Everything You Need to Know About the Shar Pei Dog Breed

The Shar Pei is a unique breed that has gained popularity worldwide in recent years. They have their origins in China and were initially bred for fighting and protection. In this article, we will explore the history, physical characteristics, personality and temperament, and health of the Shar Pei breed.

History of the Shar Pei Breed

Origins in China

The Shar Pei breed is believed to have originated in China’s Guangdong Province, where they were commonly used for hunting and guarding. Their distinctive wrinkled skin and prickly ears helped protect them from predators, and their fierce loyalty to their owners made them valuable assets. Their ancient name in Cantonese, “shā pèi”, means “sand skin”, referring to their unique coat texture.

Shar Peis were also known for their exceptional sense of smell, which made them excellent hunting companions. They were often used to track down and catch wild boars, which were a popular source of food in ancient China. Their strong and muscular bodies, combined with their sharp senses, made them a formidable presence in the hunting field.

The Shar Pei’s Journey to the West

Little is known about the Shar Pei until the end of the 19th century when they were nearly extinct from fighting and political turmoil. A Hong Kong businessman named Matgo Law discovered the last known surviving Shar Pei and began to breed them to preserve the breed. He faced many challenges in his efforts to save the breed, including a lack of genetic diversity and health issues caused by inbreeding.

Despite these challenges, Law’s efforts were successful, and the Shar Pei breed was saved from extinction. Today, many Shar Peis can trace their lineage back to Law’s breeding program.

Breed Recognition and Popularity

Since their introduction to the United States, the Shar Pei breed has gained popularity worldwide, and they are now recognized by major breed registries such as the American Kennel Club. Their unique appearance and loyal nature make them a sought-after breed for pet owners and breeders alike.

Shar Peis are known for their independent and stubborn personalities, which can make them a challenge to train. However, with consistent and patient training, they can become well-behaved and obedient companions. They are also known for their love of children and make excellent family pets.

Despite their popularity, Shar Peis are still considered a rare breed, and finding a reputable breeder can be a challenge. Potential owners should do their research and ensure that they are purchasing from a responsible breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of their dogs.

Physical Characteristics of the Shar Pei

Wrinkled Skin and Coat

The distinctive feature of the Shar Pei breed is their wrinkled skin, which is more prominent when they are puppies. As they age, the wrinkles become less pronounced, and their skin becomes more taut. Their coat is short and bristly, with several color variations, including red, cream, black, and blue. Their fur is coarse and requires minimal grooming, making it an ideal breed for those allergic to dog hair.

Size and Weight

The Shar Pei is a medium-sized breed, with males typically weighing between 55 and 65 pounds and standing 18 to 20 inches tall. Females are slightly smaller, weighing between 45 and 55 pounds and standing 16 to 18 inches tall.

Unique Facial Features

The Shar Pei breed is known for its distinctive facial features, including small ears that stand erect and a dark, wrinkled muzzle that resembles a hippopotamus. Their eyes are small and deep-set, giving them a serious expression.

Personality and Temperament

The Shar Pei is a unique and fascinating breed with a rich history. Originally from China, this breed was highly valued for its loyalty and protective nature. Today, the Shar Pei is still known for its devotion to its family and its ability to form strong bonds with its owners.

Loyalty and Affection

Shar Peis are affectionate and enjoy being near their family members. They are known for their loyalty and devotion, making them an ideal breed for those who want a faithful companion. Shar Peis thrive on attention and love nothing more than spending time with their owners.

However, it is important to note that Shar Peis can be wary of strangers. They may take some time to warm up to new people, but once they do, they will be just as loving and devoted as they are with their family members.

Intelligence and Trainability

The Shar Pei is an intelligent breed that responds well to positive reinforcement training. They are quick learners and enjoy the mental stimulation that training provides. However, it is important to use positive reinforcement techniques that focus on consistency and praise. Harsh training methods can be counterproductive and may cause the Shar Pei to become stubborn or resistant to training.

Early socialization and training are essential for the Shar Pei. This will help reinforce positive behavior and minimize any negative traits that may be inherent in the breed. Shar Peis that are well socialized and trained are more likely to be confident, well-behaved, and happy.

Socialization and Interaction with Other Animals

Shar Peis can be wary of strangers and other animals, making early socialization and training critical. They need to learn how to interact appropriately with people and other pets. Shar Peis may require supervision when around other pets or children until they have had adequate time to adjust and become comfortable with their surroundings.

It is important to note that Shar Peis have a naturally protective nature. They may be wary of strangers and may try to protect their family members if they feel threatened. This can be a positive trait, but it is important to ensure that the Shar Pei is well socialized and trained to prevent any potential aggression towards people or other pets.

Potential Challenges and Solutions

While the Shar Pei is a loyal and loving breed, they can have some challenges that need attention. One potential challenge is separation anxiety, which can cause destructive behavior if left alone for extended periods. Shar Peis may require extra exercise and stimulation to help prevent behavioral issues.

Shar Peis are also prone to certain health conditions, including ear infections and joint problems. Regular veterinary care and monitoring can help prevent or manage these issues.

Overall, the Shar Pei is a unique and fascinating breed that can make a wonderful companion for the right owner. With early socialization, positive reinforcement training, and regular veterinary care, Shar Peis can thrive and live happy, healthy lives.

Health and Lifespan

Common Health Issues

The Shar Pei breed can be prone to several health issues, including ear infections, skin allergies, hip dysplasia, and eye problems. Regular veterinary care, a nutritious diet, and adequate exercise can help minimize the risk of these health conditions developing.

Preventative Care and Regular Checkups

Regular veterinary checkups are essential to help your Shar Pei maintain their health and wellness. Preventative care, such as vaccines and parasite control, can help minimize the risk of diseases or infections. Owners should monitor their Shar Pei’s skin and ears for signs of infection, and regularly clean their ears to prevent buildup of debris.

Diet and Exercise Requirements

A nutritious diet and regular exercise are essential to maintain your Shar Pei’s health and wellbeing. High-quality dog food that is appropriate for their age, breed, and activity level should be provided. Regular exercise can help prevent weight gain, which can increase the risk of joint problems and other health issues.

Expected Lifespan

The Shar Pei breed has a lifespan of approximately 8 to 12 years, depending on their health and care. Adequate care, including regular veterinary checkups, proper nutrition, and exercise, can help ensure your Shar Pei lives a long and healthy life.


The Shar Pei breed is a unique and loyal breed that requires proper care and attention to maintain their health and wellbeing. From their ancient origins in China to their present-day popularity worldwide, the Shar Pei has become a beloved breed for pet owners and breeders alike. By providing them with a nutritious diet, exercise, and regular veterinary care, you can help ensure your Shar Pei lives a long and healthy life.

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