AKC group: Non-sporting Group
UKC group: Northern Breed Group
Average lifespan: 9 – 11 years
Average size: 45 – 60 pounds
Coat appearance: Horse or brush-coat
Coloration: Sandy with black muzzle
Other identifiers: Large with wrinkled skin; blue-black tongue; dark, almond-shaped eyes; rounded, triangular ears; large muzzle with dark coloration; thick tail
The Chinese Shar-Pei originated in the southern provinces of China where he was valued as a hunter, herder, guardian, and fighter. Some historians believe the Shar-Pei is an ancient breed, though there is no definitive evidence to prove this. Statues that look a lot like the Shar-Pei have been dated to the Han Dynasty (200 B.C.), though these statues also resemble the Chow and Pug.
Following the creation of the People’s Republic of China, the dog population in the country was practically wiped out. A few Shar-Peis, however, were bred in Hong Kong and Taiwan. If not for the efforts of one man, Matgo Law, of Down-Homes Kennels in Hong Kong, the Shar-Pei might be extinct.
Thanks to him, a small number of Shar-Peis were brought to the United States in 1973 and breed fanciers formed the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc., in 1974. The first National Specialty show was held in 1978. The Shar-Pei was accepted in the American Kennel Club Miscellaneous Class in 1988, and recognized by the AKC in 1991 as a member of the Non-Sporting Group.
The large head and wrinkled face of the Chinese Shar-Pei has oven been compared to the head of a hippopotamus. They are independent and willful dogs, but when exposed to confident, consistent leadership are respectful companions and clean housemates. Their ever-present scowl coupled with their alert nature, makes them an imposing looking guard dog. The Shar-Pei’s tenency toward independence them good companions for single people or working families with older children. They don’t require much attention or exercise to keep them happy, and can entertain themselves with lots of chew toys or sun to bathe in.
The Chinese Shar-Pei, which has an average lifespan of 8 to 10 years, suffers from minor health issues like lip and skin fold pyodermas, otitis externa, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, allergies, and amyloidosis, and minor problems such as entropion and canine hip dysplasia (CHD). To identify some of these issues, a veterinarian may run hip, eye, knee, elbow, and thyroid tests on the dog.
Megaesophagus is sometimes seen in this breed. The Shar-Pei is also prone to fevers, and although its cause is unknown, it often occurs with Shar-Peis suffering from swollen hocks .
The Shar-Pei lives comfortably in the city or country. He does well in a limited space, such as an apartment or condo, as long as he gets daily exercise. A backyard is not required, but he does appreciate getting out and stretching his legs. In general, the Shar-Pei is fairly happy just hanging out with his owner, wherever he may be.
Begin training and socializing your Sharpei the day you bring him home, and commit to continuing the process all his life. He’ll need the constant reinforcement since he’s not naturally friendly to other dogs. He can also be stubborn and owners must be consistent and firm in order to establish leadership. He is generally eager to please, though, and responsive to training.
The best kind of socialization exercise is to take your Shar-Pei with you everywhere — to puppy classes, outdoor events, busy parks, friends’ homes — and as often as possible. This will help prevent him from becoming overly shy or overprotective. Since this breed can be aggressive toward other dogs, the Shar-Pei should be kept leashed in public.
The Shar-Pei is classified as a short-nosed, or brachycephalic breed, similar to the Bulldog, Boxer, Pug. Their short noses make them highly sensitive to heat, which means they make lousy jogging companions. To prevent heat stroke, these dogs should be kept inside with fans or air conditioning in hot weather.
The Chinese Shar-Pei will do okay in an apartment if it is sufficiently exercised. It is moderately active indoors and will do okay without a yard.
The Shar-Pei is sensitive to warm weather, partly due to the wrinkles on its head holding in the heat.
On hot days shade should always be provided. Water should be available at all times. Provided they get enough exercise, they will be very peaceful indoors.
The proper training and socialization of a Chinese Shar-Pei from a young age is very crucial in its development. Because it can have a higher propensity to territorial aggression and can be a little worried around strangers, it should get used to the idea of other humans and should be able to realize that being around them is safe. Training will also require a good degree of patience. If you’re a first-time dog trainer, the Chinese Shar-Pei is not the ideal dog to “cut your teeth” on.
Despite their large size, the Chinese Shar-Pei does not need a lot of vigorous exercise to maintain good health. Several walks a day will suffice, making them good city dogs. It is recommended Shar-Peis, despite their watchdog capabilities, not be raised on a farm. Their natural instinct to hunt means they can take off into the wild blue yonder after deer or other wild animals.
Grooming requirements depend on the individual Shar-Pei. Weekly brushing can meet the needs of both the “horse-coated” variety and the “brush-coated” type , but some Shar-Pei of either type can be prone to skin problems. Shar-Pei with skin problems may need weekly bathing and daily brushing.
All Shar-Pei need regular wrinkle care. The wrinkles must be wiped out with a damp cloth and then dried thoroughly to prevent infection. Do not oil the skin.
Shar-Pei have small, tight, triangular ears that predispose them to chronic ear problems because there isn’t enough air circulating in the narrow ear canal. Although it’s not as easy to clean the ears of a Shar-Pei as it is for most breeds, regular cleaning should be done to help prevent recurrent yeast or bacterial infections.
Bathe the Shar-Pei as you desire or only when he gets dirty. With the gentle dog shampoos available now, you can bathe a Shar-Pei weekly if you want without harming his coat.
The rest is basic care. Trim the nails as needed, usually every few weeks. Brush the teeth for overall good health and fresh breath.
The Shar-Pei is a devoted family dog who is protective of his family, including children. To best teach him to get along with kids, he should be raised with them; if he doesn’t live with them, he should be exposed to children as he grows up. Because he is such an independent breed, he’s best suited to families with children 10 and older who know how to treat a pet respectfully.
As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he’s eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog’s food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child.
In order to provide the best chances for getting along with other dogs and animals, the Shar-Pei should be raised with them from an early age. Since he tends to be aggressive with other canines, supervision is essential.
Is this breed right for you?
A good guard dog, the Shar-Pei does not require much space, making him a great fit for apartment life. For exercise, a daily walk will suit this pet just fine. Doing well with children and cats if raised with them, this breed bonds well with any and all immediate family members. Aloof and rude to strangers, he will need to be socialized well. In need of a dominant master, the Chinese Shar-Pei requires a good leader to avoid any untoward behavior. A clean breed, he doesn’t shed often and requires only brushing and regular bathing.
After teetering on the brink of extinction, the Chinese Shar-Pei made a comback: in 1983, the Neiman Marcus catalog chose the dog as its his-and-hers fantasy gift, offering a pair of Shar-Pei puppies for $2,000 each.
A dream day in the life of a Chinese Shar-Pei
A simple breed, the Chinese Shar-Pei will be happy to wake up in the comfort of his own home, surrounded by family members. Enjoying a nice, brisk morning walk, the Shar-Pei will return ready to guard his home from any possible dangers or strangers. Partaking in a bit of play and yard-romping, the breed will end his day sleeping at the foot of his master.