We’ve all seen cute memes featuring the Pug or the Peke, but although many Chinese dog breeds are popular and make wonderful pets, there may be some that you’ve not yet come across. We are here to help you discover the wide range of breed types originating in this vast country.
Read on to find out more about the different Chinese breeds available.
Things to Consider when Looking for a Chinese Dog Breed
As with any dog, there are a wide range of things to consider before buying. Here are some of the main ones:
- How active are you? It’s important that you give your dog the right amount of exercise for its needs.
- How much grooming does it need? Some people just don’t have the inclination to put in the hours of grooming required by a Pekingese or Shih Tzu.
- How big is it? Are you looking for a big dog that eats a lot and needs a lot of room, or would a lap dog to snuggle up on your knee be more appropriate?
- Temperament – this is a very important consideration, especially if you have children or other pets. Do you want a dog that is friendly to everybody, or one who will be utterly devoted to you and fend off all comers? Are you going to be home much of the time, or do you need a dog with a more independent spirit?
10 Most Popular Chinese Dog Breeds
|Aloof, Independent, Loyal, Quiet
|Suspicious, Devoted, Affectionate, Independent
|Confident attitude, strong prey drive
|Tenacious, Aloof, Intelligent, Strong Willed
|Charming, Clever, Docile, Mischievous
|Opinionated, Intelligent, Aggressive, Stubborn
|Playful, Clever, Outgoing, Friendly
|Sweet-Tempered, Lively, Affectionate, Alert
|Affectionate, Caring, Faithful, Kind
|Intelligent, lively, loyal, self-assured
#1 – Chow Chow
This ancient breed of dog is thought to date back as early as 206 BC and accompanied the Chinese nobility on hunting trips or guarded their palaces for many centuries.
You would certainly know a Chow Chow if you came across one as they have a distinctive appearance which looks like a cross between a teddy-bear and a lion.
A mid-sized dog, the compact Chow Chow stands between 17 and 20 inches tall and weighs between 40 and 70lb. Their build is robust rather than athletic, with thick abundant fur which can be rough or smooth and comes in brown, black, red or cream.
Facially, the Chow Chow sports deep facial folds, almond eyes and small ears which you can hardly see, nestled as they are in the thick mane of fur around the head and neck. They are also the only dog to have a fully blue-black mouth cavity, created by a dominant gene.
Despite their teddy-bear appearance this is generally not a cuddly dog and can be somewhat aloof and independent. Despite this, they can develop into a loyal companion and do not like to be left alone at home for long periods.
The Chow Chow needs consistent training and excellent socialization to help them relax, though they will always be territorial and protective. They also need a lot of company and exercise. They will need brushing two to three times per week and care should be taken to ensure that bacteria and dirt don’t build up in those facial folds.
#2 – Shar-Pei
The Shar-Pei is another ancient Chinese dog breed with roots going back 2000 years in China. Once a guard dog and hunter, this breed was later used for pit-fighting.
During the Communist Revolution in the mid-1900s the population of Shar-Peis became so low that there were fears they would become extinct. The help of some American breeders was sought to help increase numbers again.
A compact and medium-sized dog, the Shar-Pei reaches 18-20 inches in height and weighs between 45 and 60 pounds. He is covered with loose folds of skin and short, rough fur (a literal translation of Shar-Pei is “sand skin”) which can be black, brown, cream or blue.
The eyes are small and sunken into the skin folds and the ears are very small and triangular, sitting on top of a short, broad muzzle. They often carry the gene for the blue-black tongue.
With their background in hunting, guarding and pit-fighting, you would be right to expect the Shar-Pei to be independent and territorial. They are known for their intelligence and loyalty, and with good socialization and training can be calm and serene.
The Shar-Pei needs an experienced owner who makes it very clear who is in charge in the pack, otherwise they will make a bid for that position themselves. They have a tendency towards obesity, so care needs to be taken over their diet and good exercise is essential.
Grooming needs are minimal, but the wrinkles in the face will need some attention and careful drying to avoid the accumulation of dirt and bacteria and potential fungal infection.
#3 – Chongqing
Also known as the Chinese Mountain dog, Chuandong Dog or East Sichuan Hunting Dog, the Chongquing is a lesser-known Chinese breed named after the region in China where they originate. This breed is not yet recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club though it has been part of local Chinese culture in these regions for around 2000 years.
Throughout its history the Chongquing dog has been used for hunting and for guarding livestock and remote farms. While they escaped a ban on pets in the 1900s (because they were working dogs), they were culled in large numbers during the SARS virus outbreak. They are now a very rare dog, thought to be as endangered as the Giant Panda.
In appearance the Chongquing shares some features with the Bulldog or the Thai Ridgeback. It’s a medium-large breed with males around 16-20 inches tall and weighing around 50 pounds. Females are considerably smaller, from 14 – 16 inches and weighing around 38.5 pounds.
A muscular and athletic form is barely hidden beneath the thin reddish-brown hair and black skin. The ears and tail are completely hairless and stand erect. The face is quite distinctive with a short, somewhat squashed muzzle. There are some facial wrinkles, but these are nowhere near as pronounced as on the Chow Chow or Shar-Pei. Like their cousins, they also sport a blue-black tongue.
As a working dog, the Chongquing is self-assured and has a tendency to try to dominate. An experienced owner will be required to give the appropriate training. A high level of socialization will be required to allow this dog to interact safely with children and other animals, and in reality, they are probably best not to be housed with smaller children or pets, or with other male dogs. Their dominance, hunting instinct and territorial aggression are too strong to be completely overcome even with socialization.
With a firm and consistent owner and plenty of exercise, this long-lived, proud dog will make an interesting and challenging pet.
#4 – Tibetan Mastiff
The Tibetan Mastiff is true to its primitive roots. Originally used to guard livestock and property in the colder more mountainous regions of China bordering the Himalayas, the Mastiff is now a popular pet.
A real head-turner, the Tibetan Mastiff is a large dog, with a long coat and beautiful tail. It’s important to realize though, that the puppy that looks like a fluffy teddy-bear will grow into a huge 26-inch-tall dog weighing between 75 and 160 pounds and requiring a good deal of space, feeding and exercise.
While they can be very wary of strangers, they are loving and loyal to their human families. Gentle and patient, this breed has a long history of cooperation with humans and can read your intentions very well. Unfortunately, they are also stubborn and independent and won’t always do what you want.
In addition, although they get on well with children in their own family, they are often intolerant of other children (or adults) coming to play. They can become extremely territorial, not only of the home and garden, but also of a regular walking route, so it’s a good idea to vary your walks and not to allow your dog to take over the garden.
Socialization is crucial to begin to break down the suspicion in this wary breed.
#5 – Pug
One of the world’s oldest breeds, the Pug is believed to have originated in China around 400 BC. Throughout the centuries, they have often been kept as companions to Buddhist monks living in Tibet. There is some disagreement over heritage, with some believing that the Pug and the Pekingese are related, and others believing they are the ancestors of bulldogs and mastiffs.
A Compact and sturdy little breed, the Pug weighs between 14 and 18 pounds and is around 10 to 13 inches tall. Their black or fawn coats are short and smooth. One of the distinctive features of the Pug is the slightly bulging eyes in the wrinkly face, which make them look as though they are looking at you adoringly. They have short legs and a curled up tail.
The Pug makes a great family pet. They have a sweet and friendly demeanor and are playful and love to show off in company. While they can be a little stubborn, in general their affectionate nature and willingness to get along with everybody makes them a great choice for a novice pet owner or those with young children.
The Pug doesn’t like to be left alone for long periods, so if you’re out at work, you should consider putting them in day-care or getting a dog-walker to take them out during the day. They also find it difficult to cope in especially hot and humid conditions, so take care in warm climates or during the summer.
If you are looking for a great family pet with a lot of comic character and a big heart, then the Pug is a breed you should consider.
#6 – Pekingese
The Pekingese (sometimes called Pekes, Lion Dogs or Sun Dogs) appear often in Chinese folklore and have been kept as companion pets by Chinese nobility for thousands of years. One story says that they emerged after Buddha shrunk a lion down to the size of a small dog, but it seems more likely that they are the result of breeding between a large dog and a toy-sized dog.
Weighing in at up to 14 pounds and standing between six and nine inches, these compact, stocky little dogs with a snub nose are covered with a luxurious double-coat of thick, fur and lion-like mane of many different colors from gold, sable and red through to grey, black, tan or cream.
These loving little animals bond well with their owners and can be absolutely delightful. However, they are also quite courageous, stubborn and independent and are possessive over objects, a favorite chair, and their favorite person. This can lead to aggression towards others who get too close, especially other animals or children.
The abundant coat of the Pekingese needs abundant care, so if you aren’t prepared to spend considerable time grooming, this may not be the pet for you. The wrinkles on their face also needs considerable care to avoid fungal infection in the folds. They do not tolerate heat very well and care also needs to be taken with their diet, as they have a tendency to overeat.
If you are looking for a character to live with, full of heart but with an independent streak, and you enjoy grooming and caring for your pet, then the Pekingese may be the dog for you.
#7 – Shih Tzu
Originally from Tibet, this is another dog treasured by the Chinese nobility for centuries. The Shih Tzu has been crowned the noble dog of China. Traced back to ancient dog breeds, you’d be surprised to find that this little lap-dog is genetically closer to the wild wolf than many other breeds.
The name Shih Tzu comes from the Chinese for “little lion” and they do have some lion-like qualities to their appearance despite their tiny size. In fact, the Shih Tzu stands only 8-11 inches tall and weighs less than 16 pounds.
These attractive little dogs are surprisingly sturdy, with a flattened face and long double coat with lots of color variations. The most sought after is black and white with a white tuft on their forehead and another on the tip of their tail.
The Shih Tzu is a little tiny dog with a huge personality. Their playful, friendly character makes them a joy to spend time with, and they will happily make friends wherever they go.
However, they will certainly let you know if they think their family is being threatened. Their aggressive stance and loud barking make them a great watchdog, even if, due to their diminutive stature, they are unlikely to inflict damage on an intruder.
The Shih Tzu needs a lot of grooming to take care of that long, abundant fur. They also don’t do well in very hot weather.
If you’re looking for a dog that will follow you adoringly around the house, then the Shih Tzu may be perfect for you.
#8 – Chinese Crested
The early origins of the Chinese Crested dog are very hazy, though it’s assumed that hairless dogs from Africa bred with the tiny toy dogs in China. They were certainly used in the past for hunting vermin on Chinese trading vessels.
The Chinese Crested dog has a striking and unusual appearance. They are almost completely hairless (from a genetic mutation), possessing fur only on their face, tail and ankles. They have a delicate appearance and are small – only 11-13 inches tall and 8-12 pounds in weight.
It’s worth noting here that there is a genetically recessive “Powderpuff” variety with a full coat, and these may be found in a litter with the Hairless variety.
The Chinese Crested is a very chilled out dog. They don’t have much desire for exercise and will lay on the sofa or in bed with you for hours quite happily, despite being pretty athletic when they want to be. They bond quickly within the pack and will follow you around all day, but they don’t accept strangers easily.
Contrary to popular opinion, no lotions, creams or sunblock needs to be put on the Chinese Crested’s skin. It does better without. However, it does need to be bathed every couple of weeks. This breed has a very high tolerance for high temperatures and sun and drinks little but does not do very well in cold temperatures at all.
If you are looking for a devoted companion to spend every moment with you, then the Chinese Crested would be a good option.
#9 – Xiasi Quan
A lean and muscular hunting dog hailing from the Guizhou Province of China about a thousand years ago, the Xiasi Quan (usually called the Xiasi) also owes much popularity to the belief that owning one can bring wealth. Sadly, numbers have dwindled to the point that they are facing possible extinction.
Strong and muscular, this middle-sized dog has powerful legs and well-padded paws. They are between 17 and 20 inches tall and weigh between 22 and 60 pounds. They have a large face with pointed ears and have a short and wiry white coat.
An intelligent, affectionate and loyal dog, the Xiasi is a great potential family pet. They are widely kept as a hunting dog and have also been used for guard dogs in the past as they are easy to train, have great stamina and have a good sense of smell.
While they get on well with families and other dogs, they should be kept on a leash when out walking, and not kept with smaller pets, as they do still have a very strong prey instinct and may take the notion to go hunting.
A weekly brush and occasional bath should be adequate to keep the wiry coat looking good. The Xiasi does need a lot of exercise though. They would really enjoy running with you or a good long daily walk as a minimum.
If you’re looking for an active and intelligent dog then the Xiasi would be a great option.
#10 – Kunming Wolfdog
Like their relatives, the German Shepherds, the Kunming Wolfdog is very intelligent and is often trained for military assistance, search and rescue or fire dogs tasks. The breed was created in the 1950s for military purposes. They incorporated 10 “wolfdogs” from Beijing, 20 dogs of various breeds from households, and 10 German Shepherds.
They are widely used in the military and police in China and are also in use as civilian guard dogs. Although they make good pets, they are not often kept as companion dogs.
The Kunming Wolfdog is often mistaken for a German Shepherd, sharing many physical characteristics. However, the Kunming stands slightly taller in the back and has a shorter coat. Like the German Shepherd, the double-coat is black and gold, with a black saddle and muzzle.
Standing between 25 and 27 inches and weighing between 65 and 85 pounds this is a large, strong and powerful dog. Despite this, they are easy-going companions and can get along with children and other pets. They are always happiest with a task to perform.
The main things the Kunming Wolfdog needs are a lot of good and strenuous exercise, and firm and consistent training to ensure that they know who is in charge.
If you’re looking for an intelligent dog who will be keen to work for his living, then the Kunming Wolfdog may be the breed for you.
Other Chinese Dog Breeds to consider
There are some other Chinese breeds that you may wish to find out more about:
- Japanese Chin – a toy dog popular among Japanese nobility, it is actually believed to originate in China. Cat-like, calm and affectionate. Small, (8 – 11 inches)
- Formosan Mountain Dog (Tuguo) – a small to midsize dog from Taiwan. These dogs are often considered wild, but are kept for hunting, guard dogs, rescue dogs and sometimes family dogs today.
- Lhasa Apso – also originally from Tibet – has a long coat. Independent but love to be petted. Were often considered symbols of good luck and Tibetan monks would gift them to high officials from other nations.
Wrapping Up: Which Chinese Dog Breed is Right for You?
As you can see, China has more to offer the dog world than the Pug and Pekingese. There are dogs for every family and situation and these characterful canines are well worth a closer look when you are choosing a dog for your family.
Check out these other great posts!
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.