Admit it: When you think of the Pekingese, the image of Cartman from South Park pops into your head: overweight, spoiled, selfish and ill-tempered. But people who dismiss the Peke as a useless fribble, the last living symbol of a decadent and now-dead empire, to them, the Pekingese has only one thing to say: "Respect my authority!" This is a dog with character who thinks he’s much bigger than he is. Self-esteem is his middle name. His vigilant nature makes him a super watchdog, and his size makes him suited to any size home, from an apartment to a palace.

Traits, Personality and Behavior

If you don't mind living with a dog that will run your household with an iron paw, then the Pekingese is your breed. He is affectionate with family members, but independent enough that he doesn't need constant attention. Toward strangers, his attitude ranges from aloof to affable, depending on the individual dog.

The Pekingese, who is meant to weigh no more than 14 pounds, will stroll regally through the park and play with toys indoors, but he's essentially a low-activity dog. Exercise is good for him, though, so make sure he gets some activity daily. Resist the impulse to carry a Peke everywhere and pluck him out of trouble, and let him be a dog. He'll be happier and better-behaved for it.

While the bold but humorous nature of the Pekingese can make him a wonderful family companion under the right circumstances, he may not be the right breed for families with young children. Pekingese are small dogs and can be injured if play is too rough, or they may snap at a child if they're frightened.

Nor are Pekingese the most trainable of dogs. They are stubborn and see little reason to follow arbitrary rules --arbitrary to them, anyway. Because they tend to do as they please --that imperial heritage, no doubt --Pekes can be difficult to housetrain. That said, there are Pekingese who compete successfully in agility, rally and obedience trials. If you have a Peke that loves to show off, these sports can be a way of sneaking in some training and activity. Pekes with outgoing personalities are popular therapy dogs, spreading their special brand of Pekingese cheer to hospital patients and residents of nursing homes.

If you are looking for a dog with an easy-care coat, it's safe to say that the Pekingese is not the right choice. Those imperious clouds of fur toddling around the show ring are the product of endless hours of grooming. For a pet, expect to spend at least an hour each week brushing the long double coat. Pet Pekingese can be kept clipped short, but that still means frequent professional grooming. Neglected coats become tangled and matted, which is painful and can lead to serious skin infections. Clean the wrinkle above the nose daily and keep it dry to prevent infection.

One last note: the Peke snores. But if you love the breed, the noise will likely become part of the background.Pekingese puppies look like adorable little extraterrestrials, and it's one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Peke a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. Do your homework before buying one of these little dogs.

It goes without saying that the Pekingese, which was bred exclusively as a companion dog, needs to live in the house and never outdoors. With his flat face, the Pekingese is sensitive to high temperatures and can quickly succumb to heatstroke if he is not kept in air-conditioned surroundings.

Health Issues Common to Pekingese

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don't walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines. Pekingese have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren't cautious about whom you buy from. They include brachycephalic airway syndrome, which causes breathing difficulty; intervertebral disc disease; eye diseases; early-onset heart murmurs; and syringomyelia. Not all of these conditions can be tested for. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy's parents have an OFA cardiac clearance and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease Medium $1,500-$3,000
Pyloric Stenosis High $1,000-$5,000
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Cryptorchidism High $200-$500
Hernias High $150-$500

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Pekingese Puppy

Don't ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You're more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.

Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Pekingese Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by the PCA's Code of Ethics.

Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.

Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Pekingese aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Pekingese can live as long as 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.

Puppy or adult, take your Pekingese to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.

Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with "puppy lemon laws," be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Pekingese

Pet insurance for Pekingese costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Pekingese are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace dog insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Pekingese are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Pekingese is when he's a healthy puppy. You can't predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can't get when you need it the most.