The Pekingese or Peke is one of the oldest breed of dogs in the world. The breed originated in ancient China in the city of Peking, now called Beijing. There is an old Buddhist legend that tells of a lion that fell in love with a Marmoset, and the resulting offspring was the Pekingese. These dogs were thought to protect against evil spirits. Only members of the royal family could own a Pekingese, and when an emperor died, their Pekingese was sacrificed to protect them in the afterlife.
This breed first made their way out of China as a result of war. In 1860, when the British occupied the Chinese palace, several Pekingese were removed before the building was burnt to the ground. These dogs were sent back to the United Kingdom and given to British nobility, including Queen Victoria. Other Pekes were given to notable Americans by the Chinese Empress.
The Pekingese was recognized by the AKC in 1906.
There has been very little change to the appearance of the Pekingese over the years. These dogs have a muscular, compact body that is low to the ground. Their most noticeable characteristics are their lovely long coat, their pushed in face and their bulging eyes.
Pekingese have an exceptionally long double coat which comes in a variety of colors including gold, red, black and sable. They have long feathering on their toes, and down the back of their legs. They carry their tail arched over their back, which gives them a regal air.
Typically Pekingese weigh up to 14lbs (6kg) and grow around 9 inches, or 22cm, at the shoulder.
Pekingese are an extremely sensitive and affectionate dogs that form a strong bond with their owners. However, they can also be stubborn, jealous and almost egotistical. This means that they need training from a young age, and a firm fair leader to teach them good manners. Good looks and brains do go hand in hand with these little aristocrats; they are quite intelligent and learn quickly using positive training methods.
This breed often does best in a home without children because they can be bossy. They will bark if strangers approach, but because they were bred to be lap dogs and companions, they don’t make good watch dogs.
Unless they are socialized with other dogs from a young age, the Peke often doesn’t get on well with other dogs. They are often happiest being the only dog in the household, where they can enjoy being the center of attention.
Most of the Pekingese’s health issues are associated with their extremely flattened face and protruding eyes.
They can have trouble breathing because their flattened face narrows their nostrils and upper airways. This makes it hard for them to pant effectively and keep themselves cool in warm weather.
If they ever need a general anesthetic, their abnormal respiratory tract will increase the risk of complications.
Painful eye ulcers can develop in these dogs, because their eyes are quite exposed. They can also suffer from keratoconjunctivitis sicca, where the tear glands don’t produce enough tears. The result is dry eyes, which can become infected.
It is critical that a Pekingese is never picked up by the scruff of the neck. If their fur is pulled tightly over their neck and the back of their head, it can result in their eyes coming out of their sockets. This is extremely distressing for both dog and owner, and may result in permanent blindness.
The remainder of their body is fairly sturdy. Because they have long backs and short legs, they are at risk of hurting their back. They may also have luxating patellas, or dislocated kneecaps. If this isn’t corrected surgically, it can lead to arthritis in the knee joint.
The Pekingese’s lovely long coat requires at least one thorough brushing a week to remove tangles and loose hair. If time is not an issue, then daily brushing is better still. They don’t need frequent baths; being an indoor dog they tend not to get too dirty. If necessary, they can have their fur trimmed, particularly around their mouth and their bottom, and around the prepuce in males. This can make it easier to keep them clean. They can also be clipped short in what is known as a “puppy cut” which is particularly low-maintenance.
These dogs also need their face washed on a regular basis. The skin folds on their nose and around their eyes can become infected if they are not properly cared for. Make sure you wipe them clean at least every other day.
The Pekingese will enjoy a regular stroll, but keep in mind the risk of heat stress because of their short nose. Because they can have difficulty breathing, they don’t have a great deal of exercise tolerance. This, coupled with their bowed legs, means that they won’t be keen to walk very far. They would be one of the easiest breeds to care for with respect to exercise requirements.
A Pekingese will make a lovely companion for the right owner. The ideal home for this breed is one without other dogs or small children. They are ideally suited for apartment dwellers, or for people who find walking difficult. However, prospective owners must take into consideration the time required to keep them properly groomed. They may not need much exercise, but they do need a lot of hair care.
Finally, those interested in having a Pekingese as a pet must be firm and fair with their discipline, so that the strong-willed Peke does not try to take over as pack leader.
These charming and regal little dogs will curl up on your lap for around 10 years.