Chinese Shar Pei

A Quick Look at the Chinese Shar Pei…

The Chinese Shar Pei, commonly known as the Shar Pei, is an ancient breed of dog that originated 2,000 years ago in China. He has a very distinct appearance, as his face and body are covered in deep wrinkles, and he has a rather unique hippopotamus-like head shape.

Shar Peis are independent canines who have a strong bond with their family and can develop unwavering loyalty to their owner. He is intelligent, confident, dignified, sensible and always ready for anything. He is very protective of his home and is wary and cautious of outsiders, making him a very good watchdog, guard dog, and a brave companion.

Here are some fast facts about the Shar Pei:

Dog Group:
Non-Sporting (AKC)
Recognized By:
Dogs – 55 - 65 lbs. (25 - 30 kg.)
Bitches – 40 - 55 lbs (18 - 25 kg)
Dogs - 18 - 20 in. (46 - 51 cm)
Bitches – 18 - 20 in. (46 - 51 cm)
Average litter size:
4 - 6 puppies
Life expectancy:
12 years (average of 9 - 15 years)
Health problems:
Coat care:
Exercise needs:
Suitable for children:
Pet compatibility:
Barking frequency:

Brief History

The Chinese Shar Pei is an ancient Chinese dog that is believed to have existed since as far back as 206 BC. Though their ancestry is uncertain, some researchers think that the breed may be a descendant of the Chow Chow, but the only obvious link between the two breeds is their purple tongue. The name "Shar Pei" means sandy coat. The Chinese believed that the wrinkles and black pigmented scowling mouth of the dog would scare off evil spirits.

Originally, these pooches were used as farm dogs for multipurpose work, including tracking, hunting, ratting, herding, protecting live stock, as well as to guard the family and home. They were sometimes used in dog fighting events as their prickly coat gave them a good advantage.

Though they were a popular breed in China for many years, their population dramatically declined during the Communist Revolution. In an effort to save the bred, Matgo Law, a Hong Kong business man, introduced the breed to the United States, and there was plenty of interest in the Shar Pei. It was not long before this canine became a favorite among American dog lovers. They were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992.

Shar Pei Breed Appearance and Characteristics

General Appearance - Shar Peis are medium sized dogs. They feature a square profile and have a broad and flat head that has a hippopotamus shape to it. They have a padded, full and wide muzzle with a moderate stop. Their tongues are a blue-black (or purple) color. Their eyes are dark (sometimes lighter if the coat is a diluted color), almond-shaped, small and sunken. Their ears are set high, are very small and slightly rounded at the tips, giving them a triangular look. The tail has a thick base and tapers to a slim point, and is carried incredibly high.

The skin on the body of the Shar Pei is very wrinkly when they are puppies, but they lose many of their wrinkles as they age. Adult Shar Peis may be heavily wrinkled with large heads, or may have tighter skin with very few crinkles and smaller heads.

The Shar Pei has three coat varieties - Horse Coat, Brush Coat and a Bear Coat (very rare and not recognized by the AKC). The coat is very harsh and rough to the touch. The fur is completely straight and off standing and does not exceed 1 inch. The Horse Coat is the shortest and feels rather prickly, while the Brush Coat hair is slightly longer and feels smoother. The Bear Coat consists of an undercoat and topcoat that is longer than 1 inch. Shar Pei coats can be all solid colors and sables. Solid color dogs may have darker shading on their ears and down their back, and may have a dark muzzle.

Typical Temperament - Shar Peis are brave, intelligent, dignified, regal and alert. They are excellent watchdogs and guard dogs, highly protective of their family and home. They are slightly standoffish and reserved with strangers, but should not be naturally aggressive towards people. He is very devoted to his pack, enjoys their company, but is also independent.

This breed can be very good with children if they are properly socialized with kids at a young age. The same is true of cats. However, this pooch does not always get along well with other dogs and can be very aggressive towards his fellow canines. In many situations the compatibility with other pets is dependant on the individual dog. Nevertheless, early socialization, obedience training, and a confident owner is key to the overall success of a Shar Pei achieving a good temperament.

Basic Shar Pei Requirements

Grooming - A naturally clean dog, the Shar-Pei should be brushed daily to move natural oils through the coat to help keep it shiny, healthy and free of excess hair and dirt. Their coat does not require trimming and sheds very little year round. They should only be bathed every few months to avoid drying out the skin.

The folds of the skin on the face and body need to be cleaned on a regular basis and should be checked and wiped with a damp wash cloth to remove any dirt to prevent infection. Wrinkles should also be kept dry to avoid trapped moisture, which can be a breeding ground for bacteria. In addition, eyes should be checked everyday for discharge, nails need to be trimmed on a monthly basis and teeth brushed every few days.

Exercise - Shar Peis require a minimum of a daily walk that is 10 -20 minutes long. They will happily engage in just about any form of exercise and should be given the freedom to run off leash whenever possible. This breed does not like water and will not typically enjoy swimming. They are also sensitive to heat and should not be over-exercised in extreme temperatures.

Approximate Food Cost - The Shar Pei will, on average, eat about 3 to 3 ½ cups of regular dry dog food every day, depending on the recommendation of the veterinarian who will take into account weight, age, activity level, health, and other elements of the dog’s condition. On a monthly basis, this quantity of food should cost around $25 to $30, depending on the brand of dog food and the store at which it is purchased.

General Health Information

The Shar Pei is prone to certain illnesses including eye problems (i.e. entropion), skin issues, hip dysplasia and kidney failure (renal amlyoidosis), which can cause fever, as well as swollen hocks syndrome. It is important to note that while many people are under the impression that Shar Peis are prone to skin problems because of their winkles, this is not always true. In fact, in most cases, dogs that have skin issues have developed them due to a hereditary condition. Thus, it is important that you obtain your pet from a reputable breeder who tests for genetic illnesses and breeds healthy lines.

Common Illnesses include: Entropion, skin problems, heat sensitivity, hip dysplasia and renal amlyoidosis.

Are You the Right Shar Pei Owner?

Living conditions - The Shar-Pei is relatively active indoors and does not need a yard to be happy, as long as he is sufficiently exercised and taken on a daily walk. Therefore, this breed is suitable to apartment living when provided with the necessary exercise and the occasional freedom to run around off lead in a safe environment.

Note: remember that he is sensitive to hot temperatures (wrinkles can hold in heat) and needs to be provided with cool shaded areas and water when outdoors.

Training - A very smart dog, the Chinese Shar Pei needs a confident handler. Owners cannot be perceived by the dog to be inconsistent, uncertain, meek or mild, or their pet will attempt to take over the role as leader of the pack, which can lead to many behavioral problems. This pooch responds well to firm and consistent training, and needs to be clearly shown his place in your pack. He is a very independent breed and can be bold and stubborn if not given clear instructions. He must be well socialized as a puppy and provided with solid obedience training. Shar Peis excel at conformation, obedience, tracking and agility.

Common Problems - The Shar Pei has a strong personality and a stubborn protective nature. Owners who do not know how to treat the breed will find themselves with a very bossy pet that will attempt to rule his family. Socialization, obedience and a daily walk is a must to help prevent negative behavioral issues from developing. Some Shar Peis are prone to slobbering.

The bottom line...

A noble, bold and often stubborn breed of dog, the Shar Pei is not a mild canine. He is intelligent, alert and incredibly loyal to his family. His wrinkles must be well looked after. He requires a strong and self-assured owner who knows how to handle him, and provide him with the training and socialization he needs to develop into the beautiful dog that has managed to survive for thousands of years.

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