The Pekingese, Pekinese or “Peke” (also commonly referred to as a "Lion Dog", or "Pelchie Dog" due to their resemblance to Chinese guardian lions) is an ancient breed of toy dog, originating in China. They were the favored pet of the Chinese Imperial court, and the name relates to the city of Beijing where the Forbidden City resides. The dog breeds has several characteristics and health issues related to its unique appearance.

Pekingese Appearance

The Pekingese breed is over 2000 years old and has hardly changed in all that time. One exception is that modern breeders and dog-show judges seem to prefer the long-haired type over the more-traditional spaniel-type coat.

The Pekingese's flat face is one of the breed's most obvious characteristics. The body is compact and low to the ground. The legs are noticeably bowed and restrict the Pekingese's movement. The Peke's unusual rolling gait may have been deliberately bred to prevent the court dogs from wandering.


A Pekingese has a double coat. Trimming the coat is discouraged in show dogs. The Pekingese has a noticeable mane and feathering around the ears, tail and legs.

All dog breeds standards allow all sorts of color combination. The majority of Pekingese are gold, red or sable. Light gold, cream, black, white, sables, black and tan and occasionally 'blue' or slate grey have appeared in the breed. The latter often has poor pigment and light eyes. Albino Pekingese (white with pink eyes) should be bred cautiously due to health problems that have been associated with albinism.

A black mask or a self-colored face is equally acceptable in show dogs. Regardless of coat color the exposed skin of the muzzle, nose, lips and eye rims is black.


Pekes weigh from 7 to 14 lb (3.2 to 6.4 kg) and stand about 6–9 inches (15–23 cm) at the withers, however they can sometimes be smaller. These smaller Pekes are commonly referred to as "Sleeve" Pekingese or just "Sleeves". The name is taken from ancient times, when emperors would carry the smallest of the breed in their sleeves. A Pekingese over 14 pounds is disqualified in the show ring.

The Pekingese is slightly longer than tall when measured from the fore chest to the buttocks. The overall outline is an approximate ratio of 3 high to 5 long.

Pekingese Health

The leading cause of death for Pekes, as for many other Toy breeds, is congestive heart failure. When diagnosed early and successfully treated with medication, a Peke with this problem can expect to live many years. A heart murmur is a potential sign of a problem, and must be evaluated by a veterinary cardiologist. Very often, the problem does not surface until the dog is 6 or more years old, so it is very difficult to screen the problem in a pup.

Pekes' other main problems are eye issues and breathing problems, resulting from its tiny skull and flattened face, and skin allergies (and hotspots). An especially common problem is eye ulcers, which may develop spontaneously. Pekes should never be kept outside as their flattened faces and noses can develop breathing problems, which makes it difficult for them to regulate their body temperature in overly hot or cold weather. Their long backs, relative to their legs, make them vulnerable to back injuries. Care should be taken, when picking them up, to give Pekes adequate back support: one hand under the chest, the other under the abdomen. Short legs give some Pekes difficulty with stairs; older dogs may not be able to go up or down stairs alone.

In an effort to address the breathing difficulties caused by the Peke's flat face, the Kennel Club (UK) significantly changed the breed standard in October 2008, removing the clause that the "profile [should be] flat with nose well up between eyes" and adding instead that the "muzzle must be evident". This was in response to public opinion following the BBC programme, Pedigree Dogs Exposed. The breed standards of two other flat faced breeds, the Pug and English Bulldog, were soon also changed.

Pekingese Care

Keeping the Peke coat healthy and presentable requires daily brushing if it is an outside dog. If you do this, they will need to see a groomer only once every 3 months. If a Peke becomes dirty, it is important to take it to a groomer as soon as possible, as it is difficult to remove dirt from its coat once it has dried, but this can be avoided by brushing regularly, especially the belly, and between the front and hind legs. One important thing for new owners to remember is that dogs intended as a house pet may be kept in a puppy cut which is much more low maintenance than a show cut. It is also important to remove dirt from the eye pores daily, and from the creases on the face to prevent sores.

Due to their abundance of fur, it is important to keep the Pekingese cool. Pekes are indoor dogs and they are prone to having heatstroke when exposed to high temperature.

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