Also called “Pekes,” the Pekingese is a toy breed with a long, thick coat of fur that hides their legs, making it look like they “roll” as they walk. They originate from Peking (known today as Beijing). Bred to be companions for the Chinese imperial family, they are incredibly loyal, and no strangers to pampering and living the life of royalty. Other names for these dogs include “Lion Dogs,” “Sleeve Dogs,” and “Sun Dogs.” If you’re looking for a confident, faithful companion, then the Peke is for you.
- Considered sacred in China
- The earliest known Pekingese lived during the Tang Dynasty in the 8th century
- The theft of a Pekingese from the imperial family was punishable by death
- Pekes make great watch dogs
A Chinese legend says that a lion fell in love with a marmoset, a type of monkey. The lion visited the Buddha and asked that he be shrunk down to the same size as the marmoset while still maintaining his kingly appearance. The Buddha agreed, and so the Pekingese was created.
The actual process of breeding the Pekingese began with Chinese nobles who were interested in a small breed with a flat face. Though it’s impossible to determine where exactly this ancient, noble breed came from, they were likely bred down from larger dogs. They served as companions to the imperial family exclusively, and were not known to the Western world until the 1800s.
In the 1860s, during the Opium War, British troops invaded Peking and stormed the emperor’s palace. The imperial family, rather than have their beloved companions fall into the hands of the British, killed their Pekes. However, a British captain found the emperor’s aunt dead by suicide, along with her own Pekes, who were frightened but alive. These dogs were brought to England as a gift to the queen, marking their entrance to the Western world.
Appearance and Vital Stats
Pekes are short, compact dogs. They are a toy breed, meaning they are very small. They sport their characteristic long, flowing fur, stout nose, and bright, intelligent eyes.
Although it is hidden under his thick, luscious fur, the Peke has a compact body that is only slightly longer than it is tall. He is pear-shaped, with a broad chest and slightly smaller hindquarters.
Dog Breed Group
The Pekingese is part of the toy group. As with many other toy breeds, Pekes were bred to be conveniently sized to carry around. As well as being faithful companions, toy breeds were often owned as signs of wealth and affluence. This is especially true of Pekes, as they were owned only by the Chinese imperial family.
The Pekingese weighs between 7 to 14 pounds. He stands at about 6 to 9 inches tall. Pekes on the smaller end of the scale are referred to as “sleeve” dogs or just “sleeves.” This is because the smallest Pekes would stay in the sleeves of the emperor.
As with most smaller dogs, the Pekingese generally lives longer than a larger breed. A healthy and well cared for Pekingese can be expected to live about 12 to 14 years.
Coat and Colors
One of the Pekingese’s distinguishing features is his long, flowing coat. His outercoat is thick and coarse, and underneath this lies a soft undercoat. The fur thickens around the neck and shoulders, creating a lion-like look. You can expect to see some feathering of the coat around the toes and backs of his legs.
A Pekingese’s coat can be any color and feature any type of markings. Any coloration is considered acceptable as part of the AKC’s breed standard. Expect to see Pekes with tan, brindle, fawn, white, or black coats. Some will have a black mask around their face. No matter the color of their fur, the skin on their face will always be black.
The Pekingese’s tail is set high on his body. It will towards the back. The tail’s fur is also straight and long, often falling to either side of the Peke’s body.
The Peke’s ears are described as “heart-shaped,” though it can be difficult to see them under all of the Pekingese’s fur. The ears also have fringing which will fall to either side of the Peke’s face. This helps create the look of a wide head.
Other than its long, flowing fur, a Peke’s muzzle is one of his most distinguishing features. It is broad and flat, accompanied by wide set eyes and a black mouth.
Don’t let the Peke’s small size fool you. Like most toy breeds, the Pekingese makes up for their small stature by having big personalities. Having lived as part of Chinese royalty since at least the 8th century, it’s no surprise that the Pekingese has come to expect a pampered lifestyle. These dogs are dignified, loyal, and confident.
On the other hand, the Pekingese also has a stubborn streak. They might ignore or disobey you to prove a point. This stubbornness can make them difficult to train, though not impossible. You should be kind and gentle yet firm with your Peke, and use plenty of positive reinforcement.
The Peke is incredibly loyal. This makes them excellent alert and guard dogs, as they will bark at anyone approaching your home.
More than anything else, the Pekingese knows his worth. He will settle for nothing but the very best, and as long as you are able to provide that, he’ll be a loving, loyal companion for the rest of his life.
The Pekingese is a low energy dog, preferring to sit on your lap while you pet him over going for a walk. Their small size and relaxed nature make them well-suited to living in an apartment.
But no dog is perfect, however much the Peke may think he is, and the Peke’s levels of bark are something to consider if you’re looking for an apartment-friendly animal. Pekes do have a tendency to be vocal, but with the right training he can learn that shouting isn’t always the best way to get what he wants.
Children and Other Pets
As with all other breeds, proper socialization with children and other animals early on is key. This is especially true for the Pekingese, whose royal and dignified nature won’t tolerate children poking, prodding, or pulling at him. Try to introduce children as early into your Peke’s life as possible. Make sure to teach any children playing with your dog not to bother him while he’s eating, or to pull on his fur. And never leave the children and dog unsupervised.
Having spent thousands of years in each other’s company, Pekes prefer to be around other Pekes. That said, with an early enough and proper introduction, a Pekingese can live comfortably with other animals. Just don’t be surprised to see your Peke taking charge of dogs three times its size in your home.
Because the Pekingese prefers to live a more sedentary, lapdog lifestyle, he can be prone to becoming overweight. In general, your Peke will need ? cup to 1 cup of high-quality dog food per day. It’s important to divide this into three separate meals, because the Pekingese’s stomach is small. Because Pekes are prone to obesity, look for foods that are high in animal protein with moderate levels of fat.
Always make sure that there is clean water available for your dog to drink throughout the day.
The Pekingese sheds seasonally. However, their long, thick overcoat as well as the softer undercoat require a good bit of maintenance. It’s best to brush your Pekingese at least two or three times a week. This will help keep his long, flowing fur from getting matted and painful. For any tough tangles or mats, gently use a slicker brush or a metal comb until you have worked it out. You should also give your Peke a bath on occasion, about once every three months or so. This will help keep his coat looking clean and beautiful without drying it out, which too much bathing can do.
Make sure to trim your Peke’s nails every one or two weeks, as walking on long nails can be painful for your dog.
While it’s important to walk your dog daily to give him exercise, the Pekingese is a calm dog who will generally prefer to sit on your lap and rest rather than perform any strenuous physical activity. If you’re interested in signing your Peke up for dog sports, however, don’t worry. Their high levels of intelligence make them great for some dog sports. Just don’t fault your Peke for performing at his leisure.
As a sedentary breed, the Pekingese can be prone to obesity. It’s important to watch your dog’s caloric intake as well as their activity levels.
Common in many small dog breeds, this is a condition where a dog’s femur, kneecap, and tibia don’t properly line up. This can make it difficult for your dog to walk, depending on the severity of the issue. Severe patellar luxation might require surgery to properly realign the joints.
Because the Pekingese has a flat face, this results in wrinkles, or folds. Fold dermatitis is when the skin of the fold rubs together, or moisture gets trapped, which causes irritation. If your Peke has fold dermatitis, you might notice redness, a foul odor, or sores in and around the fold. If your dog is diagnosed with fold dermatitis, he will likely have to go on antibiotic ointments or, in extreme cases, surgery to remove the fold.
This illness occurs in dogs that have been bred to have short, flat faces, like the Pekingese. Because of the way they have been bred, they often have narrow nostrils and small tracheas, which make it difficult for them to breathe. Dogs with this syndrome often snort. Those with more extreme cases might experience frequent coughing, or even fainting if they can’t get enough air.
Brachycephalic syndrome might also mean that your dog is more prone to overheating because they can’t pant properly. If your dog is diagnosed with brachycephalic syndrome, he might be prescribed corticosteroids for temporary relief of symptoms. Your vet will also likely tell you to keep an eye on your dog’s weight, as being overweight can exacerbate the problem. If your vet finds your dog’s soft palate is elongated, they might recommend surgery.
The Shih Tzu, also originating in China, is another toy breed. These dogs stand a few inches taller than the Pekingese, usually between 9 to 10.5 inches as opposed to the Peke’s 6 to 9 inches. They do, however, weight about the same with the Shih Tzu usually weighing in around 9 to 16 pounds.
The Shih Tzu also tends to be better which children and other animals. They are generally more playful than the Pekingese too. You can also expect a Shih Tzu to live a few years longer than your Peke, with a 10 to 18-year lifespan.
These toy dogs stand at 11 to 13 inches and weigh about 8 to 12 pounds. They life a lifespan of about 13 to 18 years, and are generally not as stubborn to train.
What truly differentiates the Chinese Crested from the Pekingese is the fur. Or, perhaps, lack thereof. The Chinese Crested is mostly hairless, except for some fur around the head, feet, and tail. They are, however, both toy breeds originating from China.
These dogs are similar to the Pekingese in looks, though they also stand taller at about 8 to 11 inches, and weighing in at around 7 to 11 pounds. They share the same noble and dignified feelings. Though their fur is generally slightly shorter than the Pekingese’s, they do still require a fair amount of maintenance when it comes to grooming.