The Pekingese, also called the Peking Palasthund, the Pekinese, the Peiching Kou, the Pekin Spaniel, the Pekinese Spaniel, the Dragon Dog, the Mandarin Pug, the Peking Palace Dog or simply the Peke, originated in China thousands of years ago and is one of the most exotic and distinctive breeds in the canine world. At one time, they were known as the Lion Dog, because of their massive fronts, heavy manes and slender hindquarters. They also were called Sun Dogs, because of their prized golden-red coats. And, the very smallest Pekingese were called Sleeve Dogs or Sleeve Pekingese, because they were carried tucked into the sleeves of members of the imperial household.
The Pekingese is known for its distinctive physical characteristics. It has a flat face and an extremely short muzzle that puts its nose right between its eyes, creating a "smiling" look. Their small size makes the Pekingese a good choice for apartment or city dwellers, although they can be difficult to housetrain. The Peke was first registered by the American Kennel Club in 1906, as a member of the Toy Group. The Pekingese Club of America was accepted as a member of the American Kennel Club in 1909.
The mature adult Pekingese should weigh 14 pounds or less, with a compact, muscular body and short legs. The average height is between 6 and 9 inches at the withers. Pekingese have a long, coarse, straight outer coat and a thick, soft undercoat. The coat forms a massive mane about the neck and shoulders. There is long fringe on the ears and on the tail, which is set high and curled over to one side. All coat colors and markings are acceptable without preference given to one over another. Despite its dense coat, which requires daily attention to prevent matting, the Pekingese is fairly easy to care for.
The earliest known record of a dog resembling the Pekingese dates to the T'ang Dynasty of the 8th century. These small dogs were treated as sacred by the Chinese and could only be owned by members of the imperial family, who pampered them beyond reason and kept their bloodlines pure. So revered were the small fluffy dogs that their likenesses were carved in ivory and bronze and studded with precious gems, and theft of a Pekingese was punishable by death. The Peke was at its height of popularity in China between 1821 and 1851, during the Tao Kuang period. There were thousands of them in the various Chinese palaces. The breed was introduced to the western world in 1860, after the British invaded the Imperial Palace at Peking (Beijing). Most members of the royal court fled, taking their dogs with them, if they could. Other Pekingese were less fortunate and were killed by their owners before the invading soldiers arrived, to keep them out of enemy hands.
Legend has it that three young British officers (Captain John Hart Dunne, Lord John Hay and Sir George Fitzroy) looted a closed apartment in a deserted pavilion and found five Pekingese "guarding" the body of the Emperor's aunt, who had committed suicide as the British troops approached. Hay and Fitzroy supposedly each kept a pair of these dogs, and Dunne took one, which he named "Lootie." When the troops returned to England, Dunne gave Lootie to Queen Victoria as a gift. Despite this often-told tale, Captain Dunne's diary is probably more accurate. He wrote that he went to a French army camp to buy looted goods (called "trifles") and there purchased "a pretty little dog, smaller than any King Charles, a real Chinese sleeve dog. It has silver bells around its neck." This is the dog he gave to the Queen, claiming to have found it in the Palace of Yuan-Ming. The other four Pekingese were probably obtained in much the same fashion, since neither Hay nor Fitzroy participated in the attack on the Palace.
After the sacking of Peking, the royal court returned and re-established itself under the patronage of Empress Tzu His. She made a serious attempt to save China's Pekingese. However, when she died in 1908, her kennels were disbanded, thus ending the history of the Pekingese in its homeland. In 1893, a Pekingese owned by Mrs. Loftus Allen was exhibited at the Chester dog show in England. So unusual was the dog that it aroused great interest among English dog fanciers. Additional Pekingese trickled into England, Ireland and France in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and toy dog owners became enamored with the breed. Three Pekingese - Ah Cum, Mimosa and Boxer - are credited with being the foundation of the breed in England.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the Pekingese in 1906. Today's Pekingese is a bit shorter in leg, flatter in face and more abundant in coat than his ancestors. Otherwise than these minor exaggerations, the modern Peke remains virtually unchanged: he is unmistakably dignified, exasperatingly stubborn, independent and aloof, calm and basically good-tempered, neither aggressive nor timid and condescending but still cordial toward strangers. To his closest friends and family, he is affectionate and can even be playful. The Pekingese enjoys a good romp and a walk about town, but he prefers pillows, pampering and prolonged napping over physical exertion.
The average life span of the Pekingese is 10 to 12 years. Breed health concerns may include brachycephalic upper airway syndrome, degenerative heart valve disease, patellar luxation, pododermatitis, intertrigo (facial fold), pyloric stenosis (adult-onset pyloric hypertrophy syndrome), congenital elbow luxation, odontoid process dysplasia, perineal hernia, intervertebral disc disease, hydrocephalus, atlantoaxial subluxation, entropion, keratoconjunctivitis sicca ("dry eye"), corneal ulceration, proptosis, achondroplasia (genetic dwarfism; accepted as a breed standard), cryptorchidism, trichiasis and ulcerative keratitis. The breed's prominent eyes are prone to injury.
The Pekingese originated in the Imperial courts of China. They were held in high regard and often given as gifts among the nobility. This regal air is still common in modern Pekingese, who believe themselves to be royalty, and expect their families to treat them as nobility and not helpless lap dogs. According to the AKC Standard, Pekingese "should imply courage, boldness, and self-esteem rather than prettiness, daintiness, or delicacy." Pekingese make excellent companions for older people who have the time to devote all of their attention to their dog, as this breed demands a lot of attention. They adore their immediate family but are wary of strangers, which makes them excellent little watchdogs.
Pekingese can be happy in a big home or an apartment, as they don't need a lot of vigorous activity to maintain health and happiness. They like to take walks, proudly strutting their stuff around the neighborhood, and will love playing outdoors, but as they get older they become less playful.
Pekingese are notoriously difficult to train. They believe they are in charge of the home, and many owners have a tendency to treat them this way. This can lead to near-impossible training sessions. You must begin early with your Pekingese, establish leadership and a chain of command with you at t the top. Trying to train this breed when they have established themselves as the leader of the pack is almost always futile. Food is an excellent motivator, as is lots of excited praise. Keep sessions short and vary the activities in order to hold his intereest.
Pekingese are not recommended for families with small children. They are possessive of their toys and food and can snap or bite toddlers who do not understand how to respect a dog's boundaries. They demand a lot of attention and can become resentful of children who may take the focus away from them.
Pekingese are generally well-behaved, but they are prone to barking. They will bark at people, animals, cars, and leaves blowing across the yard. When left alone for long periods of time, their barking can get out of hand. It is recommended that people who work long hours not adopt a Pekingese. They are better suited for retirees or families with a stay at home or work at home parent.
It can be easy to shelter a Pekingese. They are tiny and people love to carry them and tote them around in purses. You must walk a fine line, though. Over-sheltered Pekingese can become very high strung. It is important to give your Pekingese independence. Let him walk on a leash rather than tote him around in a bag and socialize him around people and other animals so that he knows how to greet and be greeted with proper manners.
The Pekingese is a well-balanced, compact dog of Chinese origin with a heavy front and lighter hindquarters. Its temperament is one of directness, independence and individuality. Its image is lionlike, implying courage, dignity, boldness and self-esteem rather than daintiness or delicacy.
Size, Substance, Proportion
Size/Substance - The Pekingese, when lifted, is surprisingly heavy for its size. It has a stocky, muscular body. All weights are correct within the limit of 14 pounds. Disqualification: Weight over 14 pounds. Proportion - Overall balance is of utmost importance. The head is large in proportion to the body. 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.
Face - The topskull is massive, broad and flat and, when combined with the wide set eyes, cheekbones and broad lower jaw, forms the correctly shaped face. When viewed from the front, the skull is wider than deep, which contributes to the desired rectangular, envelope-shaped appearance of the head. In profile, the face is flat. When viewed from the side, the chin, nose leather and brow all lie in one plane, which slants very slightly backward from chin to forehead. Ears - They are heart-shaped, set on the front corners of the topskull, and lie flat against the head. The leather does not extend below the jaw. Correctly placed ears, with their heavy feathering and long fringing, frame the sides of the face and add to the appearance of a wide, rectangular head. Eyes - They are large, very dark, round, lustrous and set wide apart. The look is bold, not bulging. The eye rims are black and the white of the eye does not show when the dog is looking straight ahead. Nose - It is broad, short and black. Nostrils are wide and open rather than pinched. A line drawn horizontally over the top of the nose intersects slightly above the center of the eyes. Wrinkle - It effectively separates the upper and lower areas of the face. It is a hair-covered fold of skin extending from one cheek over the bridge of the nose in a wide inverted V to the other cheek. It is never so prominent or heavy as to crowd the facial features, obscure more than a small portion of the eyes, or fall forward over any portion of the nose leather. Stop - It is obscured from view by the over-nose wrinkle. Muzzle - It is very flat, broad, and well filled-in below the eyes. The skin is black on all colors. Whiskers add to the desired expression. Mouth - The lower jaw is undershot and broad. The black lips meet neatly and neither teeth nor tongue show when the mouth is closed.
Neck, Body, Tail
Neck - It is very short and thick. Body - It is pear-shaped, compact and low to the ground. It is heavy in front with well-sprung ribs slung between the forelegs. The forechest is broad and full without a protruding breastbone. The underline rises from the deep chest to the lighter loin, thus forming a narrow waist. The topline is straight and the loin is short. Tail - The high set tail is slightly arched and carried well over the back, free of kinks or curls. Long, profuse, straight fringing may fall to either side.
They are short, thick and heavy-boned. The bones of the forelegs are moderately bowed between the pastern and elbow. The broad chest, wide set forelegs and the closer rear legs all contribute to the correct rolling gait. The distance from the point of the shoulder to the tip of the withers is approximately equal to the distance from the point of the shoulder to the elbow. Shoulders are well laid back and fit smoothly onto the body. The elbows are always close to the body. Front feet are turned out slightly when standing or moving. The pasterns slope gently.
They are lighter in bone than the forequarters. There is moderate angulation of stifle and hock. When viewed from behind, the rear legs are reasonably close and parallel, and the feet point straight ahead when standing or moving.
Coat & Presentation
Coat - It is a long, coarse-textured, straight, stand-off outer coat, with thick, soft undercoat. The coat forms a noticeable mane on the neck and shoulder area with the coat on the remainder of the body somewhat shorter in length. A long and profuse coat is desirable providing it does not obscure the shape of the body. Long feathering is found on toes, backs of the thighs and forelegs, with longer fringing on the ears and tail. Presentation - Presentation should accentuate the natural outline of the Pekingese. Any obvious trimming or sculpting of the coat, detracting from its natural appearance, should be severely penalized.
All coat colors and markings are allowable and of equal merit. A black mask or a self-colored face is equally acceptable. Regardless of coat color the exposed skin of the muzzle, nose, lips and eye rims is black.
It is unhurried, dignified, free and strong, with a slight roll over the shoulders. This motion is smooth and effortless and is as free as possible from bouncing, prancing or jarring. The rolling gait results from a combination of the bowed forelegs, well laid back shoulders, full broad chest and narrow light rear, all of which produce adequate reach and moderate drive.
A combination of regal dignity, intelligence and self-importance make for a good natured, opinionated and affectionate companion to those who have earned its respect.
Weight over 14 pounds.
The foregoing is a description of the ideal Pekingese. Any deviation should be penalized in direct proportion to the extent of that deviation.
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Sources: American Kennel Club