Pekingese

Table of Contents

pekingese portrait
Meet the Pekingese, an adorably quirky and regal dog breed that will charm you with their unique appearance and personality! These little lion-like dogs are known for their luxurious mane, flat faces, and endearing waddle.

Join us in this comprehensive guide as we explore everything you need to know about this breed, including their appearance, temperament, ideal environment, grooming, exercise requirements, training tips, dietary needs, health concerns, history, and more.

Best For

The Pekingese is perfect for individuals or families seeking a small, low-energy companion with a big personality. Their independent nature makes them an ideal choice for busy professionals, seniors, or those who prefer a more laid-back canine companion.

Overview

OFFICIAL NAMEPekingese
OTHER NAMESChinese Spaniel, Lion Dog, Peke
ORIGINChina
BREED GROUPToy Group
BREED SIZESmall
HEIGHT6-9 inches
WEIGHT7-14 lbs
LIFESPAN12-14 years
LIVING SPACESmall
SENSITIVITY TO COLD WEATHERLow
SENSITIVITY TO WARM WEATHERModerate
GROOMING NEEDSHigh
EXERCISE NEEDSLow
TRAINABILITYModerate
BARKING TENDENCYModerate
BITING TENDENCYModerate
DROOLING TENDENCYLow
SHEDDING LEVELHigh
POPULARITY RANK96th
two pekingese outdoor
Photo: No-longer-here/Pixabay

Appearance

The Pekingese is a small yet sturdy dog breed that boasts a distinctive appearance. With a height ranging from 6 to 9 inches at the shoulder and a weight of 7 to 14 pounds, these compact canines are the epitome of a “big dog in a little body.” Their well-balanced and muscular build lends them an air of dignity and confidence.

One of the most striking features of the Pekingese is their broad, flat face. Their large, round, dark eyes convey an alert and intelligent expression, while their black nose is short and wide. The wrinkled skin on their forehead and around their eyes adds to their unique charm. Their ears are heart-shaped, set high on their head, and draped with long hair, giving them a regal appearance.

The Pekingese’s head is massive in proportion to its body and is accentuated by a thick mane of hair around their neck and shoulders. This luxurious mane, which is often referred to as their “lion’s ruff,” enhances the breed’s lion-like appearance.

Their body is slightly longer than it is tall, with a broad chest and well-sprung ribs. They possess a level topline and a slightly arched loin, adding to their overall sturdiness.

The tail is another notable feature, set high and carried over their back in a graceful curve adorned with a plume of long, silky hair. The Pekingese’s legs are short, thick, and well-boned, contributing to their distinctive rolling gait.

The Pekingese has a double coat consisting of a dense, soft undercoat and a long, straight, coarse outer coat. Their coat is particularly abundant around their neck, shoulders, and chest, which forms the aforementioned lion’s ruff. The hair on their back and hindquarters is somewhat shorter but still thick and plush.

The breed comes in various colors and markings, including black, fawn, cream, gray, and parti-color combinations.

Overall, the Pekingese’s unique physical characteristics make them an easily recognizable and captivating breed. Their combination of compact size, luxurious coat, and lion-like features has endeared them to dog lovers for centuries.

pekingese walking
Photo: dadeltjie/Pixabay

Temperament

The Pekingese is a breed known for its unique temperament and personality, which has captivated dog lovers for centuries. They are dignified, independent, and often described as having a “royal” demeanor. Despite their regal air, they are also affectionate, loyal, and devoted to their human companions, making them excellent pets for those who appreciate their distinctive character.

With their family members, Pekingese are loving and deeply attached. They tend to be one-person or one-family dogs and may display a preference for a particular individual. This strong bond can make them protective and sometimes possessive of their favorite person, so it is essential to establish boundaries early on to ensure a balanced relationship.

When it comes to children, the Pekingese’s suitability largely depends on the individual dog and the child’s behavior. While some Pekingese get along well with gentle, respectful children, others may not tolerate rough play or sudden movements.

Due to their small size and delicate features, it is crucial to teach children how to interact appropriately with a Pekingese to prevent accidental injuries. Adult supervision during interactions between Pekingese and young children is always recommended.

In the presence of strangers, the Pekingese can be aloof and reserved, displaying a discerning nature. They are not typically aggressive, but they may be suspicious of unfamiliar people. Early socialization is essential for helping Pekingese develop confidence and adaptability in various situations. Properly socialized Pekingese will be more likely to react calmly and politely when meeting new people.

Regarding other pets, the Pekingese can coexist peacefully with other animals if introduced and socialized correctly. They may get along well with other dogs, particularly those of similar size and temperament. However, due to their strong-willed nature, they may try to assert dominance over other dogs, especially larger ones.

When it comes to smaller pets such as cats, birds, or rodents, the Pekingese’s prey drive varies between individuals. Some may live harmoniously with other species, while others may view them as potential prey. As with any breed, proper introductions and supervision are critical when integrating a Pekingese into a multi-pet household.

One of the unique personality perks of the Pekingese is their unwavering self-assurance. They carry themselves with an air of self-importance that many people find endearing. This confidence can also make them quite stubborn, which can be both amusing and challenging for their owners.

The Pekingese is known for being relatively quiet and calm indoors, making them well-suited for apartment living. They enjoy lounging around the house with their family members and participating in low-key activities. While they are not overly demanding, they do appreciate being included in their owner’s daily life and will relish any opportunity to spend time together.

Ideal Environment

Physical Environment

As a small and low-energy breed, the Pekingese is well-suited for apartment living and can comfortably adapt to smaller spaces. They do not require a large yard, but they appreciate a safe, enclosed area where they can explore and exercise at their leisure.

Climate Adaptability

In terms of climate adaptability, the Pekingese’s thick double coat provides insulation against cold temperatures, making them relatively comfortable in cooler weather. However, owners should still take precautions to ensure their Pekingese stays warm and dry during winter months, such as providing a cozy bed, protective clothing, or limiting outdoor time in extreme conditions.

On the other hand, the Pekingese is less adaptable to hot climates due to their flat faces and dense coats. Brachycephalic breeds like the Pekingese are more prone to overheating and respiratory issues in high temperatures.

During warmer months, it is vital to provide a cool, well-ventilated environment, and avoid prolonged exposure to heat or direct sunlight. Regularly monitor your Pekingese for signs of heat stress, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and provide plenty of fresh water to keep them hydrated.

Ideal Owner

The ideal pet parent for a Pekingese is someone who understands and appreciates their independent nature and distinctive personality traits. They are best suited for individuals or families who can provide a calm and stable environment, as they may be sensitive to chaos or excessive noise.

A patient and gentle approach to handling and training is essential, as the Pekingese can be stubborn and may not respond well to harsh methods.

Other Pets

When it comes to other pets, the Pekingese can coexist peacefully with animals of similar size and temperament if socialized and introduced properly. However, due to their small size and potential prey drive, it is crucial to supervise interactions with larger dogs and smaller pets like cats, birds, or rodents.

pekingese's face
Photo: alohafamily1/Pixabay

Grooming

The Pekingese is a breed with specific grooming needs due to their long, luxurious double coat and distinctive facial features. Regular grooming not only keeps them looking their best but also promotes overall health and well-being.

Coat Care

The Pekingese’s coat consists of a dense, soft undercoat and a long, straight, coarse outer coat. Their abundant hair requires consistent grooming to prevent matting, tangles, and skin issues. It is recommended to brush your Pekingese’s coat at least two to three times a week, or even daily if possible, to remove loose hair, dirt, and debris.

Using a slicker brush or a pin brush helps to detangle the hair and remove any loose undercoat. A stainless steel comb can be used to gently work through any remaining knots or tangles. Pay particular attention to the areas behind the ears, under the legs, and around the tail, where matting tends to occur more frequently.

Regular brushing will also help distribute natural oils throughout the coat, keeping it healthy and shiny.

Bathing your Pekingese should be done every four to six weeks, or as needed, depending on their lifestyle and activities. Use a gentle, dog-specific shampoo, and take care to rinse thoroughly to remove all soap residue, as this can cause skin irritation.

Make sure to dry your Pekingese completely after bathing, especially in the thick hair around their neck and hindquarters, to prevent dampness and potential odor.

Facial Care

The Pekingese’s flat face and facial wrinkles require special attention during grooming. Clean the folds and creases around their eyes and nose with a soft, damp cloth or grooming wipe, taking care not to irritate the sensitive skin. Cleaning these areas regularly helps prevent bacterial growth, infections, and staining caused by tear and saliva buildup.

Their large, round eyes are prone to debris and discharge accumulation. Gently clean the area around their eyes daily using a soft, damp cloth or a cotton pad soaked in warm water. Make sure not to touch the eye surface to avoid injury.

Dental Care

Dental care is an essential aspect of a Pekingese’s grooming routine. Small breeds like the Pekingese are more susceptible to dental issues such as plaque buildup, tartar, and gum disease. Regularly brushing your Pekingese’s teeth with a dog-specific toothpaste and toothbrush can help maintain good oral hygiene. Aim to brush their teeth at least two to three times a week, ideally daily.

In addition to brushing, providing dental chews, toys, and a balanced diet can further support dental health. Regular veterinary checkups, including dental examinations, ensure that any issues are addressed promptly.

Nail Care

The Pekingese’s nails should be trimmed every three to four weeks, or as needed, to prevent overgrowth, splitting, and discomfort. Use a guillotine-style or scissor-style nail clipper designed for dogs, and be cautious not to cut the quick, which contains blood vessels and nerves. If you are unsure about trimming your Pekingese’s nails, consult your veterinarian or a professional groomer for guidance.

pekingese in nature
Photo: Emre Pullukcu/Getty Images

Exercise

The Pekingese is a low-energy breed with moderate exercise needs, making them well-suited for individuals or families with a more relaxed lifestyle. While they may not require extensive physical activity, it is essential to provide regular exercise to keep them healthy, happy, and mentally stimulated.

Exercise Amount & Types

A daily walk of 20-30 minutes is typically sufficient for a Pekingese, depending on their age and overall health. In addition to walks, short play sessions, indoor games, or interactive toys can help keep your Pekingese engaged and active. Some Pekingese enjoy fetching small toys or playing with puzzle treat dispensers, which can also provide mental stimulation.

Socialization is another crucial aspect of a Pekingese’s exercise routine. Regularly exposing your Pekingese to different environments, people, and other animals will help them develop confidence and adaptability. Visiting dog-friendly parks, cafes, or attending local meet-ups and events can provide valuable social experiences and mental stimulation for your Pekingese.

Dog Sports

Although the Pekingese may not be the most athletic breed, they can still participate in various dog sports and competitions. Due to their intelligence and loyalty, some Pekingese excel in activities like obedience trials or canine freestyle, where they perform choreographed routines with their handler.

Others may enjoy participating in conformation shows, where their unique appearance and breed characteristics are evaluated and celebrated.

Exercise Precautions

When exercising your Pekingese outdoors, it is crucial to be mindful of their flat faces and brachycephalic nature. They are more prone to overheating and respiratory issues in hot or humid conditions, so avoid exercising during the hottest parts of the day and always provide access to fresh water.

Additionally, monitor your Pekingese for signs of overexertion or difficulty breathing, such as excessive panting, drooling, or lethargy, and adjust their activity level accordingly.

Training

Training a Pekingese can be both a rewarding and challenging experience due to their unique temperament and independent nature. While they are intelligent and capable of learning, their stubbornness and self-assured demeanor can sometimes make training more difficult.

However, with patience, consistency, and a proper understanding of their personality, Pekingese can be successfully trained to be well-mannered and obedient companions.

The key to training a Pekingese is to establish yourself as a gentle yet firm leader. They respond best to positive reinforcement techniques, such as praise, treats, and affection, rather than harsh or punitive methods. It is essential to remain patient and consistent in your approach, as the Pekingese may test boundaries and push limits.

Early socialization and basic obedience training are crucial for helping your Pekingese develop into a well-rounded and confident adult. Expose them to various environments, people, and other animals from a young age to ensure they become adaptable and comfortable in different situations.

Enrolling in a puppy socialization class or working with a professional dog trainer can provide valuable guidance and support during this process.

When teaching new commands or behaviors, keep training sessions short and engaging to hold your Pekingese’s attention. Break complex tasks into smaller steps, and reward progress along the way. Be prepared for occasional setbacks, as the Pekingese may become disinterested or stubborn at times.

In such cases, remain patient and persistent, and try to make training sessions enjoyable and fun for both you and your Pekingese.

In addition to basic obedience, the Pekingese can also be trained in various dog sports and activities, such as obedience trials, canine freestyle, or even agility with some modifications to suit their physical capabilities. These activities can provide mental stimulation and strengthen the bond between you and your Pekingese.

House training a Pekingese may require extra patience and consistency due to their stubborn nature. Establish a regular schedule for taking them outside and reward them for eliminating in the appropriate area. Crate training can be a helpful tool in the house training process, as it provides a safe, den-like space for your Pekingese and encourages them to hold their bladder until they are taken outside.

pekingese on grass
Photo: SerKucher/Getty Images

Diet & Nutrition 

The diet and nutrition of the Pekingese play a crucial role in maintaining their overall health and well-being. Providing a balanced, high-quality diet tailored to their specific needs will help ensure your Pekingese remains happy and healthy throughout their life.

What to Feed & How Much

When selecting food for your Pekingese, look for premium dry, wet, or raw food options that follow the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) guidelines. These guidelines ensure that the food meets the nutritional requirements for dogs, providing essential vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fats.

Choose a formula designed for small breeds, as these are typically formulated with the appropriate nutrient levels and kibble size for smaller dogs like the Pekingese.

The amount and frequency of feeding depend on your Pekingese’s age, weight, activity level, and overall health. Puppies generally require more frequent feedings (3-4 times per day) to support their growth and development.

As they grow older and transition into adulthood, you can gradually reduce the number of daily feedings to twice a day. Always consult your veterinarian for personalized recommendations regarding your Pekingese’s dietary needs and feeding schedule.

Monitor your Pekingese’s weight and body condition regularly, adjusting their food intake accordingly to prevent overfeeding and obesity. Small breeds like the Pekingese can be prone to weight gain, which can lead to various health issues such as joint problems, respiratory issues, and diabetes.

Treats & Water

Treats can be an excellent training tool and a way to bond with your Pekingese. However, it is essential to choose healthy treats and offer them in moderation, as excessive treats can contribute to weight gain and imbalances in their diet. Opt for low-calorie, nutritious treats, or consider using small pieces of fruits and vegetables such as carrots, apples, or green beans as a healthier alternative.

Fresh water should always be readily available to your Pekingese to keep them hydrated and support their overall health. Make sure to provide clean water in a clean bowl and change it regularly to prevent bacterial growth.

Health

The Pekingese is generally a healthy breed, with a life expectancy of 12-14 years. However, like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health issues. Providing a healthy diet, regular veterinary checkups, and staying up-to-date on vaccinations can significantly contribute to their overall well-being and longevity.

Here are common health issues associated with the Pekingese breed:

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome: Due to their flat faces and shortened airways, Pekingese are prone to respiratory issues like Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. This condition can cause difficulty breathing, snoring, and increased sensitivity to heat and humidity. Regular veterinary checkups can help monitor and manage any respiratory issues, and owners should be mindful of their Pekingese’s activity levels and exposure to hot or humid environments.

Eye Problems: The Pekingese’s large, protruding eyes make them susceptible to various eye issues such as corneal ulcers, dry eye, and entropion. Regularly cleaning their eyes and monitoring for signs of irritation or discharge can help prevent and detect eye problems early. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any changes in your Pekingese’s eyes.

Patellar Luxation: This condition occurs when the kneecap (patella) slips out of its normal position, causing discomfort and potential lameness. Pekingese are more prone to patellar luxation due to their small size and bone structure. Regular veterinary examinations can help detect this issue early, and appropriate treatment options can be discussed if necessary.

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD): Pekingese are at a higher risk for IVDD, a condition where the cushioning discs between the vertebrae become damaged, causing pain, nerve damage, and potentially paralysis. Maintaining a healthy weight, providing appropriate exercise, and avoiding activities that put excessive strain on their spine can help reduce the risk of IVDD.

Dental Issues: Small breeds like the Pekingese are prone to dental problems such as plaque buildup, tartar, and gum disease. Regular dental care, including brushing their teeth, providing dental chews, and scheduling professional dental cleanings, can significantly contribute to maintaining your Pekingese’s oral health.

In addition to addressing these breed-specific health concerns, maintaining a regular vaccination schedule and routine veterinary checkups will help ensure your Pekingese stays healthy throughout their life. Early detection and intervention can make a significant difference in managing any health issues that may arise, allowing your Pekingese to enjoy a long, happy life as your cherished companion.

close up of a pekingese with its tongue out
Photo: Storm

History

The Pekingese is a breed with a rich and fascinating history, dating back over 2,000 years to ancient China. They were once considered sacred dogs, revered by Chinese emperors and the imperial court, and their name originates from the ancient city of Peking (now Beijing).

The Pekingese breed was developed within the imperial palace and was exclusively owned by members of the Chinese nobility. These small, regal dogs were often referred to as “sleeve dogs,” as they were carried in the large sleeves of their owners’ robes. The Pekingese was not just a companion but also held spiritual significance, as they were believed to possess the power to ward off evil spirits.

The breed’s distinctive appearance and temperament are thought to have been deliberately cultivated by the Chinese nobility. Their flat faces, large eyes, and lion-like mane are reminiscent of the Chinese guardian lions, or “Foo Dogs,” which were believed to possess protective powers.

Their dignified and independent demeanor further contributed to their status as esteemed companions within the imperial court.

The Pekingese remained relatively unknown outside of China until the mid-19th century. During the Second Opium War in 1860, British and French troops invaded the Summer Palace in Beijing, where they discovered several Pekingese dogs.

Five of these dogs were taken back to England and presented to Queen Victoria, who named one of them “Looty.” This event marked the beginning of the breed’s introduction to the Western world.

As news of these exotic dogs spread across Europe and America, the Pekingese quickly gained popularity among dog enthusiasts and high society. The breed’s unique appearance, royal lineage, and enchanting personality attracted many admirers, and the Pekingese became a fashionable and sought-after companion.

The first Pekingese arrived in the United States in the early 20th century, and the breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1906. The Pekingese Club of America was established in 1909, dedicated to promoting and preserving the breed within the United States.

In popular culture, the Pekingese has been featured in various forms of art, literature, and film, often reflecting their regal and dignified nature.

Notable examples include the 1961 Disney movie “101 Dalmatians,” where a Pekingese named “Duchess” is among the dogs who help rescue the kidnapped puppies, and the 1944 novel “The Razor’s Edge” by W. Somerset Maugham, which features a Pekingese named “Kosti.”

Throughout the years, the Pekingese has continued to captivate dog lovers with their unique appearance, royal heritage, and charming personality. They have enjoyed success in dog shows, with notable achievements including a Best in Show win at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012.

Parent Club

The official parent club for the Pekingese in the United States is the Pekingese Club of America. The club was founded in 1909, with a mission to promote and preserve the breed within the country.

The Pekingese Club of America provides valuable resources, educational materials, and support for Pekingese owners, breeders, and enthusiasts. To learn more about the club and access their resources, visit their official website here.

Breed Standard

A breed standard is a set of guidelines established by breed clubs or kennel organizations, defining the ideal appearance, temperament, and physical traits of a specific breed. It serves as a reference for breeders, judges, and enthusiasts to evaluate and maintain a breed’s unique qualities.

Covering aspects like size, appearance, and temperament, breed standards are used in dog shows and competitions to assess individual dogs against the ideal representation of their breed.

You can check the Pekingese’s breed standard set by the American Kennel Club (AKC) here.

white pekingese sitting on a wooden bench
Photo: Ryhor Bruyeu (Grigory Bruev)/Grisha Bruev

Acquiring

When considering acquiring a Pekingese dog, it is essential to prepare for their arrival by researching the breed’s specific needs and temperament. Familiarize yourself with their exercise, grooming, and training requirements to ensure you can provide a suitable environment.

Rescuing a Pekingese from a shelter or rescue organization is a rewarding option, as it gives a loving home to a dog in need. The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Pekingese Club of America, can help connect you with reputable rescue organizations specializing in Pekingese dogs.

Before adopting, ensure you have the necessary supplies such as a comfortable bed, food and water bowls, grooming tools, toys, and a leash and collar. Schedule a veterinary checkup shortly after adoption to ensure your new Pekingese is in good health and up-to-date on vaccinations.

With proper preparation and care, you can welcome a Pekingese into your life and enjoy their unique, affectionate companionship.

FAQs

Why are Pekingese dogs considered rare?

Pekingese dogs may be considered rare due to their unique appearance and history as sacred dogs within the Chinese imperial court. Additionally, their popularity has waned in recent years compared to other small breeds, contributing to their perceived rarity.

Are Pekingese good pets?

Yes, Pekingese make excellent pets for the right owner. They are affectionate, loyal, and adaptable, making them well-suited for various living environments. However, they can be stubborn, so patience and consistency in training are essential.

Are Pekingese noisy dogs?

Pekingese can be moderately noisy, as they tend to bark when they sense strangers or unfamiliar situations. However, with proper socialization and training, excessive barking can be managed.

Are Pekingese calm dogs?

Pekingese are generally calm and composed, with a dignified demeanor. They enjoy lounging around the house and spending time with their family. However, they still require regular exercise to maintain their overall health.

How much exercise do Pekingese need?

Pekingese require 20-30 minutes of exercise per day. Due to their brachycephalic nature, they should not be overexerted, especially in hot or humid conditions.

How often should I groom my Pekingese?

Pekingese require regular grooming to maintain their long, double coat. Brushing 2-3 times per week will help prevent matting, and periodic baths will keep their coat clean and healthy. Regular attention to their eyes, ears, nails, and dental care is also important.

Are Pekingese good with children and other pets?

Pekingese can get along well with children and other pets when properly introduced and supervised. However, due to their small size, they may be prone to injury from rough play or handling. It is essential to teach children how to interact gently and respectfully with a Pekingese.

Fun Facts

  • One of the most intriguing facts about Pekingese is that they were bred to resemble “foo dogs,” which are Chinese guardian lions. Their distinctive face and mane-like coat are reminiscent of these ancient symbols of protection and power.
  • Due to their unique body structure – long body, bowed legs, and short stature – Pekingese have a distinctive “rolling” gait. This adds to their charm and makes them stand out in any crowd. Watching a Pekingese trot around is sure to bring a smile to anyone’s face!

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