The Ultimate Guide to the Chinese Shar Pei Dog Breed!

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chinese shar pei puppy runningThe Chinese Shar Pei is arguably the most recognizable of all dog breeds. That uniquely wrinkled appearance is both their signature and their weakness. An ancient dog breed, the Shar-pei came close to extinction during the mid 20th century.

In 1978 it was a rare dog breed with only 60 Shar-pei dogs left in existence. Happily, numbers have now recovered and the Chinese Shar-pei has a new role as a beloved companion rather than a fighting dog.

Want to learn more about this wrinkly breed? Read on to find out more!

What is a Shar-pei Dog?

The name ‘Shar-pei’ means ‘sand coat’. If you’ve stroked a Shar Pei dog you’ll appreciate this name reflects the course, bristly nature of that wrinkled skin. Thanks to the work of Shar-pei breeders this unusual dog is no longer endangered.

This medium-sized dog breed is loyal to their owner and prefers the company of people to other dogs. However, the Chinese Shar-pei is linked to significant health problems. A prospective pet parent who’s seen a litter of Shar-pei puppies, and fallen in love, need to be fully aware of the problems they may encounter along the way.

History of the Chinese Shar-Pei

To understand Chinese Shar Peis you need to look at their history. That loose skin and wrinkles had a purpose; those wrinkles made it harder for other dogs to grab hold during a fight. Indeed, the ancient Shar-pei was originally a fighting dog, taking part in the unsavory (to modern morals) sport of dogfighting.

Developed in China, the SharPei’s history goes back so far that no written records exist. There are, however, ancient pictures of dogs looking similar to either the Shar Pei or Pug dog.

Originally the Shar-Pei breed was a peasants dog. His job was to be a jack of all trades: hunting, tracking, guarding, and fighting. Sadly, organized dog fights were hugely popular back in ancient China. Those loose skin folds gave the Shar Pei an advantage in a fight, which led to his popularity.

But all did not end well. With the arrival of European explorers, so bigger, more ferocious dog breeds arrived. As a result, the smaller Shar-Pei was at a disastrous disadvantage.

Worse was to come. In the mid 20th century the People’s Republic of China was established. It’s distressing to hear that the Communist leaders looked on keeping dogs as an indulgent luxury.

This led to the wholesale killing of pet dogs, which devastated the Shar-pei population. This is why in 1978 only 60 dogs were left.

In dire straits, a few dogs were taken to British Hong Kong and Taiwan. Through the efforts of a campaign in America to “Save the Shar-pei”, the breed was indeed rescued from the brink of extinction.

Recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1988, and placed in the non-sporting group in 1991. Happily, this dog breed is now safe and under the guardianship of legions of devoted owners.

chinese sharpei dog running in sand

Appearance and Personality of this Wrinkly Dog!

Think “wrinkly dog” and you have the Shar-pei to a tee! This medium-sized dog is draped in the coat of a giant dog, so it hangs in folds over his face, body, and legs.

But this isn’t just about his skin. That coat is harsh, in fact, it’s as coarse as a bristle brush or indeed the sand from which he gets the name Shar-pei.

Shar-pei dogs come in a range of coat colors including fawn, red, black, cream,  blue, or sable. However, their coat is always a solid color rather than bi-color or mottled.

The muzzle of a Shar-pei has the appearance of being swollen, but this is quite normal for the breed.  He has deep-set eyes, designed to protect his vision in a fight. He also a narrow ear canal, with tiny, tight, triangular shaped ears which fold close to the skull. This is an adaptation going back to his fighting days, which made the ears harder to grab hold of.

As for Shar-pei vital statistics, on average he stands up to 20-inches to the shoulder. A typical Shar-pei weighs in around 45 – 60-lb body weight.

He gives the impression of being a solid, compact dog, with heavy bones and a sturdy frame. Oh, and there’s that tail. The Shar-pei carries his tail tightly curled over his back, a bit like a bristly pug’s tail.

Sharpei dog temperament

It’s not only the appearance of this dog that is unique. But, the breed has a reputation for preferring the company of people to other dogs.

In fact, he can be intolerant of his brother canines and revert to his old habit of fighting them. Loyal to his owner, these pups can be wary and suspicious of strangers.

A suspicious pooch is apt to become defensive and possibly aggressive. It’s therefore hugely important that this dog breed is socialized well as a puppy.

Mixing with a wide variety of different people, experiences, animals, sights, and sounds are essental for a well-adjusted adult shar pei.

What is a Bear Coat Shar Pei?

The bear coat version of this breed is an offshoot of the standard breed as it is considered a fault. This softer-coated Shar-pei has a gene that defaults to an ancient Chow ancestor. This leads to a longer, softer coat than the better-known bristle coat.

5 Facts You Need to Know About this Doggo

  1. These dogs don’t get on well with other dogs
  2. This pooch will like the sound of their voice and can be big barkers
  3. They can make good apartment dogs, provided they get plenty of exercise
  4. This breed is prone to weight gain, so watch those treats!
  5. Shar-pei are stubborn dogs and not the best choice for first-time dog owners

white and black shar pei puppies playing

Shar Pei Dogs: Trainability!

These guys are stubborn! Think of trying to train a brick wall and you get the picture. The owner needs to be exceedingly patient and persistent to train their dog.

Always use reward-based methods that encourage the dog when they do well. On no account use physical force or punish the dog.

This will lead to the Shar-pei resenting their owner. With a dog that hails from a fighting breed, fear or anxiety can lead to aggression.

Shar Pei Puppies! Health Concerns Common to this Wrinkly Dog

Behind the cuteness of Shar-Pei puppies lies a whole host of potential health problems. These include:

  • Skin infections: Those deep folds trap bacteria and are the perfect breeding ground for infection. Shar-Pei’s also suffer from excessively greasy skins.
  • Shar-Pei fever: This inherited disease results in recurrent fevers and symptoms such as swollen hocks
  • Demodectic mange: An inability of the skin’s natural defenses to fight bugs, means the breed is a martyr to demodectic mange.
  • Entropion: Inturning of the eyelids, due to those skin wrinkles, leads to constant eye discomfort. Surgical correction may be necessary
  • Hip and/or Elbow Dysplasia: Poor anatomy of the hip or elbow joints can lead to early onset arthritis.

Grooming your Shar-Pei Puppy!

Shar-Pei are shedders! Whilst their coat doesn’t knot, the wise owner brushes their puppy daily. This captures the shed hair and stops it from forming hairballs that drift around the home.

Shar-Pei Dogs for Sale

If you’ve lost your heart to these dogs, then take your time to source a dog responsibly. Remember, the Shar-Pei rescue is always looking for good homes. Alternatively, look for a good breeder


A good place to start your search is the register of official breeders at the American Kennel Club.

Do your homework in what to look for in a responsible breeder that socializes puppies well. If in doubt, walk away and most certainly don’t ‘rescue’ pups from puppy mills (it only perpetuates the trade).

Puppy Price Tag!

A puppy carries a hefty price tag. Actually, this is no bad thing as it focusses the mind and reduces impulse purchases. So if you want this breed, be prepared to save up.

5 Tips for Pet Owners with a Shar Puppy

  1. Socialize your puppy. From an early age expose them to a wide variety of sights, sounds, and smells.
  2. Get the puppy used to having his ears and paws handled. This makes vet treatment easier should the pup get an infection
  3. Plan for medical expenses. These pups can be expensive to keep healthy and may need ongoing treatment for skin problems or sore eyes.
  4. Give your puppy plenty of opportunity to chew on safe toys or he may chew your furniture.
  5. Shar pei can be barkers, so teach the “Quiet” command early on

A Stubborn Pooch! These Dogs Will Make You Work for Their Love

A special dog in looks and temperament. It takes an equally special owner to cope with their foibles. If that person is you, we’d love to hear about your Shar-pei, and the highs and lows of owning this unique dog breed.

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