Chinese Shar-Pei

Wrinkled, elegant, and loyal - the ancient dogs of China

Chinese Shar-Pei

By Toni Grzunov - Last updated on May 18th, 2021

All you need to know about the Chinese Shar-Pei

Shar-Pei! With a name as exotic as this one, surely these dogs must be quite unique? Yes, they are. Starting off with their looks, Shar-Pei pups are unlike any other breed. Known for their wrinkled, folded skin, curved tail, and muzzles that resemble the face of a hippopotamus, these dogs definitely look distinct.

They are also quite intelligent and independent dogs that have a strong desire to please their owners, as well as to keep them safe! These pups are ancient, with a history going as far back as two thousand years. 

These canine companions were bred to be farm dogs. Their assignments included herding, tracking, and working as watchdogs. Nowadays they retain all of those characteristics but are even more intelligent and loyal thanks to modern breeding.

Shar-Peis require a lot of socialization and training, but if you’re up for the task you will be rewarded with a one-of-a-kind pet that will become an amazing friend to you. 

Fast Facts

Group - Non-Sporting

Weight - 40-55 Pounds 

Height - 18-20 Inches 

Hair Length - Short

Shedding - Moderate

Lifespan - 8-12 Years

The Appearance of the Shar-Pei

The unique look of a Shar-Pei with all the folds of skin hides a compact, medium-sized, stocky dog that is constantly alert.

The skin folds around the forehead of the Shar-Pei make it seem as if the dog is constantly frowning. These dogs have extremely small triangular ears when compared to the rest of their body parts. 

The eyes of a Shar-Pei are medium-sized and have an almond shape. The color varies depending on the coat color. Inside of a Shar-Pei’s mouth, you will find large teeth. The mouth itself has the pigmentation of the lips, tongue, and gums, all of which are blue-black.

Shar-Peis have a muscular and lean neck and back. You might find some excess skin around the neck, but between the ears and the shoulders, there will be none most of the time. 

These dogs are usually as long as they are tall, and are generally proportionately built. Their appearance is athletic and muscular. 

Shar-Peis have a short and coarse coat with no undercoat. It feels bristly to the touch. The coat stands erect and stiff over the main body. Males are generally taller than females, but not by much.

As they grow older, Shar-Pei dogs might start to lose their wrinkles, which is a complete contrast to us humans! While some might consider the look of these pups to be somewhat comical, it’s hard to deny that they have a regal stature and an elegant aura to them.

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What colors does a Shar-Pei come in?

According to the breed standard, only solid-colored Shar-Pei pups are allowed on competitions and dog shows. Some shading is allowed but it should be the variation of the body color. The most common colors a Shar-Pei can come in are:

  • Black
  • Red
  • Fawn
  • Cream

However, these dogs can come in basically any color except for white.

All about the Shar-Pei personality

When discussing the temperament of the Shar-Pei, many will often compare it to a cat. These dogs are calm, confident, and dignified. They are regal and always alert, somewhat arrogant, independent, and can be standoffish with strangers.

Still, they are extremely devoted to their families. Sometimes these pups can act a bit goofy which can be entertaining to see.

These dogs have hooded eyes, so their peripheral vision is limited. Because of this, they won’t like being approached from the side. If this happens, expect your Shar-Pei to shy away.

A Shar-Pei will quickly become attached to its home and family. They are often described as “people dogs” meaning they prefer spending time with humans than other dogs. Shar-Peis also have a strong sense of dominance, meaning you should start training your pet as early as possible!

Is a Shar-Pei easy to train?

Shar-Peis can be a bit tricky to train since they can be stubborn and are sometimes too intelligent for their own good. They might start thinking of new ways to do things and you might not like those.

Basic obedience training should be started as early as possible. You should never allow your Shar-Pei to be the boss. 

It needs to be properly socialized, otherwise, it might get into fights with other dogs. This is why you should start with socialization early, while your Shar-Pei is still a pup. Do not wait any longer than when your dog is 6 months old to start with the training and socialization.

If you start early, your Shar-Pei will become the perfect companion for your kids and you. It can be a wonderful playmate for the young ones and will be their companion throughout the years of their growing up.

However, never be hard on your Shar-Pei and always provide it with love, even through training. If you teach your pup with enough love and be consistent, the results will be amazing. These dogs can truly be a joy when taught properly.

You will need to earn the respect of your Shar-Pei, but once you do, these dogs will become extremely loyal and eager to please. These dogs can sense your emotions very well, and once you’ve won them over they will stop at nothing to help you!

How much Grooming does a Shar-Pei need?

Generally speaking, Shar-Pei doesn’t require too much grooming. Still, they can develop problems with their skin, ears, and eyes so you always need to check these areas for changes. Sometimes the smell will give away that there are issues!

Make sure to wipe the coat and paws of your Shar-Pei whenever it plays outside, especially when there’s pollen in the air. These dogs can develop allergies. Other than that, give your pet the occasional bath when you think is necessary. Always make sure to clean between the folds!

You should brush the coat of your Shar-Pei at least once a week. Shar-Peis shed occasionally, but they will blow their coat excessively a few times per year once they’ve become adults. Because of this Shar-Peis are not considered hypoallergenic dogs

Trim the nails of your Shar-Pei pet once or twice a month. If the nails grow too long it even walking can become too painful for your pet. Some dogs will wear off their nails naturally, but most of the time with pets this won’t happen. 

If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor you should trim them. It is best to get your dog used to this early, while it is still young. This way it won’t be a problem later.

One other thing you should introduce to the life of your Shar-Pei as early as possible is dental hygiene. Brush its teeth using a vet-approved doggy toothpaste and start doing it while the dog is still a puppy.

The Living Environment of the Shar-Pei

Shar-Peis have low to moderate exercise needs meaning they will be happy living in an apartment if they can get a walk or two each day. This makes them really good pups for seniors. Naturally, they will also love a house with a backyard and will often make sure to create their territory there.

Bringing a Shar-Pei to the dog park can be tricky if it is not extremely well trained. These dogs can be a bit suspicious of humans who aren’t part of their family. They also aren’t too fond of hanging out with other dogs either.

Still, this doesn’t mean they won’t enjoy engaging in fun activities with you and your family. These dogs will enjoy long walks and hikes, although they can have a strong dislike for water. Sometimes it is even best to avoid walking over puddles.

Shar-Peis will love playing with a frisbee and will engage in agility training or obedience with great enjoyment. One thing to watch out for is taking your Shar-Pei outside during hot weather. Make sure to avoid doing that if it is too hot as they are a brachycephalic breed that is susceptible to heat.

These dogs can live well alongside other dogs or cats if they are introduced to other animals while they are still young. If you bring them to meet an animal for the first time when they are older it can be a bit problematic. If you adopt a grown Shar-Pei you should work with a breeder until you’re used to it.

The Health and Nutrition of the Shar-Pei

Usually, a Shar-Pei will have a lifespan of between 8 and 12 years. They are however prone to certain health conditions, and the list can be a bit longer than usual. 

  • For starters, there are standard elbow and hip dysplasia concerns. These pups can also develop primary lens luxation, an eye disorder. This is a genetic disease that is quite hard to discover. Pups can get this condition when they are between the ages of 3 to 6, so you should check the disease history of the parents of the pup you want to adopt.
  • One breed-specific illness is Shar-Pei fever, also known as Shar-Pei autoinflammatory disease, or SPAID. The dog suffering from it can experience harsh fevers periodically and suffer from swollen joints. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, and shallow breathing.
  • One other condition often seen in this breed is a skin disorder called cutaneous mucinosis. It is treated using steroids. There are several other health conditions that can affect these pups including ear disease, renal amyloidosis which can cause kidney failure, allergies, different skin conditions, and bloat.
  • Shar-Peis are also prone to mast cell tumors and you should have every lump checked by a vet. While this may seem a bit too much, most of these conditions can be avoided by getting your dog from a reputable breeder. Naturally, make sure to visit the vet frequently for checkups. 

Make sure to feed your Shar-Pei the best possible quality dog food. These dogs are prone to becoming overweight, so make sure to not give them too much food. Consult with your vet on the correct amount and the best type of food. It will depend on the activity level and age of your Shar-Pei, so you shouldn’t try to guess yourself. Feed it in portions, two times a day.

Where does the Shar-Pei come from?

Even though this breed was only recognized by the AKC in 1992, these dogs have actually been around for much longer. There are statues of Shar-Peis from the Han Dynasty dating all the way back to 200 B.C.

The first actual mention of this breed that we know of occurs in a document from the 13th century. It described a dog that is definitely a Shar-Pei!

Seeing as how ancient and exotic these dogs are, they go for a high price nowadays. However, in China, they used to be the pets of Chinese peasants. They worked for them and helped them in hunting, herding, and guarding livestock.

The breed almost became extinct in China by the year 1973, and a businessman from Hong Kong called Matgo Law started calling international friends to help save it. Life Magazine ran an issue with a Shar-Pei on the cover and people all over the United States wanted to get one as their pet.

Soon after, Shar-Peis became incredibly popular all over the country, and it became a sort of a craze. Eventually, it slowed down and the breed has remained relatively rare, but beloved nonetheless.

Shar-Pei Mixes you would like to know about*

Dog crossbreeds or mixes are sometimes called designer dogs. The name fits since you are “designing” a new dog by mating two purebred dogs. It has become popular in recent times, and more and more breeds have several noteworthy crosses we could write about.

The thing with mixed puppies is that it is hard to know which characteristics they will inherit from their parents. You should research as much info as possible on the parent breeds to understand what you can expect. This way, you will find a mix that has all of the characteristics you want and love.

Read on to see the most popular Shar-Pei mixes:

*Not all breed mixes are equal in quality! neither condones nor endorses any example of unethical and unhealthy crossbreeding. We encourage everyone to research in detail before they choose to get a crossbreed. 

Questions people often ask about Shar Pei

  • +Is Shar-Pei a good family dog?

  • +Do Shar-Pei dogs bark a lot?

  • +Why do Shar-Peis stink?

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