The Pekingese is a compact dog with a pear-shaped body, heavy forequarters and lighter hindquarters, slightly longer than tall. The dog’s image is lion-like and implies courage, boldness, and self-esteem rather than prettiness, daintiness, or delicacy. The gait is dignified and unhurried, with a slight roll resulting from the wider, heavier forequarters. The undercoat is quite thick and the outer coat is long, coarse, straight, and stands off, forming a mane around the shoulders. The Pekingese looks suggest the breed’s Chinese origins in the lion-like appearance, bold and direct character, and distinctive expression.
The Pekingese owes its existence to the Lamaist form of Buddhism in China, in which the lion was an exalted symbol of Buddha, sometimes appearing in miniaturized form. The Foo dogs then in existence bore some resemblance to a lion and were carefully bred to accentuate this similarity. In fact, these dogs eventually came to be known as lion dogs. At the height of their favor (during the T’ang dynasty from a.d. 700 to a.d. 1000) many of these lion dogs were literally treated as royalty, pampered by personal servants. Smaller Pekingese were called sleeve dogs because they could be carried in the large sleeves of their Chinese guardians. In 1860, the imperial summer palace was looted by the British. Among their loot were five royal lion dogs, which were taken back to England. One was presented to Queen Victoria and, along with the other four, caused such interest among dog fanciers that there arose great demand for more of these dogs. The Pekingese was extremely popular in the late 1900s but has since fallen greatly in numbers.
The Pekingese is decidedly not a timid lapdog. The breed has a courageous character that will not start a fight but will not back down from one. The dog tends to be aloof around strangers but this is not a breed-wide trait. Many are outgoing and loving, but are independent and not overly demonstrative. The breed’s stubbornness is legendary. Although playful around family members, the dog may not be athletic or playful enough to satisfy many children. The breed will not tolerate rough handling by children, and can be injured by careless hard play.
The Pekingese enjoys a leisurely walk outdoors, but is equally happy to romp inside. The breed is susceptible to heat prostration and must be kept in air conditioning in warm weather. The Peke is an ideal apartment dog. The coat will mat unless combed at the very least weekly, preferably more often. The overnose wrinkle should be cleaned daily to avoid infection. The coat around the anus must be inspected daily for soiling. Pekingese tend to snore!