Information about the Pekingese
The Pekingese, or “Peke” (also commonly referred to as “Lion Dog” due to its resemblance to Chinese guardian lions, or “Pelchie Dog”) is an ancient breed of toy dog, originating in China. The breed was favored by the Chinese Imperial court, and its name refers to the city of Beijing where the Forbidden City resides. The breed has several characteristics and health issues related to its unique appearance. Because of its desirable characteristics, the Pekingese has been part of the development of designer crossbreeds, such as the Pekeatese.
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 and large eyes are some of the breed’s most obvious characteristics. The body is compact and low to the ground. Pekingese also have a muscular and durable body. The legs are noticeably bowed and restrict the Pekingese’s movement. The breed’s unusual rolling gait may have been deliberately developed by breeding to prevent the court dogs from wandering in ancient times.
The Pekingese has a double coat. Trimming the coat is discouraged in show dogs. There is a noticeable mane and feathering around the ears, tail and legs.
All breed standards allow all sorts of color combinations. 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.
The Pekingese 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 Pekingese 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 forechest to the buttocks. The overall outline is an approximate ratio of 3 high to 5 long.
The leading cause of death for Pekingese, as for many other Toy breeds, is trauma. Top leading causes of organ systems include neurologic and cardiovascular, e.g., 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.
The other main problems of the breed 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. Some other eye problems that Pekingese can suffer from are Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (Dry Eye) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).
The Pekingese should not be kept outside, as having flattened faces and noses can cause them to develop breathing problems, making 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 adequate support to the back: one hand under the chest, the other under the abdomen. Short legs give some Pekingese 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 breed’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.