Chinese Shar-Pei

The Shar-Pei is known for its signature wrinkles. Learn everything you need to know about this curious breed down below.

chinese shar-pei standing on sand

Height: 18-20 inches
Weight: 20-27 kilos
Shar Pei Life Expectancy: 8-12 years
Pedigree? (registered with the KC?): Yes, this breed is registered with the Kennel Club.

Positives and Negatives

Check out the pros and cons of the Chinese Shar-Pei below:

Pros:

  • Can be left alone due to independence
  • Quiet, doesn’t bark much
  • Great watchdog, will protect the family
  • Low shedding coat

Cons:

  • Can be aggressive to other dogs and animals
  • Not a hypoallergenic breed
  • More likely to suffer health issues
  • Wrinkles need cleaning to avoid infections

chinese shar-pei standing on the road

Overview

The Shar-Pei is renowned for its wrinkly appearance which has drawn the attention of dog enthusiasts worldwide.

Their dark tongue is another noticeably distinct feature alongside their folded ears! Whilst the Shar-Pei’s coat might look smooth to the touch, it is in fact coarse.

The Kennel Club has listed the Sha-Pei under Category 3 due to their wrinkles. A mutation produces an excessive amount of hyaluronan which creates skin folds around the face.

This results in the wrinkles covering the Shar-Pei’s eyes, thus affecting its vision.

A Shar-Pei’s wrinkles were used as a form of defence. In the past, these canines were famous in the dogfighting pits.

Their excess skin reduced the severity of attacks, allowing the dog in some cases to break free. Primarily, this dog was bred for hunting and fighting.

This explains the protective Shar-Pei personality and aggressive behaviour towards other dogs.

Did you know, the plural for Shar-Pei is Shar-Pei! In 1973, the Shar-pei was listed as the rarest breed of dog in the world by the Guinness Book of World Records.

Unfortunately, by the 1980s Shar-Pei experienced a boom in popularity attracting unsavoury breeding practices. It led to skin and eye issues that are still seen in the breed today.

chinese shar-pei walking on a field

History

The Sharpei is an ancient breed from China with a history spanning over 2,000 years. Pottery depicts the existence of the Shar-Pei during the Han Dynasty (202B.C-220A.D).

Despite being the second imperial dynasty, it was renowned as one of the greatest. It is the period that established Chinese Culture as we know it today.

Although the Shar-Pei was bred for hunting and fighting, they were also used by Chinese farmers to herd and guard livestock.

The modern-day Shar-Pei is not recommended as a farming dog. In their early years of existence, a Shar-Pei was shorter and had more wrinkles.

Their name in Chinese translates to ‘Sand-Skin’ describing their light, coarse coat.

Unfortunately, in 1949, the set up of China’s communist regime saw dog’s turn from companion into food. Dog killings had dramatically increased which caused the Shar-Pei numbers to dwindle.

By 1979, Hong Kong breeder Matgo Law knew he had to do something to save the breed. He reached out to Life Magazine who placed the Shar-Pei on their front cover!

All of a sudden interest in Shar-Pei puppies grew with dog enthusiasts across the US desperate to get their hands on a puppy!

The breed’s future had been saved and by 1992, the AKC had recognised the breed. In the UK the Kennel Club gave its Championship status to the Shar-Pei.

Personality

Shar-Pei Temperament:
To their family, the Shar-Pei dog is loyal, loving and devoted but they aren’t very sociable outside of their domain.

These canines are independent which increases their wanderlust potential. They’re reserved and aren’t very loud, often sitting back and observing what goes on.

chinese shar-pei on grass

Due to their aggressive history, socializing a Sharpei puppy is deeply important. First-time owners may struggle to provide the all-around care this breed requires.

These canines are adaptable and love nothing more than attention from their family. Despite their independence, Shar-Pei shouldn’t be left alone for longer than 4 hours.

Recommended: The Bull Mastiff is well-balanced between protector and family pet. Find out why in our guide.

Are Shar-Pei Good with Strangers?

A well-socialized Shar-Pei will be wary and aloof of strangers but not aggressive. They may prefer to sit back keeping their distance and personal space.

As an ex fighting dog, the Shar-Pei will instinctively defend their household from a threat and makes a fantastic watchdog.

Are Shar-Pei Good with Children?

Those looking for a family pet should ensure the Shar-Pei has been raised with children throughout puppyhood.

Whilst the Shar-Pei size is classed as a medium breed, they can still injure smaller children through boisterous play.

Their independence is also a downside for smaller kids who may not understand when the dog wants to be left alone.

For these reasons, older children are better suited. If you are adopting an adult Shar Pei they may not be able to live with children at all.

Are Shar Pei Ok with Other Dogs?

No, this canine is known to be dog-aggressive. The Shar-Pei will be suspicious of dog’s they don’t know. They like to assert their dominance which can cause instant sparks in the dog park.

If raised together from puppyhood, they can live with another dog or even a cat!

Exercise

Ideally, an hour’s worth of daily exercise will be sufficient for the Shar-Pei. Due to their unfriendly stance towards other animals, they should only be allowed off-leash in an enclosed space.

Dog sports are a great way to mentally stimulate a canine! Obedience, rally, tracking, and agility are categories better suited for this pooch.

Due to their short flat muzzle, the Chinese Shar Pei dog is prone to heatstroke. Owners should take care in the hotter months by taking walks early morning and later in the evening.

Whilst the breed is better suited to a home with a small garden, they can be suitable for apartment lifestyles.

brown chinese shar-pei

Recommended next: Learn all about the gorgeous Japanese Akita.

Health

Check out the breed-related health issues of the Shar-Pei below:

  • Luxating Patellas- The kneecap temporarily dislocates out of position before quickly relocating back into place. Affected dogs are unable to fully extend the leg.
  • Hypothyroidism- The thyroid gland abnormally reduces its hormone production thus affecting a dog’s metabolic state. Lethargy, weight loss, skin and hair changes are all common symptoms.
  • Atopy- A lifelong skin condition that has no cure. Owners need to learn how to manage symptoms such as itchiness and redness.
  • Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome- Selective breeding has affected the breathing of flat-faced dogs like the Shar-Pei. Some dogs suffer severe breathing difficulties whilst others are mildly affected.
  • Familial Shar-Pei Fever- This condition will cause fevers, swollen joints, and a swollen muzzle. Fevers can last up to 36 hours. Inflammation, vomiting, diarrhoea and pain may also be experienced.
  • Entropion- An abnormality causes the eyelid to turn inwards. The eyelashes will then scratch at the surface of the eye causing ulcers, conjunctivitis, pain and perforations.
  • Ectropion- The eyelid turns outwards exposing the tissues beneath. The conjunctival tissues will become dry which could cause irritation.
  • Cherry Eye- The gland in the corner of a dogs eye becomes inflamed. It will pop out and resembles a cherry. Although it isn’t painful, most dogs will need surgery to correct the issue.

Intelligence & Training

Although intelligent, the Shar-Pei is highly independent which can provide some difficulty to training. Once an owner has their complete attention, commands will be picked up quickly.

Dominance can be an issue with this breed so ensure leadership is firmly established.

Be strict with obedience and never let the Shar-Pei push boundaries, otherwise, they’ll rule the roost! Strong-willed and stubborn these canines are better suited to those with experience.

chinese shar-pei on snow

It is important to establish a relationship with the dog first. Training and socialization should be introduced as early as possible.

The Shar Pei temperament is unique. This breed will keep any owner on their toes! Reward-based training is highly recommended.

Harsh training techniques could result in the Shar-Pei becoming aggressive. Fear is the most common reason for dog aggression.

Recommended: Take a look at our Alaskan Malamute facts next.

Grooming

The following Shar-Pei information will help owners establish a grooming routine. Generally, the breed is a low shedder although they do blow their coats in the spring and autumn months.

Brush them once a week with a rubber bristle brush to redistribute their natural oils.

Drooling and slobber are to be expected thanks to the Shar-Pei long jowls. Keep a towel to hand especially when after eating and drinking.

Skin cells, dead fur, and moisture can cause a build-up of yeast and bacteria within the skin folds.

This can lead to skin fold dermatitis. Clean wrinkles with a damp cloth drying the area after with cotton wool or a towel.

chinese shar-pei on the road with ball in mouth

As this dog is prone to skin issues, avoid frequent bathing. Doggy odour doesn’t plague the Shar-Pei so a bath every 3 months should suffice.

Their short, coarse coat offers resistance to debris. A towel is fine for drying. If using a blow dryer, ensure the heat setting is on low.

Shar-Pei has a narrow ear canal. It’s only a quarter the size of other dogs their build! This makes them prone to ear infections so keep on top by giving ears a weekly clean.

Nails will need a trim every 10-14 days. Vets recommend teeth are brushed daily so aim to do this at least three times a week.

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