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The Peke or 'Lion Dog' as it is sometimes referred to, takes its name from The Forbidden City of Peking (now called Beijing). For many years, they could only be owned by Chinese nobility and people without the status of nobility had to bow to them.
With a colourful history dating back as far as 2000 BC, the Peke was the favoured companion of Chinese nobility and Emperors. They were so revered, only nobility could own them, and theft of this little dog was punishable by death. The Peke accompanied its master everywhere, preceding them and announcing their arrival with sharp and piercing barks. When their master died, the Pekes were often scarified to accompany him and protect him in his journey through the underworld.
The actual origins of the Peke are lost in the sands of time, but it is likely that they have not altered much for centuries. Chinese legend tells of a lion that fell in love with a marmoset and so he could be married to her, the lion begged the patron saint of the animals, Ah Chu, to reduce him to the size of a pigmy but to let him retain his great lion heart and character. From the offspring of this union descended the dogs Fu Lin, or the Lion Dog of China paving the way for the Pekingese to make its mark on the whole of China.
Whatever the true origin though, recent DNA analysis has revealed the Peke to be one of the most ancient of all dog breeds, along with 13 other dog breeds. This research undertaken in 2006 found that, in essence, these breeds have the fewest differences, at a genetic or phenotype level (the physical traits influenced by environment), from wolves. This does not mean they are wolves or any type of wolf-dog hybrid (as all breeds of dog from the smallest to the largest share DNA with wolves) more that the physical make up of them is simply the best solution to any problems or challenges they may have encountered in their living conditions over the course of their development.
The Peke made its transition to the West in the 1800's when British and French troops invaded China and stormed Peking during the so called 'Opium Wars'. Many Pekes were killed by their owners rather than have them fall into enemy hands, before the owners took their own lives or were killed in battle. 5 Pekes survived this though, and were found in the opulent 'Summer Palace' and before it was razed to the ground, they were removed and taken back to England. One of them was presented to Queen Victoria, who named the little dog 'Looty' thus thrusting them into the consciousness of the British, making them a very fashionable dog to own. Most modern day Pekes are descended from these 5 which made the journey from East to West.
Average height to withers: Males and females are between 6-9 inches, with smaller ones often being found. The smaller ones are often called 'Sleeves', a referral to the times when imperial nobility and Emperors would carry their favourite and smallest dog around with them, in their large sleeves.
Average weight: 3.5-6.5 kg for both males and females.
The Pekingese is a small, squat and compact dog which is very 'low slung' to the ground. It has a stocky body that is overall slightly longer than it is tall. The Pekes head is large in proportion to the rest of the body, with the top of the head especially broad and flat. The front of the face is flat as is the shortened muzzle. The black nose is broad and short, with large, prominent and round eyes which are set wide apart with black eye rims. The 'heart shaped' ears lie flat against the head and they are so well feathered so that they almost disappear seamlessly onto the head. This dog has short legs which somewhat serve to restrict movement meaning the Peke walks with an unusual gait, and a tail which is carried high and over the back. The coat is double and thick with the outer coat being long and coarse with abundant feathering. The undercoat is much softer. The coat itself comes in a variety of colours and is often seen with a black mask on the face. The most prolific colours include gold, reds and sables but cream, black, black and tan and slate grey are also found. Whatever the colour of the dog, any exposed skin is always black.
Pekingese are very brave dogs as well as sensitive, independent and loyal, mainly to one person. These adorable dogs can make wonderful companions. They often lead quite a sedentary life though. The combined factors of too much of the good life and too little exercise, may make the Peke become overweight. This breed makes a good watchdog, often giving a series of sharp barks when a stranger approaches the house. While reasonably intelligent, the Peke may be difficult to house break. Pekes need to see their owners as the pack leader or they will become very demanding and quite bossy and picky. They are notorious for being fussy eaters also, but this is something that can be overcome with consistency in the owner's actions and not giving them tit bits under the table! Because of this breeds tiny size and it's cute, lion like face, there are a very high percentage of Pekes who develop so called 'small dog syndrome' which manifests as a series of human induced behaviours, where the dog adopts the position of alpha within the family. These behaviours can include separation anxiety, food/possession guarding, nervy and temperamental behaviours. They may even attack if feeling this position is under threat. Through this, they can become wary of strangers, and may become untrustworthy with children and even adults. They may also become dog aggressive. Because of this, early socialisation and effective training are needed to ensure this little dog does not become lord and master of the house.
A well balanced Peke can be a joy to own and they do make particularly good companions for older people as well as experienced owners, due to their small size and liking for a warm lap and lots of attention.
When healthy, this little dog can live up to the age of 15 years, but they do encounter some issues over the course of their lives. The Peke is considered a Brachycephalic breed (meaning it is short nosed). Because of this, Pekes have compacted breathing passageways, leaving many unable to breathe properly or regulate their temperature properly in the ways all dogs do, by panting. A Pekes normal body temperature is between 38 Â°C -39 Â°C. If the temperature rises to around 41 Â°C they are unable to cope physically and require immediate attention and intervention to help them cool down. Their condition may become critical at 42 Â°C, when the internal organs begin to break down and which can lead to severe long term health issues, even death. Care should always be taken when the weather is warmer and the dog is outside.
Because of their prominent eyes, they are also very prone to some eye disorders and injury. Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) is routinely seen in this breed. Dry Eye is caused when the eyes don't produce enough tears to stay moist. Your vet can perform tests to determine if this is the cause, which can be controlled with medication.
Care and observation from either a vet or a very experienced person must be available during the birth of any pups, as due to the larger head of this breed, the birth canal and pelvis of the dam often encounters difficulties delivering the pups naturally. Caesarean Section is often a safer option for delivery.
The Peke obviously requires a certain amount of coat care and grooming needed it brushing at least once a day. Regular flea treatments are necessary due to its longer coat also. The Peke does need exercise and can become overweight very quickly if it is overfed and leaded a sedentary life. A daily walk is all that is needed. Care must be taken when the dog is outside, especially when it is warmer (see health section) and shade and water must be provided. Alternately, keep this breed indoors during the heat of the day.