5 Most Popular Dog Breeds in China
Many of the popular dog breeds from China are considered ancient and even thought to be closely related to the wolf. Interestingly, today's domesticated dog breeds are thought to have descended from these ancient Chinese breeds. Between the adorable face of the Pekingese, the classic mane of the Chow Chow, and the wrinkles of the Shar-Pei, which one takes home the award for being the most unique?
The lion dog is an ancient breed and was a member of the Chinese Imperial Court. Anyone who has seen them around, of course, knows there is something funny about these dogs. The Chinese believe that a lion fell in love with a marmoset (or a monkey), but was too big to marry the small mammal and complained to Buddha. The Buddha allowed him to become smaller, and subsequently, the lion and the marmoset had a child: the Pekingese. That explains it.
Pekingese are small (3 to 6 kilos, or about 7 to 14 pounds), have a characteristic flat face, big eyes, and bowed legs which make them waddle around the house. They are usually golden or reddish and have a black mask. They are known for their fierce personality, which is why everyone assumes they are part lion.
Are Pekingese good with kids? Well, it really depends on what you mean by good. If you are thinking of a dog that is always happy, like a Bichon, then no, Pekingese are not good with kids. If you are thinking of a dog that will play with your kids but also teach them not to do something foolish—then yes, the Pekingese is good with kids. This dog can be a good teacher, but only if you do not mind allowing your kids to attend the school of hard knocks.
Pekingese are amazing but can also have a lot of problems. They have flat faces and don’t do well in heat and humidity. Their long backs also make them prone to injuries. Some Pekingese develop heart disease which can progress to congestive heart failure. Since they breathe with an open mouth, they can develop heavy tartar and periodontal disease at an early age. For this reason, their teeth should be brushed every day.
Pekingese have an average life expectancy of about 14 years. These dogs require a lot of maintenance like daily coat brushing, tear stain cleaning, tooth brushing, and monthly trips to the groomer. If you want to get a pet lion and don’t want to deal with the grocery bills, this is about as close as you can get.
What about the grocery bills? Pekingese are small, so they don’t eat much. Those people out there who don’t believe the story about the marmoset and the lion know that Buddha actually created the Pekingese from a lion who fell in love with a butterfly. He allowed the lion to shrink, the butterfly to grow, and the Pekingese was created from that union. Everyone knows that butterflies don’t eat much.
Pekingese Puppies Playing
The Shih Tzu
This ancient Fu dog may be a child of the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso, a cousin from distant Tibet. That combination may explain their looks and dental problems, but it does not explain their great personalities.
Shih Tzus are about 6 or 7 kilos (13 to 15 pounds), have long, silky hair that does not shed much, large eyes, and an underbite that would scare off most orthodontists. They are typically black, white, or variations of brown.
Shih Tzus have some health issues. Some are prone to back problems (intervertebral disk disease), which they can probably blame on their Pekingese ancestors. They can also blame the Pekingese for their flat faces and breathing problems, periodontal disease, liver problems, and some less common diseases. There was probably a Pug in their lineage to blame, too, because they are also prone to hip dysplasia.
The average lifespan of the Shih Tzu is about 14 years, but many make it up to 20. The most amazing part of this Fu dog? His great temperament. He likes kids, is friendly with most adults, and will even buddy up with strangers pretty quickly. That is definitely not a trait he inherited from the Pekingese or the Lhasa Apso.
Is This Dog Well-Trained or Confused?
The big question facing all fans of Chinese dogs is, “Do Fu dogs really have to have long hair?” This Fu dog does not, but he does have a flat face, big eyes, and a chunky little body. Older paintings make him look long and lean, but modern Pugs are kind of square and squat, with a tightly curled tail and big eyes. They usually have an underbite, too, but that seems standard for the Fu dog.
The underbite and crowded teeth mean that the Pug needs to have his teeth brushed daily. They also have breathing problems due to their flat faces, eye problems (hmm, due to what?) like scratches and proptosis (the eye popping out), neurological problems due to an abnormally formed back (hemivertebrae), and skin problems (like demodectic mange infections) due to their weak immune systems. Besides all of that, over half of all Pugs have hip dysplasia, a disease more common in larger breeds; this also makes them prone to arthritis in later years.
Do you have all of that under control? Keep in mind that if you allow your Pug to lie around and do nothing, they may develop obesity and all of the health problems secondary to that condition. They still manage to average about 11 or 12 years of life, which is about the same as other small dogs.
Pugs are remarkable. They are good watchdogs (but not guards!), good with kids, and just an all-around awesome breed!
Pug Puppy Identity Crisis
The Chow Chow
This puffy lion dog is what a lot of us think of when we imagine a Chinese dog breed. Chow Chows are famous for their wide head and hidden eyes amidst a thick mane of orange or black hair. All dog fanciers know, of course, that this breed is unusual because of the black tongue. Anyone who has worked at an animal shelter has heard, “He is part Chow because his tongue has black spots.” Sorry, it does not work that way.
Dogs like Samoyeds, Keeshounds, and Norwegian Elkhounds are also supposed to be related to the Chow Chow. Even the Chinese don’t know for sure. They do know that this dog breed has been around a long time and was originally bred to work.
They have some pretty serious health problems like cataracts, glaucoma, eyelids that roll inwards (entropion), hip dysplasia, diabetes, and some autoimmune diseases like pemphigus. Chow Chows are also prone to several types of cancer like lymphoma and melanoma, a form of skin cancer.
When in good health, they usually live about 12 years, but some of them are around for a lot longer than that. Chow Chows may be considered aggressive by some insurance companies; however, if you provide good socialization, training, and exercise, you are probably going to have a calm and mellow dog guarding your house and sharing your life.
A Dancing Chow Chow
This Chinese dog is definitely not a model for the Fu dogs that guarded the imperial palaces. Fu dogs were noble and meant to protect the royal family. The Shar-Pei was the dog of the common man. The Shar-Pei probably should have been chosen to be the Fu dog though since they were tough, stoic, and could use their loose skin to move around and take down a boar or fight another dog even when they were being bitten. Who knows? The artists may not have liked them to model as Fu dogs because of all the wrinkles.
This breed has a black tongue, and in this case, it probably does mean that the dog is related to the Chow Chow. They have coat colors similar to the Chow Chow too, but they look quite different with their short, bristly coat; Shar-Pei even means “sand coat."
The breed was almost extinct and only a few dogs (about 200) were saved back in the 1970s, so they have quite a few health problems from being so closely bred. Skin problems (of course), ear infections, as well as eyelid problems (entropion, where the eyelid rolls in and hairs rub against the eyeball), are common health problems of the Shar-Pei. Some dogs are also prone to a disease called Familial Shar-Pei Fever, where proteins become lodged in the kidneys, and some of the afflicted eventually die of renal failure.
They usually live up to 10 years. They make good watchdogs and will guard their owner or their home. If they are well-socialized and go through obedience training, they make a good family pet—you just have to get used to hugging a Brillo Pad.
Finding Your Chinese Dog Breed
There are a lot of good places to go if you are looking for a Chinese dog breed. First, check with your local animal shelter. A dog may have been given up when someone was forced to move or may have run away and never been claimed.
Also, be sure to check Petfinder.com. They keep listings of dogs available in your area, and you might find a Chinese breed just a few cities away. Check out the breed rescues in your area, too. Open up your search engine, type the breed of dog you are looking for, and add your city.
You can also visit dog shows. Talk to the breeders and find out when any puppies or adult dogs will be available. Do not buy from a pet shop or an internet shipping group. You will be supporting a puppy mill.
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© 2013 Dr Mark