Breed Group: Toy

Temperament and Behavior

Full of self-importance, confident independence, and exasperating stubbornness, the proud Pekingese (PEEK-in-ees) reflects its royal Chinese upbringing with a preference for a soft pillow from which he can survey and scrutinize his domain. Pekingese can shower their loved ones with great affection but many times they seem to be more social with other pets than their human family. In any event, they should be protected from children as they won’t submit to rough treatment from someone the dog views as below himself in importance and they are easily injured. Even though they are only modestly active both inside and out, and usually above simple play, they benefit from but require little if any additional exercise. Generally quiet, they still make an outstanding watchdog, quick to sound the alarm when someone drops by. Not just a sissy lap dog, although they will not start a fight, they are unlikely to walk away from one if threatened. But like others in the toy group, they are too small to make a good guard dog. With their low-key nature and preference for supervising from their pillow throne, their motto seems to be “Let others do it and I’ll watch.” Like other dogs with short muzzles, a Pekingese tends to snort and snore. They also tend to be possessive of their food and toys.

Physical Characteristics

There are two types of Pekingese, both tiny. Those called sleeves weigh six pounds or less. The standard weighs up to 14 pounds and stands at most 8 to 9 inches tall at the shoulder. They have large eyes that need protected from injury and regularly monitored. Both varieties have a course, dense coat that normally needs to be brushed at least once a week, twice a week is better. During seasonal shedding, brushing should be increased to every day. Coat colors include red, fawn, white, black, black and tan, parti-color, sable, and brindle. Like other dogs with a short muzzle, the Pekingese is subject to breathing problems. He is also prone to heatstroke in hot, humid, stuffy conditions. Heavy exercise or play should only be conducted in cool temperatures even though in winter they will lie in window sun squares until they pant. In summer they enjoy the shade and air conditioning. Not as sensitive to low temperatures, they do moderately well in the cold.

Trainer's Notes

The Pekingese requires only modest socialization but can be confoundingly difficult to train as a result of their legendary obstinance. If formal training is to be attempted it must be light and must use only positive training methods. A trainer is rewarded with the best results if he can make the dog feel as if it is doing what it wanted to do, to begin with. Provided the resistance to training and ramifications of a short muzzle are understood (including the advisability of using a harness rather than a collar), they make a reasonable choice for a novice dog owner.

Photo © by Joliot available under the CC BY-SA 3.0



With so few dogs registered in the OFA health database, reliable statistics on disease predisposition are unavailable. It is generally accepted the Pekingese is a healthy breed. The problems most frequently seen include those associated with their shortened muzzle or prominent eyes. Puppies with Stenotic Nares or blockage of the nose by skin folds are to be avoided. Any skin folds around the nose, which are common in the breed, should be kept clean in order to avoid Skin Fold Dermatitis. As a result of their shortened muzzle, they are also prone to heat stroke. Their eyes are subject to Dry Eye, and PRA together with problems with their eyelashes including Distichiasis, and Ectopic Cilia as well as eye injuries. Puppies with bulging or an excessive amount of white around their iris should be rejected. Completing the most frequently seen problems in the breed are IVDD, Cleft Palate, and Luxating Patella. OFA statistics, based on only a few dogs to date, indicate Hip Dysplasia affects 6 in 10 dogs with half of 2 dogs reported showing signs of Elbow Dysplasia. Rarely seen is Urolithiasis. Their lifespan is typically 12 to 15 years.


The AKC ranks the Pekingese 48th in popularity with between 3,000 and 4,000 annual registrations. With many females artificially inseminated, small litter sizes, high puppy mortality rates, and some puppies born by cesarean section, Pekingese puppies tend to be expensive.

Breed History

The Chinese began developing the Pekingese more than 2,000 years ago. These dogs, called Foo, were favored by the Chinese Imperial Court, especially in the T’ang Dynasty (700 A.D to 1,000 AD) when many were treated as royalty which included being pampered by personal servants. The smallest were called sleeve dogs and were carried in the large sleeves of their Chinese masters. In the 17th through 19th centuries the breed was further developed by crossing them with many breeds including rough and smooth coated Pugs, Japanese Chin, Tibetan Spaniels, Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzu, Tibetan Terriers, Chow Chows and others. In 1860 the British looted the Imperial Summer Palace in the Forbidden City located in Peking (now Beijing) from which the dog’s name is derived. Among the items taken were five sleeve Pekingese. These dogs were the first Pekingese introduced to western culture.

Additional Information

Famous Pekingese owners include Tzu Hsi, the dowager empress of China, Victoria, Queen of England, Liz Taylor, Beatrix Potter, and Betty White. The National (US) Parent Breed Club is The Pekingese Club of America.

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