weekly to keep his skin clean and healthy. You may also need to apply moisturizer to help keep the skin supple. Your dog’s breeder can advise you on his grooming needs.
A people-loving and delicate-skinned dog like the Peruvian Inca Orchid needs to live in the house. Make sure he has soft bedding to cushion his streamlined body. He is sensitive to temperature extremes and may need to wear a sweater in cold weather or have access to air conditioning in hot weather.
When Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru, one of the amazing discoveries they made was the presence of hairless dogs in Incan homes, lounging in orchid-scented luxury. They called the dogs “perros flora,” or flower dogs and reported that the hairless dogs were highly valued and allowed out only at night so they wouldn’t become sunburned. They were sequestered as well from the coated dogs, which were kept indoors at night so the hairless dogs could have the moonlit nights to themselves. The resulting small gene pool probably contributed to the missing teeth, linked to the hairless gene, that are often seen in the hairless variety.
The interesting hairless dogs from Peru were first brought to the United States in 1966. The United Kennel Club recognized the breed in 1996, and it is part of the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous Class, the last stop before full recognition. The Peruvian government declared the breed a national patrimony in 2001.
Loving and devoted, the Peruvian Inca Orchid is a lively little clown and he loves to make you happy. He’s a bit timid around strangers but he warms up in his own time, so don’t try to push the issue. The PIO is a good watchdog. Typically a calm, happy-go-lucky sort, this easy-going sighthound loves attention and wants to be around people all the time.
The friendly PIO is easy to train but is highly sensitive, so use positive reinforcement and avoid harsh words, or he will wilt emotionally. With a PIO, you can get much further with honey than vinegar. That’s one of the reasons he needs to be socialized extensively when young; the more he is exposed to, the better his response will be to the world at large.
He looks much like a Whippet and has a rather similar temperament. The PIO is a couch potato devoted to rest while inside, but still needs daily exercise — a leashed walk is all that’s needed. If left to play in the back yard, shade must be provided. The PIO is an easy keeper, thrives on your attention, and the hairless variety attracts attention wherever he goes. He has a strong prey drive so he is not a good match with small mammals.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 8 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Never wait until he is 6 months old to begin training, or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with.
If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed. Invite people to your home as well so he becomes accustomed to visitors.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Peruvian Inca Orchid, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
In PIOs, the hairless variety has more health issues than the coated or powderpuff variety. It’s not unusual for hairless dogs to be missing some of their teeth. The traits of hairlessness and missing teeth are genetically linked. Hairless dogs tend to lack molars and premolars, but even if they lose most of their teeth they can still chew.
Hairless dogs can have skin problems such as acne, and their thin skin is easily wounded. The skin must be moisturized so it won’t dry out, and it should be protected with sunscreen if the dog goes outdoors during the day. The hairless is also likely to have problems with dry skin in winter climates (or any temperature that makes them feel cold).
Some other health issues may include skin lesions, epilepsy, and irritable bowel disease.
None of these conditions have screening tests, but a good breeder will be willing to tell you about the incidence of these problems in her lines and help you make an informed decision about the potential health risks your puppy may have.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a PIO at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The grooming requirements of the Peruvian Inca Orchid are minimal, but there are some special considerations for this hairless breed. If he has furnishings, brush weekly with a very soft brush. Wipe the skin daily with cloth dampened with warm water to remove dirt. A bath with a mild dog shampoo once a week or every few weeks helps keep the skin blemish free. Apply moisturizing lotion daily, or as needed, depending on skin condition and climate. Some hairless breeds are sensitive to lanolin, so ask the breeder what lotion she uses on her dogs.
His ears need to be checked every week and cleaned if needed, and toenails trimmed every few weeks. Regular tooth brushing with a soft toothbrush and doggie toothpaste keep the teeth and gums healthy. Hairless breeds are prone to sunburn so apply sunscreen (ask your vet for a dog-safe recommendation) or dress him in a doggie T-shirt.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a good breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy and will, without question, have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. She is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Good breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with, and come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you can provide for him. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps she takes take to avoid those problems. And remember that breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical.
Look for more information about the Peruvian Inca Orchid and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the Peruvian Inca Orchid Club of America. Choose a breeder who doesn’t sell puppies to or through pet stores and obtains health clearances on dogs before breeding them.
Avoid breeders who seem interested only in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include puppies always being available, multiple litters on the premises, having your choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Quickie online purchases are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of a Peruvian Inca Orchid puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult PIO might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort before they grow up to become the dog of your dreams. An adult PIOmay already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com can have you searching for a PIO in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Peruvian Inca Orchids available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a PIO. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love Peruvian Inca Orchids love all Peruvian Inca Orchids. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Peruvian Inca Orchid Club of America can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other PIOrescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a PIO home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Peruvian Inca Orchid, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your PIO to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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