Chinese Shar-Pei Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Chinese Shar-Pei Dog

The Chinese Shar-Pei, also known as the Chinese Fighting Dog or simply the Shar Pei, is an ancient breed that has existed for centuries in the southern provinces of China. “Shar-Pei” literally translates as “sand skin” but more loosely means “rough, sandy coat” or “draping sandpaper-like skin.” In addition to their strange wrinkled appearance, they have a characteristic solid blue-black tongue, a feature shared only with another ancient Chinese breed, the Chow Chow. The Chinese Shar-Pei was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1988 as a non-sporting dog and fully approved in 1992.

The average Chinese Shar-Pei stands 18 to 20 inches at the withers and weighs between 45 and 60 pounds, with females typically being smaller than males. Their extremely rough, short, wrinkled coat is unique to the breed. It should be neither shiny nor lustrous and comes in solid colors and sable. It should be brushed regularly, and the folds of skin should be cleaned and checked frequently to avoid moistness, irritation and infection. Shar-Peis are compact and sturdy, and they normally do not bark unless they are threatened or feel the need to alert their owners.

Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level3/5
Apartment Friendly2/5
Barking Tendencies3/5
Cat Friendly2/5
Child Friendly2/5
Dog Friendly2/5
Exercise Need3/5
Grooming Needs3/5
Health Issues3/5

Chinese Shar Pei – Appearance & Grooming


There is no dog with a look quite like that of the Chinese Shar-Pei. They have broad heads with wide, padded muzzles and very loose, wrinkled skin. They have small, triangular ears that lie flat agrainst the head and a blue-black tongue. They have high-set tails that taper to a point and curl over the back or off to the side. Shar-Peis have a distinctive coat that stands straight up in the air and is prickly to the touch, though not rough. Some have a longer “brush” coat that is softer and smoother to the touch. Shar-Peis come in all colors of the canine rainbow and all colors are allowed for showing.

Size and Weight

The ideal size for a Shar-Pei is anywhere from 18 to 20 inches at the withers and weighing between 45 and 60 pounds. Males are usually larger than females, but both should be well-proportioned if they are to be shown.

Coat and Color

Shar-Peis sport a bristly coat that stands straight up in the air. It can vary in length from short, like a horse (hence the term “horse coat”), to a slightly longer, softer brush coat. Shar-Peis come in all colors of the canine rainbow including black, fawn, cream, red, blue or sable.

Grooming Needs

Chinese Shar-Peis are naturally clean animals who do not emit an order and only require minimal brushing once a week to remove dead hair from his minimally-shedding body. They don’t require frequent bathing; every 12 weeks is about the average. Over-bathing a Shar-Pei can cause skin ingratiation.

The most essential part of grooming a Shar-Pei is the maintenance of his wrinkles. After a bath, the wrinkles must be dried quickly and thoroughly to prevent yeast or fungal infections.

Check a Shar-Pei’s ears regularly for signs of infections, but when caring for the ears, never use a swab. This breed has short ear canals that can easily be damaged. A veterinarian can teach the proper technique for cleaning a Shar-Pei’s ears. Additionally, regular tooth brushing should be part of the Shar-Pei’s grooming regimen. It keeps teeth and gums healthy, and wards off dreaded doggie breath.

Chinese Shar Pei – History and Health


The Chinese Shar-Pei is a very old breed. Unfortunately, due to the absence of a documented history of dogs developed in China, much of what is known about the Shar-Pei is conjecture and speculation. It is thought that the Shar-Pei was a peasant’s dog for centuries, bred to hunt, herd and protect given its versatility and intelligence. It is also thought that the breed was developed in China specifically for use in organized dog fights for “entertainment,” with its loose skin making it difficult for opponents to gain a tight grip and thereby helping to protect it from injury. Apparently, several misfortunes befell the breed. First, the dog-fight organizers began importing much larger and more vicious dogs from Europe, with which the smaller Shar-Pei could not compete. In addition, after the People’s Republic of China was established, the Communist rulers opposed ownership of domestic dogs, seeing them as a sign of Western decadence, and set about slaughtering virtually any dog they could find. This led to the barbaric destruction of thousands of beloved pets and the eradication of most of the Chinese dog population. A few Shar-Peis survived and were bred and shown in British Hong Kong and in Taiwan (the Republic of China).

The breed was first recognized by the Hong Kong Kennel Club in the 1960s. However, registrations were discontinued in 1968, only to resume twenty years later when the Hong Kong and the Kowloon Kennel Association established a new dog registry in 1988. A few Shar-Peis were imported to the United States from stock registered with the Hong Kong Kennel Club. The American Dog Breeders’ Association registered the first Chinese Shar-Pei in October of 1970. In 1973, a breeder in Hong Kong appealed to fanciers in America to “save the Chinese Shar-Pei,” because he feared that the Communist government would entirely eradicate the breed during its attempt to eliminate companion dogs. As a result of this plea and the breed’s uniqueness, a number of Shar-Peis came to the United States in 1973. The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America was organized in 1974 and held its first National Specialty show in 1978. The Shar-Pei was accepted into the American Kennel Club’s Miscellaneous class in 1988, was admitted to the AKC Stud Book in June 1992, and became eligible for full competition in the Non-Sporting Group two months later.

In 1978, the Guinness Book of Records called this the rarest breed in the world, with only 60 Shar-Peis still known to be alive. Today, it is well-established in the United States and appears safe for the foreseeable future. In his book called “Dogs,” author Desmond Morris summarizes the Shar-Pei as follows: “It must have a head like a Wu-Lo melon, ears like clamshells, a nose like a Guangzhou cookie, legs like Pae Pah musical instruments, a back like a shrimp, a tail like iron wire, a face like a grandmother, a neck like a water buffalo, a body like a wun fish, an anus that faces the sky, a rump like a horse, feet like garlic, toenails like iron and a mouth like a mother frog or a roof tile.”


The average lifespan of the Chinese Shar-Pei is between 9 and 10 years. The deep skin folds of this breed can become infected, and the heavy skin around the eyes can require surgical correction. Breed health concerns may include generalized demodicosis, allergies, congenital idiopathic megaoesophagus, hiatal hernia, hypothyroidism, patellar luxation, pyoderma, amyloidosis, hip dysplasia, mast cell tumors, entropion (upper and lower eyelids; very common and very severe), “cherry eye”, cataracts, renal and urinary infections, and a number of other eye and skin disorders.

Chinese Shar Pei – Temperament & Personality


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.

Activity Requirements

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.


The main ingredient needed when training a Shar-Pei is patience. They are willful creatures who don’t like to be told what to do, and they naturally assume they are in charge. Consistency, positive reinforcement and lots of treats will garner response from a Shar-Pei, but only when he’s ready to respond. They will take a mile if given an inch, so rules and boundaries need to be reinforced at all times. This breed is not for the first-time owner, and even experienced owners have confessed to finding working with a Shar-Pei a challenge.

House training a Shar-Pei is a completely different story, however. Despite their aversion to obedience training, Shar-Peis have been known to house train themselves. They are naturally a very clean dog and instinctively they will not relieve themselves in their home area.

Behavioral Traits

This breed is a natural guard dog and aggression toward other animals and people can be a common problem with Shar-Peis. Early socialization is imperative in the development of a healthy dog. They are naturally wary of strangers, so they must learn early on the difference between a welcome visitor and an unwelcome stranger, otherwise the Shar-Pei will naturally assume all strangers are bad. Dog aggression can be severe, so males should always be neutered, and as puppies they should be exposed to other friendly dogs as often as possible.

Homes with small children are not the best environment for a Shar-Pei. He won’t be patient enough to tolerate a child playing roughly and will define his boundaries by snapping or biting.

Shar-Peis are noisy – they snort, snore, grunt and gurgle all day and all night. They also have a tendency to slobber and drool when they are excited.

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