The appearance of the 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, although no one color is favored over another. The rough, short coat is a source of the Shar-Pei name, which means “sand skin” or “sand paper” coat. The blue-black tongue is unique only to this breed and the chow-chow.
Shar-Pei puppies have more wrinkles than older dogs, and these usually minimize as the dog matures. The average life expectancy of a Shar-Pei is around 10 years. Their weights average between 40 and 55 pounds with a height average of 18 to 20 inches tall.
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. There is an idea of the breed being a descendent of the chow-chow because of their similar characteristics. Statues were found from the early time period showing a dog with a great resemblance to the breed, although confirmation does not appear to be conclusive.
When the People’s Republic of China became a communist nation, dogs were nearly eliminated, according to the American Kennel Club. A few Shar-Peis were bred in other 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.
The Shar-Pei breed was originally kept as a working animal on farms that also participated in hunting and herding. Today Shar-Pei dogs are companion pets that also participate in conformation events and agility events as well as tracking and obedience trials.
Shar-Peis can be wary of strangers but are not unfriendly, and they are 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.
This breed is not fond of water and may go out of its way to avoid it. The dogs generally require minimal grooming, although some have a tendency to slobber (this is sometimes more evident when the dog is experiencing pain).
They are also incredibly adorable dogs, so we had to include a video of Shar-Pei puppies and their cute wrinkles:
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 this should be taken into consideration in hotter climates. Apartment life agrees well with this breed as long as the exercise needs are met.
Allow the coat is short, it can be bothersome to people with allergies. Weekly brushing and bathing is recommended.
Shedding may be higher during molting periods, and daily brushings will help during this time. The coat does not need trimming. Regular grooming practices, such as cleaning the dog’s ears, trimming the nails and cleaning the teeth, are required.
Common Health Problems
The Shar-Pei is generally healthy, but there are some illnesses and genetic ailments associated with the breed:
- Skin problems
- Kidney failure
Is the Shar-Pei the Right Dog for You?
Shar-Peis are good with kids and other pets when properly socialized. They don’t require a heavy amount of grooming and are clean. Regular grooming should be done weekly for overall optimum health. They need a daily walk but do fairly well in apartments.
They can be stubborn at times, so consistent training is a must. Also, they are sensitive to heat, so keep this in mind during exercise and travel. They are intelligent and active dogs with a unique appearance.
If you can meet their needs and provide an environment in which they thrive, a Shar-Pei might be the ideal dog breed for you.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Shar-Peis can end up in rescues and shelters. Start with our adoptable dog search to find one near you, or contact your local rescue groups. Unscrupulous breeders may have deceptive advertisements or websites, so please make sure you read our article on puppy mill red flags before buying a pet.