Pekingese

Fast Facts

Country of Origin:China.
AKC Group:Toy Group
UKC Group:Companion
Use today:Companion
Life Span:12 to 13 years
Color:Any color or combination of colors is acceptable.
Coat:Full, long and straight with a coarse texture. Long feathering on legs, toes, ears and tail.
Grooming:Weekly grooming. Brush daily.
Size:Small Dog Breed
Height:Longer than tall
Weight:Up to 14 pounds

For centuries, ownership of the Pekingese was restricted to members of the Chinese imperial court. Venerated as good luck charms, the elegant little lion dogs lived a pampered existence and were not seen outside their country of origin until after 1860. In that year, British troops stormed the Summer Palace at Peking. Most palace dogs were put to death to prevent their capture by the British. But five little Pekes were found guarding the body of their mistress, an imperial princess who had taken her own life. These five Pekingese were brought to Britain and they, plus a few that were imported at a later date, formed the basis of the modern Pekingese breed. One of the captured dogs was presented to Queen Victoria, who named it Looty. Royal approval, plus the romantic legends surrounding the breed, brought instant popularity to the Peke. This is a self-important toy breed, weighing 14 pounds maximum. Richly coated, all colors are permissible. While the Peke may appear somewhat aloof with strangers, the breed is loyal and protective of its home and family and not afraid to suggest with its suspicious manner that a particular guest is capable of stealing the silver. The double coat should be brushed daily, and eyes, ears and nose wrinkles checked regularly and gently cleaned as needed. Exercise needs are minimal. Pekes can be stubborn, but if you're patient and remain in charge, training will eventually be successful. The Peke isn't really a playful dog, but it could be a good choice for a quiet older child who will enjoy brushing it and spending time with it. This breed doesn't like hot weather and is prone to heatstroke because of its short muzzle.

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Fit for Royalty
The regal Pekingese combines affection and loyalty with plenty of self-confidence.  

By Lynn M. Hayner

With a renowned, lofty air, the loyal and affectionate Pekingese tends to both think and act independently. "In one agility trial, 6-year-old Monk took off like a cannon shot for his favorite obstacle, the A-frame, and I thought success was ours,” says Cheryl Chang of Kaneohe, Hawaii,  owner, longtime breeder, and a member of The Pekingese Club of America. Chang, however, soon realized she’d sighed relief prematurely. "Monk indeed ran up and down the A-frame as directed, but then he went back up, down, and then up yet again,” Chang says. Monk concluded his performance by standing on the A-frame’s apex, smiling at the crowd and basking in the applause. "He then walked down the apparatus, gave me a look of satisfaction, and retired for the day,” Chang says. "Like most Pekes, Monk tends to measure success with his own yardstick.”

Although Monk earned his agility titles, Chang trained him with both humor and perseverance. Perhaps the breed’s self-confidence stems from his background as a favorite of royals. Developed centuries ago in China, the Pekingese was a favorite companion of Chinese royalty in the early 19th century, often riding in their long-sleeve robes. An accessory as well as a companion, the dogs were bred in different colors to coordinate with imperial wardrobes. The Chinese at times gifted the esteemed Pekingese to traveling dignitaries. In the late 1800s, Europeans brought Pekes back as loot after storming the Old Summer Palace in Beijing. "With such an esteemed history, the Peke is perhaps entitled to his elevated ego,” Chang says.

Showing Attitude

Today the Pekingese thrives as a companion, no royal sleeves needed. The breed soaks in affection, but doesn’t require constant attention. "While Pekes treasure time with families, many don’t ask to sit on laps all day, and they certainly don’t often gush over newcomers,” says Dian Thomas, a breeder, obedience exhibitor, and PCA member in Herndon, Va. "When each member of my local Pekingese club arrives at my house for a meeting, 7-year-old Tiger greets everyone and then returns to his usual haunt,” Thomas says. "He may come and join the gathering later, or he may not.”

Peke-ing Interest

The Peke’s intelligence allows him to learn new commands quickly. "Early obedience classes teach a pup (to) look to owners for leadership,” Chang says. Although they’re smart, Pekes may have strong opinions. One time when Thomas gave a Drop on Recall command, her 6-year-old Mei-Li decided to drop only her front, keeping her backside straight up, tail wagging. "She was probably thinking, ‘This should be close enough,’” Thomas says.

A failure to understand the command is rarely the issue; implementing it is the negotiating point. "When Tiger goes out to retrieve his scent article in Utility (obedience competitions), he may stop working and return without an article,” Thomas says. "But if he does decide to come back with an article, he’ll bring the correct one.”

Sturdier than many toy breeds, the Peke can excel in many activities, though weather may have an impact. "The breed is relatively hardy in cold weather, but his heat sensitivity often leads him to avoid the sun,” Chang says. "Five-year-old Moon runs rally to perfection in the shady sections, but sometimes sits under a tree and waits for me to run the sunny sections … alone.”

Relaxing Perfected

Naturally inclined to take it easy, Pekes typically score big points in stationary commands. "The only ‘mistake’ a Peke tends to make during the stationary exercises is to lie down on the Sit-stay exercise,” Thomas says.

Pekes, which make easy apartment dwellers, need short, regular walks. "Mental stimulation and obedience training is a must, but a Peke doesn’t require hours of exercise,” Chang says.

Bred as companions for humans, a socialized Pekingese tolerates other animals, but with the exception of the puppy period, generally doesn’t crave dog park frolic time. "Tiger lies quietly while I teach a roomful of dogs and owners in obedience classes, and we almost forget he’s there,” Thomas says. At home, Tiger gets along well with 3-year-old Irish Setter Liam, but they don’t typically play together. "Tiger does, however, love sharing outdoor time, rain or shine, with Liam,” Thomas says. "He will happily play in the creek or in a snowy yard, right alongside Liam.”

The Nitty-Gritty

Pekes can appreciate the attention of calm, respectful children. "Tiger sits contentedly while the children read to him during the therapy dog library reading program,” Thomas says. "He especially enjoys the time when the children also pet him and rub his stomach.”

Not typically prolific barkers, Pekingese do snort and snore. Along with hearing these noises, owners can expect to spend time caring for their Pekes’ coats. "Grooming a Pekingese includes brushing a few times per week, daily wiping of the face area, and baths every few weeks,” Chang says. "The breed sheds, but they don’t require trimming other than in the foot pad areas.”

The breed’s life expectancy averages 12 to 14 years. Health issues may include eye diseases and susceptibility to eye injury, cardiovascular issues, skin and allergy issues, intervertebral disk disease, Brachycephalic airway syndrome, and difficulties whelping — Pekingese are often born via cesarean section. The breed’s brachycephalic, or short-nosed, head also contributes to the dog overheating rather easily, so caution must be taken in warm temperatures.

Spunky and smart, the Peke struts into his owner’s heart and home. "Most Pekes are selectively affectionate, and may only favor a few outsiders in addition to their families,” Thomas says. When Thomas takes Tiger visiting at an assisted living home, he’s sweet and calm with all the residents, but clearly favors one woman, greeting her enthusiastically before he settles down beside her wheelchair.

Perhaps picking favorites is one of the Peke’s enduring royal privileges.

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