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Nicole Cosgrove


The Pekingese is a small toy purebred dog from China, called Lion Dogs because of how closely they resemble the Chinese guardian lions. Bred to be companions and lap dogs they were named for the city where they were bred and were favored for years by the Chinese Imperial court. It is popular because of its interesting look, but that look does come with health issues that will be covered further on in the article.

Here is the Pekingese at a Glance
Name Pekingese
Other Names Peking Lion Dog, Chinese Spaniel, Pelchie Dog, Peking Palasthund,
Nicknames Lion Dog, Peke
Origin China
Average size Small
Average weight 8 to 14 pounds
Average height 6 to 9 inches
Life span 13 to 15 years
Coat type Thick, long
Hypoallergenic No
Color White, grey, black, tan, red, brown
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 80th by the AKC
Intelligence Low to fair
Tolerance to heat Low – not good in even just warm weather, can overheat easily
Tolerance to cold Very good – able to go out in cold weather just not extreme
Shedding Average to above average – expect some hair around the home.
Drooling Low – not a dog prone to drool or slobber
Obesity Average – not especially prone to weight gain but it can happen if allowed to overeat and not well exercised
Grooming/brushing High maintenance – this dog will need a lot of care
Barking Frequent – definitely a yappy dog which needs training to control
Exercise needs Slightly active – good for most owner types
Trainability Moderately difficult – can be stubborn
Friendliness Moderate to good with socialization
Good first dog Very good but be prepared for its stubborn side and avoid babying it
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Moderate – socialization is essential
Good with other dogs Moderate – socialization is essential
Good with other pets Moderate – socialization is essential, views them as prey
Good with strangers Moderate – socialization is essential not an approachable dog
Good apartment dog Excellent due to size but the yappiness is something that needs to be controlled
Handles alone time well Good – can be alone for short time periods
Health issues Not very healthy, has a lot of potential issues that can occur including patellar luxation, BAOS, eye problems and heart issues
Medical expenses $435 a year for basic health care and pet insurance
Food expenses $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $460 a year for grooming, basic training, license, toys and other miscellaneous items
Average annual expense $970 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $750
Biting Statistics None Reported3

The Pekingese’s Beginnings

The Pekingese originates from China and according to analysis of their DNA is one of the oldest dog breeds around and has been around in China for over 2000 years. There are two stories that tell of its beginnings. The first, the lion and the Marmoset tells of a marmoset and lion falling in love. As the lion was too big it went to Buddha and it was shrunk down in size resulting in the Pekingese. The other story is called the butterfly lions and tells of a lion falling in love with a butterfly. The size difference was too much so they both went to see the Buddha who let the lion shrink and the butterfly grow until they met in the middle, thus the beginnings of the Pekingese.

The Pekingese was named after the capital city of China, Peking (now called Beijing). It was bred to be a companion but to Chinese nobility and royalty and to monks. Commoners revered them and in fact had to bow to them as the breed was sacred. It was not allowed to leave the country for many years. Stealing a Pekingese would result in death as punishment. In temples and the palace the dog would drive away bad spirits and demons. It was common for the emperor’s Pekingese to be killed when he dies so that it would go with him to the afterlife and protect him.

The Sleeve Pekingese also called the Miniature Pekingese was bred to be small enough to carry in the sleeves of the Chinese royal family. In fact breeding dogs so small to carry in the sleeves seems to have started in Italy not China, but the Chinese adopted it. Unfortunately this practice was a cruel one, newborns were tightly held for hours, or put into wire mesh coats that fit very tightly and left in them. Thankfully the Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi forbade this.

In 1860 during the Opium War when the British took the Imperial Palace the guards were ordered to kill all the Pekingese so that the British did not get any. However 5 survived and these were taken back to Britain.

New Lease on Life

There two were given to the Duchess of Wellington, one to Queen Victoria and two to the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon. For about 30 years they were a rare breed in Great Britain but by the 1890s more were coming over being smuggles from China and the first appeared in an 1894 dog show. It was called then either the Pekingese Spaniel or the Chinese Pug.

In 1904 the Pekingese Club was formed and in 1910 it was recognized by the Kennel Club there. The first registered Pekingese in the US happened in 1906, the Pekingese Club of America started in 1909 and it was recognized by the AKC in the same year. Today it is rated 80th most popular registered breed by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

The Pekingese is a small dog weighing just 8 to 14 pounds and standing 6 to 9 inches tall. It has a double coat, the under coat is soft and thick and the top coat is long, straight and coarse and stands away from its body. It has a longer mane of hair at the neck which is where the lion story comes in. Common colors are tan, brown, white, red, grey and black and it often has a black mask on its face. On the back of its legs, on the toes, the tail and ears there is feathering and fringing.

It has a muscular, compact body that is low to the ground with short, bowed and thick legs. It carries its tail over its back and it is set high and arches a little. It has a thick and short neck and it is a little longer than it is tall. There can be smaller versions of the Pekingese often referred to as Sleeve Pekingese or Sleeves taken from the name for smaller dogs in olden China.

It has a flat face on a head that is larger compared to the rest of its body. The top of its head is flat and broad. The muzzle is flat and broad too and the nose is black and short. It eyes are very prominent, large, round, wide apart and rimmed in black. Its ears are heart shaped and set to the front and high up and they lay flat.

The Inner Pekingese


The Pekingese is by names a dog to be underestimated just because of its size and role as a companion and lapdog. It is bold and brave, independent, smart and sometimes aggressive too. It can be a very good watchdog as it will bark to alert you if an intruder enters the home, though not being especially protective by nature it is not likely to try and scare them off.

The Peke can be a good first dog however they can be stubborn and hard to train so it needs an owner able to deal with that and one that is not going to just baby them. This can lead to small dog syndrome, a dog that is more snappy and aggressive, poorly behaved, hyper and out of control. With proper care it can be a very affectionate and loyal companion, it enjoys playing but is a sensitive dog.

This dog is also well known for having a lot of confidence and a high opinion of itself, probably from the days of Chinese peasants bowing down to them! It is a calm dog inside most of the time and will spend a lot of time surveying its kingdom! However it can be comical and playful in occasional bursts. It is loving not but not clingy and is polite with strangers though somewhat reserved. Be prepared for snuffling, wheezing and snoring.

Living with a Pekingese

What will training look like?

The Peke is not easy to train, while it is intelligent, it has a stubborn, strong willed and independent nature and that can make training hard and it can take longer than some other breeds. This is why some experience can be helpful, it needs some patience and a firm and consistent approach. Professional schools and trainers are one option but remember it is a sensitive dog so harshness or roughness is not something it will respond well to. Use positive means like treats, rewards, praise and encouragement and keep the sessions interesting.

Early socialization is very important for this dog, make sure it is exposed early on to different people, places, animals and so on. It will help ensure your dog grows up to be a trustworthy dog, one able to deal with various situations and one who knows the right responses to different sounds and sights.

Housebreaking is another area that can be hard with a Peke, as it can be with a lot of small dogs. It is easy for them to sneak away and do their business somewhere before you see it and can correct it. Keep with it, set a schedule and stick to it, make sure you are the boss not them. Carrying it around, feeding it table scraps, letting it urinate where it wants to are all things that tell the dog they are in charge not you.

How active is the Pekingese?

The Pekingese is not a very active dog, it is happy living in an apartment and really does not need a yard as long as it gets a couple of walks a day and some play time. It can handle cold weather but owners should take care it does not over heat when it is warmer. Those walks can be short if the weather is too hot, but some owners find their dogs can handle a couple of miles a day. Make sure they have toys they can play with indoors and that they have opportunities for mental stimulation too.

Caring for the Pekingese

Grooming needs

There will be a lot of care involved if you choose to own a Pekingese. It has a lot of maintenance to be done to keep it healthy and in good shape. It will need daily brushing or combing and will need regular visits to a professional groomer. It sheds a moderate amount and so you will need to regularly vacuum the home and clean off furnishings and clothing. A show dog will need a lot more care though than one you keep as a pet.

You will need to clean its eyes daily as well as clean and keep dry its wrinkles. You also need to keep it clean around the rear as fecal matter gets caught there, and check its feet as burrs and debris can get caught there. It may need trimming in those areas regularly to prevent difficult tangles developing around dirt and objects. Dry shampoo to keep it clean and leave bathing to just when it really needs it to avoid drying out its skin.

Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week. Its ears should be checked at least once a week for ear infection signs and then given a wipe clean using a cleanser and cloth or cotton ball. The nails will need to be clipped when they get too long but take care not too cut too low. If you are not familiar with how to properly cut a dog’s nails, have the groomer do it for you.

Feeding Time

About ½ to 1 cup of a high quality dry dog food each day, split into at least two meals should be the amount the Peke will need. It can vary somewhat though depending on how active it is, its rate of metabolism, its size, age and health. Pekes do like their food and will happily overeat if you give it too much so make sure you keep a track on how much it is getting in food and treats, and that it gets the right level of exercise.

How is the Pekingese with children and other animals?

As many great qualities as the Peke has, being a dog that is good with children is unfortunately not one of them. It can learn to get along and even be affectionate with socialization and when raised with them. Otherwise it is best not in homes with children, or at the least only in homes with children older than around 12 years. With younger children supervision will be necessary as if it is annoyed, tugged on or startled by loud noises it can snap. Make sure children are taught how to touch dogs and play with them in a kind way.

Generally Pekes get along best with other Pekes. However they can learn to get along with other pets and other dogs with socialization. Some though may not take to other dogs or pets at all and some may take a while to adjust. Until you are sure they are getting along always supervise.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

It will live for 13 to 15 years. In general it is not an especially healthy breed and as well as having medical issues it can be prone to other health concerns are trauma, being small means accidents happen, and also it overheats easily. Those health issues include heart problems, respiration problems, eye problems, allergies, back injuries, colds, difficult births, patellar luxation, cleft palate, cryptorchidism, fold dermatitis, Intervertebral disk disease and hydrocephalus.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks against people causing bodily harm in the US and Canada over the last 34 years, the Peke is not mentioned. All dogs have the potential to have a bad day, where they perhaps over react to something, are pushed too far, or have just not been raised well enough and can become aggressive. Some are more dog aggressive than others, but some will snap at people too. Size only really affects how much damage the dog can do. The Peke can be aggressive but being small it is less likely to do bodily harm when it does turn. To reduce the risk there are things you can do as a responsible owner. Make sure it is well socialized, trained, exercised, stimulated and given the attention and care it needs.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Pekingese puppy from a pet quality good breeder is going to cost around $750. For something of show quality from a top breeder you are looking at $2000 upwards. Do not be tempted into buying from a random ad, or from a pet store, puppy mill or backyard breeder. Some might have healthy dogs but many do not, you have no guarantees about the line it comes from, and many mistreat their animals and are in it for profit only. If you are interested in re-homing a Peke there are shelters and rescues you can check out. Most likely the dog will be more adult aged rather than a puppy, and that might make training and socialization a bit trickier. However price will be $50 to $300 and medical needs will be taken care of for you.

A puppy will need to be checked by a vet to make sure it is healthy and have some other things done such as blood tests, shots, deworming, micro chipping and neutering or spaying. This will cost about $290. Items you will want to have for your new dog will include a crate, carrier, leash and collar and bowls. These will cost about $120.

Annual costs are another factor to consider when you are looking for a dog. For the Peke you can expect to spend somewhere around $75 a year for a good quality dry dog food and dog treats, $435 a year for basic medical care and pet insurance and $460 a year for miscellaneous costs like miscellaneous items, toys, grooming, basic training and license. This gives a starting figure of $970 a year.


The Pekingese is small but is sturdy not delicate. It will be devoted to you, very loyal and affectionate to its owners but not great with children especially not young ones. Some breeders will even specify they will not sell to homes that have young children in them. It has some particular needs, grooming is time consuming especially for show quality dogs. It also have quite a strong personality, it knows its own mind and can be very stubborn about it! For owners who are ready for these aspects of a Peke this could be a great companion.

Popular Pekingese Mixes

Chihuahua, Pekingese Mix
General Information
Size Small
Height 6 to 9 inches
Weight 3 to 10 pounds
Life span 10 to 14 years
Touchiness somewhat
Barking Occasional
Activity Slightly active
Breed Traits

Kind dog
Great family dog



Pekingese and Poodle Mix
General Information
Size Small to medium
Height Up to 11 inches
Weight 4 to 20 pounds
Life span 11 to 15 years
Touchiness Fairly sensitive
Barking Occasional to frequent
Activity Moderate
Breed Traits

Great lapdog



Beagle and Pekingese Mix
General Information
Size Small
Weight 13 to 18 pounds
Height 6 to 16 inches
Life span 12 to 14 years
Touchiness Not too sensitive
Barking Occasional
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits




Dachshund, Pekingese Mix
General Information
Size Small to medium
Height 8 to 10 inches
Weight 12 to 25 pounds
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Moderate
Barking Occasional
Activity Somewhat active
Breed Traits

Protective instincts
Good Family Pet



Featured Image Credit: T.Den Team, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.