5 Most Popular Dog Breeds in China

Updated on February 16, 2018
DrMark1961 profile image

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

The Shar-Pei is an ancient Chinese dog breed.
The Shar-Pei is an ancient Chinese dog breed. | Source

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 most unique?

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The Pekingese and that famous flat face.Were Pekingese really a combination of a lion and a monkey?An AKC Pekingese.
The Pekingese and that famous flat face.
The Pekingese and that famous flat face. | Source
Were Pekingese really a combination of a lion and a monkey?
Were Pekingese really a combination of a lion and a monkey? | Source
An AKC Pekingese.
An AKC Pekingese. | Source

The Pekingese

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

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The Shih Tzu is carefully groomed for dog shows.Many Shih Tzu owners like the "puppy cut" since it is easier to care for.A Shih Tzu with long hair looks great but takes more time to groom.
The Shih Tzu is carefully groomed for dog shows.
The Shih Tzu is carefully groomed for dog shows. | Source
Many Shih Tzu owners like the "puppy cut" since it is easier to care for.
Many Shih Tzu owners like the "puppy cut" since it is easier to care for. | Source
A Shih Tzu with long hair looks great but takes more time to groom.
A Shih Tzu with long hair looks great but takes more time to groom. | Source

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?

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The Pug is photogenic, even when he is trying to look ugly.Pugs are notorious for their comical expressions.An adorable Pug puppy or puglet.
The Pug is photogenic, even when he is trying to look ugly.
The Pug is photogenic, even when he is trying to look ugly. | Source
Pugs are notorious for their comical expressions.
Pugs are notorious for their comical expressions. | Source
An adorable Pug puppy or puglet.
An adorable Pug puppy or puglet. | Source

The Pug

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 watch dogs (but not guards!), good with kids, and just an all-around awesome breed!

Pug Puppy Identity Crisis

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The dark tongue that makes the Chow Chow famous.Chow Chows smile a lot, but you can't always tell.A Chow Chow puppy.
The dark tongue that makes the Chow Chow famous.
The dark tongue that makes the Chow Chow famous. | Source
Chow Chows smile a lot, but you can't always tell.
Chow Chows smile a lot, but you can't always tell. | Source
A Chow Chow puppy.
A Chow Chow puppy. | Source

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 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

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Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a hippopotamus?Shar-Peis can come in several colors. Some prefer basic black.Shar-Peis are an unusual sort of photogenic.
Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a hippopotamus?
Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a hippopotamus? | Source
Shar-Peis can come in several colors. Some prefer basic black.
Shar-Peis can come in several colors. Some prefer basic black. | Source
Shar-Peis are an unusual sort of photogenic.
Shar-Peis are an unusual sort of photogenic. | Source

The Shar-Pei

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, however, 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 watch dogs 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.

Shar-Pei Puppies

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.

Questions & Answers

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      • profile image

        Sarra Garrett 

        5 years ago

        Hi DrMark. The snow has finally stopped flying and it's actually in the 70's today. Whoo hoo. Thank you for the kudos on my new avatar. It's a couple of years old so now I just have to update it with my lovely silver hair lol. I figured I'd show my 'mug' to the world. lol

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Hi Sara thanks for stopping by! I hope things are going well for you now that spring has come up that way. (Are you finished with snow in Nebraska by now?)

        Great new avatar! I have been on HP almost a year now so it is time for me to change, too.

      • profile image

        Sarra Garrett 

        5 years ago

        As always voted up and useful Dr.Mark. As you know I just love dogs and would do anything to help them. I've had a Chow and a Pek before and they are very smart and loving for sure not to mention they will protect their families.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Thanks for the kind words. I have been working on that "world tour" for the past several nights, and have really been learning a lot. I thought I knew almost everything about German dogs and Chinese dogs but I am putting together a hub on dog breeds from India. What an eye-opener!

      • tillsontitan profile image

        Mary Craig 

        5 years ago from New York

        Thank you for all the information DrMark! We think we know so much about a breed until we get all the facts ;) These are all adorable dogs, even the noble Chow! Your pictures and videos are certainly the icing on the cake. Seems you are giving us a world tour!

        Voted up, useful, and interesting.

      • dilipchandra12 profile image

        Dilip Chandra 

        5 years ago from India

        Cute dogs, i like this hub. Great share! Voted UP

      • Scribenet profile image

        Scribenet 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Thanks for the warning about the maneaters...ya gotta watch the little quiet types! I'll make sure my ankles are protected! My cat tries to take me down that way as well...I am practiced in the art of avoiding ankle attackers! ;)

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Scribenet, you do realize those Peke puppies are vicious maneaters who are only trying to distract you while another sneaks up and savages your ankle? And you thought they were playing quietly. Haha!!!!

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Bill, your little Gobi sounds like a racial sterotype! You should get some pictures of her doing un-Shih Tzu things and make her one of your next hubs! (I doubt you will be able to get her to run the Idatarod though. Too bad.)

        I grew up with a chunky little Pekingese in the house. They are great biters, nothing at all like the Shih Tzu.

      • DrMark1961 profile imageAUTHOR

        Dr Mark 

        5 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

        Hi Jimmy, I guess you are not into the concept of hugging a steel wool pad? They are not for everyone, that is for sure!

      • Scribenet profile image

        Scribenet 

        5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        I love the Pug puppy video, though I have to say the Shar Pei puppies all looked like their aunt Bee had knitted them "too big" sweaters! I am also amazed at how quiet the Pekinese puppies were...just a lot of panting...lol

      • bdegiulio profile image

        Bill De Giulio 

        5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Hey DrMark. Our Shih Tzu fits your description to the tee. Underbite? Yep. Large eyes? Yep. Loves pretty much everyone? Yep. Breathing problems and snoring? Yep. But despite their issues they are great little dogs. Our Gobi, named for the Gobi Desert, is now 11 and still in great condition. I will say this, she is one stubborn and persistent little dog. Great hub. We also had a fat little pug when I was a kid.

      • jimmyglaughlin profile image

        Jim Laughlin 

        5 years ago from Connecticut

        Good article! I can do with out the Shar Pei though, lol.

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