5 Things to Know About the Shar-Pei

Shar-Pei dogs are devoted to their humans and come in cute, wrinkled packages.

Chinese shar-pei breed profile
Chinese Shar-Peis are devoted to their families. Photo: iStock.com/AndraSimionescu

1. Key Characteristics of a Shar-Pei

  • AKC Group: Non-Sporting
  • Height: 18–20 inches
  • Weight: 40–60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 9–11 years

The appearance of the Chinese Shar-Pei is unmistakable. The head and body shape, abundant wrinkles, and darkened nose and muzzle are signature attributes of this ancient breed.

The coat can be in any solid color or sable. The rough, short coat is a source of the Shar-Pei name, which means “sand skin” or “sand paper” coat.

The dogs’ blue-black tongue is unique to this breed (as well as the Chow Chow).


Shar-Pei puppies have more wrinkles than older dogs, and these wrinkles usually minimize as the dog matures.

2. Where the Shar-Pei Came From

Exact details and proof of the Shar-Pei’s origin are lacking, but there is evidence to support the breed’s existence around 200 B.C.

One theory? The breed is a descendant of the Chow Chow because of the dogs’ similar characteristics.

When the People’s Republic of China became a communist nation, dogs were nearly eliminated, according to the American Kennel Club (AKC). A few Shar-Peis were bred in areas such as Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The breed was recognized in Hong Kong in 1968 and was later accepted by kennel clubs in other countries. The AKC accepted the breed in 1988 and assigned it to the Non-Sporting Group in 1992.

Shar-Peis are are incredibly wrinkly, especially when they’re puppies. Photo: iStock.com/WilleeCole

3. How Friendly Is a Shar-Pei?

Shar-Peis can be wary of strangers but are not unfriendly, and they’re usually devoted to their human companions. When socialized properly with children and other animals, they get along very well.

These active, intelligent dogs are easy to house-train but need consistent training.


Shar-Peis are not fond of water and may go out of their way to avoid it. The dogs generally have a tendency to slobber (this is sometimes more evident when the dog is experiencing pain).

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

HIGH: Shar-Peis need daily walks to expel energy and avoid behavioral issues. They are sensitive to warmer weather because of the wrinkles holding in heat, so consider this if you live in hotter climates.

Apartment life agrees with this breed as long as exercise needs are met.

Grooming Needs

MEDIUM: Although the coat is short, it can bother people with allergies. These dogs are pretty easy to groom, requiring only a brushing and a bath weekly.

Shedding may be higher during molting periods, and daily brushing can help during this time. The coat doesn’t need trimming.

Don’t ignore regular grooming practices with your Shar-Pei, such as cleaning the dog’s ears, trimming the nails and brushing the teeth.

Health Problems

LOW: The Shar-Pei is generally healthy, but there are some illnesses and genetic ailments associated with the breed:

  • Skin problems
  • Kidney failure
  • Tumors

They are also incredibly adorable dogs, so we had to include a video of Shar-Pei puppies and their cute wrinkles:

5. How to Adopt a Shar-Pei

Shar-Peis, like any purebred dog, can end up in rescues and shelters. Start with our adoptable dog search to find one near you, or contact local rescue groups.

Unscrupulous breeders may have deceptive advertisements or websites, so be sure you read our article on puppy mill red flags before buying a Shar-Pei puppy.

Additional Resources

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