The Chinese Shar Pei: A Most Visually Distinctive Breed!
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- Hudson, OH
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A Self-Grooming, Meticulous Dog,
Easily Trained to be Devoted Pets
With its deeply folded skin, erect and curved tail, and very rough coat, the Shar Pei (meaning "sandy coat") is one of the most visually distinctive dog breeds available today. The American Kennel Club even refers to the Shar Pei’s head as having a "hippopotamus" shape. The history of this unusual dog may possibly extend back two thousand years. Shards of ancient Chinese pottery show pictures of a dog remarkably similar to the modern Shar Pei, and a second-century statue in Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts as well as small pieces in other museums also bear a strong resemblance. In support of the antiquity of this breed is a 2004 article published in Science Magazine (“Genetic Structure of the Purebred Domestic Dog”), revealing that the Shar Pei is one of only four basic types of dog that were bred originally from wolves .
Believed to have originated in Quandong province of China, the Shar Pei was bred to serve as an all purpose farm dog, able to herd, track, catch rats, and function as a reliable watchdog . Continued modern breeding has resulted in a strong, intelligent, intensely loyal, and protective animal.
The Shar Pei breed was not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1991.
An Excellent Family Companion
Although generally not friendly to strangers, with early training the Shar Pei can become a very devoted family pet. They learn quickly, though they are sometimes characterized as stubborn. They are tenacious guardians of the home, can be house-trained easily, and require very little hygienic care because they are meticulous in self-grooming. As puppies, Shar Peis are the model of "cute and cuddly" and their unusual appearance attracts attention even as adults.
The Shar Pei is a medium-size dog, 18 to 20 inches tall at the withers and weighing between 45 and 60 pounds as an adult, with males typically being larger and more square-bodied. Both sexes have relatively large heads that they carry erectly, based on a full neck. Chinese breeders refer to the shape of the Shar Pei head as "calabash." Their ears are quite small in comparison to the size of the head and lie flat. Eyes tend to be quite small, dark, and deeply set, giving the adult dog a slightly menacing appearance that may have contributed to their value as guard dogs on the farm. This is enhanced by a combination of keen eyesight and sense of smell. The Shar Pei’s coat colors vary widely but, as show dogs, only solid colors with some degree of shading are acceptable.
As noted above, the coat is one of this dog’s most distinctive features, standing completely erect and stiff in the main trunk of the body, while the skin appears to be very loose and amply folded, particularly as puppies. In the mature animal, most of these folds or wrinkles can be confined to the head, neck, and withers.
Behavior and Temperament The Shar Pei has been described as: dignified; calm and confident; regal; alert; intelligent; dignified; lordly; scowling; sober and snobbish; essentially independent; a bit arrogant and somewhat standoffish with strangers; but extreme in its devotion to its own family. The Shar Pei can also exhibit behavior characterized by some as "clownish."
Because of the breed’s hooded eyes, the Shar Pei has limited peripheral vision. As a consequence, they do not like to be approached closely from the side, and typically will shy away.
They easily become attached to both the home and the family and, although they enjoy both indoor and outdoor life, do not tend to stray. Described as "people dogs,” reflecting their preference for human companionship over other dogs, they have a very strong sense of dominance. As a result, it is important to begin training when the puppy is about 6 months old, continuing until the Shar Pei is properly socialized, in order to avoid fights with other breeds.
When taught its proper place in the household as a puppy, the Shar Pei can become a dedicated companion and an excellent playmate for children.
Health Issues Typically, a Chinese Shar Pei will live from about 8 to 12 years, but a longevity of well past 10 years is not uncommon. One breeder reports that his oldest Shar Pei lived to be 17. Curiously, typical wrinkles on the head of a Shar Pei resemble the Chinese character for "longevity."
A long history of breeding unfortunately has resulted in a variety of health issues in this otherwise attractive dog. These include eyelid malformations, a condition called entropion, which can cause irritation to the eye and eventually ulceration. This condition can be relieved through surgery. Very small ear canals and folded ear flaps can result in infections, making frequent ear cleaning an important aspect of hygiene. The folded skin makes the Shar Pei susceptible to skin infections and mange, but these are readily avoided by regular bathing.
Signs of High Intelligence In addition to its quickness in training for household purposes, the Shar Pei has frequently found acting work in television and movies because of its innate ability to follow direction. As a result, the Shar Pei has been featured in numerous venues, including appearances in:
• The long-running TV show "Lost", as Bpo Bpo ("a kiss"), the pet of the Korean character named Sun Kwon.
• Ghostbusters II
• The Billon Dollar Hobo
• Hong Kong TVB comedy shows, as Popeye
• Big Brother reality show, as Zac Lichman’s pet
• Music videos from the Korean hip-hop group Big Bang
• An advertisement for an anti-wrinkle cream on British television
• The UK TV version of Creature Comforts
Various cartoon shows, movies, and comic strips that include:
• The Simpsons
• American Dragon
• Get Fuzzy
• Australian television commercials for Purex toilet tissue
A Popular Canine Companion
Today the Shar Pei has become one of the most popular breeds in America, and can be seen in the company of many celebrities, such as Kimmy Gibbler of "Full House"; New Kids on the Block member Jonathan Knight; Burt Reynolds; William Shatner; Yul Brynner; David Beckham; Wayne Newton; Andy Gibb; Joanna Carson; Ray Liotta; the Argentinean soccer star Maradona; and the king of Morocco.
The colors of the Chinese Shar-Pei are cream, fawn, red, and black.
The Shar-Pei is a moderately active indoor dog so some space indoors is required. They will however adjust to an apartment style environment if they are taken outdoors to exercise enough. They are happier and more content indoors when they have received enough exercise outdoors. Because of their large padded head, they are very sensitive to the heat and therefore water and shade is necessary for them when being taken outdoors to exercise.
CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR
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