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

These five button-cute dog breeds are among the most popular in China.

These five button-cute dog breeds are among the most popular in China.

pj evans via usplash; Canva

The Ancient Chinese Breeds

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, it’s hard to say which one takes home the
award for being the most unique.

What Are the Most Popular Chinese Dog Breeds?

  1. Pekingese
  2. Shih Tzu
  3. Pug
  4. Chow Chow
  5. Shar Pei

The Pekingese and that famous flat face.

The Pekingese and that famous flat face.

Were Pekingese really a combination of a lion and a

An AKC Pekingese.

The Pekingese and that famous flat face.

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1. 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

The Shih Tzu is carefully groomed for dog shows.

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

The Shih Tzu is carefully groomed for dog shows.

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2. 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.

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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 Pug is photogenic, even when he is trying to look

The Pug is photogenic, even when he is trying to look

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.

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3. 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 watchdogs (but not guards!), good with
kids, and just an all-around awesome breed!

Pug Puppy Identity Crisis

The dark tongue that makes the Chow Chow famous.

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.

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4. 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.

Dancing Chow Chow

Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a

Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a

Shar-Peis can come in several colors. Some prefer basic

Shar-Peis are an unusual sort of photogenic.

Does the Shar-Pei really have a snout like that of a hippopotamus?

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5. 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, 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.

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

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.

More About Dogs

  • Chinese Dog Names
    Every Chinese dog deserves a good Chinese name. Take your pick.

  • Five Most Expensive Dog Breeds
    Have you made your fortune? Are you in search of a good place to spend your
    money? These five dog breeds are all expensive and definitely worth having.

© 2013 Dr Mark


Sarra Garrett on April 25, 2013:

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

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 23, 2013:

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.

Sarra Garrett on April 23, 2013:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 22, 2013:

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!

Mary Craig from New York on April 22, 2013:

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.

Dilip Chandra from India on April 22, 2013:

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

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on April 21, 2013:

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! 😉

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 21, 2013:

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!!!!

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 21, 2013:

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.

Dr Mark (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on April 21, 2013:

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!

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on April 21, 2013:

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

Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on April 21, 2013:

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.

Jim Laughlin from Connecticut on April 21, 2013:

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