The Shar Pei – A Breed Information Guide 

There is perhaps no other Chinese dog breed as unique as the Shar Pei. With his furrowed brow, loyal demeanor, and intelligent mind, the Shar Pei makes a wonderful companion for the right owner.

However, the Shar Pei also comes with a list of challenges that a potential perspective owner should be aware of. Are you considering bringing a Shar Pei dog into your family? If so, it’s important to do your research and learn as much as you can about this one of a kind purebred.

Let’s get started.

What Is A Shar Pei?

Pic 1 a black and white picture of a shar pei
Shar Pei dogs are unique looking purebred dogs who hail from humble beginnings. 

Also known as the Chinese Shar Pei, the Shar Pei is an ancient purebred who was bred and refined in China over 2,000 years ago. Rugged, defined and calm, the Shar Pei is famous for his intelligence and loyalty. He is also considered a challenging dog breed, especially for the novice dog owner.

Shar Pei dogs require an experienced, understanding owner who can handle them with love and confidence, and who has time and patience to devote to the breed. Training is a must when it comes to the Shar Pei, as is early and proper socialization.

If not raised correctly, the Shar Pei can become territorial, headstrong and problematic. He also has the ability to “outthink” his owners and tends to be a natural problem solver, which can pose some issues.

When harnessed correctly, however, the Shar Pei makes a wonderful companion for the right person or family.

Where Does The Shar Pei Come From?

Pic 2 a white shar pei next to a watch
The Shar Pei is an ancient working dog originating from China over 2,000 years ago.

As we mentioned above, the Shar Pei is an ancient dog breed who originated in Imperial China over 2,000 years ago. Unlike the Shih Tzu and the Pug, who were also bred and perfected in Imperial China, the Shar Pei was not refined in the lap of luxury or royalty.

Instead, he has a humble history and was bred as a working dog by peasants and farmers, serving as a guarding, herding and hunting dog. He was most common in the southern provinces of China, where he was beloved for his intelligence, bravery, and incredible devotion to his family and property.

Unfortunately, the Shar Pei faced near extension in the 1950s, when the People’s Republic of China refuted the breeding and ownership of dogs. Luckily a breeder from Hong Kong named Matgo Law was able to convince American dog enthusiasts to preserve the breed in the 1970s, and the dog was subsequently recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1992.

Today, the Shar Pei is a popular family dog, ranking in at number 64 out of 196 on the American Kennel Club’s list of America’s most popular dog breeds.

The modern day Sher Pei has a keen, suspicious nature, and while he is loving and loyal to his family, he is fierce against anything he perceives as a threat. While this made him a useful guard dog in his early years, it can cause some problems for the breed today, especially without proper training and socialization.

With that in mind, let’s learn more about Shar Pei’s temperament.

What Are The Shar Pei Temperament And Personality Traits Like?

Pic 3 a Shar Pei Playing with a hose
Shar Peis are calm, affectionate dogs who love their family but can be wary of strangers.

As we’ve mentioned a few times now, the Shar Pei dog is an incredibly loyal companion beloved for his devotion to his family members. He has the potential to be a trainable dog so long as he is trained with patience, repetition, and positive reinforcement methods.

Without proper training and socialization, the Shar Pei can have a tendency to exhibit territorial and guarding behaviors.

Shar Peis are naturally wary of strangers, but they get along well with their family members and their family members’ friends. And while Shar Pei dogs can be good family dogs in homes with children, it’s important that they be raised with the children and continue with obedience training throughout their lives.

Subsequently, children should be taught how to respectfully interact with a dog and be supervised around their dog to ensure they are all getting along safely.

If not raised or socialized properly, Shar Peis can be aggressive and territorial with other dogs and may not be ideal additions to homes with dogs already living there, unless the Shar Pei you bring in is a young puppy.

That said, many people agree that the Shar Pei makes a loving, devoted and friendly family dog to those he knows well. He is affectionate, albeit somewhat stubborn, and very intelligent.

Bred as a versatile hunting and herding dog, it’s important to also remember that the Shar Pei can exhibit a high prey drive, especially when it comes to smaller animals. Herding is also in the Shar Pei’s genes, and he may have a tendency to herd and otherwise “round up” smaller children and pets in the home, which can be annoying to some.

However, early training can help alleviate some of these undesired behaviors.

What Does The Shar Pei Look Like?

Pic 4 an adult shar pei laying by a rose bush
The Shar Pei’s muzzle is often compared to a hippopotamus snout.

A Shar Pei is difficult to miss and nearly impossible to mistake for any other dog breed. One of the most distinguishing features of the Shar Pei is his large, folded muzzle. He also has small, round eyes, folded triangular ears, and folds along his face, brow and back.

This is a well built and muscular dog, with a curled tail and thick hind legs. His coat is short and rough, often being compared to the likes of sandpaper. In fact, the Shar Pei’s name translates roughly to “sand skin”.

Shar Pei Height: 18 – 20 Inches

Shar Pei Weight: 45 – 60 Pounds

Shar Pei Coat Color: Black, lilac, fawn, cream, red, and sand

Coat Type: The Shar Pei has three coat types including horse coat, brush coat, and bear coat. The horse coat is the shortest, and the brush and bear coat are longer.

Hypoallergenic Coat: No

How Do You Groom a Shar Pei?

Pic 5 a bear coat shar pei
Grooming your shar pei will depend on his coat type, but it is typically moderate and simple.

The Shar Pei should be brushed at least once a week with a slicker brush to collect loose hair and debris. While the Shar Pei does shed, his shedding is moderate and it occurs most during spring and fall, when shedding season arrives. When this occurs, brushing should be done more routinely to collect loose hair and keep the Shar Pei’s skin and coat healthy.

He should be bathed about once a month with a quality dog shampoo, and his ears will need to be routinely checked and cleaned to keep them free of debris and moisture build up which could cause ear infection.

The Shar Pei’s nails should also be trimmed regularly to keep them from cracking and splitting, and his eyes and the folds of his loose skin will need special attention and cleaning to ensure moisture, debris and buildup do not cause irritation and infection.

Like all dogs, the Shar Pei should have his teeth brushed at least once a day using a dog-safe toothpaste and toothbrush. This will help prevent plaque and tartar buildup and dental disease in the future.

What Is the Average Lifespan Of A Shar Pei And Does The Shar Pei Have Any Serious Health Issues?

Pic 6 a brown Shar pei asleep
Shar Pei dogs are prone to some unique and serious health issues. 

On average, a healthy Shar Pei can live between 8 and 12 years. And just as he is unique looking, he is also prone to some unique and unusual health concerns a prospective owner should be aware of.

These health concerns include but are not limited to:

  • Entropion
  • Glaucoma
  • Retinal Dysplasia
  • SARDS
  • Cataracts
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
  • Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Cardiac Issues
  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome
  • Skin Fold Infections
  • Gastric Dilation Volvulus (AKA GDV or Bloat)
  • Shar Pei Fever (AKA FSF, SPAID, Familial Shar Pei Fever)

You can learn more about the entirety of the Shar Pei’s overall health issues here, but we are also going to cover a few of the most concerning conditions below.

Shar Pei Fever

Shar Pei Fever may also be known as Familial Shar Pei Fever (FSF), swollen hock syndrome, or Shar Pei Auto-Inflammatory disease (SPAID). It is a recurring condition that happens with some Shar Pei dogs. While the cause of this condition is unknown, it is likely inherited, and most symptoms of Shar Pei Fever resolve themselves within a few days.

That said, in some severe cases, Shar Pei Fever it can be fatal. Symptoms of Shar Pei Fever include a recurring fever, pain, and swelling in the hocks. If you notice any symptoms of Shar Pei Fever, contact your local veterinarian for treatment options.

Gastric Dilation Volvulus (Bloat)

Bloat is a condition that occurs more often in deep chested dogs like the Shar Pei. It is when gas or fluid fills the stomach too rapidly and causes the organ to flip or twist. This is a very dangerous and often fatal condition that must be treated immediately. Bloat in dogs can be caused by overexertion, eating too quickly, overexcitement, or eating directly after a heavy exercise.

Symptoms of bloat in dogs include unproductive vomiting, a bloated stomach, obvious pain, excessive drooling, restlessness, and panting. If you recognize any symptoms of Bloat in your Shar Pei, take him to the nearest emergency vet immediately.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic airway syndrome is most common in flat-faced breeds like Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Bulldogs. While the Shar Pei does not have as flat of a face as some of these other breeds, his build is still similar and the shape of his skull can still cause a number of respiratory issues.

For this reason, the Shar Pei can be more susceptible to extreme weather conditions and is more prone to suffering from heatstroke and exercise-induced exhaustion.

Be careful not to over exercise your Shar Pei and to ensure he is monitored in extreme weather conditions.

What You Can Do

To keep your Shar Pei as healthy as possible, it’s important to ensure he stays on a quality dog food diet specified for his age, weight and activity level. There are also products you can invest in like slow feeders to help reduce the chances of Bloat and other health concerns.

We also suggest keeping up with routine veterinary visits and avoiding leaving your Shar Pei outside for extended periods of time. Make sure he has access to shade and cool, fresh water, and avoid over-exercising him or letting him eat directly after a big play or run.

Grooming is another important factor in your Shar Pei’s overall health. Because of his unique skin folds, the Shar Pei can be prone to some serious skin issues and skin infections. While a healthy diet can improve overall skin and coat health, keeping up with proper grooming practices can also decrease his chances of having infections, abrasions, and other skin issues.

What Are The Training And Exercise Requirements For A Shar Pei?

Pic 7 a Shar Pei Running on a beach
Shar Peis are calm dogs who go with the flow. Still, they need adequate exercise every day. 

Though he is a medium sized dog who looks rather athletic, the Shar Pei is actually a versatile and adaptable breed who does well both with active families and families who prefer more replaced lifestyles.

The Shar Pei is, by nature, a calm dog who enjoys lounging with his family members. That said, he will readily hop to for an adventure outdoors.

For this reason, the Shar Pei makes for a wonderful apartment dog and does not require the space of a large yard to run and play. In fact, a half an hour walk once or twice a day followed by some play time inside or outside of the home should keep him ship shape.

As far as training, the Shar Pei dog does best with positive reinforcement methods like treats and praise. Remember that the Shar Pei is highly intelligent, though he can exhibit some stubborn behaviour during training, especially if he gets bored.

Try to keep training short, game-like, and repetitive, and take breaks often. Avoid scolding or punishing your Shar Pei during training, as this will simply cause him to shut down.

Obedience training is essential for this breed and should begin early on in puppyhood. Shar Peis should also be properly socialized at an early age to ensure they grow up happy and well rounded.

A dog who is not properly socialized can be problematic and is more likely to suffer from undesirable and even dangerous behaviors including fear-based or territorial-based aggression and destructive behaviors like chewing, bathroom accidents and incessant barking.

If you want to bring a Shar Pei into a home with children, it’s important you get a Shar Pei puppy you can raise with them, or a Shar Pei dog that was properly raised and socialized with children.

Even if you don’t have children, it’s important to socialize your Shar Pei with youngsters as often as possible. You should also introduce your Shar Pei puppy to other dogs, strangers, people and experiences early and often, ensuring these experiences are pleasant for him. This will help reduce undesirable behaviors and ensure your Shar Pei grows up well-rounded.

What Are Some Pros And Cons Of Owning A Shar Pei Dog?

Pic 8 a shar pei with another dog
Shar Pei dogs may not get along with other dogs unless he is raised with them. 

Like all dogs, the Shar Pei has his list of pros and cons. This is not the dog for everyone, but perhaps he is the perfect dog for you? Let’s find out.

Pros To Owning A Shar Pei:

  • The Shar Pei is incredibly loyal and affectionate towards his family
  • He is calm and adaptable, making for a wonderful apartment dog
  • The Shar Pei is a medium sized, compact dog who can make a good travel companion
  • The Shar Pei’s grooming requirements are moderate
  • Shar Peis can make good family dogs when properly trained and socialized

Cons To Owning A Shar Pei:

  • Shar Peis suffer from a number of unique and serious health issues
  • Shar Pei dogs require extensive training and socialization throughout their lives
  • The Shar Pei does have a tendency to be stubborn
  • A Shar Pei is a shedding dog and not ideal for allergy sufferers
  • The Shar Pei could exhibit herding and guarding behaviors in the home
  • Unless properly socialized, the Shar Pei may not do well with other dogs and strangers

What Is The Ideal Home Type For A Shar Pei Dog?

Pic 9 a Shar Pei in the arms of a woman
Shar Pei dogs do best with experienced dog owners who are willing to commit time and training to this unique and intelligent dog. 

The ideal home for a Shar Pei dog will depend less on the property and more on the owner or family. This is a dog breed who will do best in homes with experienced dog owners who understand the importance of consistent training.

He will need a patient, loving family who is able to work with him constantly and who values his unique intelligence and talents.

That said, the Shar Pei is an adaptable dog who does well with both active and more relaxed families, and can do well with children so long as he is properly trained at an early age.

Choosing A Shar Pei Puppy Or Rescue Dog – Tips On Finding The Healthiest Shar Pei Dog Possible.

Pic 10 a shar pei puppy in grass
Shar Peis are prone to suffering from several serious genetic health issues, making it all the more important to go through a reputable source when looking for a puppy.

Because the Shar Pei can suffer from so many serious genetic health issues, it’s especially important to ensure you go through the proper sources when looking for a Shar Pei puppy.

Avoid backyard breeders and online sellers who are offering Shar Pei puppies at a discounted price, as you are more likely to wind up with a sick puppy, or a puppy who was not responsibly bred.

On average, a Shar Pei puppy costs around $1,200 to $2,000, but this price could vary depending on the breeder and the quality of the Shar Pei’s parent breeds. Show quality Shar Pei puppies often cost more.

While this is somewhat of a steep price to pay, keep in mind that there are benefits of going through reputable breeders that will make it worth it. Most good breeders should be able to provide you with health certificates proving their dogs were health screened and cleared of any serious genetic diseases.

Breeders may also be able to provide you with resources for your Shar Pei as far as training and obedience classes go, and you will have a better idea of what your Shar Pei will grow up to look and behave like by comparing him to his parent dogs.

If you prefer to rescue a Shar Pei, there are several rescues in the United States that specialize in the breed. Because this breed is considered a more challenging dog, there is no shortage of rescuable Shar Peis.

Plus, rescuing a Shar Pei is generally a fraction of the cost of purchasing a puppy, and many shelters will have done health and behavioral testing on the Shar Peis to ensure they are adoptable and to better help place them in the right homes.

Top 5 Products Every Shar Pei Parent Needs

Pic 11 a Shar Pei getting a cuddle
Shar Pei dogs have unique needs in order to thrive. 

Have you decided to become the proud parent of a Shar Pei? If so, you’re in luck. The Shar Pei is a unique dog with lots of unique needs, but we’ve done our research and compiled a list of products that are perfect for every Shar Pei parent.

Take a lookl!

Outward Hound Fun Slow Feeder Dog Bowl

Because Shar Pei dogs are so prone to bloat, we recommend you invest in a slow feeder dog bowl. The bowl above by Outward Hound is a trusted product that is ideal for medium sized dogs like the Shar Pei and can help slow down eating to reduce bloat and other gastrointestinal issues.

You can order the bowl in different colors and patterns, but the best part is that this slow feeder makes feeding a game for your Shar Pei. He will enjoy the challenge of eating and it will encourage him to slow down, leading to healthier weight and digestion in the long run.

Squishface Wrinkle Paste

Wrinkle Paste is more than just a paste with a cute name. It actually helps clean and protect unique dogs like Shar Peis by keeping their skin folds clean and free of buildup and bacteria. They can also help soothe abrasions or infections that have already occured, and reduce itching and irritation.

This paste contains antifungal and antibacterial properties and is designed to work on tear stains and tail pockets as well.

Petpost Wrinkle Wipes

For a quick clean, we also recommend the above Wrinkle Wipes by Petpost. These wipes contain coconut oil and aloe vera to help soothe the sensitive skin beneath the folds and keep them clean and free of debris.

These are excellent to have on hand for daily cleaning and to ensure your Shar Pei is routinely clean. The ingredients are also quality made and safe, and do not use harsh ingredients that could potentially irritate your Shar Pei’s sensitive skin.

Diamond Naturals Skin and Coat Health Dog Food

Shar Pei dogs are notorious for suffering from skin and coat issues and many can have sensitivities to certain foods. For this reason, we recommend a limited ingredient diet dog food or a dog food that is specifically formulated for your Shar Pei’s healthy skin and coat.

The above dog food by Diamond Naturals is rich in superfoods, proteins, probiotics, and fatty acids, and other nutrients to help your Shar Pei thrive. It is specifically designed to support a healthy skin and coat, but is also good for your Shar Pei’s immune system, eye health and more.

The Dog’s Bed Orthopedic Dog Bed

Because Shar Pei dogs can be prone to bone and joint issues like hip and elbow dysplasia, it’s a good idea to invest in a quality bed that will support their bodies. The above dog bed by The Dog’s Bed is a well known orthopedic dog bed that is designed to prevent and alleviate problems in your dog like elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia, arthritis, and more.

The bed also comes with a machine washable cover and is waterproof. You can order it in several different sizes as well.

And that’s that.

So, what do you think about the unique and intelligent Shar Pei? Would you be interested in investing your time into one of these spectacular, challenging, and overall incredible purebreds?

We would love to hear from you. Tell us what you think about the Chinese Shar Pei in the comment section below.

Shar Pei 2

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