So You Want a Pekingese?
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So you want a Pekingese but wonder whether the breed’s a good fit for your family.
If you’re an active family looking for a hiking or running partner, the answer is no.
But if you want a happy lapdog who you’ll cherish, a Pekingese (aka Peke) may be a good fit.
Pekingese are small, sturdy dogs who love their families. But they are an independent breed.
Before making your decision, you need to learn about them, including potential health problems and grooming needs.
This is not a wash-and-go breed. They are high maintenance and require regular grooming and care.
I’ve trained numerous Pekes over the years. They are charming, independent dogs.
To successfully work with them, I keep the training sessions short and fun.
If you lead him to think that learning a new cue was his idea, a Peke should learn whatever he’s physically capable of doing.
31 Facts About Pekingese: What’s Good About Them and What’s Bad About Them
1. Pekingese Are Classified as Toy Dogs by the American Kennel Club (AKC)
They are sturdy, small, compact dogs with a rolling gait.
2. They Are Fine for Novice Owners
Although they are very independent dogs, they can be fine with novice owners as long as you can meet their needs (discussed below).
They were bred as companions and don’t require much physical exercise.
3. Pekingese Are an Ancient Breed
Pekes can be traced to the eighth century Tang Dynasty in China. The lines were kept pure then and theft of the valued dogs was punishable by death.
The breed was bred down from larger dogs by Chinese Emperors and their courtiers. They bred flat-faced lap dogs such as Pekes, shih tzus, and pugs.
When British troops invaded Beijing (Peking) in 1860 to loot and burn the Emperor’s magnificent summer palace, the royal family killed the Pekes so that they didn’t fall into enemy hands.
A British captain discovered five surviving Pekes that were hidden behind drapery.
The dogs were brought to Queen Victoria as a gift. And the breed quickly caught on amongst her subjects.
Pekes arrived in America by the late 1890s and were registered by the AKC in 1906.
4. They Were Known as Lion Dogs, Sun Dogs, and Sleeve Dogs and, Though Small, Are Known To Be Fearless
Pekes were bred to resemble Foo dogs, a mythical guardian lion in China.
Smaller Pekes (of four to five pounds) were valued in the Imperial City for their ferocity.
Although they’re small, they’re mighty and fearless. They were mini watch dogs who were hidden in large, flowing sleeves of their owners.
When they sensed danger, they would fly out at intruders, snarling and snapping all the way. Of course, this was a shock to the intruder.
Pekes who weigh less than six pounds are still called “sleeves.”
This protective trait is still evident in the modern Peke, who is vocal against intruders or perceived dangers.
5. Pekes Hit the Big Time: Famous Dogs
- A Peke was one of only three dogs to survive the Titanic’s sinking
- A Peke has been named as Best in Show five times at Westminster, the last being by a dog named Wasabi in 2021
- Tricki Woo was a pampered, beloved Peke in James Herriot’s semi-biographical All Creatures Great and Small
- Pekes have been the companions of many famous people, including Shirley Temple, Rudolph Valentino, Jayne Mansfield, Joan Rivers, Carole Lombard, Barbara Cartland, and Elizabeth Taylor
- In the movie Crazy Rich Asians, Goh Peik Lin’s family owns three Pekes named Astor, Vanderbilt, and Rockefeller
- They are named in the humorous poem by T.S. Eliot, The Awefull Battle of the Pekes and the Pollicles, which was later adapted for the musical Cats
6. They Don’t Require Much Exercise
Pekes don’t require a lot of exercise. A short walk and some play sessions should keep him fit.
They can make great lap dogs and couch potatoes while you binge-watch Netflix.
7. They Aren’t Jogging, Running, Hiking, or Swimming Companions
If you’re looking for your next canine athlete, a Peke definitely isn’t for you.
They don’t have the stamina to keep up on such treks. With their short legs and long bodies, they couldn’t keep up.
And a Peke would overheat on such ventures.
Because of their body conformation, Pekes also don’t generally swim very well.
8. Socialization Is Required
They are attached and loyal to their families. But they are generally aloof with and wary of strangers and can sound the alarm when presented with intruders–or even new situations.
Despite their diminutive size, Pekes are very brave. So it’s especially important to properly socialize them to people and all that they will face during their lives.
Otherwise, they can develop “small dog syndrome” and become overly aggressive and protective. They have to learn to distinguish friend from foe.
9. Make Training Fun!
Although they’re very intelligent, Pekes can be a challenge to train.
It’s an independent breed that many call stubborn. Peke people often call them “opinionated.”
Train basic cues and add some fun tricks too.
You must use positive reinforcement and make training fun.
A Peke will easily tune out repetitive drills. Instead, use yummy small treats, praise, and play when rewarding desired behaviors.
Keep the sessions short to keep the dog’s attention.
Also, Pekes don’t have a ton of stamina, so you don’t want him to wear out or overheat.
Harsh training methods shouldn’t be used with any breed. But if such methods are used with a Peke, he will probably become defensive and aggressive and may bite.
10. They Require Mental Stimulation
A bored Peke can become destructive. It’s an intelligent breed and can easily become bored.
So teach your dog tricks. Provide enrichment activities and puzzle toys.
11. Pekes Love Their Family and Are Aloof With Strangers and Dogs
They are loyal, dedicated, and playful with their families. They often bond especially to one family member.
A Peke will tolerate respectful children who he knows if he was properly bred and socialized.
But care has to be taken with babies and toddlers and other dogs. They can potentially inadvertently injure a Peke.
And, if necessary, a Peke may attempt to defend himself if roughly handled.
I rescued a Peke named China many years ago. She was slated to be euthanized for being aggressive.
I rescued her but couldn’t keep her myself, as I already had seven dogs at the time. It turned out that she was just defensive in the setting she was in.
But China was actually a very sweet dog with everyone when she was treated properly. And she lived a long life with my friend who adopted her.
Pekes are regally aloof and wary of strangers, but they shouldn’t be aggressive.
In fact, they are described as being “a good natured, opinionated, and affectionate companion to those who have earned its respect.”
Pekes must be socialized with other friendly dogs so that they’ll accept them later in life.
You have to watch that a Peke isn’t injured, so playing with much larger dogs or dogs with rough play styles isn’t recommended.
A Peke will stand his ground against other dogs, so you need to be sure that other dogs that he meets will accept his brave confidence.
So, if you’re looking for a dog who welcomes everyone or who enjoys rough play, a Peke isn’t for you.
12. Not Just Another Pretty Face: Pekes Can Perform
Although training a Peke to perform complicated behaviors may be challenging, some have proven that they can compete in more than just conformation.
Pekes love to be with you and love to play. So they may enjoy the following:
Teach him fun tricks, like speak/quiet, dance, beg, wave, and roll over.
If you get the right Peke and train and socialize him properly, you can compete in obedience.
But, as I said, be aware that they don’t like repetitive drills as a border collie or Aussie may.
And some Pekes may enjoy therapy work. Each dog’s an individual.
But if you find that yours is standoffish with strangers, you should participate in events that he enjoys instead.
13. Pekes Are Great Lap Dogs
They are affectionate and love to be with their people.
So a Peke would be happy engaging in play with you–or even just relaxing on the sofa.
14. They Can Tend To Become Obese
They can be beggars. So don’t give in, even though their large, pleading eyes are hard to resist.
Pekes aren’t very active dogs and will tend to put on too much weight quickly if overindulged.
15. They Adapt Well To New Places
Pekes adapt to where you live.
But be aware that, because of their watch dog heritage, they are alert and may bark and sound the alarm when strangers approach or if there are strange noises.
So, an apartment or attached dwelling may be a challenge.
It’s important to train them from the time that they are puppies to be quiet and not bark excessively.
16. Pekes Can Be Noisy
Because they tend to be watch dogs who will bark at strangers and strange noises, they can bark too much.
So train them from puppyhood to be quiet and redirect them to a desired activity.
17. They Don’t Do Well in Temperature Extremes
Pekes are a brachycephalic breed. Their flat face makes them prone to heat exhaustion.
So, if you live where it gets very hot, make sure that your Peke isn’t taken outside except for a quick potty break during the hottest part of the day.
Have him remain in air conditioning, relaxing. After all, they were bred as treasured companions who lived in Imperial palaces.
They do better in cooler than in warmer climates. Pekingese are an arctic breed by nature who originated in the coldest climate of China.
So they tolerate the cold extremely well, but not the heat. But don’t leave him out in the cold for longer than for a short play session or walk.
In cold weather, you can put a coat or sweater on your Peke, especially if he is in a puppy clip.
18. They Can Be Difficult To House Train
Like some other toy dogs, Pekes are known to be difficult to house train.
You can also choose to train the dog to use potty pads.
If you have a healthy Peke, patience and persistence will pay off to have a reliably house trained dog.
19. They Are Small, Portable Traveling Companions
Pekes are compact, stocky dogs. They stand at six to nine inches at the shoulder and weigh up to 14 pounds.
They love new adventures. So, as long as your Peke isn’t exposed to temperature extremes, he will be a great travel buddy.
Get him used to traveling when he’s young so that he doesn’t become car sick. Then you can take him with you on your adventures.
There are many car seats for small dogs that will be perfect for him.
And there are small kennels and soft travel bags to transport him. You can even carry him in a pouch made for that purpose.
20. Pekes Are Surprisingly Heavy for Their Size
A Peke is a solid, muscular dog with a heavier front and lighter hindquarters. He is slightly longer than he is tall.
The dog’s head is in proportion to his body. A Peke’s topskull is massive, broad and flat. And he has wide set, round eyes and a broad lower jaw.
Even though they can weigh only up to 14 pounds, they are surprisingly heavy when lifted.
21. Walk Him on a Well-Fitted Harness
Even though a Peke is sturdier than some toy breeds, he can suffer tracheal damage if he pulls or is pulled in a collar. So I advise walking him in a well-fitted harness.
22. Pekes Have Long Lives
If you’re looking for a canine companion who will be with you on numerous adventures, a Peke fits the bill.
They have a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.
23. Pekes’ Flat Faces Cause Them To Be Prone To Certain Problems
They are a brachycephalic breed, which means that their head is both broad and short, resulting in small nostrils, long palates, and a narrow trachea.
This can lead to brachycephalic airway obstructive syndrome, which can result in severe respiratory distress.
You have to be especially careful that they don’t over-exercise.
They are also at risk in extremes of temperature and humidity.
A Peke can also have a reverse sneeze, in which he will snort and gag to remove mucus, for a minute or two at most. Although not harmful, hearing a reverse sneeze can be frightening.
If you’re a light sleeper, be prepared to sleep with ear plugs. Because of their flat muzzles, Pekes tend to snore.
24. Pekes Are Prone To Many Other Health Problems To Be Aware Of
All breeds can have some health problems. Because of their long back, short legs, and flat muzzle, Pekes are prone to certain health issues.
So be careful that your Peke doesn’t jump on or off furniture that’s too high. If you want him to be on the furniture, teach him to use stairs or a ramp made for that purpose.
Because of their conformation, some Pekes aren’t able to even navigate stairs safely.
Make sure that you get your Peke from a reputable breeder or rescue group.
Because of their very prominent eyes, they tend to easily suffer eye injuries. So make sure that everyone interacting with your Peke is careful, even in play.
Potential health issues include:
- Patellar luxation, which can cause lameness
- Cleft palate, which can life-threatening requiring surgery
- Cryptorchidism, a condition in which one or both testicles fails to descend
- Ectopic cilia, an abnormal eyelash growth in which extra eyelashes grow through the eyelid to the inside of the eye
- Distichiasis, in which an additional row of eyelashes irritates the eye
- Entropion, which causes an eyelid to roll inward, irritating or damaging the eyeball
- Fold dermatitis, which is an infection in the folds of the skin, especially on his muzzle
- Skin allergies
- Hydrocephalus, which occurs when the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain accumulates, placing pressure on the brain
- Dry eye
- Eye ulcers
- Mitral valve disease
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Exposure keratopathy syndrome, in which the eye cannot properly close, leading to vision loss
- Intervertebral disc disease, which can cause neck and back pain and even lead to paralysis and a lack of bladder or bowel control
25. Pekes Require Regular Grooming, and It Can Be Expensive
Their thick double coat requires a lot of maintenance. Brushing at least one hour per week will help prevent matting and remove loose hairs.
Mats and tangles can be worked out gently by using a slicker brush and metal comb.
Daily brushing is best to keep his skin and hair in great condition.
Of course, regularly clip nails for comfort and to not compromise the dog’s structure.
Also check and clean a Peke’s facial folds daily to be sure that they are clean and dry and there are no hot spots or infection.
You can keep your Peke in a puppy clip–also known as a lion clip or summer clip–for easier care. This would require a cutting every eight to 12 weeks.
Professional groomers are expensive–but worth it.
Because a Peke requires so much handling, it’s important to get him used to handling and grooming when he’s a puppy.
They shed seasonally. Bathe as necessary.
26. Pekes Come in a Wide Variety of Colors
- Black and tan
- Fawn sable
- Gray sable
- Red sable
- Red brindle
- Fawn brindle
- Light red
The standard markings are a black mask, parti-color, or white markings. They can also have a black face or mask with white markings. Or a black muzzle with or without white markings.
27. They Tend To Have Dental Problems
As is true of many brachycephalic breeds, they tend to have dental problems. So brush their teeth regularly and have a vet check them.
28. Check Their Eyes Regularly To Avoid Problems
Because their eyes are so prominent, make sure to check them daily.
If they squint, appear red, or show any other irregularity, an immediate vet visit is in order.
29. They Rank 96th in Popularity of 284 AKC Breeds
Pekes aren’t the most popular breed. So if you want a dog who will stand out, a Peke is certainly showy.
30. A Well-Bred Peke Isn’t Cheap
Pekes often need to have cesarean births, which can be very expensive. And they have small litters.
Reputable breeders will only breed the best specimens and not breed them too young or too often.
This makes Pekes expensive, usually costing from $1,500 and up depending on location and whether the puppy is pet or show quality.
Puppy mill and back-yard breeders should be avoided.
31. There Are Valuable Resources To Find a Great Pekingese
You may decide to get a Peke from a reputable breed or rescue organization.
For rescue information about Pekes, contact the Pekingese Charitable Foundation, the Pekingese Rescue Network, Pekingese Rescue, or the Potomac Valley Pekingese Club.
For breeder referrals, contact the Pekingese Club of America or the AKC.
I love how cute Pekingese are! But I’m pretty active and love to run and hike when I’m not working. Can a Peke be a good fit?
Probably not. Pekes are not high-energy, active, canine athletes. Although they enjoy a short walk and play sessions, they don’t have the endurance for those activities and can easily overheat.
We have three children. Two are under five years old, and the third is eight. Do you recommend a Peke for our family?
No. Pekes can easily be injured by toddlers and won’t tolerate rough handling. So a Peke isn’t the best choice.
I want a dog that I can take with me while I shop and visit friends. Can you recommend a Peke?
Sure–as long as you meet his grooming and other needs. Pekes love to be with their people. And, if properly bred, trained, and socialized, a Peke should accept your friends, especially after he gets to know them.
Pekingese can be great companions for the right family.
Although they don’t require much physical exercise, they still require a lot of attention from their people, including play.
They need regular grooming and are susceptible to some health issues, including eye injuries.
But if you’re looking for a bold, unusual-looking travel buddy with personality to spare, a Peke may be in your future.
Are you still thinking about getting a Pekingese?
If so, why? If not, why not?
Did this blog post help you make your decision
Please tell us about it in the comments section below.
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