In Is a Samoyed Puppy Right for Your Family? I promised you more about specific breeds and how they fit into the family unit. This week, I’m going from one end of the size spectrum to the other, highlighting the Pekingese puppy.
It’s hard to imagine anything cuter than a Pekingese puppy, with its huge eyes, long ears and fluffy coat. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that these little dogs are nothing more than showy – the fact is, if you choose a Pekingese puppy, you’d better be prepared for the little guy to grow into a smart, strong-willed dog that needs a fair bit of training to become a good canine citizen.
Think you’re up to the challenge? Keep reading to find out more before deciding that a Pekingese puppy is the best choice for you and your family.
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There is a wonderful legend connected to the Pekingese breed. As the Chinese tell it, once upon a time a marmoset (which is a sort of small monkey) and a lion fell in love. Of course their very disparate sizes presented a problem, so the lion appealed to Buddha, asking the god to decrease his size, but let him keep his strong, brave personality. Buddha, not being one to stand in the way of true love, agreed to the request, and the lion and marmoset married. From their union, Pekingese puppies were born, and grew to become the fierce “lion dogs.”
Probably that’s not exactly how the breed came about, but I do like the story.
Nobody really knows how old the breed might be, but it’s estimated that there were Pekingese dogs in China since about 18 AD. The common people of China did not own these dogs – they were owned by the nobility, and were treated accordingly. Mere citizens were expected to bow to the royal dogs. If you’ve ever heard a Peke owner claim that their dog “thinks he’s a hairy little god,” perhaps that’s something that was bred into Pekes in times long gone by, and that still exists today.
Being so highly prized, Pekingese dogs were kept in the royal palace, and not permitted to venture outside the palace grounds. That’s how it was for more than 18 centuries, until the Opium War of 1860. Until recently, invading armies pretty much always took “spoils of war,” and among the spoils of this particular war were five Pekingese dogs. They were found guarding their dead owner, who had killed herself rather than accept the dishonor of being captured by British troops. They were taken to England, and four were given to members of the British nobility. The fifth was presented to Queen Victoria, who is often mentioned in my blogs as being inordinately fond of dogs, and responsible for establishing many of the breeds that we know in the Western World today.
The other thing you might want to know about Queen Victoria, who once famously said “We are not amused,” is that she was possessed of a raucous sense of humor, and was quite frequently amused. Upon being presented with the little Peke that was among the treasures liberated from the Chinese royal palace, she promptly named him “Looty.”
For a while, Pekes were not all that common in England, although over the next 30 years, more of these little dogs were smuggled to England. 1894 saw the first Pekingese, Pekin Peter, compete in a British dog show, and in 1904 a Pekingese club was formed.
By 1906, Pekingese dogs found their way across the pond to the United States, and the AKC registered its first Pekingese in 1906. Three years later, the US had its own Pekingese club. Although not among the top most popular or prevalent breeds in America, the Peke holds a respectable 49th place ranking among the 155 AKC-recognized dog breeds, and seems to be growing in popularity.
Size and Appearance
There is little difference between male and female Pekes, with a Pekingese puppy of either gender usually attaining a height of about 6-9 inches at the shoulder and a weight of 7-14 pounds. For such a small dog, the Pekingese is remarkably solid – people are often surprised, when picking up these little guys, at how much they weigh in proportion to their size
Pekingese puppies come in any number of color combinations. The most popular color back in the Imperial Chinese days was white, and this is still true today. Pekes can also come in black and tan, red brindle, fawn and particolor (mainly white offset by another color). The nose, muzzle, eye rims and lips are always black.
Don’t let a Pekingese puppy’s looks fool you. Sure, he looks like a fluffy little lap dog, which he is, but there’s more to him than that. If you choose a Pekingese puppy, and raise him properly, you can usually expect him to grow up to be a tough, brave, confident dog. He’ll be good-natured and affectionate, loving and loyal, but you should also expect a stubborn streak. This can make training a bit difficult, so you’ll need to be consistent and firm.
As is the case with all dogs, your Pekingese puppy’s temperament will be affected by a number of factors. Heredity plays a part, of course, so you should always make sure to meet the mother and the rest of the litter. If you can meet Dad too, that’s a bonus, but not a deal-breaker if you can’t. Many breeders keep only a bitch, and take her to an outside stud for servicing. Meeting the mother and the litter is essential, though –you want to see how your Pekingese puppy behaves with others, and avoid the one that’s bullying his littermates or the one who seems frightened and just wants to be by himself.
Your Pekingese puppy’s temperament is also going to be affected by socialization, or lack thereof. It’s important that your new buddy be exposed to all kinds of different experiences, people, and other animals. Pekes can be very territorial, and this can translate into aggression – if you’re all he ever sees, then he’s probably going to be hostile toward anyone else who invades your space. It’s a good idea to invite friends over to meet your new puppy, and also to take him out to places where people are likely to congregate. Use every opportunity to help your Pekingese puppy develop his social skills.
Now, further on the matter of stubbornness, you need to keep in mind that Pekes are highly intelligent. They also want to be in charge, so they need a strong-willed owner. This doesn’t mean that you should be harsh with your Pekingese puppy, but it does mean that you have to be the alpha in the relationship. Positive reinforcement is the best training method with all dogs, and the Peke is no exception. While some harshly treated dogs may become fearful and shy, with the Pekingese, it’s more likely that he will become snappish. So for your own sake, and for the sake of others who might come into contact with your dog, be firm but gentle when it comes to training.
You don’t need a whole lot of fancy equipment to train your Peke. Of course you’ll require a leash, and because of the size of a young Peke I’d recommend a no-pull small dog harness over a collar.
If you’re not confident of your ability to train your Pekingese puppy using positive reinforcement, you might want to consider having a professional handle the training. And if you don’t think you’ll be comfortable being the alpha once the dog is trained by a pro, then you need to think long and hard about whether a Pekingese puppy is really going to fit in well with you and your family.
A Pekingese puppy is not necessarily the best choice for families with small children. In fact, if you have toddlers, I’d discourage you from choosing a Pekingese puppy, at least until the kids are older. A huge concern here is the safety of the dog – because Pekes are such tiny little creatures, they can easily be hurt by children who are too young to understand that such a delicate animal can be easily hurt during rough play. The safety of the child is also a big concern here, since Pekes are, as previously suggested, stubborn and strong-willed. While a sweet, gentle Labrador Retriever, for instance, might simply yelp and retreat if inadvertently injured by a child, a Peke is likely to react differently. This is not a breed that is willing to tolerate rough handling, even a Pekingese puppy will usually respond by defending himself in the only way he knows how – by biting.
A Pekingese puppy may also not be the right choice for you if you life “up close and personal” with your neighbors. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase “yappy little dogs,” and Pekes can be quite vocal. If you’re determined to have a Pekingese, you should be prepared to train your dog very early on to know when to be quiet.
When thinking about introducing a Pekingese puppy into your family, other dogs can also be a factor in the decision. Putting it bluntly, Pekes are little racists, preferring the company of other Pekes. While with most breeds, you can introduce another dog and only have to worry about potential issues for a day or two, Pekes can take much longer to adapt. In fact, I wouldn’t recommend trying to introduce an adult Pekingese into a household with other dogs – a Pekingese puppy is likely to be a bit submissive in the presence of adult dogs (although not as much as puppies of other breeds), but an adult-on-adult introduction might not go overly well. So if you’re contemplating introducing a Peke into a multi-dog household, then a Pekingese puppy is a far better choice than an adult Pekingese.
The Pekingese as Watchdog
You might think that the tendency to bark would make the Pekingese a good watchdog, and that is true to a certain extent. Most burglars would prefer that a dog not alert the neighbors to what’s going on. However, we’re talking about burglars here. If you’re being threatened by someone whose goal is not to steal your belongings, but to hurt you, the Pekingese is not a good choice. He will try to defend you to the point of death – which is a likely outcome, because small dogs are very easily disabled. If you’re in the market for a guard dog, you’re far better off with a well-trained Doberman, Rottweiler, German Shepherd, or one of the Mastiff breeds.
If you’re convinced that a Pekingese puppy is the right choice for you and your family, then I’d strongly suggest that you first take a look at your bank balance. A Peke isn’t by any means the unhealthiest breed out there, but they can be prone to a number of health conditions. I’m not going to go into detail on them here, but you can read up on them in my Breed of the Week post about the Pekingese. The conditions I’ve talked about in that post are those that are common to the breed – but that doesn’t necessarily mean that your dog will develop any of them, with the caveat that all Pekingese are brachycephalic.
What does that mean? Well, a brachycephalic dog is one that has a snout that is disproportionally short. Some Pekes are more brachycephalic than others, but all are brachycephalic. This can lead to breathing difficulties (brachycephalic syndrome), and even if your Pekingese puppy or dog has a snout that is a bit longer than usual, you should still monitor him closely in hot weather, when breathing difficulties can become more severe. If you live in an area where it is very hot, make sure that your dog has access to air-conditioned spaces.
I hope I didn’t scare you away from this delightful breed with my first paragraph, but I’ve met too many dog owners who were on a budget so tight that they could barely afford the cost of buying a puppy and then feeding it, never mind the potential for veterinary bills. If you think there might come a time when you can’t pay for treatment if your dog should develop any of the problems in my Breed of the Week post, then I would encourage you to consider another breed, or perhaps even postpone getting any dog until your financial situation is more stable.
A Pekingese puppy loves to run and play, and he will continue to be active well into his senior years. Because they’re small, Pekes make good apartment dogs, but you should still make sure that your small friend has a couple of vigorous walks each day. Please be sure to bring along a poop bag, though – I can’t begin to tell you how many people don’t clean up after their dogs when out walking, and it’s one of my biggest pet peeves!
If you have a fenced-in yard for your dog to play in, that’s great, but make sure that it’s secure – Pekes are very curious, and love to explore, so your dog may run off if not properly contained. You might want to consider a pet playpen if you’re not able to be out in the yard with your dog – a playpen with a cover would be best for your Pekingese puppy, since these little dogs can be quite the jumpers. Make sure, too, that your puppy has plenty of teething toys and other small toys so that he doesn’t get bored.
What you feed your Pekingese puppy is going to set the trend for the kind of dog he grows into. The ideal Peke is solid, stocky, muscular, and when you pick him up, he should feel as though he weighs more than he should for his size, without appearing fat. Start him off with a good small breed puppy food, and when training, choose quality puppy treats or bits of cooked carrots and green beans.
If you’re too busy to groom your dog, then you most definitely should not choose a Pekingese puppy. These little guys have very long, coarse coats with a fluffy undercoat, and feathering on their toes and legs. And remember how I told you that the Chinese have a story about the Pekingese being descended on one side from a lion? Well, they have manes that also need grooming. This means that you’re going to need a good comb for small dogs and a slicker brush to get rid of matted hair that can cause your buddy to be uncomfortable.
Your Peke should be brushed at least once a week, and you have to be sure to get down deep in order to get all the dead hair – be gentle, though, because your dog has sensitive skin. Keep in mind that once a week is the bare minimum – if you have time to groom more frequently, it would be a good idea.
Unless your Pekingese puppy or dog gets into mud or other nasty stuff on a regular basis, you can usually get by with just brushing. If he’s an adventurous sort that likes to roll in unpleasant substances, though, you will probably want to bathe him once a month (or more often) using a gentle shampoo. If bathing isn’t practical, you can use a dry shampoo that you spritz on and then brush out.
The Final Word
The Pekingese is an old breed that has only fairly recently come to the Western world, to England in the late 19th century, and to America in the early 20th century. The Chinese knew about this amazing little breed of dog long before we did, and successfully kept it from us until the Opium Wars.
We have a lot to thank the Chinese for. Unlike the Scots, who brought us haggis, bagpipes and golf and got nothing right until they came up with the Scottish Terrier, the Chinese gave us calligraphy, savory dumplings, fried noodles, and the Pekingese.
If you do not have children that don’t come up to any more than knee height, and you are an assertive but kind person who is comfortable being the alpha in the human/dog relationship, and you don’t mind devoting a fair bit of time to grooming, the Peke could be a great choice for you and your family.
A Pekingese puppy can be ideal for anyone who wants a courageous, loving, devoted dog. But you have to be willing to give this breed the same level of respect that you want from him. The Peke is one of a kind, and everything that you give to him, he will return in a huge way. Love him, care for him and respect him, and you’ll have a companion that is small in size, but gigantic in terms of love and loyalty.
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And a Footnote
Or pawnote, if you like. A lot of the time, a person buys a Pekingese puppy with no idea of what they’re getting into. Then, through no fault of his own, a Peke ends up in a shelter because his owner isn’t able to cope with him. If you are experienced with dogs, and have a big heart, you might want to know that there are a lot of Pekingese rescue groups out there. They offer dogs that have issues, but not issues so serious as to require putting the dog down. Much of the time all the dog needs is a firm, kind owner who can help him to become the kind of dog he should be. If you’re not stuck on the idea of a puppy, and your household does not include small children, perhaps you might consider an adult rescue.
If everything you’ve just read has led you to believe that a Pekingese puppy is a good fit for you and your family, congratulations! I wish you much joy.