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Pekingese Dog: Temperament, Origins & Care – Guide to China’s Royal Lion Dogs

The Pekingese is an old toy dog breed originating from China. They are also known as Lion Dogs. Historically, they were companion dogs for Chinese royalty in Ancient China and were named after the city of Peking (now Beijing). In addition to Chinese noblemen, they were also popular dogs among Buddhist monks.

The Pekingese have coats in various colors, ranging from reds and golds to dark colors. Their coats are longer around their neck and shoulder areas, which gives them the look of a lion’s mane.

They have large, dark eyes and are well known for their effortless rolling gait. In terms of temperament, they are affectionate and loyal to their owners and can easily develop strong bonds.

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Pekingese Basic Profile

Friendliness: The Pekingese dogs are relative friendly dogs. Although they can get along quite well with a family, small children and other pets, these dogs don’t do well with toddlers. The problem is that they demand to be respected, as ‘royalty’ should. Overall, they’re great lapdogs for a reason.


Trainability: It may be difficult to train a Pekingese if you don’t have its respect. Otherwise, they’re fantastic dogs that are willing to learn. Some people claim they’re dumb dog breeds, but they’re actually just stubborn to learn from certain people.


Grooming: The most daunting task about keeping a Pekingese is the grooming. They have long soft hair that needs to be brushed on a regular basis. Failure to do so can result in a tangled coat, which can prove to be rather painful for these dogs. Basic grooming, such as toothbrushing, baths and nail-clipping are also required.


Adaptability: Although they’re small dogs, they don’t like to be cramped in small spaces for long periods of times. They are excellent lapdogs and are usually very social dogs. If you work a full time job, it may not be a good idea to keep a Pekingese. Asking for one to adapt to your long hours of work is asking for trouble.


Activity: Like with many toy breeds, a Pekingese does not require as much exercise as other breeds. However, they should still receive daily strolls around the neighborhood is possible. Without physical activity, many health problems can arise for this breed.

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<strong>Pekingese Dog - </strong><strong>Vital Stats</strong>
  • Height: 6 – 9 inches
  • Weight: 7 – 14 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10 – 15 years
  • Dog Breed Group: Toy Dog

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Origins of the Pekingese Dog

The Pekingese originated from ancient China as the royal dog breed of the Tang Dynasty.

The Pekingese is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world. It is believed that this breed existed over 2000 years ago during the Tang Dynasty (when Buddhism in the country had just begun).

The folklore goes that Buddha tamed a lion to use as a servant and protector. However, China did not have native lions. So, the people had to look for a replacement animal to be this religious symbol. They began to breed dogs with the desired characteristics to create their faithful servant. The monks found the smallest and hairiest dogs and began breeding them in order to design their ideal lion figure. When the Pekingese wa

s born, they instantly became a sacred symbol.

The Royal Dog

Once upon a time, only the royalty of ancient China was allowed to own a Pekingese dog. Not only were they the pets of royalty but they were treated as royalty themselves, which could help explain their temperament today.

Commoners were required to bow down to a Pekingese dog and cruelty or theft of these dogs was punishable by the death penalty.

In 1860, at the end of the Imperial Empire, most of the Pekingese dogs were killed. Only 5 managed to survive and British troops brought them to England to present them to Queen Victoria. These dogs soon because a firm favorite among the middle and higher classes when the trend for a loyal lapdog really took off.

The Pekingese Appearance

The Pekingese is one of the most unusual looking Chinese dog breed.

A Pekingese is typically between six and nine inches tall at the shoulder and usually weighs between 8 and 14 pounds.

Despite their short stature, Pekingese dogs are heavy and strong. Their coat is long, dense, straight and stands away from their body. Around their neck and shoulders, the hair is longer, giving them the look of having a lion’s mane. They also have some feathering on the back of their legs and on their toes and ears.

In terms of coloring, you can see pretty much any combination including red, fawn, black and tan colors. Despite all the various coat combinations, pure white breeds are fairly sought after and do well in the show ring.

Pekingese dogs have a flat skull and wide, flat faces. Their eyes are large, round, dark and wide-set and their ears hang downwards. They have a high-set tail which curls slightly over their back. In addition, these dogs usually have brown eyes and black noses.

Pekingese Grooming

You can’t get much more high maintenance than the Pekingese dog. It’s really important to brush them daily with a small bristle brush. Ideally, you should spray them beforehand in order to prevent breakage of the fur.

Try not to focus solely on the ends of the hair as this could cause tangling and matting to form. For the feet, the fur needs trimming regularly as this hair can matt easily. Every 2 to 4 weeks, you should bath your Pekingese. However, this is just a general guideline. If your Pekingese gets something nasty on its coat, it’s probably a good time for a bath.

Make sure to inspect the ears regularly and look for wax build-up or signs that all is not well. Ears can be cleaned easily with cotton wool and a special cleaning fluid, which your vet can recommend. In terms of mouth hygiene, like all toy dogs, the Pekingese dog is susceptible to numerous problems.

Brush their teeth once a week to prevent any dental issues from arising. Finally, if you notice that your Pekingese is growing long toenails that aren’t wearing down naturally, cut them once a month.

Pekingese Temperament

Because the Pekingese were royal dogs in ancient China, they have evolved to maintain a regal air. It’s almost as if they believe themselves to be royal and expect to be treated as such.

They are courageous, bold and confident – don’t let their size and look make you think otherwise! The Pekingese dogs are fantastic pets and ideal for anyone who has lots of time and attention to give them. In fact, many owners claim they are very demanding of it.

Family Dogs

With that said, they are an ideal dog breed for the elders who generally have more time. They can be excellent watchdogs because they are very mindful of people they don’t know, but they love those they are familiar with.

Despite having a really close bond with their immediate family, the Pekingese is pretty independent and determined. They will protect their loved ones, even if the other dogs involved are much bigger and stronger.  

By nature, their stubbornness means that they aren’t the easiest dogs to house train but, with perseverance, they can be trained well. If you are patient and are prepared to spend time training a Pekingese, they can be fantastic family pets.

With Children and Other Dogs

In terms of their home set-up, they can be good with children. However, it’s probably best to wait until the children are of school age before raising a Pekingese. This is when they understand and appreciate how these dogs like to be treated.

If you have other dogs at home, the Pekingese can fit in well but it is advised to socialize them as puppies for the best outcome. Regardless of size, they typically get along well with other pets. Since they weren’t originally bred for the sake of hunting, they don’t have the natural instincts to prey on smaller dogs and or pets.

Behavior and Training

As previously mentioned, Pekingese dogs are not great with toddlers. It is important that family members the home know how protective these dogs are of their ‘belongings’ – their food and toys, for example.

They can be snappy if their food or toys are messed with. Secondly, because babies and toddlers are demanding in terms of attention, the Pekingese can become jealous and react negatively when they are not the center of attention.


Once trained, however, these dogs are pretty good behavior-wise, although they can be known to bark a lot. Almost anything could set off their barking – other animals, vehicles and even the wind.

Also, these dogs are not great dogs to leave home alone. It is in these circumstances that they are most likely to bark a considerable amount. So, if you’re a full-time worker, this wouldn’t be a good dog breed to get. Ideally, their owners would be retired or have a non-working member of the household.

Pekingese Training Tips

Because of their small size, they are relatively easy to house. You can even carry them around with you in a shoulder bag! It is important, however, not to over-indulge this breed in order to prevent a spoiled Pekingese. They are more common than you think.

They are independent by nature so they need to be given an opportunity to be independent. This can be achieved by walking them on a leash, rather than in a bag. Also, allowing them to meet other people and dogs help too. By doing so, they will become accustomed to interacting with others and behaving appropriately.

Although in the dog world, Pekingese dogs are considered to need lower levels of activity, it is important that they have a daily walk of at least 20 minutes. This will keep them in the best condition physically and mentally.

Because of their independent streak, they are hard to train, especially if they are led to believe they are in charge. It is important to assert yourself as the pack leader from the time they are young puppies. If they already believe they are the pack leader it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to change.

As with any dog, treats and praise work well in training sessions. In addition, training sessions are more successful when they are short and occur often.

Pekingese Diet Guide

In an ideal world, a Pekingese male weighs anywhere from 8 to 14 pounds. Females are slightly lighter and can range from 7 to 13 pounds. These weights are quite heavy for such a small dog but this dog breed is quite sturdy and athletic underneath their furry exterior.

It is not recommended to allow your Pekingese to go above these weights as this would cause health problems for your dog, such as joint and disc problems. There are other types of Pekingese that weigh less. For example, the Sleeve Pekingese go up to around six pounds in weight whilst the miniatures weigh from six to eight pounds.

Traditionally, in Peking (or Beijing as it’s now known), these dogs were raised on a diet of white meats such as pork and chicken, as well as fish. They would also be given rice, green vegetables and products with soya. In the modern era, Pekingese can eat similar diets but many veterinarians recommend dry dog foods.

The Pekingese dog digests meat-based products better than fruits and vegetables, and feeding them a higher meat content also means you won’t have as much gas to deal with! It is also vital that you give your dog fatty foods, only sticking to low-fat products.

Although dry food is easier, cheaper and healthier for your pet, they may soon get bored if they don’t have much of a variety. You can vary their diet by giving some more moist foods. If you go to the other extreme and only give your dog wet foods, your dog’s teeth may suffer and lead to other health problems.

Finally, avoid giving treats in excess – especially ones designed for humans – as these dogs can easily become overweight.

Pekingese Health

The Pekingese usually lives between ten and fifteen years. There are common health issues with these dogs, due to overbreeding. They include problems with the upper airways or heart valves, hernias, hydrocephalus, dry eye syndrome, dwarfism and joint problems.

Their breathing can become labored and noisy due to narrowing of the nostrils and elongating of the soft palate. You can get these treated surgically if you think your dog is suffering from these conditions.

Eye Conditions

Since their eyes are large and protruding, they are also readily susceptible to eye injuries. If the eyes are excessively large, then sometimes they aren’t covered fully when the dog blinks.

This can lead to problems such as dry eyes and eye infections. Dry eyes can also happen if your dog doesn’t produce the correct amount of tears in their eyes. This can often lead to other problems such as ulcers and infections.

Also, the Pekingese can develop problems with their eyelids because they have too much facial skin. Their eyelids can be droopy or rub into the eyes, thus irritating them. Distichiasis is another condition that Pekingese dogs are prone to developing.

This means that their eyelashes cause irritation because they grow inside the eyelid or on the edge of it.

Misc. Health Conditions

Pekingese dogs can suffer from health conditions relating to their spine. This is usually because of a degenerative problem with their discs. They can cause a lot of pain but can also lead to them being paralyzed.

We’ve discussed keeping their coat clean and well brushed for a reason. This is vital as their fur is thick, they can have skin infections that are not as easy to spot as they would be in other dogs. When grooming, it’s important to check their skin. If something is not right, seek medical advice immediately.

As for behavioral health, it is important to allow your dog to wind down and be given space and time to relax in their own environment.

Cost of a Pekingese Dog

Although they’re far from the most expensive dog breeds in the world, Pekingese dogs are not cheap. In fact, buying a Pekingese dog in the USA costs between $400 and $700 USD. It is estimated that a Pekingese dog will cost their owners over $25,000 USD during their lifetime.

It is, therefore, essential to be fully aware of the cost implications, specifically because of the potential vet bills should your dog suffer from one of the many common health problems associated with the Pekingese.

The Sleeve Pekingese

These dogs were named the Sleeve Pekingese because they used to be carried in the sleeves of their owners in ancient China. Many Pekingese were bred to become smaller to allow this practice to happen.

In order to stunt their growth, they were fed a restricted diet, held tightly or put into restrictive clothing. This practice was eventually outlawed.

To be considered a Sleeve Pekingese, the dog must be under six pounds. It is not really possible to tell if a Pekingese is going to be a Sleeve Pekingese until they are around 8 months old.

A female Sleeve Pekingese is likely to produce full-sized babies, so a Pekingese female of standard size is mated with a male Sleeve Pekingese to have the most likely outcome of Sleeve Pekingese puppies.

Common Cross-breeds

Due to the true Pekingese having a lot of potential health troubles, many people often choose a Pekingese crossbreed. Some common crossbreeds are:

Peagle – a cross between a Pekingese and a Beagle

Yorkinese – a cross between a Yorkshire Terrier and a Pekingese

Pekalier – a cross between a Pekingese and a King Charles Cavalier Spaniel

Famous Pekingese dogs

There were only 2 dogs to survive the legendary downfall of the Titanic. One of them, Sun Yat Sen, was a Pekingese owned by Henry Sleeper Harper.  Another famous Pekingese was Looty.

This was the dog brought over from China and gifted to Queen Victoria. Finally, the daughter of Theodore Roosevelt, Alice Lee Roosevelt Longworth, was gifted a Pekingese called Manchu by Empress Cixi.

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Sunday 26th of March 2023

Good luck finding a Pekingese for $40-$700 more like $2000-$5000!!!

Karen & Tim Hester

Wednesday 5th of June 2019

Thank you for such extensive knowledge about the Pekingese Breed. We have owned 5 now throughout our 25 years of marriage. Currently we have two, a Beautiful Black with a tiny bit of White just under her nose. Plus a Gorgeous Red/Fawn with the Black Mask and she is the epitome of any picture of a Pekingese. Yes they are loyal,not only to us but also to our friends and family who visit, our girls never bark at them when they come in or when they bring their dogs with them. Yet if a person that they do not know comes around or in our home the protective barking and sometimes snarling begins. Yep... our babies are expensive, one that we took in was crippled. Her parents had been breed one time to many. Sally never ever knew she was different, she was so full of life, love, joy, appreciation, and had the most beautiful Parti Coat on Snow White Angel Soft Fur. Sally was allowed to live and we were asked if we would consider trying to be her parents, ,,,Sally was the best decision we had made in a long time. And we all cried and squalled for hours and sometimes during the next months and a few years. We had the pleasure of her daily spunk and energy for 10 years. We loved her so much I had professional photos taken of of her after we knew she only had about a month to live. The day the vet said we must make our decision, Sally was so so give out—- yet when we spoke to her she wagged her tail😢😭😘


Wednesday 5th of June 2019

Hi Karen and Tim, thank you so much for telling us this lovely story. Beautifully said - Sally sounds like a wonderful dog.