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Peruvian Inca Orchid

Nicole Cosgrove

June 18, 2021

Peruvian Hairless Dog

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a rare purebred from Peru and comes in three sizes, toy, small and medium. It is thought there are only about a thousand dogs left in the world and they come in both hairless and coated types. Both types can happen in the same litter. It is a sighthound and was used by the Incans as watchdogs, sighthounds for hunting and messenger dogs. In Peruvian the name translates to dog without vestments, so basically naked dog! Its other names include Perro sin Pelo del Peru, the Inca Hairless Dog, Peruvian Hairless Dog or Perros Floras. That last name was the one the Spaniards gave it when they invaded Peru, it comes from the dog’s avoidance of strong sunlight named after the Moonflowers which bloomed in the evening.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid at A Glance
Name Peruvian Inca Orchid
Other names Inca Hairless Dog, Viringo, Dielmatian and Perro Sin Pelo del Per
Nicknames Flower Dog, PIO
Origin Peru
Average size Toy, Small and Medium
Average weight 8 to 18 pounds, 18 to 26 pounds, 26 to 50 pounds
Average height 10 to 16 inches, 16 to 20 inches, 18 to 26 inches
Life span 11 to 13 years
Coat type Hairless, though there are some born with a light coat
Hypoallergenic Yes
Color Brown, black, grey, white
Popularity Not that popular – ranked 166th by the AKC
Intelligence Quite intelligent – bright and quick
Tolerance to heat Low – needs sunscreen, shade and protection
Tolerance to cold Low – if it is too cold will need a doggy jumper
Shedding Low – not a lot of hair will be left around the house
Drooling Low – not a breed known to slobber and drool
Obesity Average – if allowed to overeat then yes it can gain weight
Grooming/brushing Moderate – brush regularly for the haired variety, and cream frequently for the hairless version
Barking Occasional – barks sometimes but not frequently
Exercise needs Fairly active – likes to laze around but enjoys being outside once it is out
Trainability Moderately easy – results will come gradually
Friendliness Very good with socialization
Good first dog Moderate – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Very good with socialization
Good with children Good with socialization
Good with other dogs Very good with socialization
Good with other pets Good but needs socialization
Good with strangers Good but needs socialization
Good apartment dog The smaller versions are excellent, even the medium sized can adapt
Handles alone time well Low – does not like to being alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but a few issues which can include skin problems, teeth problems, sunburn, IBD, seizures
Medical expenses Basic health care and pet insurance $435 – $460 a year
Food expenses $75 to $150 a year for a good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses Miscellaneous items, license, basic training and toys are $195 – $220
Average annual expenses $705 to $830 as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $600 to $800
Rescue organizations Several including the Peruvian Inca Orchid Rescue, Inc,
Biting Statistics None reported

The Peruvian Inca Orchid’s Beginnings

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a very ancient breed from Peru around 300BC to 700 AD. Its name in Peruvian is Al’co Calato meaning naked dog but that name is rarely if ever used. There are a few theories about how they came to Peru, from Chinese immigrants, African nomads or Asian travelers. None of these are proven though. During the day when the sun was too strong for its bare skin the hairless dogs were kept inside and the ones with coats were allowed out. The hairless were then allowed out in the evening and at night so that they did not get sunburned.

Since pottery and pictures from times before the Incans can be found depicting a dog very similar to the PIO these are likely indications it may be from South America itself, and these are not really just Incan dogs. They were kept all along Peru’s coast. The people of Peru believed the dog was mystical and actually would dress in for spiritual ceremonies. They were also valued companions and would sleep in bed with their owners to keep them warm.

They were discovered by the Spanish when they invaded in the early 1500s. It is thought they brought the dogs to China with them and that it is the Chinese Crested Dog’s ancestor. However the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors saw the numbers of the Peruvian Inca Orchid drop drastically. There is some suggestion this is due in apart to the fact that the Spanish not only took them to trade with but also ate them. The breed at this time was very close to extinction.

New Lease on Life

Thankfully in a few rural areas the breed survived. It made its way slowly to other places like warmer European countries, and in 1966 12 dogs were imported to the US. All PIOs bred in the US today descend from that very small pool. Many PIO breeders worked hard to make sure the breed survived but it is still rare. It was added to the foundation stock by the AKC in 1996 and was moved to miscellaneous class in 2011, soon to be fully recognized. As well as being a companion it is used today in lure coursing and other events that sighthounds excel at. In 2001 the Peruvian government made the Peruvian Inca Orchid its national dog. In the last 5 years more have been brought from Peru to the US to widen the gene pool. It is ranked 166th in popularity by the AKC.

The Dog You See Today

This breed as mentioned comes in three sizes. There is a toy/small sized version standing 10 to 16 inches tall and weighing 8 to 18 pounds. There is small version standing 16 to 20 inches tall and weighing 18 to 26 pounds. Then the medium sized dog that is 20 to 26 inches tall and weighs 26 to 50 pounds. Apart from their height and weight there is no difference otherwise in appearance between the three sizes. However keep in mind there is a hairless version (favored in Peru) and a coated version so appearance is different between the two. Both are slim, athletic, built for speed and muscular. They have long and elegant necks, deep chests and tails that are set low with flat feet that have some webbing.

The hairless has pliable and soft and smooth skin that is mottled with any color on a background of pink, or may be a sold color. When born they have freckling and then they grow as the dog grows. They usually have a small amount of hair on the top of their heads called a kiss spot, then a little on the tip of the tail, hocks and feet is also accepted. Coated PIOs are born with a thinner coat of hair that becomes more full as they grow up. It can be straight, curly or wavy and even long or short. While there are some that can be coarse, usually the coat is silky soft. Around the tail and ears there is some longer feathering.

The Peruvian Inca Orchid has medium sized dark eyes, muzzles that taper and wrinkled lips. The ears change depending on the type. Hairless ones have erect pointy ears with little to no hair. The coated types have folded over or rosebud ears. It has a long wedge shaped head and being sensitive to the sunlight the hairless type especially tend to squint in the sun.

The Inner Peruvian Inca Orchid


The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a good watchdog as it is alert and will bark to let you now if there is an intruder. It is an affectionate, intelligent and happy dog, lively and social but also can be calm and just barks occasionally. It can make a great companion but it is sensitive so is best in homes where there is not a lot of strife, raised voices and clashing. Around strangers it is suspicious and defensive until they get to know you, however it is not aggressive. It does not like being left alone for long periods but the company it needs does not always have to be you, another dog would work.

This is not a dog best suited to new owners, it can be independent. It is an agile and active breed and needs owners who are active too. It will be devoted to you and will need some care from you with its sensitivity to heat and cold it will need sweater and sun screen to help it out, and it is not unusual to find it looking for tight places that are out of drafts to stay warm while it naps. When it is young it is more flighty and socialization is vital to help it deal with anything unfamiliar. As it matures, with the right raising it is more calm and confident and has the occasional clownish moments as it likes to make you happy. It enjoys getting attention and loves to be around people.

Living with a Peruvian Inca Orchid

What will training look like?

The PIO is fairly easy to train and in fact can learn more quickly than other breeds needing less repetition. However it does take experience and knowing how to handle breeds like this one. It is smart, attentive and a fast learner and can learn basic commands quickly. However it is a rambunctious breed sometimes and it does have an independent side. Use positive methods and offer it treats, rewards and encourage it. Make sure you avoid being too repetitive and keep the sessions interesting, fun and short. Consider doing several short fun sessions rather than one long one a day. Otherwise the PIO can become distracted, bored and less cooperative. Start training from a young age and avoid being harsh or scolding it, as being sensitive this will not help.

As mentioned when it is young it is not good with different situations, it frightens it and it can be flighty and nervous. Socialize it from a young age and expose it in controlled and safe ways to different people, places, sounds, situations and animals so that it can be desensitized and grow into a mature and confident adult.

How active is the Peruvian Inca Orchid?

The Peruvian Inca Orchid is a fairly active dog and needs regular daily walking and activity to keep it happy and healthy. It can live in an apartment if it has to though it would do better with even a small to medium sized yard, especially the medium sized type. Any yard should be well secured and fenced though as if it sees a squirrel or some small animal it will give chase. For the same reason it needs to be kept on a leash when out walking. It should get two 20 to 30 minute walks a day. It will enjoy opportunities to go safely running off leash, somewhere like a dog park, where you and it can also play some doggy games, and it can socialize. Remember to protect it from the sun or cold. It does best with active owners and when it is not getting enough it becomes anxious, restless and nervous.

Caring for the Peruvian Inca Orchid

Grooming needs

While it might appear that since one version of the PIO is hairless then there is not any grooming needed, in fact that skin needs care and protection so does need some attention. Both types are low shedding and could be suitable for people with allergies, though that should be tested before purchasing. The ones with hair need to be brushed regularly as it is prone to tangling, make sure you use a very soft brush. The hairless type needs to be wiped down using a damp warm cloth two or three times a week to remove dust and debris. It should also be moisturized but make sure you use a lotion that is suitable for dogs or something like coconut oil that is free of perfume and chemicals. Some turn out to be allergic to lanolin so ask the breeder what they use. If you are not keeping it as a show dog you may want to use moisturizer less often as there is the fact that it makes the skin more likely to tear. When you bathe use a very gentle shampoo, you may need to bathe the hairless type a little more often than the coated. Make sure when it is out in the sun you apply a good amount of sunscreen to protect it.

It should have its ears checked once a week for signs of infection that might include wax build up, irritation, redness and discharge. Then you should give the ears a wipe clean at the same time using a warm damp cloth or ear cleanser with cotton balls. Never insert anything into the ears though as it can cause a lot of damage and a lot of pain. Its teeth should be cleaned regularly too, at least two to three times a week using a doggie toothpaste and soft doggy toothbrush. Its nails will need trimming when they get too long. Use a proper dog nail clipper and take care not to cut too far down. There is part of the nail called the quick where there a nerves and blood vessels. If you cut that it will bleed and hurt your dog a lot. If you are not sure about clipping them yourself have the vet or groomer do it for you, or show you how.

Feeding Time

The Peruvian Inca Orchid comes in three different sizes so it depends which size you have on how much it needs to eat. Toy and small sized dogs tend to eat between ¼ to 1 cup of a good quality dry dog food a day, split into at least two meals. Medium sized dogs will likely need between 1 to 2 cups a day, split into two meals. How much exactly changes depending on size as mentioned, but also on your dog’s level of activity, its metabolism, health and age. Remember this is meant to be a slender and sleek breed so avoid over feeding it.

How is the Peruvian Inca Orchid with children and other animals?

The PIO is good with children, it will play with them, be energetic and active outside and inside with them and then also be loving and affectionate towards them. However being a sensitive dog it is best with older children not younger ones. Younger ones tend to make sudden loud noises, tug and pull at it and startle it, which this breed does not like. Make sure you teach the children how to touch and play with dogs in a kind way. It is sometimes overly protective of it things and its toys and children need to be aware of that. With other dogs it usually gets along fine and would even be happy being left alone if it has a doggy friend to keep it company. With other pets it can get along when raised with them and with good socialization but it does have a strong prey drive. Smaller pets and outside animals are likely to trigger those instincts and being fast if you do not have it on a leash it can get away from you very easily and quickly.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The PIO has a life span of 11 to 13 years and is regarded as being a generally healthy breed. Some issues to be aware of though include skin problems, dental problems, IBD, seizures, cold and heat sensitivity and a sensitivity to toxins. They need soft bedding, protection from the cold and from sunlight and plenty of skin care.

Biting Statistics

In considering reports about dog attacks against people that caused bodily harm in North America over the last 35 years, there is no mention of the Peruvian Inca Orchid. This is not a dog that is known to be people aggressive or even dog aggressive and is not likely to be involved in such incidents, but it is important to understand that even the friendliest breed, no matter its size, can have an off day and be involved in an attack. It is also important to make sure your dog is well socialized, trained, exercised, engaged, raised and given the attention it needs. These things will not give you 100% guarantee that nothing will ever happen, but it does give your dog a great foundation to lean on.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Peruvian Inca Orchid puppy will cost between $600 to $800 for a pet quality dog from a knowledgeable breeder. For a show quality dog breeder known for their experience in breeding the PIO that price could double or even go higher. While it can make finding a dog a longer process that needs more effort from you, this is well worth it to get a healthy dog, and to avoid funding bad and ignorant breeders such as you find with puppy mill sourced places and back yard breeder. Shelters are another place people can go to look for a pet especially if your focus is a companion rather than show dog. You may not get a purebred but you will get a devoted friend and the joy of giving a dog another chance at a forever home. Prices for rescues and shelter adoptions range from $50 to $400.

When you have found your dog and ready to bring it home make sure you have some things ready for it at home. You will need things like a crate, carrier, bowls, collar and leash and the cost of initial items will be between $120 to $200 depending on the size of your PIO. As soon as you can take it to a vet for some tests and a good check up. It can be physical checked over, have blood tests done, be dewormed, vaccinated, micro chipped and spayed or neutered. This will cost between $260 to $270.

Then there are ongoing costs to factor into being a pet owner. Just basic health care like shots, check ups and flea and tick prevention with pet insurance will cost $435 to $460 a year. A good quality dry dog food and dog treats is going to be between $75 and $150 a year. Then miscellaneous costs like miscellaneous items, toys, basic training and license come to between $195 and $220 a year. This means there will be an annual cost that ranges between $705 to $830 depending on the size of your dog.


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The Peruvian Inca Orchid could make a great companion for any home with either just adults, or just older children. Early socialization is important as it can be a nervous dog. For that reason and its sensitivity it should be in a home that is calm not full of loud drama. This is a dog with some particular needs so make sure you are fully aware of them and that you are ready to put in the time for them. If you do not want to have to put sunscreen on it each time you take it outside for example, this is not the dog for you! The hairless version has a particular look to it that appeals to some people but not others, so make sure you go visit them so you know what you are getting.

Featured Image Credit: Anna Krivitskaya, 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.

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