- Height: not specified in breed standard
- Weight: less than 14 pounds
Admit it. When you think of the Pekingese, the image of Cartman from South Park pops into your head: overweight, spoiled, selfish, and ill-tempered. To the people who dismiss the Peke as a useless fribble, the last living symbol of a decadent and now-dead empire, the Pekingese has one thing to say: “Respect my authority!”
This is a dog with character who thinks he’s much bigger than he is. Self-esteem is his middle name. His vigilant nature makes him a super watchdog, and his size makes him suited to any size home, from an apartment to a palace.
If you don’t mind living with a dog who will run your household with an iron paw, then the Pekingese is your breed. He is affectionate with family members, but independent enough that he doesn’t need constant attention. Toward strangers, his attitude ranges from aloof to affable, depending on the individual dog.
The Pekingese, who is meant to weigh no more than 14 pounds, will stroll regally through the park and play with toys indoors, but he’s essentially a low-activity dog. Exercise is good for him, though, so make sure he gets some activity daily. Resist the impulse to carry a Peke everywhere and pluck him out of trouble — let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.
While the bold but humorous nature of the Pekingese can make him a wonderful family companion under the right circumstances, he may not be the right breed for families with young children. Pekingese are small dogs and can be injured if play is too rough, or they may snap at a child if they're frightened.
Nor are Pekingese the most trainable of dogs. They are stubborn and see little reason to follow arbitrary rules — arbitrary to them, anyway. Because they tend to do as they please — that imperial heritage, no doubt — Pekes can be difficult to housetrain. That said, there are Pekingese who compete successfully in agility, rally and obedience trials. If you have a Peke who loves to show off, and most of them do, these sports can be a way of sneaking in some training and activity. Pekes with outgoing personalities are popular therapy dogs, spreading their special brand of Pekingese cheer to hospital patients and residents of nursing homes.
If you are looking for a dog with an easy-care coat, it’s safe to say that the Pekingese is not the right choice. Those imperious clouds of fur toddling around the show ring are the product of endless hours of grooming. For a pet, expect to spend at least an hour each week brushing the long double coat. Pet Pekingese can be kept clipped short, but that still means frequent professional grooming. Neglected coats become tangled and matted, which is painful and can lead to serious skin infections. Clean the wrinkle above the nose daily and keep it dry to help prevent infection.
It goes without saying that the Pekingese, which was bred exclusively as a companion dog, needs to live in the house and never outdoors. With his flat face, the Pekingese is sensitive to high temperatures and can quickly succumb to heatstroke if he is not kept in air-conditioned surroundings.
One last note: the Peke snores. But if you love the breed, the noise will likely become part of the background.
- The Peke’s glamorous coat can come in all coat colors and markings, including parti-color (a color, plus white).
- The Pekingese is meant to suggest lionlike courage, boldness, and self-esteem.
- The Pekingese may look small, but he is solidly built and surprisingly heavy when lifted.
- This breed takes its name from Peking, as the capital of China used to be called.
The History of the Pekingese
The Pekingese is an ancient breed of Chinese origin. How he was developed is a mystery that we will likely never solve, but one thing is for sure: he did not spring from the union of a lion and a marmoset (a type of monkey), as one legend has it.
Carvings and pictures of dogs that resemble the Pekingese — large head, flat face, a lionlike mane of fur, short legs and a feathery tail carried over the back — date as far back as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Ownership of the dogs was limited to members of the Imperial family, and their theft was punishable by death.
The dogs were known by a number of names: lion dog, sun dog (for those with a red-gold coat), and sleeve dog. The latter were so called because they were small enough to ride in the deep sleeve of their high-ranking owner.
Pekingese first came to the attention of the Western world in 1860, when five of them were taken as booty by British officers during an altercation between Britain and China. Queen Victoria was presented with one of the little dogs, which she named Looty.
By the 1890s, more of the dogs had found their way to the West, either smuggled out of imperial households or given as gifts to high-ranking Westerners. A dog who went by the name of Pekin Peter was imported to England in 1893 and exhibited at a dog show in Chester the following year, in the Foreign Dog Class. Other Pekingese who contributed to the early development of the Peke in Britain were named Ah Cum, Mimosa, and Boxer (so named because he was acquired during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900).
The American Kennel Club recognized the Pekingese in 1906, and the Pekingese Club of America was formed in 1909. The Peke currently ranks 61st among the breeds registered by the AKC, no longer the object of desire that he was in the days when he was an icon of the mysterious East, but still comfortably popular.
Pekingese Temperament and Personality
The dignified Pekingese is endearing but sometimes exasperating. As befits a dog of his imperial stature, he can be stubborn about getting his own way. And who can blame him? If you can’t have the palace and the servants waiting on you hand and foot, you should at least get what you want in the way of treats and the best spot on the sofa.
The Peke may be a toy breed in size, but he’s far from being pretty, dainty, or delicate. This is an independent dog with a regal nature, but he deigns to be affectionate and fun-loving within his family. Strangers, depending on how the Peke feels about them, will receive a welcome that ranges from aloof to affable. With cats, Pekes are polite, recognizing them as fellow royals. They are likely to get along with other dogs, as long as their supremacy is acknowledged.
Pekingese can adapt to any home. When they are brought up with children from puppyhood, they are usually very fond of them. Pekes who are used to living with adults only may not find children to be their cup of tea unless they are exposed to them at an early age and encounter them frequently. It goes without saying that children must treat the Peke respectfully.
The Peke is unhurried when he walks, with a slight roll to his gait. He will appreciate a decorous daily stroll through his kingdom, er, neighborhood. It doesn’t have to be long, but just so you know, he’s got more stamina than you might think as long as he is well conditioned and not allowed to become overweight. Don’t treat him like a fragile piece of china; he’s capable of much more than most people give him credit for. Just ask the Pekes who compete in agility, obedience, and rally. A Pekingese can also be a wonderful therapy dog.
Train Pekingese — yes, it can be done! — with firmness and kindness. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats will win the day. Make training fun, be enthusiastic and patient, and the Peke will surprise you with his abilities and willingness to learn. The real secret to success is persuading the Peke that training is something he wants to do.
The perfect Pekingese doesn’t come ready-made from the breeder. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging, countersurfing, and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised. And any dog can be a trial to live with during adolescence. Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at 10 to 12 weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. A young Peke (or really a Peke of any age) will test you to see what he can get away 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.
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 Pekingese, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
What You Need to Know About Pekingese Health
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 Pekes, health problems can include brachycephalic airway syndrome, which causes breathing difficulty; intervertebral disc disease; eye diseases (including dry eye, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy); and patellar luxation, a condition in which the knee caps pop out of position.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for these defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have an OFA clearance and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed.
If a breeder tells you she doesn't need to do those tests because she's never had problems in her lines and her dogs have been "vet checked," then you should go find a breeder who is more rigorous about genetic testing.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas and a puppy develops one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what they died of.
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 Pekingese 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 Basics of Pekingese Grooming
The Pekingese has a long, beautiful double coat with a thick mane on the neck and shoulders and profuse fringing or feathering on the ears, tail, legs and toes. Grooming this glamourous dog is not as difficult as it might appear, though. Regular care will keep the coat healthy and prevent the formation of mats or tangles, which are often the primary reason people think longhaired dogs are hard to care for. Your dog’s breeder is the best source for advice on caring for the coat, especially if you plan to show him, but the following tips will get you started.
The Pekingese coat may need to be brushed daily, every other day, or just a couple of times a week, depending on the individual dog. Mist the coat with water or a special coat conditioner and brush through it with a pin brush or natural bristle brush. Start at the front and work your way back, brushing small sections of hair at a time. Be sure you brush all the way down to the skin, and keep misting the coat to protect the hair from breaking.
When your Pekingese sheds, and he definitely will, even if only a little, use a slicker brush to remove the dead hair. Brushing and removal of loose hair encourages new coat growth.
If your Pekingese lives life as a beloved companion, there’s nothing wrong with trimming his coat to make it easier to care for. Ask a groomer to trim the feathering on the feet and legs so they don’t collect so much dust and dirt. You can even have your Peke given a lion trim in which the body is shaved smooth, leaving a mane around the head and a pom pom on the tip of the tail. If grooming costs are getting you down, learn to do it yourself. With practice, many people give their dogs trims that look perfectly nice and professional.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every week or two. Check the ears to make sure they are clean. Leave them alone if they are; use a cleaner recommended by your veterinarian if they look dirty or have excessive amounts of wax. Toy breeds such as the Pekingese are prone to periodontal disease because they have so many teeth crammed into their little mouth. Brush the teeth frequently with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for good overall health and fresh breath.
Finding a Pekingese
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.
Choosing a Pekingese Breeder
Finding a good breeder is a great way 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 is possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than in 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. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Pekingese puppies look like adorable little extraterrestrials, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Peke a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Pekingese Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by the PCA's code of ethics, which specifically prohibits selling puppies through retail outlets such as pet stores.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will go through. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical and should be reported to the American Kennel Club. 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.
Many 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. Those things 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 Pekingese 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) 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.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Pekingese 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 may 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.
Adopting a Dog From a Pekingese Rescue or Shelter
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 and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Peke 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 Pekes available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org 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 Peke. 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
Networking can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. Most people who love Pekes love all Pekes. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Pekingese Club of America's Rescue and Rehoming Network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Peke rescues 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 Peke home with you 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 Pekingese, 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, take your Pekingese 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.