From the moment, 34 years ago, I laid eyes on my very first Pekingese I was hooked on the breed. My heart never saw the long back, high-on-leg, lack of coat, obviously 'pet quality', little creature who stood below me. She captivated me with Pekingese personality; personality neither duplicated nor matched by any other breed.
For 20 years I successfully bred, and personally showed, Champion Quarter Horses. One very special gelding earned a Youth World Championship, a National Youth High-Point Award and was a Quarter Horse Congress Winner. After developing back problems, I decided to step out of the saddle. My competitive spirit and interest were tucked away...but not very far.
Pekingese were a constant in my life but they allowed for other breeds to share the household. With my competitive spirit slowly creeping back to the forefront I sought an outlet. With our first Australian Shepherd we enrolled in an Obedience school. Unfortunately this school taught the old ‘Do-It-Now’ training method. Even though an Aussie can generally tolerate this type of training, the classes were not enjoyable for either one of us. In search of an alternative a good friend of mine, a breeder of Labrador Retrievers, began training for competitive Obedience and asked me to come along. How much fun she and her dogs had in this new school! The methods were positive and the rewards were evident. Watching the classes at this new school I thought to myself “My Peke can do that!” even though everyone told me that Pekingese do not do well in Obedience. Perhaps that stubborn, indomitable personality I initially found so unique and endearing pushed me forward to pursue a new dream.
With six Pekingese lined up looking at me with wide-eyed “What are you thinking?” stares on their faces I began working Obedience with all of them. I could not believe how quickly some of the Pekes responded to commands. As expected, living up to their reputations, there were a few who looked at me as if to say “Why don’t you do it?” when I asked them to sit. A new catch phrase was born…Pekingese mind games!
Moving forward, literally, I talked with good friend Patty Sacco, Woodland Shores Pekingese, ROM. Patty has always been a constant flow of friendship and support in my love of the breed. During one of our frequent conversations, this one prophetic, I conveyed my desire to work Obedience with a Pekingese. We agreed to keep an eye out for a special Peke puppy, one with an upbeat personality. My goal was to show not only in Obedience but also in the newly formed, and AKC recognized, Rally Obedience. Patty had recently bred Woodland Shores Gator to CH Taibel Dancing Dante. Out of that litter sprang a puppy that fit our need for personality and breed type. Woodland Shores Izod, my ‘designer’ alligator, was coming home to join the family and begin his training.
Woodland Shores Izod CD, RE, CGC
Izod’s personality has always been a happy one. At Izod’s first Obedience class everyone was surprised by his willingness to learn and his ability to excel. Of course we would work hard during the week. On class night we were able to show off to the others, those doubting Thomas’ who thought a Pekingese never could do what Izod did. Izod loved the attention and the envy of the other dogs. Zoddy, as he is known at home, left nay Sayers in the dust.
Some exercises came easily; others required more concentration for Izod. If an exercise was not performed correctly it was from lack of understanding. With a little more reinforcement and instruction the way became clear. Izod was succeeding!
At one point in our training I pushed a little too hard. At the time I was showing in a Rally Obedience class. The activity was one Izod reliably performed well. I became frustrated when Izod didn't do what I asked. I pushed. Izod sat. For a few definitive moments Izod did not move. Then slowly he walked away. I followed, picked him up and excused myself from the class. For the next month Izod totally shut down, waiting for me to get his message to shape up or he was shipping out. When Izod’s message finally sunk in, a hard lesson learned, we slowly began again. Fun and connectiveness became the operative words. Izod and I were friends again, ready to work towards a common goal.
Speaking of dumbbell…
Dumbbell training was the most difficult for both of us. Several months passed before Izod would deign to take the dumbbell in his mouth. Almost a year passed before Izod would retrieve the dumbbell. (During this time we succeeded in earning three Rally titles, all the way to Rally Excellent.)
Exactly what was the reason I wanted him to place this wooden ‘thing’ in his mouth? And why, once in his mouth, should he continue to carry it? In Izod’s mind, an inquisitive, ‘give me a reason, Mom’, Pekingese mind, there was no legitimate point. Only with patience on our parts, treats, different learning techniques and trust did Izod finally find his reason. He did it for me.
I made a huge deal about the first time Izod took the dumbbell from me. The understanding look he gave me will always be remembered. Izod seemed to say, “Now I understand what you want me to do. As a Pekingese I may not agree that this is important but if it makes you happy, then OK.” Had Izod been a cartoon appearing in the local Sunday paper a bright light bulb would have been sketched over his head. A few weeks later during a class I stood talking to another exhibitor. Izod picked up his dumbbell and bounced back and forth over the jump. He was showing off. Perseverance, and love, paid off.
Training the Pekingese to Train You
Pekingese have a natural ‘attitude’; it is as genetic as their snub noses, bowed fronts, and heavy coats. This attitude can work for you and against you. In training Pekingese a person cannot use many traditional methods. Finding a trainer who understands the quirks and intricacies of Pekingese is paramount to success.
Obedience components are best taught in small increments over short time spans. Lack of stamina, in some Pekes, prohibits long stretches of training. Regardless of structure, Pekingese personality will always surface. Be prepared to sweet talk them unto understanding ‘why’.
Once the Pekingese is convinced of the ‘why’ prepare for the ‘how’. If you have human back issues begin training the basic commands, ‘Sit’, ‘Down’, on a waist-high table. Pekes are not noted for being high energy with perpetual motion. Pekes do not hunt rats, retrieve ducks from water or corral the errant sheep. But they do think, desire to please and show their love by carrying blocks of wood in their mouths. Pekingese have a more human way of approaching the challenges of training. They like to think they are training you. Ask them to comply and perhaps they will. Order them and you’ll walk the heeling pattern by yourself.
Rally To Obedience
Thinking about a way to spend more time with your Pekingese? Away from the couch and TV? Rally Obedience is a great place to start. Conformation stresses the slow, rolling gait. Rally Obedience allows even the most conformationally sound Pekingese to compete and show the 'movability' that comes with soundness.
Obedience, especially the Rally division, offers the novice a supportive and encouraging network throughout the world. Rally is designed for constant communication between handler and Peke during the exercises. The handler is permitted to talk with the dog, an integral part of keeping a Peke engaged in the current activity. With an understanding trainer, support and verbal connection a person can enjoy hours of fun and satisfaction.
When training reaches a desired level, you and your Peke can enter the show ring. Izod and I did. Pekingese, among the Working, Sporting, Herding and other Toy breeds, bring smiles to the faces of judges and spectators alike.
Although there are not many Pekingese in Obedience and Rally there are those individuals across the US and Canada with outstanding credentials. These individuals have achieved both Conformation and working titles on their Pekingese. The AKC recognized titles range from CDs (Companion Dog), to UDs (Utility Dog), to REs (Rally Excellent); an extraordinary feat. Spanning thousands of miles these competitors are willing to help one another sharing tips and insights, which prove invaluable to novices and veterans alike.
As for my personal trainer, I have been so very fortunate to be in an area of the country that has the perfect trainer for Pekingese. Tibby Chase not only trains her own Obedience and Rally titled dogs but is also a licensed AKC Obedience Judge. Her knowledge of AKC regulations instills each student with the finest of skills to take with them to each level of competition. Tibby adjusts her class instruction for each breed and temperament. Using positive reinforcement, Tibby has a long following of students. As for the training of Pekingese, Izod and I could not be in better hands.
Toy-ing in Obedience
A few of the Toy breeds are put at a distinct disadvantage by the current AKC regulations regarding jump heights in Rally and Obedience. Breeds measuring 8” or less who compete in Rally Advanced and Excellent are required to clear an 8” high jump in addition to the occasional 16" broad jump. Breeds measuring 12 1/2” or less who compete in Obedience Open and Utility must clear a required 8” high jump and 16” broad jump. Some Toy breeds cannot physically clear those heights and widths. My Woodland Shores Tiny Ballerina RN, CGC, measures 6” at her shoulders. Tamarack is a six-pound sleeve Pekingese who exhibits the ideal breed standard of bowed front legs and heavy front end. She cannot even see over an 8” bar let alone jump it. Many Toy breeders and handlers have approached the AKC to lower jump heights thereby allowing Toy breeds to compete on equal footing in both Rally and Obedience. At this time the AKC is seriously considering the proposal for change. The Toy competitors greatly appreciate the AKC’s attention to our concerns.
I am certain, as the word spreads of the increasing success in Obedience and Rally, Pekingese across the Continent will be asked to hop off their fluffy cushions and take up the cause. By competing in these venues Pekingese will show another positive side to this marvelous breed.
No longer will Pekingese be seen as ‘do nothings’. Pekingese are not only beautiful in the eyes of their owners they can maximize their attitudes to compete with best of the Obedience breeds.
Pat and Dan D'Arcy