All About Shar-Pei

shar-pei puppy sleeping on a wood floor

Easily recognizable by their wrinkly skin, curled tail, and blue-black tongue, Shar-Pei dogs are easy to spot in a crowd. Before adopting a Shar-Pei, it’s essential that you are first familiar with the breed and what it takes to be a parent to one. Helpful items to consider are their personality, temperament, and grooming needs.

About the Breed

Shar-Pei are equally unique in appearance as they are in personality. These dogs are loyal and protective to their family, although they may pick one family member to be “their person.” That said, these dogs can be an excellent choice for singles.

While Shar-Pei can get along well with older children, all interactions your dog has with kids should still be supervised. It’s essential that all children also know how to interact properly with a dog. In order to help your dog get along better with children, it can be helpful to socialize them early and have them grow up around kids.

Shar-Pei also don’t require an extensive amount of space, so they can be a decent choice for people living in apartments—be aware of the Shar-Pei’s likeliness to be vocal.

Even though Shar-Pei are charming and oh-so-cute, they aren’t the right choice for everyone. This is not the best breed for first-time or novice pet parents. These dogs can be independent thinkers or have stubborn tendencies, which are a better fit for an experienced dog parent.

If socialized from a young age, Shar-Pei can learn to get along well with other animals, but most dogs of this breed prefer to be the only dog in the house. Caution should also be taken when your pup is socializing with other dogs. This can also apply to your dog meeting strangers. This breed typically leans towards being hesitant or wary of strangers, at least until they get to know the people.

Even though Shar-Pei can get along great with older kids, these dogs are not the most playful or cuddly, so it’s important that children give your dog their space.

Where Do Shar-Pei Dogs Come From?

Depending upon which name you know this breed by, you may already know the answer to where these dogs originated. Although many people may know them as Shar-Pei, these wrinkly dogs are also called Chinese Shar-Pei, named after their place of origin.

The Shar-Pei is an ancient breed, so it isn’t easy to pinpoint precisely when this breed began. However, most experts in the field believe that this breed originated during China’s Han Dynasty, nearly 2,000 years ago. These early-on Shar-Pei dogs resembled the appearance of the breed today, but with a few physical differences—they were taller, leaner, less wrinkly, and had smaller muzzles.

Shar-Pei were initially used for hunting and guarding livestock and property. These dogs are naturally alert, and they have an overall protective disposition. Unfortunately, some of these same characteristics that made the Shar-Pei good at their jobs also caught the attention of people running illegal dog fights.

The Shar-Pei breed has not always had it easy, even up until as recently as the mid-20th century. During that time, China was experiencing political turmoil. The communists, who were in control of the People’s Republic of China, did not believe in keeping dogs indoors as pets. This lead to a plummet in Shar-Pei numbers, and the breed nearly became extinct.

Thankfully, one man, Matgo Law, took an interest in preserving this breed. He was able to find and breed a few Shar-Pei dogs that remained in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In the 1970s, he sent some of these pups to the United States to further the breeding efforts. However, the breed once again hit a stroke of poor luck.

As word spread that the Shar-Pei was one of the world’s rarest dogs, the demand for these wrinkly pups skyrocketed, which caused many unfavorable breeding practices. Thankfully, in just a short time, the Shar-Pei finally received some good fortune, and the breed once again became not just prevalent but healthy.

Over the past few decades, the popularity of this breed has declined, but Shar-Pei remain a relatively common breed worldwide.

shar-pei dog snuggling with a man in a red and black plaid shirt

Attributes

Shar-Pei have many distinct features that make them unique. So, what items set these pups apart?

Before adopting a Shar-Pei, many dog parents have some questions about the breed. Common questions include:

Why Are Shar-Pei so Wrinkly?

Believe it or not, these dogs haven’t always been quite so wrinkly. During the latter part of the 20th century, when breeding efforts increased and the dogs made their way to the United States, these “newer” litters contained more wrinkled dogs, among a few other physical differences.

As for why they have wrinkles, the extra folds of skin can protect them from other animals’ attacks. Also, most Shar-Pei puppies will have an excess of rolls when they are young—like babies. As they get older, they will grow into their skin, and the number of wrinkles will most likely decrease.

How Big Do Shar-Pei Get?

Shar-Pei are a medium-sized breed, and they can weigh anywhere from 35-60 pounds. Height-wise, these dogs typically stand 17-20 inches to their shoulder. Although these numbers are averages for this breed, all dogs are individualistic and may be smaller or larger than usual.

Do Shar-Pei Shed?

It will come as good news to Shar-Pei parents that these short-coated dogs do not shed too much.

What Is the Lifespan of a Shar-Pei?

The expected average lifespan for Shar-Pei is 8-12 years. However, even though this is the typical life expectancy, many factors can affect these numbers.

It is also worth noting that you can find Shar-Pei in two different looks. The traditional look, which is more associated with Eastern regions, is called “bone-mouth.” These dogs are typically taller, leaner, have fewer wrinkles, and have a less “meatier” mouth. The newer, more Westernized Shar-Pei are now much more common, and the image people typically picture when they think of this breed. Referred to as “meat-mouth,” these Shar-Pei are shorter, stockier, have an excess of wrinkles, and have a “meatier” mouth.

Are you worried that your dog may be showing symptoms of aggression? Learn more about the sign, causes, and prevention techniques.

Grooming and Care

When it comes to grooming a Shar-Pei, they are relatively low maintenance. Like any other dog, they need their nails trimmed about once a month, teeth brushed multiple times a week, and ears checked weekly and cleaned when necessary. Because this breed has small, folded ears, they can be more susceptible to ear infections.

As for baths, they can be given as needed, probably close to every 6-8 weeks, or more frequently if your dog likes to roll around in the mud. Because these dogs do not shed much, they don’t require much brushing. Just one quick brush a week can often do the trick—be sure you are using the correct brush or grooming glove for the Shar-Pei coat.

A unique part of a Shar-Pei grooming routine is their wrinkle care. It is essential that after every bath, you take the time to dry in between all wrinkles thoroughly. This also applies to when your dog has been swimming or out playing in the rain—though Shar-Pei typically prefer to keep themselves nice and clean.

If their wrinkles are not cared for correctly, they can develop a fungal infection. Even if your pup hasn’t been swimming or received a bath recently, you may still need to wipe and dry their skin every week.

Besides their grooming routine, another implemental part of caring for a Shar-Pei is providing a nutritious diet. Be aware that the type of food your pup will require will change as they age, as will the amount that they eat. You may even need to adjust your dog’s food amount from season to season.

For instance, if your dog is much more active in the summer months, they may require a bit of extra food per meal. Then in the winter, if they are less active, it will be important that you cut back on their portion size.

Overfeeding your dog can lead to obesity, and once your dog is overweight, a slew of other health issues are sure to follow quickly. To help keep your canine friend in tip-top shape, it is vital that they receive daily exercise.

So, how much exercise does a Shar-Pei need? It may come as a surprise to some, but these dogs are not overly active, so they don’t require an excessive amount of exercise. A moderate daily walk, a run in the backyard, or some playtime is often sufficient.

Keep in mind that Shar-Pei can overheat quickly in hotter weather. To avoid this problem, here are three quick and easy steps you can take.

  1. Exercise your Shar-Pei early in the morning or late at night when temperatures are low and the sun is not out.
  2. If your dog is outside in warmer than average temperatures, make sure they have water and a shady place to retreat if they begin getting warm.
  3. Keep your pup cool and comfy indoors by leaving the air conditioning or a fan running for them.

You may find that your Shar-Pei loves cooler weather and may want to spend more time outside during the fall or winter. Just keep in mind that these pups should never be kept as outside dogs. They do best indoors where they can be close to their family.

shar-pei dog with a red collar on a black leash

Training

When it comes to training your Shar-Pei, the most critical element is patience. Although these dogs are intelligent and typically eager to learn, they can also be stubborn and a little bit of a challenge to train. Training should begin as early as possible—you may be surprised how much your pup can retain at a young age.

By being patient, remaining positive, and rewarding your Shar-Pei during training sessions, you can encourage them to continue learning commands and tricks. It’s also helpful to consider that training a Shar-Pei is an ongoing process, one you should continue throughout your dog’s whole life.

Going hand-in-hand with training is socialization. Socialization is implemental to raising a dog with a well-rounded temperament and good social skills. Socialization opportunities can include a whole plethora of items and, just like training, these social interactions should be introduced to your dog at a young age and continued throughout their whole life.

Common Health Issues

Shar-Pei are a relatively healthy dog breed. That said, these canines are still susceptible to some health issues. According to our claims data,** the top five issues that affect this breed include,

Although these conditions are typical for this breed, there is no guarantee that your Shar-Pei will experience any or all of these issues.

As a responsible Shar-Pei parent, it is vital that you are familiar with the medical signs of these most common problems. By knowing what you should be keeping an eye out for, you can hopefully be a step ahead in the case of an emergency.

Of course, one of the best ways to look after your dog’s health is to take them for their yearly check-ups with their veterinarian. These annual appointments allow professionals to make sure that all is well with your pup’s health. Plus, these appointments provide an excellent opportunity for dog parents to ask any questions they may have concerning their canine.

**Internal Claims Data, 2015-20
The information presented in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute or substitute for the advice of your veterinarian.

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