Shar-Pei – Everything You Need To Know

Shar-Pei, also known as Chinese Shar-Pei, is an ancient, unique dog breed known for their wrinkled loose skin, blue-black tongues, and bristle-like coat, making them stand out from the crowd. Once considered one of the rarest breeds, the Shar-Pei has enjoyed incredible popularity starting in the late 20th century, and their numbers have grown enormously. This charming but challenging breed of ancient pedigree is steadfastly dedicated to their human family but standoffish with outsiders. In addition, they have physical traits making them a one-of-a-kind companion and guardian dog. They are regal, strong, and independent watchdogs who can meet a perceived threat with vigor and tenacity. 

This dedicated, sweet, intelligent breed would be excited to connect with your active family. You will be rewarded with a fun-loving adventure companion who will always be up to wander and play and mesmerize you with their very infectious goodwill and unconditional devotion. 

Shar-Pei Pros and Cons

Distinctive look that requires minimal groomingProne to various health issues
Loyal and protectiveNot very sociable breed
Effective flock guardianRequires patience when training
Quiet-not much of a barkerTerritorial when it comes to cats and other dogs

Shar-Pei Basic Information 

  • Name: Shar-Pei
  • Origin: China
  • Group: Non-sporting
  • Size: Medium
  • Height: 18 – 20 inches 
  • Weight: 45 – 60 pounds
  • Coat: Short and bristly
  • Color: Black, chocolate, blue, and cream
  • Energy: Low to medium 
  • Activities: Guard dog, watchdog, family dog
  • Barking Level: Low
  • Shedding Level: Low to medium
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 6 – 10 puppies 
  • Other Names: Chinese Shar-Pei
  • Breed’s Original Pastimes: Guarding, herding
  • Life Span: 8 to 12 years

Shar-Pei History 

The Shar-Pei, also known as the Chinese Fighting Dog, originated in China’s southern provinces, where they were valued as a herder, hunters, fighters, and guardian. Unfortunately, the creation of the People’s Republic of China practically wiped out the dog population in the country. However, a few Shar-Peis were bred in Taiwan and Hong Kong. If not for one man’s struggles, Matgo Law of Down-Homes Kennels in Hong Kong, the Shar-Pei breed might be extinct. He brought a small number of Shar-Peis to the U.S. in 1973, and in 1974 breed enthusiasts instituted the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. In 1988, Shar-Pei was accepted into the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class, and AKC recognized this dog as a member of the Non-Sporting Group in 1991. Today, Shar-Pei is one of the most recognizable breeds counting over 70,000 Shar-Peis registered with the AKC in the U.S.

Shar-Pei Highlights 

  • Shar-Pei’s name indicates “sand-skin” but is translated more as “sand-paper-like coat.” No other dog breed shares the short, rough coat of the Shar-Pei.
  • The Shar-Pei was once a pit fighter and guard dog. 
  • Shar-Pei is prone to overheating due to their short nose. 
  • Shar-Pei is a poor choice for a novice dog owner.

Shar-Pei Personality

The Shar-Pei is an alert, independent dog who is highly devoted to its human family but aloof with strangers. However, they are a calm, confident breed and develop an intuitive understanding of their owner or family. They are medium-sized dogs weighing 45 to 60 pounds with a broad, full muzzle resembling a hippopotamus, small triangular ears that lie flat, a curly tail, and a rough coat that handles like sandpaper. They are highly protective of their family, are exceptional guard dogs, and respond well to threats. Unfortunately, these breeds were once used as pit-fighting dogs; they can be aggressive toward other dogs. Engaging them in a puppy kindergarten class is a great beginning. Inviting guests regularly and taking them to parks, stores, and walks to meet neighbors will also help them polish their social skills. Shar-Peis are loyal and active but are aloof and can also be stubborn and territorial if not appropriately trained.

Friendliness Overview

  Affection level   Low to medium
  Family-friendly   High
  Kid-friendly   Low to medium
  Pet-friendly   Low
  Stranger-friendly   Low to medium

Adaptability Overview

  Good for apartment living   Medium to high
  Good to new owners   Low to medium
  Sensitivity level   Low to medium
  Tolerates being alone   Medium to high
  Cold-tolerance   Low to medium
  Heat-tolerance   Low

Shar-Pei Physical Features 

Head: The Shar-Pei has clam-shell ears, a butterfly nose, a melon-shaped head, a large head with a broad muzzle and well-padded causing a bulge at its base, small triangular ears, and eyes that are set very profoundly into the folds of skin on the head.

Neck: They have a firm, water buffalo neck.

Topline: Shar-Pei has well boned, straight, muscular legs below sloping shoulders

Tail: They have a medium length broad tail curled over their back in a manner typical of spitz-type dogs

Coat: The Shar-Pei is a short-coated breed renowned for excessively wrinkled skin with a harsh coat.

Color: Black, chocolate, blue, and cream

Shar-Pei Temperament

The Shar-Pei can be independent, stubborn, self-assured, and self-possessed. Although not significantly demonstrative, they are devoted and very protective of their human family. In addition, they are reserved, even suspicious, toward outsiders. However, they can be assertive toward other canines and may chase livestock and animals, even though they are naturally good with other family pets. The Shar-Pei needs physical and mental stimulation, but you should meet their necessities with lively games or a good long walk throughout the day. 

Shar-Pei Training 

The Shar-Pei can take obedience training to a higher level. Without this training, they can become aggressive, detrimental, and challenging to manage. However, they are stubborn, so successful training depends on finding a firm positive trainer to boost them with enthusiasm. It is essential to use positive enforcements, and an ideal way is to break their routine training into shorter daily sessions to maintain their attention span higher. Enrolling your Shar-Pei in training activities at a very young age is recommended to challenge their minds to keep them mentally and physically stimulated. They are sensitive puppies, so you must avoid punishments, yelling, and harsh treatment, which will make them more determined. These are some of the training exercises that you need to do with your Shar-Pei:  

Trainability Overview 

  Easy to train   Medium
  Intelligence Medium to high
  Mouthiness tendencies   High
  Barking and Howling tendencies   Low
  Prey drive   Low to medium
  Wanderlust tendencies   Low to medium

Shar-Pei Exercise Needs 

Depending on their age and energy levels, the Shar-Pei will need around 30 minutes of exercise daily or interactive play sessions. Also, take them on walks of medium distance regularly. This is also an ideal way to fight their tendency to become obese. They may become restless, aggressive, or destructive without proper exercise. 

The Shar-Pei is categorized as a short-nosed or brachycephalic breed. Their short noses make them highly susceptible to heat, making them lousy jogging companions. Therefore, these dogs should be kept inside with fans or air conditioning in hot weather to prevent heatstroke.

Exercise Needs Overview

  Energy level   Low to medium
  Exercise needs   Medium
  Intensity   Low
  Playfulness   Low

Shar-Pei Grooming

Shar-Pei is a non-hypoallergenic low-shedder that requires minimal grooming needs and is a naturally clean dog with very little odor. Bathing and brushing are the easiest part of grooming. The challenging and essential factor is getting them dry after the bath. You can expect a fungal infection or yeast if you don’t dry the folds and wrinkles completely. 

Shar-Pei’s grooming needs are as follows:

  • Bathe whenever it’s required.  
  • Brush their teeth twice or thrice weekly.  
  • Brush their coat two times a week. 
  • Trim their nails once a week using a grinder. 
  • Clean their eyes and ears weekly.

Grooming Overview

  Easy to groom   High
  Drooling tendency   Low to medium
  Amount of shedding   Low

Shar-Pei Health 

Chinese Shar-Peis are prone to certain health disorders, especially skin diseases. So, it’s crucial to schedule routine health check-ups and visits to the veterinarian.

Health Overview

  Overall health   Low
  Weight gain tendencies   Medium to high
  Size   Medium

Shar-Pei Fever: Also called swollen hock syndrome, manifests in the swelling of the hock joint and results in a reluctance to move, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and shallow breathing. 

Brachycephalic Syndrome: The dog’s nostrils will narrow to the level that can obstruct the nasal airways. This will lead to difficulty in breathing. 

Hypothyroidism: Shar-Peis are predisposed to underactive thyroid glands. The thyroid hormone controls how rapidly the canine ignites calories, and when this hormone’s levels are too low, the dog lacks energy, is sluggish, and gains weight immediately.  

Cancer: Cancer is fatal; finding it without delay can save your dog’s life. Keep an eye out on your canine’s body for any strange growths or infections. Some malignancies can be cured with surgery, while others require chemotherapy. 

Elbow Dysplasia: Joint laxity is produced by the three bones that make up a dog’s elbow developing at different rates. Severe lameness can arise as a result of this. To treat the problem, your veterinarian may recommend pain medication or surgery.

Demodectic Mange: Red or Demodectic mange is an inflammatory disease caused by the microscopic parasites called Demodex mite. 

Seborrhea: A condition indicated by flaky skin and a rancid odor. It is a secondary condition to infection, allergy, or other diseases. Remedy includes bathing in medicated shampoo and treating the underlying condition.

Pyoderma: A skin disorder, this is a bacterial infection of the skin and is relatively common in the Shar-Pei. It may be a primary or secondary infection resulting from an underlying illness such as allergy or hypothyroidism. 

Patellar Luxation: A common disorder seen in medium-sized dogs. The kneecap’s anatomy lets it slip to one side when the dog steps out, causing a skipping gait on the back leg.  

Hip Dysplasia: A disorder in which the socket section of the hip joint does not entirely fit the ball portion, putting the joint in danger of dislocation. This condition can manifest itself at birth or develop later in life. Arthritis can develop as a canine gets older. On one or both rear legs, some dogs display discomfort and lameness. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia in animals is available through the Orthopedic Foundation or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program. 

Gastric Torsion: Veterinarians have a hard time realizing how canines contract bloat. However, Shar-Peis experienced massive pain because of bloating. Gas fills their tummy and applies coercion on the diaphragm, making breathing difficult. 

Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD): OCD is caused by improper growth of cartilage in the joints, it typically happens in the elbows, but it has been seen in the shoulders. This causes a painful stiffening of the joint to the point that the puppy cannot bend his elbow. Overfeeding “growth formula” puppy foods or high-protein eats may contribute to its development.

Cutaneous Mucinosis: Mucin is the medium in the skin that generates wrinkling. Clear and stringy, it acts like glue when a canine is wounded. However, some Shar-Peis have an excess of mucin, which causes it to form transparent bubbles on the skin that may rupture and ooze. It may be associated with allergies and is treated with steroid therapy.

Glaucoma: An eye condition that affects both dogs and humans and needs medical attention. Signs such as squinting, pain, watery eyes, and redness can indicate glaucoma, leading to blindness. Regular health tests can aid in recognizing and curing glaucoma at an early stage.  

Dental Disease: It affects 80% of canines, causes tartar build-up on the teeth, infection of the roots and gums, and in difficult situations, loss of teeth and damage to the kidneys. 

Parasites: Shar-Pei can be infested with bugs, fleas, worms, and ticks that can get into their systems through contaminated soil, unclean water, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Symptoms include pain, discomfort, and even death.  

Entropion: This disorder occurs when the eyelid rolls inward, harming the eyeball from eyelashes scratching on the surface. In extreme cases, entropion can develop a corneal ulcer. 

Obesity: Shar-Peis are prone to obesity if proper diet and exercise are not provided. They may also get diabetes, which may be another cause of obesity.  

Shar-Pei Diet and Nutrition 

A Shar-Pei dog will consume 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality dry food daily, split into two meals, depending on their size, build, age, activity level, and metabolism. Therefore, you can provide them with a well-balanced protein diet for proper growth and body maintenance. 

Shar-Pei Living Condition 

Shar-Peis are adaptable and can thrive in any environment. However, they prefer human companionship who can value and satisfy the necessities of these devoted, caring breeds. Shar-Peis may discover an unwanted medium to keep themselves engaged when they are bored or lonely. Hence, they should not be left alone for long periods, mostly without toys to keep them equipped.  

Did You Know? 

After teetering on the verge of extinction, the Shar-Pei returned in 1983. The Neiman Marcus catalog picked the dog as his-and-her fantasy gift, offering a pair of Shar-Pei pups for $2,000 each.

Shar-Pei Club Recognition 

  • ACA = American Canine Association Inc.
  • ACR = American Canine Registry
  • AKC = American Kennel Club
  • ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
  • APRI = American Pet Registry, Inc.
  • CKC = Continental Kennel Club
  • DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
  • FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
  • KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • NKC = National Kennel Club
  • NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
  • UKC = United Kennel Club

Adding a Shar-Pei to Your Family 

Breed Rescue Groups

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Chinese Shar-Pei Puppies
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Shar-Pei Images 

Shar-Pei Videos 





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