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the search for a dog
shar-pei

Breed overview

  • Breed groupNon-sporting group (American Kennel Club)
  • Height18 to 20 inches
  • Weight45 to 60 pounds
  • Coat length & textureCoarse and short
  • Coat colorShar-Pei come in over 20 different standard and non-standard colors, including white, blue, brown, red, cream, and more. Dogs may range from black to red to cream or sand, each with a variety of possible markings that make them unique. 
  • Exercise needsModerately active
  • IntelligenceHigh intelligence
  • BarkingWhen necessary
  • Life span8 to 12 years
  • TemperamentLoyal, independent, calm, and alert 
  • HypoallergenicNo
  • OriginChina

👉 No dog breed is 100% hypoallergenic, but some are better than others for allergy sufferers.

Shar-Pei fun facts

  • A Shar-Pei’s wrinkles act as body armor. This ancient breed’s loose skin protected them during guardian duties. If another animal grabbed their skin, they could still get away without getting seriously hurt. 
  • The Shar-Pei was once the world’s rarest dog. In the 1940s, China initiated a hefty tax on all dogs, causing the Shar-Pei to nearly go extinct. The Guinness Book of World Records named the Shar-Pei the rarest dog breed in the world in the late 1970s. 
  • Shar-Pei have blue-black tongues. Their dark tongues were designed to make them look more ferocious. The only other dog breed with this color tongue is the chow chow.
shar-pei-funfacts

Shar-Pei temperament and characteristics

This unique breed is intelligent, independent, and loyal to family. Their distinct wrinkles and protective nature make them a one-of-a-kind companion and guard dog. Bred to protect the royal palace, these fearless dogs are filled with tenacity and vigor. They’re often suspicious of strangers and other animals, and are often best suited in single dog households. Due to their jealous nature, this breed does best with experienced dog owners and families with older children. 

With early socialization and training, Shar-Pei can be well-mannered, loving, and generally quite calm. However, without proper training, they can develop severe anxiety and can be difficult to care for. This breed has some unique needs and may not be suited to first-time dog owners.

Common Shar-Pei health problems

Chinese Shar-Pei can have some unusual health concerns. While these dogs may require a little more than your average vet checkup, the most important thing you can do is be aware of their breed predispositions. This breed is especially prone to eye disorders, so if you notice anything out of the ordinary, contact your vet right away.

  • Entropion. The eyelids can roll inward and cause the eyelashes to rub against the surface of the eye. This leads to irritation and can cause an ulcer to form. If not treated in time, entropion can lead to blindness. Contact your vet if you notice squinting, redness, excessive draining, or a green/yellow discharge.
  • Glaucoma. Just like people, Chinese Shar-Pei can develop glaucoma , which is when intraocular pressure in the eye is increased. This is a very painful condition and is considered an emergency. Common symptoms are squinting, enlargement of the eyeball(s), watery eyes, redness, or a blue tinge on the surface of the eye.
  • Lens luxation. This disorder is due to a genetic mutation inherited from both parents, and can lead to permanent vision loss. A dog with a lens luxation may show signs of pain by blinking more frequently or holding their eye closed. Your dog may also bump into things, or suddenly become reluctant to jump off the couch or go up or down the stairs.
  • Otitis externa (ear infections). Shar-Pei have narrow ear canals which make them susceptible to recurring ear infections. Clean their ears every 1-2 weeks for maintenance with a routine ear cleaner to avoid infections.
  • Skin fold dermatitis. While the Shar-Pei’s wrinkles may be adorable, they can trap moisture near the skin and lead to recurring bacterial and/or yeast infections. There are medicated wipes designed to help keep these folds clean and lessen the risk for skin infections.
  • Hypothyroidism. Some Shar-Pei are deficient in thyroid hormone which causes them to have thinning hair, recurring skin infections, ear infections, and dry and pigmented skin.  Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with bloodwork, and is a manageable condition with long-term thyroid supplementation.

Cost of caring for a Shar-Pei

While this breed may be prone to more than average health risks, signing your pet up for health insurance or creating a pet savings account can help you manage any unexpected costs up front. When it comes to the costs of caring for these dogs, there are a few things you’ll need to factor in.

Shar-Pei puppies from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere from $750 to $1,500, depending on how well they match the breed standard. If you’d rather adopt a pup in need, there are several Shar-Pei rescue organizations to help you find your perfect pet. In order to be prepared for the arrival of your new puppy, you’ll have to buy routine necessities like a bed, collar, food, and bowls. You’ll also want to consider the costs of spaying or neutering your dog, training classes, getting them dewormed, and routine puppy vaccinations. These costs combined can reach around $1,500 or more in the first year. 

You’ll also need to consider everything your dog may need over time. This includes routine and sick vet checkups, ear cleaner, medicated skin wipes, heartworm prevention, flea and tick medications, food, toys, and unexpected medical conditions throughout your pet’s life. When you combine all of these costs, you’ll likely spend around $600 to $700 per year to keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

History of the Shar-Pei

Originally bred in China, the Shar-Pei dates back more than 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. Famously known as guard dogs for the royal palace, these pups were surprisingly common among the people, too. The Shar-Pei is incredibly versatile, and Chinese farmers used these intelligent, fiercely loyal dogs as hunters, herders, and livestock guardians. But when the People’s Republic of China was established in 1949, the communist regime frowned on dog ownership, killing off many purebreds and inflicting heavy taxes on dog owners. 

Shar-Pei were first introduced to the United States in 1966. Not long after, a Hong Kong breeder named Matgo Law worked with the U.S. to save the endangered breed from extinction. Naturally, the American people took to these lovable bundles of wrinkles and helped the breed multiply and thrive.

shar-pei-history

Caring for your Shar-Pei

Adding a new member to the family can be stressful and overwhelming. Between your first trip to the vet, vaccinations, puppy-proofing your home, and preparing for teething, it’s a lot to handle. So, learn some basic information about Shar-Pei to make you and your pup’s transition a little easier. 

Exercise 

The Shar-Pei is an incredibly adaptable breed. They can do well with active owners who enjoy spending time in the great outdoors, or apartment living with short walks around the block. These dogs are naturally independent and generally quite calm, so they won’t need any extra attention besides some pets and love. 

However, they’re incredibly smart, so mental stimulation like obedience training, tracking, puzzles, and games can help keep this breed happy and entertained. It’s also important to socialize your pup and sign them up for training classes early. This will help them be less anxious around other people and pets, and make them easier to handle throughout their lives.

shar-pei-exercise

Grooming 

The Chinese Shar-Pei is low maintenance when it comes to grooming. Regular baths, nail trimming, ear cleaning, and teeth brushing will keep your pup happy and healthy. However, these dogs are prone to ear and skin infections, so clean their ears and wrinkles regularly and check them for any skin irritations or build up

Diet and nutrition 

A high-quality, well-balanced dog food designed for your pup’s age will have all the nutrients they need. These dogs love treats when it comes to training time, but be careful not to overfeed them. Those adorable brown eyes like to beg for table scraps, so check which human foods are safe for dogs before giving your pet any extra snacks.  Consult with your local veterinarians in order to determine the proper feeding amount and dietary needs for your Shar-Pei.

Training your Shar-Pei

Shar-Pei are incredibly smart and willing to learn, but can be a bit too smart for their own good. With this in mind, they may find some interesting ways to get what they want. Shar-Pei often have a stubborn streak and independent nature, so these dogs are best for experienced owners. 

Since Shar-Pei were bred to be protective, early socialization and puppy training are highly recommended to make sure your pet is comfortable in various situations. These dogs do well in many types of training, from basic obedience to agility, tracking, hunting, and more.

shar-pei-training

Breeds similar to the Shar-Pei

Not quite sure that a Shar-Pei is right for you? Even if you are, it’s worth taking the time to research and consider other similar breeds. Here are a few to get you started:

  • Chow chow. The Shar-Pei and chow chow are both thought to be related to the ancient Han Dog, a Chinese guard dog from about 2,000 years ago. Like the Shar-Pei, chow chows need experienced pet owners and training classes, since the breed can sometimes be aggressive if not trained at an early age.
  • English bulldog. These dogs are tough and muscular with a friendly, sweet, and playful nature. However they can also have recurring skin and ear infections like the Shar-Pei.
  • Pekingese. These dogs are loyal, confident, and independent. They even resemble miniature lions with their long flowing manes of fur.

Frequently asked questions

Is a Shar-Pei a good family dog?

The Shar-Pei is a great family dog that’s loyal and protective. However, due to their jealous nature, these dogs are better suited to families with older children and experienced pet owners. 

What two breeds make a Shar-Pei?

The ancient Chinese Han Dog eventually led to two breeds, the chow and the Shar-Pei. The chow evolved into a bigger, more muscular breed, and the Shar-Pei became the smaller (and more wrinkly) guardians we know today. 

How much does a Shar-Pei puppy cost?

Shar-Pei puppies from a reputable breeder can cost anywhere from $750 to $1,500. However, if you’d rather adopt a dog in need, the North American Shar-Pei Rescue offers resources for finding your perfect pet. 

What are some common behavioral problems that Shar-Pei have?

Shar-Pei were originally bred for hunting and were once used in dog fighting, which means they can be a bit stubborn and territorial. Without proper socialization, they may become unfriendly to strangers and struggle with new environments or people. They can also become very anxious and difficult to handle, so an experienced owner is best for these dogs.