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Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Pekingese
Average Cost to keep/care for a Pekingese
Breed Specific Buying Advice
The Pekingese is a charming little dog and one that boasts a fascinating history. Over the years they have become a popular choice both here in the UK not only because of their adorable looks, but also for their kind, loyal and affectionate natures. The Pekingese of today is very much the same as the dogs of days long past and they have found their way into the hearts and homes of many people the world over.
Pekes are known for being wonderful companions for elderly people because they are not overly demanding when it comes to daily exercise. With this said, the Pekingese is not a couch potato either with many of these small dogs thoroughly enjoy and doing well at all sorts of canine sports which includes mini agility.
Although the true origins of the Pekingese have been lost in the sands of time, it is likely that these little dogs have not altered that much over centuries. Chinese legend tells of a lion that fell in love with a marmoset and to marry to her, the lion begged the patron saint of the animals, Ah Chu, to reduce him to the size of a pigmy while at the same time retaining his large lion heart and character. The offspring of this union was the Fu Lin or Lion Dog of China which paved the way for the Pekingese to make its mark on the whole of China. Whatever the breed’s true origin recent DNA tests have revealed the Peke to be one of the most ancient of all dog breeds, along with 13 others.
The charming Pekingese's ancestry is an illustrious one that can be traced back to China's Tang Dynasty with similar little dogs having been popular in China even before that particular time in Chinese history. However, it was during the Tang Dynasty that these little lion dogs became a firm favourite around the Imperial Courts. They were so highly prized that a decree was passed stating that only royals and nobles could own a Pekingese and that no commoners were allowed to purchase or own a Pekingese dog and if they did, it was at their own peril.
It was only in 1860 that common people could buy one of these charming little, lion-like dogs which was when the British took over the city of Peking and when they ransacked the Summer Palace. They found 5 Pekingese which Lord John Hay, Sir George Fitzroy and General Dunne took back to England with them. The General presented his Pekingese called "Looty" to Queen Victoria who kept her pet until 1872, when Looty died.
The 2 Pekes that Lord Hay bought back to England with him were called Hytien and Schloff. The Lord gave Hytien, the female Peke to his sister, the Duchess of Wellington who began breeding from her using Schloff. Sir Fitzroy gave the 2 Pekes he bought back with him from his tour of duty in China to his cousin The Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. They were called Guh and Meh and the Duchess began a breeding programme which was to become the now famous Goodwood line.
In 1910, The Kennel Club recognised the breed, although the Pekingese was accepted by the American Kennel Club the previous year. Today, the Pekingese remains one of the most popular choices both as a companion dog and family pet thanks to their charming looks, endearing natures and the fact they are so loyal without being overly demanding.
Height at the withers: Males 15 - 23 cm, Females 15 - 23 cm
Average weight: Males 3.5 - 6.5 kg, Females 3.5 - 6.5 kg
The Pekingese boasts having very lion-like looks with long silky hair that reaches the ground and lovely manes around their necks. They have very distinct, wrinkled flat faces which although adorable, often causes breathing and eye problems for the breed. A Peke's head is large in relation to their body and it's wider than it is deep with dogs having moderately broad skulls that are flat in between their ears. They have a nicely defined stop and although flat faced, their muzzles should be relatively wide while at the same time not being too short. Their noses are short and have broad, wide open nostrils. They have some wrinkling on their faces that goes from their cheeks to the bridge of the nose which forms an inverted "V". The pigment on their nose, eye rims and lips is always black in colour which accentuates nicely a dog’s expressive eyes.
Their eyes are round, clear and have a lovely dark lustre in them. Their ears are heart shaped and set level with a dog's skull which they carry close to their heads. Their ears boast having a profuse amount of feathering that adds to a Peke's charming appeal. Their lips are level with dogs having a firm under-jaw. Necks are quite thick and relatively short, their front legs are heavily boned and thick which are often slightly bowed. Their shoulders are well laid-back blending nicely into a dog's body.
The Pekingese has quite a short body and a very distinct waist. Their chests are broad and ribs are well sprung with a nice level topline. Back legs are well muscled and strong although slightly lighter than their front legs. A Peke's feet are quite flat and large with their front feet often turning out slightly whereas their back feet point straight to the front. Their tails are set high which dogs carry slightly curved over their backs or sometimes a Peke will carry their tail to one side. Tails are nicely feathered.
When it comes to their coat, the Pekingese has a moderately long, straight hair with a very distinct mane around their necks that does not go any further back than a dog's shoulders. Their top coat is quite thick and coarse whereas the undercoat is that much softer. Dogs have lots of feathering on their ears, on the back of their legs, tails and toes. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
When a Pekingese moves they do so in an extremely dignified way showing a typical "rolling" gait in their front quarters. Their coats should never hinder a dog's movement which is a serious fault.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
The Pekingese is known to have a real sense of humour, but with this comes a whole lot of dignity. They are playful, mischievous and yet quite sensitive little dogs by nature. They are a large dog in a small dog's body when it comes to personality. They can be a little protective of their toys which is a natural "guarding" trait that's deeply embedded in a Peke's psyche.
They love human company and thrive in an environment where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out of the house so they don't have to spend too much time on their own. If not given enough exercise or having someone around for long periods of time, a Peke can quickly develop separation anxiety and this can lead to a dog becoming depressed and destructive around the home. Pekes tend to form extremely strong bonds with one person in a household, although they always show a lot of affection towards everyone else too.
They are known to be extremely social little dogs, although they can be a little wary around strangers. However, a Peke would just bark and keep their distance until they get to know someone, rarely would one of these little dogs show any sort of aggressive behaviour towards a person they first meet unless they felt threatened in any way.
Because they are quite independent dogs, they need to know their place in the pack and who they can look to for guidance and direction. It's important for these dogs to know what is expected of them which means their socialisation and training must start early and it should involve introducing a Peke to as many new situations, people, animals and other dogs once they have been fully vaccinated. When Pekes get away with too much, they can start displaying "small dog syndrome" which sees dogs becoming a lot more demanding and harder to live with. Dogs get very possessive over their toys, food and it's when separation anxiety can become a real issue which is why it's important not to "spoil" a Peke and let them get away with things a larger dog would never be allowed to do.
The Pekingese makes an ideal companion for the older person and prefers to be in a household where there is just one adult rather than in a home where there are lots of young children. Having said, this in the right environment, the Pekingese is a good choice for first time owners although anyone wishing to share their home with one of these charming little dogs would need to be willing to dedicate a lot of time to keeping their coats in good condition because they are high maintenance in the grooming department.
Pekes are the perfect choice for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and people-oriented, loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their owners. With this said, they are not a good choice for families with very young children because Pekes need to be handled with care and respected or they might get a bit snappy.
Pekes are very social by nature and as such they do not have a very high prey drive. However, this is not to say that a dog would not give chase to a smaller animal when the mood takes them and this includes squirrels and the cat from next door whenever they get the chance.
Pekes have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They thoroughly enjoy playing interactive games with some Pekes excelling at all sorts of canine sports which includes mini agility.
Pekes are highly adaptable dogs providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in, they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they are living in a house in the country.
Pekes form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. They are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
Some Pekes like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings.
Some Pekes like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However, because they have such long, dense coats and short muzzles, care should always be taken when a Peke decides to go in the water because their heavy coats would drag them down and they could have trouble breathing being a brachycephalic breed.
Pekes are not natural watchdogs although this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although they would rarely do this aggressively preferring to keep their distance and bark to alert their owners about a situation they find disturbing.
Pekes are known to be intelligent little dogs and they do like to please. However, they boast a bit of a stubborn streak in them and are quite independent characters by nature which often means training them can prove a little challenging to say the least. The key to successfully training a Pekingese is not to rush things because these little dogs tend to do things in their "own time". In short, it takes a lot of patience and understanding to successfully train a Peke.
Their training must start early, it should be consistent and always fair so that a Peke understands what their owner expects of them. Socialising a dog early enough pays dividends because it helps these little dogs grow up to be more relaxed mature dogs that are a pleasure to have around and take anywhere. When they have not been well socialised, a Pekingese can be a bit of a handful even though they are such small dogs.
Peke puppies are incredibly cute and it is all too easy to let them get away with things that an adult dog would never be allowed to do. However, owners need to start out as they mean to go on which means setting out rules and boundaries of what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. All puppies need to know their place in the pack and what an owner expects of them, like this they grow up to be well rounded adult dogs. A spoiled puppy may start to develop "small dog syndrome" which sees them being unruly and wilful making them harder to handle and live with. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
Pekes tend to thrive in a quieter home environment where the children are older because they can be snappy around smaller kids which can often be put down to the fact toddlers just don’t understand how to behave around dogs and as a result it makes a Peke nervous. As such they are not the best choice for families with young children.
They are not generally aggressive dogs by nature and will rarely pick a fight with another dog, but if they feel threatened in any way, a Peke would not think twice about standing their ground. They are much more relaxed around other dogs when they have been socialised from a young enough age and they do usually get on well with a family cat they have grown up with, but would happily chase off a neighbour's cat whenever they get the chance. Care should be taken when a Peke is around smaller animals and pets, just in case.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Pekingese is between 11 and 13 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Peke is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these energetic, little dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
The Pekingese is a brachycephalic breed which describes the shape of their faces and heads. A Peke has a flat face, very short muzzle and wide head although some dogs have longer muzzles than others. With this said, it is dogs with shorter noses and muzzles that tend to have the most difficulty breathing, but there are other health conditions associated with shorter noses too and this includes the following:
Peke puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold, but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such, it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old, but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said, many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some Pekes gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which can prove fatal. It is also worth noting that Pekes are known to like their food a little too much and as such it is important to keep a close eye on a dog's calorie intake to make sure they are not being fed too much.
Pekes are prone to suffering from allergies and it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if one flares up more especially as the folds and creases around a dog's face provide the right environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive in. Allergies can be notoriously hard to clear up and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said, a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible Pekingese breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restriction set out by the Kennel Club for all registered breeds, there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for the Pekingese.
For the moment, there are no DNA tests or screening available under the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, but responsible breeders would always have stud dogs tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues that affect the breed.
As with any other breed, Pekes need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Peke puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing, confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said, any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother, the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a Pekingese puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore, as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including Peke puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned, Peke puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders, but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters, it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However, if a dog ever needed to go into kennels, their vaccinations would need to be
Older Pekes need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years, they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically, a dog's muzzle may start to go grey, but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a Pekingese in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities, but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet, the amount of exercise they are given, how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older Pekingese need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older Pekes don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog, but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
The Pekingese has a long coat and one that needs to be brushed daily to prevent any matts or tangles from forming. Attention must be paid to the hair on a dogs' legs and their bellies where tangles tend to form the most. It's also important to wipe their faces every day so there is no build up dirt or grease in the creases. As such, they are high maintenance in the grooming department, but a twice yearly visit to a professional groomer would make it easier to keep their coats tidy and their skin in good condition.
Like other breeds, the Pekingese sheds throughout the year although more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing is generally necessary to remove any dead and shed hair. It's also important to check a dog's ears on a regular basis and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax builds up in a dog's ears, it can lead to a painful infection which can be hard to clear up. In short, prevention is often easier than cure when it comes to ear infections. Pekes often get a bit dirty around their mouths after they have eaten, so it’s always a good idea to wipe their faces when they’ve finished their food.
Although not high-energy dogs, the Pekingese does need to be given at least 30 minutes exercise a day. It's all too easy for these little dogs to turn into couch potatoes which can lead to them ploughing on the pounds and this could seriously impact their overall health and well-being. These little dogs like to do things at their own pace which means they never like to be rushed when out on a walk which is why they make such great companions for the more mature person.
A shorter walk in the morning would be fine, but a longer more interesting one in the afternoon is a must. These dogs also like to be able to roam around a back garden as often as possible so they can really let off steam. However, the fencing must be extremely secure to keep these inquisitive little dogs in because if they find a weakness in the fence, they will soon escape out and get into all sorts of trouble.
With this said, Peke puppies should not be over exercised because their joints and bones are still growing. This includes not letting a dog jump up and down from furniture or going up or down the stairs. Too much pressure placed on their joints and spines at an early age could result in a dog developing a few problems later in their lives.
If you get a Peke puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are known to be finicky eaters, but it's important not to give into them by feeding them "human food" which could just make matters worse because it could lead to dogs becoming even fussier about their food. It's best to feed a mature Peke twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious, good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide, a Peke puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 11 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature, an adult Pekingese must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide, an adult Pekingese can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a Pekingese, you would need to pay anything from £250 to over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Peke in northern England would be £23.45 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £51.22 a month (quote as of Febrauary 2018). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK, a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed among other things.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry to feed your dog making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £20 - £30 a month. On top of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Peke and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying a dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over £800 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Pekingese would be between £50 to £80 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a responsibly bred, healthy, Kennel club registered pedigree Pekingese puppy.