Peruvian Inca Orchid: Dog Breed Characteristics & Care

History, Care Tips, and Helpful Information for Pet Owners

Hairless Peruvian Inca Orchid dog standing in grass.

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The Peruvian Inca orchid is in a class of its own when it comes to dog breeds. The breed, sometimes abbreviated to the nickname of PIO or flower dog, spans the spectrum in terms of size with some pups standing small and others much larger. It's known for its usually (but not always) totally hairless body and elegant, slim build. The Peruvian Inca orchid exhibits some features that are similar to other breeds—particularly whippets and greyhounds—and some characteristics that are all of its own.

Breed Overview

GROUP: Miscellaneous (AKC)

HEIGHT: 9.75 to 25.75 inches

WEIGHT: 8.5 to 55 pounds

COAT: Hairless, very rare tufts of hair in spots

COAT COLOR: Any skin color; pink, black, brown, white, gray (coated)

LIFE SPAN: 10 to 12 years

TEMPERAMENT: Intelligent, noble, alert, affectionate, lively, protective



Characteristics of the Peruvian Inca Orchid

What this breed tends to lack in fur, however, the Peruvian Inca orchid makes up for in personality. These flower dogs are affectionate, adaptable, athletic, and make lively and interesting pets.

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly Medium
Exercise Needs Medium
Playfulness Medium-Low
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium-High
Tendency to Bark High
Amount of Shedding Low

History of the Peruvian Inca Orchid

As you might expect from their name, the Peruvian Inca orchid has a long and storied history, and might just be one of the earliest domesticated dog breeds known to humans. Early depictions of the Peruvian Inca orchid can be found in pottery dating back to 750 A.D., with pieces dedicated to the breed found among relics from the Incas, Chancay, and Chimu, all three of which were based in Peru.

Perhaps because of their standout looks, the Peruvian Inca orchid was lauded among ancient Peruvian tribes not just as a loyal animal companion but as a provider of healing properties (though on the latter point, it really does appear that the breed was a close companion to the tribespeople—some pottery depictions of Peruvian Inca orchids even show them wearing sweaters!). Among the Chimu, the urine and feces of Peruvian Inca orchids were used in medicine, while the dogs themselves were thought to bring good health, and even to help treat conditions like arthritis.

The Peruvian Inca orchids of the ancient Peruvian tribes were small in size. However, that changed when the Spanish conquered Peru and began to breed the small Peruvian Inca orchids with their own, larger breeds. The result was the range of sizes seen in the breed today.

Unfortunately, the Peruvian Inca orchid wasn’t always as celebrated as they were with the Incan, Chancay, and Chimu people. While they fared well in certain communities, they were viewed in urban areas to be diseased, largely due to their hairless features. Many did continue to have affection for them however, including an American named Jack Walklin, who in 1966 brought eight Peruvian Inca orchids back home with him following a visit to Peru. The breed name is credited to Walklin, as is the growth of popularity the breed experienced throughout the U.S. and Europe.

In 2001, the Peruvian government officially declared the Peruvian Inca orchid (referred to more often there as a Peruvian hairless dog) a National Patrimony, and the breed is now protected throughout the country. 

Peruvian Inca Orchid Care

The Peruvian Inca orchid may be a medium-energy dog, but the breed still requires plenty of daily exercise and grooming to be at its best. Supervise your PIO around dogs, cats, and small children before you leave them alone together.


The PIO is a good apartment dog and takes well to indoor playtime and prefers a nice daily walk of 20 to 30 minutes. It also enjoys sports like lure coursing and agility, which is a great way to provide mental exercise in addition to physical.

Be careful to not walk your PIO in harsh, direct sunlight. This hairless dog cannot tolerate much direct sunlight. That's why it has other nicknames, including moon dog or moonflower dog, because this breed is best exercised when the sun is weakest.


You won’t have to worry about regular brushings with a Peruvian Inca orchid, though other steps are needed to protect and care for the dog's exposed skin. This includes the occasional bath, as well as sunscreen before heading outside and regular moisturizing when it's inside. Other good grooming practices to follow include monthly nail trims, as well as weekly ear cleanings and teeth brushing at least five days a week. If your Peruvian Inca orchid has a bit of hair, add a semi-regular brushing to the mix, too. 


Caretakers need to dedicate time and patience to train their Peruvian Inca orchid, since the breed is both intelligent (read: stubborn) and difficult to socialize. Early socialization training is key for a well-balanced adult, and aggressive play is discouraged in the Peruvian Inca orchid’s puppyhood since this can lead to bad behaviors later on. Engage in plenty of positive reinforcement training.

Grey Peruvian Inca Orchid cuddled up in white blanket.
Gustavo Ramirez / Getty Images
Dark gray Peruvian Inca Orchid standing in field in a blue harness.
Gustavo Ramirez / Getty Images
Light brown Peruvian Inca Orchid chewing on yellow toy on couch.
Максим Пеков  Максим Пеков / Getty Images

Common Health Problems

Peruvian Inca orchids are quite healthy dogs, with no known propensity for many genetic illnesses. However, all pure-bred dogs are prone to certain health conditions, and it’s important to know what to look out for.

Health conditions that are more common in the hairless variety of Peruvian Inca orchids include:

  • Teeth Issues: The hairless PIO always has an incomplete set of teeth as a genetic trait, which makes it very important that your dog receives proper dental care.
  • Skin Issues: You may see blackheads, acne, dry skin, lots of minor wounds, or lesions on the PIO's hairless PIO skin.
  • Epilepsy: Peruvian Inca orchids may experience epilepsy, which can result in seizures when the brain is overactive.
  • Irritable Bowel Disease: Inflammation undermines the intestines to properly digest and absorb nutrients, leading to malabsorption and general signs of gastrointestinal upset.

If buying a Peruvian Inca orchid from a breeder, ask if any of these issues have been witnessed in the breed line. Most health problems associated with PIOs are treatable and/or manageable, but it’s good to know what you might be able to expect.

Diet and Nutrition

The nutritional needs of Peruvian Inca orchids are the same as they are for most dogs, with the breed doing best on a high-quality diet with plenty of protein. Feel free to give your PIO plenty of healthy treats, but keep them small if you notice any weight gain. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions or notice that your dog is gaining too much weight.

Where to Adopt or Buy a Peruvian Inca Orchid

Flower dogs are rare, so you may not readily find one in a rescue situation, but it's not impossible. We always recommend looking at adoption first. If you happen to find a breeder of this dog (there are only a small handful in the U.S.), expect to pay between $2,000 to $4,000 per puppy. Start your search via these breed-specific sites:

If you do choose to purchase through a breeder, be sure to do your research and only work with someone who is reputable and takes excellent care of their dogs.

Peruvian Inca Orchid Overview

  • Good fit for apartments

  • Affectionate and loyal

  • Social and like to be around their people

  • Not inherently friendly to dogs, cats, or kids

  • Require specialized grooming care

  • Aren’t particularly fond of strangers

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

The hypoallergenic PIO may seem like an ideal choice, but it may be tough to find one. There is a perfect dog out there for everybody. If you’re interested in this breed, check out these similar dogs:

There’s a whole world of potential dog breeds out there—with a little research, you can find the right one to bring home!

  • Why is this dog breed named after an orchid?

    Though no one knows for certain, it's speculated that when Spanish conquistadors invaded Peru in the 1500s, they also found this breed either near caves where wild orchids grew. The breed was also found leading pampered lives in the homes of Peruvian nobility, allegedly lounging among orchids to keep the dogs happy.

  • Does the PIO have a higher skin temperature than other dog breeds?

    Not really. The AKC notes that the internal and external temperatures of PIOs have been checked and the numbers are the same as other breeds. PIOs feel warmer to the touch because they do not have hair and you can directly sense the heat on the skin. A dog's coat will naturally withhold heat, and then filters it through coat hairs, making a furred dog feel cooler to the touch.

  • Is the PIO a good choice for a first-time dog owner?

    It could be a good dog for a first-time owner since it's affectionate and not aggressive. However, experts highly recommend that novice dog owners do not choose the PIO as their first dog. Taking care of a hairless dog can be tricky; You will need to be very attuned to your dog's sensitivities, which comes from experience owning other dogs. The breed also tends to bark excessively, which can fluster some new dog owners.