HomeNewsJul 22, Pekingese--Lion Dog of Imperial China

    Jul 22, Pekingese–Lion Dog of Imperial China

    By Janice Jones     |Last updated 07-22-2021

    Just a quick peek at the Pekingese and you will see why the
    ancients thought of them as royalty almost sacred.  They are independent, dignified and stubborn
    and they know it. 

    Being a bit standoffish
    or aloof when encountering strangers, these dogs are fiercely loyal, friendly
    and good nature around their favorite people.

    With a broad head, wrinkled muzzle, and a mane of hair
    around their neck, they resemble a lion in appearance. 

    They are a small dog, short and low to the
    ground, but stockier than you might think. 
    Their eyes are round, large, and dark and their drop ears are actually
    heart shaped. 

    Their size, coupled with
    their minimal exercise requirements makes them an ideal apartment dog.

    Fearless and smart, they make a great companion, but they
    are known to be difficult to train.  They
    are also known to be barkers and picky eaters if not trained early.

    A Pekingese dog is standing in the grass.The Pekingese

    Quick Facts

    Other Names Used:  Lion Dog, Sleeve Dog

    Affiliation:  AKC: 
    Toy, UK:  Companion


         Height:  6 to 9 Inches

         Weight:  Up to 12 pounds

    Coat Type:  Long, coarse, straight, double coated

    Colors:  All Colors are acceptable: Red, red
    brindle, fawn, black, white, and multicolored;

    Country of Origin:  China

    Activity Level:  Low

    Life Expectancy: 12
    to 15 years

    Good with Children:  Older Children

    Good with other pets:  Best with other Pekingese

    Dog Breed Ratings Got You a Little Confused?
    Here’s a little help in understanding them

    • Playfulness:   Most Playful = 5    Least Playful = 1
    • Affection:  Most Affectionate = 5   Least Affectionate = 1
    • Friendliness Towards Strangers: Most Friendly = 5  Least = 1
    • Good With Children:  Great= 5    Not Good with Children = 1
    • Good With Dogs:  Great = 5   Not Good Around Dogs = 1
    • Good With First Time Owners:  Fine=5  Not Appropriate = 1
    • Exercise Required:  Extensive Daily Exercise = 1  Minimal = 1
    • Ease of Training:  Very Easy = 5     Difficult = 1
    • Watch Dog:  Excellent Watch Dog = 5  Minimal = 1
    • Grooming:  Time Consuming = 5   Minimal = 1
    • Shedding:  Heavy Shedder = 5     Minimal = 1
    • Cold Tolerance:  Well Tolerated = 5   Poor Tolerance = 1
    • Heat Tolerance:  Well Tolerated = 5  Poor Tolerance = 1

    History of the Pekingese

    Pekingese Puppy: The Lion Dog

    The Pekingese which is also known as the Lion Dog, The Foo
    Dog, FuFu Dog and Sleeve Dog is an ancient breed from China dating back nearly
    2000 years. 

    Legend has it that the breed
    was created from the combination of a lion and a marmoset. 

    As the story goes, a lion fell in love with a
    marmoset and wanted to wed his tiny love. 
    The lion begged the Buddha to make him small, but allow him to keep his
    lion character.  Buddha agreed and from
    their union, the dogs of Fu Lin, the lion dogs of China arose. 

    Probably not exactly historically accurate,
    you have to admit it does make a great story.

    Named after the Capitol of China, Peking, known now as
    Beijing, it was originally bred by Buddhist monks. 

    These dogs remained the companions of royalty
    and lived only in the Imperial Palace.  The
    early admirers of the breed were so enamored with their lion dogs that they
    raise their status to royalty and gave the dogs their own personal servants.  

    They were smaller than modern day Pekingese
    and often rode around in the sleeves of the robes worn by the nobility, thus
    the name “sleeve dog.”

    Commoners were required to bow down to these little dogs
    and their whereabouts were highly guarded. 

    The west knew nothing of their existence until the time of
    the Opium War in 1860 when British forces raided the Forbidden City. 

    British forces found and took 5 dogs belonging
    to the Emperor’s Aunt and presented them to nobility in England. 

    Pekingese puppy in front of an orange backgroundPekingese Puppy with a Black Mask

    Queen Victoria, the Duchess of Wellington and the Duke and Duchess of Richmond and Gordon received these prizes of war.  The breed remained rare, but by the 1890s, more Pekingese dogs were being smuggled out of China. 

    The first dog to be exhibited in a British Dog Show was Pekin Peter in 1894. 

    It was not long before they became popular in the United States.   In the early part of the 20th century, Empress Dowager Cixi presented a small black Pekingese named ‘Manchu’ to President Theodore Roosevelt’s daughter Alice.

    The first Pekingese to be registered with the AKC occurred in 1906 and then the Pekingese Club of America was formed in 1909. 

    In 2014, the breed ranks number 80 among the breeds listed by the AKC, a rather sharp drop from the ranking of 33rd in 2002.


    White Pekingese

    Even modern day Pekingese seem to know
    that they have been bred for and by royalty because they exude an aura self-importance
    that goes deeper than their imperial appearance. 

    They are likely to take charge of any
    situation and can be defensive if they feel threatened. 

    They are a very intelligent breed but together
    with an independent streak and a stubborn attitude make them difficult to

    They respond well to positive
    gentle training methods and any type of harsh discipline will likely be

    Use of food as
    rewards works well with this breed, but you will need to persuade them that
    what they are doing is somehow their own idea and not yours.  

    Early socialization is a must for these
    dogs and ensures that they will grow up to be a well-rounded, balanced

    The more you can expose him to
    different people, sights, sounds, and smells, the more likely you will not
    encounter some of the behavioral problems that have stereotyped the breed.   

    Those closest to the breed will
    describe them as very loving, affectionate, and sweet. 

    They have a big heart in a small body and
    will treat you with respect as long as you are willing to do likewise.

    As a
    one-person dog, they will chose one human in the family as their favorite and
    bestow more love and affection and protection on that one special person.   This
    affectionate nature does not extended to anyone outside the family and they are
    likely to look at anyone unfamiliar to them with a certain amount of disdain. 

    Pekingese: Intelligent but Stubborn

    They like to bark and will bark when strangers are nearby making them a good watch dog. 

    Some members of the breed do not know when to stop barking and an early training program is necessary to teach them how to do this.

    Pekes are better suited to live with older children because they are not patient when it comes to being poked, grabbed or handled roughly. 

    They usually get along fine with other Pekingese, but do not take kindly to other household pets.  If raised with other dogs or cats, they will accept them and learn to get along fine.


    PekingeseWhite Pekingese

    The Pekingese’s thick coat requires grooming on a regular
    basis.  Some who love the breed, but hate
    to groom will opt for keeping the coat clipped down. 

    If you love the appearance, be prepared to
    brush.  The coat should be brushed at
    least twice a week with a bristle brush and combed as needed. 

    They do shed, seasonally, usually twice a
    year, so extra brushing is necessary during this time.  To keep shedding to a minimum, brush from the
    skin outwards to remove any dead hairs. 

    Brushing only the top layer will not help with mats and tangles.  The coat should be sprayed with water or a
    conditioning spray prior to brushing to keep hair from breaking.

    Pekes can be bathed at least monthly or more frequently as
    needed.  Their nails will need to be
    trimmed about every 3 weeks and their teeth should be brushed ideally once per

    One very important task of grooming the Pekingese is to keep
    the skin folds on the face clean and dry. 

    Wash the face daily with warm water and dry completely.  A mild dilution of baby shampoo can be used
    if necessary and will not cause problems for the eyes. 

    Dry the folds out with a cotton ball. 

    Other areas to address include the foot pads and the
    sanitary areas. 

    Clip the excessive hairs
    from the foot pads and do a sanitary clip to keep your Peke fresh and clean.

    Health Concerns

    Pekingese Puppy, Black and WhiteBlack and White Pekingese Dog

    Being a brachycephalic dog, they are sensitive to anesthesisa
    and heat, lower tolerance for exercise, and snorting/snoring, breathing
    problems that often accompanies dogs with short noses. 

    Their prominent eyes make them susceptible to ulceration and
    other trauma.  They are a relatively
    healthy breed, but like any other breed, certain genetic problems have been

    It is unlikely that you
    would encounter them but it is important to be aware of them if you are
    considering the breed. 

    Purchasing from a
    professional breeder who takes the time to do health screenings on the parents
    will help assure that you will be getting a healthy puppy.

    Patellar Luxation:
    A very common problem in small dogs, this condition occurs when the knee is not
    properly lined up and causes lameness and eventually arthritis. 

    Cataracts:  A cataract occurs when the lens of the eye
    becomes opaque eventually leading to loss of sight. 

    Cleft Palate:
    Present at birth, there is a separation in the roof of the mouth making nursing
    impossible.  Most puppies do not survive
    and are euthanized.

    This condition occurs when an additional row of eyelashes grow on the oil gland
    in the dog’s eye and irritates the eye.  

    This defect causes the eyelid, usually the lower one to roll inward, irritating
    or injuring the eyeball.

    Fold Dermatitis/Pyoderma:
    A skin infection that occurs within the folds or wrinkles of the skin where
    moisture accumulates and rubbing occurs.

    Occurs when the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the brain accumulates abnormally
    in the ventricles of the brain. 

    Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca:
    Also called dry eye, this is caused when the eyes do not produce enough

    Mitral Valve Dysplasia:
    This defect occurs when the valve of the heart does not seal completely and
    blood backs up causing the heart to work harder. 

    Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA):
    This is a degenerative eye disorder that eventually causes blindness from the
    loss of retinal cells.

    Disc Disease:  Rare, but has been identified in the


    • Very affection and loyal to owner
    • Small, make great apartment pets
    • Requires little exercise
    • Relatively healthy breed
    • Make Good Watch Dogs


    • Training can be difficult
    • Can be stubborn, “what’s in it for me”
    • Tendency to bark if not trained
    • Sheds
    • Requires much grooming

    Pin for Future Reference

    Pekingese: Pinterest Image

    Breed Club:  The
    Pekingese Club of America

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