One of the most instantly recognizable dog breeds, the Pekingese is an elegant, regal toy-sized dog. In fact, the breed was originally founded as a companion to the imperial family of China. Indeed, the name Pekingese is derived from Peking: the former name for the capital of china. The American Kennel Club ranks the Pekingese 92nd out of 193 breeds. They are often nicknamed Lion Dogs, Chinese Spaniels, or simply Pekes.
Legend has it that Buddha created the Pekingese, taking a lion and shrinking it down to dog size. Although unlikely, the truth is that the Pekingese is such an ancient breed that we don’t know much about its origins. It’s likely that it started out as a larger dog, and over time was bred down to its current size. It was completely unknown outside of the far east until the Opium Wars of 1860, when the British invaded Peking. A few decades later, and the Pekingese had already arrived in the Americas.
Thanks to its history as a companion of royalty, the Peke is dignified, affectionate and loyal. They have big egos, but they make up for it in charm and companionship.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE PEKINGESE
Here we will go into more detail about the appearance and temperament of the Pekingese.
The Pekingese is a compact toy dog, slightly stocky and muscular, and significantly longer than it is tall. Their heads are disproportionately large, broad and flat on top with an also-flat face. They have a broad, flat, black muzzle, to go along with a black nose and black eye rims. They often have a large underbite. They have short, thick little legs and are well known for their effortless, rolling gait. They average 6-9 inches in height and can weigh up to 14 lbs.
The distinguishing feature of a Pekingese is its coat. It is very long, straight, and coarse. Their coat is longest at the neck and shoulder-area, giving it that distinctive lion look. Beneath this top coat, they have a soft, thick undercoat. Their hind legs have long feathering. Their gorgeous coats can come in a variety of colors, from reds to blacks to tans to particolors (white mixed with another color). Solid white Pekingese were the most prized in China and remain popular today.
Their thick double coat requires significant maintenance; they shed seasonally, so weekly brushing is a necessity to remove loose hairs and prevent matting. Bathing once a month is also a good idea to keep their shiny coat looking its best. As with all small breeds, keeping their nails short is very important; if you hear clicking when they walk, that’s a sign that it’s time for a trim.
Pekingese are very dignified, brave, and independent. Their owners and fans often refer to them as being “opinionated.” Being born and bred for life in a palace means they are very comfortable off on their own. However, they develop very close bonds with their companions and are deeply loyal. Their life expectancy is, on average, about 12 to 14 years. Befitting of a dog of such regal stature, they can be very stubborn about getting their way. As such, they do best with owners who are patient.
Their loyalty lends itself well to protection – they can be wary of strangers and protective of their family and space and will bark loudly in warning, making them excellent watchdogs. However, excessive barking can become a problem, so a dog silencer can often be a helpful tool. Don’t let your Pekingese develop Small Dog Syndrome, or he or she will end up running your home and can lead to unwanted behaviors such as growling, guarding, snapping, and separation anxiety. Convince your Pekingese that the things you ask of them are their idea and things will go much more smoothly.
Pekingese are highly adaptable. When brought up with children, they are very fond of them. If they don’t grow up around children, they may not be as big a fan of them, however. They also won’t enjoy roughhousing, so teach children to be respectful of your Peke’s boundaries. They tend to do well with cats and other dogs as well. A Pekingese, as with most other breeds, functions best when given rules to follow and limits to what it can and cannot do, daily exercise and training.
CARING FOR A PEKINGESE
The Pekingese may look like it’s difficult to care for, but it’s no different from any other dog. Here is some additional information about their nutrition, exercise, training, and health needs. Follow these to ensure your Peke lives a long, healthy life.
As with all dogs, a high-quality dog food will work best for your Pekingese. Dry foods are often recommended; however, it is always recommended that you consult with your doctor when selecting a dog food. Be sure to feed dog foods that are appropriate for each stage of life (puppy, adult, and senior). Just like any other small breed, Pekingese are prone to getting overweight, so keep an eye on how much they’re eating and be careful not to overtreat. Feeding table scraps is generally not recommended, as they have been known to stop eating to show dominance over their owner. Since they are small, they don’t require as much dog food as a larger breed might, but they still require the same vitamins and minerals to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Pekingese are generally calm and sedate; however, they do require some exercise. Daily walks are best. Keep them on-leash and be sure to lead, so as to reassure your Peke that you are the leader. They enjoy playing, but once they tire out, their instinct to lounge will kick in. On walks, they walk at a slow, leisurely pace, taking in their surroundings on their own time. Even though they aren’t a hyperactive breed, they do enjoy participating in canine sports and tend to do well.
Pekingese can be as confident and independent as the emperors who kept them; due to this stubbornness, they can sometimes be difficult to train. Get them started at an early age; puppy classes and obedience training are a great idea for any young dog. They don’t respond well to negative corrections or harsh training, so be sure to remain positive and reinforce good behaviors. Treats and positive reinforcement will go a long way with your Peke. They can occasionally be difficult to house-train, as with all small breeds, so be positive and diligent.
Pekingese have similar health issues to all small breeds, so be sure to find a good breeder to work with to ensure your Peke has been screened for standard issues such as hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and various eye diseases. Since the Peke is a short-faced breed, they are more prone to breathing issues, such as brachycephalic syndrome. They are often heavy snorers. As they also are known to have several folds in their skin, they are more prone to fold dermatitis. Pekingese appreciate colder temperatures, and many owners will give their dogs ice packs or cooling pads to lie on. Short noses make dogs more sensitive to heat, so be sure to keep a cooler, air-conditioned environment.