Chinese Shar Pei

Chinese Shar Pei dog
John Walton
Written by John Walton

A Chinese Shar Pei is immediately recognized because of its wrinkles, triangle ears, and curly tail, which gives them such an adorable look! One of the best things about them is that they come in 18 different colors, so you can choose which shade you like! Also, one fun fact is that there are only one of two breeds that have blue-black tongues (the other breed is the Chow Chow)!

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessBelow Average
Exercise NeedsBelow Average

Dog Breed Group:Working Dog Breed
Height:1 foot, 6 inches up to 1 foot, 8 inches tall
Weight:40 to 55 pounds
Life Span:8 to 12 years

The Chinese Shar Pei’s name translates to “sand skin”, due to their coat that feels like bristles. Not only that but their skin is full of loose wrinkles, with folds all over, making them look as if they have large clothing on them! He also has small triangle ears with a large head and a tail that curls over, along with the trademark blue-black tongue. This calm, independent dog breed can think for himself and is also a great guard dog for the home, but should be trained not to be too tenacious when strangers are around. This breed is smart and can be trained easily, too!

Originating in China, this breed was once one of the top rarest dog breeds, which was noted by Guinness World Records. The Chinese Shar-Pei has been around since ancient times and has genes that are similar to the Taymyr wolf that was also from the Asian continent. A fun fact about this breed is that it comes in 18 colors, but only 16 of them are recognized by the AKC. The breed was officially recognized by then in 1992.

Your dog may be wary of strangers, which is one of the signs of a guard dog, so it will need early training and socialization with not only strangers, but children and different kinds of animals. If training is not given, this breed tends to get very territorial and will turn aggressive toward people and animals. Another thing is that they do not like to be by themselves for too long. They love human interaction because they are loyal and loving to their owners, and it is not uncommon for them to be near their owners the majority of the time.

Sadly, due to bad breeding, the Chinese Shar-Pei looks different than it used to, which has resulted in this breed having some health issues. It is known that this breed rarely makes it to age 10 but it is not unheard of for them to live until 12, if healthy. They are prone to skin infections, mostly because of the loose, hanging skin.

They are prone to eye issues and a disease called Familial Shar Pei Fever, which causes short fevers because of fluid that collects near their ankles, due to proteins not breaking down properly. They are never short of love, however, and will continue to be loyal for their whole lives!

Main Highlights
  • This breed can overheat themselves quickly because of their short noses. They will also wheeze and snore because of their noses. But they must keep cool with a fan, air conditioning, or playing in the sprinkler outside.
  • There are only two known dog breeds with blue-black tongues, which are this breed and the Chow Chow. Oddly enough, when dogs are in dog shows or trials, judges love to see a dark tongue on a dog!
  • The skin folds, or wrinkles, on this breed need to be watched a lot. Always check for rashes, dry skin, and when bathing, be sure to completely dry the areas where the folds are. Bacteria and fungi collect in these areas.
  • This breed originally came from southern China and is considered an ancient breed. They were used as herders, guards, hunters and as fighters. Once nearly extinct, the breed was saved by a man named Matgo Law of Hong Kong.
  • Be a leader to your dog. This breed needs reinforcement its whole life. Start training as a puppy, or you will see them become stubborn and will not listen to you because they will take over the leadership role.
Breed History

The Chinese Shar-Pei was originally used as a guard, fighter, herder and hunter in the southern area of China. It is known that they were developed to have a bristly coat and big wrinkles because they could defend themselves against animals like the wild boar, while they were out hunting with or without their owners.

Sadly, the breed was also used for a period of time for dog fighting and was then re-developed to be hard to hold onto and defend against attacks, by turning their loose skin in the fight, which then allowed them to bite the attacking dog. But once the Communist Revolution started, the population of this breed died down to near extinction.

Luckily, a businessman named Matgo Law, began a crusade to save the breed, in dog magazines in 1973. It was near that time that roughly 200 dogs from this breed were sneaked into the United States – most of the Chinese Shar Peis that are alive now are mainly because of the smuggled dogs that came here in the 1970s. The breed is now far from extinct, but is not so popular that people will breed them in droves. They are very popular in China still, and are used for guarding, hunting, herding, and as family companions.


Both the males and females of this breed can grow from 18 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder. They will also come in at a weigh of 40 to 55 pounds. Of course, they would weigh less without all of that extra hanging skin from their coat!

Personality and Character

Akin to the majority of dog breeds, the Chinese Shar-Pei really needs to be socialized as a puppy so they can experience new people and be exposed to the outdoors and have experiences interacting with the world. This will help him to be a healthy, mentally happy, puppy. The main reason they need to be socialized early is so they will not be too stubborn or aggressive with people, other dogs, and various animals.

A Chinese Shar-Pei with its owner is a happy dog. They rarely stray too far from them because they are so protective, loyal, and loving. Just be aware of the independent streak he may have. But this breeds makes a great guard dog or watch dog and will make you aware of anything that deems threatening with his rare, but noticeable bark.

Health and Potential Problems

Due to bad breeding and other factors like their hanging, loose skin, this breed is prone to some issues with its health. Be aware of not only the common health problems that can arise with all dogs, but with the specific diseases and ailments that could be harmful specifically to this breed.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy: This means loss of vision, which is when the retina is losing the ability to process light. Most dogs who begin to suffer from retinal atrophy will first have a hard time seeing at night, and over time their vision will suffer when the sun is out. This can and does lead to full blindness, and is not treatable currently.
  • Entropion: This condition is the rolling of the eyelid inwards, which can happen with both eyes, usually on the lower ends. This can not only irritate the eye of your dog, but can cause your dog to lose his vision. The only cure is to have surgery to repair the eye area.
  • Hip Dysplasia: This is a condition in which the bone in the thigh does not fit correctly into the hip joint. One way to tell if this is hurting your dog is to check for pain and lack of use of that area. While this condition is hereditary, it can be attained from other factors like diet, falling, or any injury.
  • Cutaneous Mucinosis: This occurs when the mucin causes wrinkling of the skin and is generally connected to allergies. If your dog gets hurt, this mucous can become exposed and feel stringy, and it will make bubbles on the dog’s skin that will continue to ooze out. Steroids are generally prescribed for this condition.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: This condition is also common in dogs, and it occurs when the cartilage does not naturally develop, which then leads to terrible arthritis and overall pain in the affected area.
  • Diabetes: Like humans, dogs can have diabetes, which is the body being unable to process sugars correctly. Check for the symptoms which include increased appetite, being really thirsty, and going to the bathroom a lot. A dog will live with diabetes for the rest of its life so it is important to get them on insulin shots and control what they eat.
  • Shar Pei Fever: This is when the hock joint begins to swell and the dog cannot move the area and will suffer from pain in the abdomen, have a hard time breathing, will vomit and have diarrhea as well as fevers that can last 3 days.
  • Seborrhea: This is when a dog’s skin will become flaky and stinky, and usually occurs with allergies or an infection. Most people will use medicated shampoo for treatment.
  • Pyoderma: This is a skin condition that is considered a bacterial infection that is common for the breed. This can occur with other diseases the dog may have like allergies or even hypothyroidism and is treated with antibiotics.
Care Features

The good thing about this breed is that it can live in smaller spaces, making it easy to find a place to live! Wherever their owner is, the dog will be, and that’s what makes them happy. As previously mentioned, you should begin training and socialize your pup as soon as you get them, so they can get used to the sights and sounds of everything, and meet new people and animals. They will love the park, but cannot stress their body out or be in the heat too long. Since they can be stubborn and occasionally aggressive, they should be leash trained.

Loving, loyal, and caring, this breed may get over protective occasionally, due to its nature of guarding and watching out for anything they deem a threat. Being a strong leader to this breed is important or else they will become stubborn and consider themselves the leader. Always take charge, and after a while they will take their cues from you.

Since they love to be near their owners, having a dog bed near the couch and one near your own bed is a great idea. They can be comfortable and warm near you without actually getting into your bed, if you do not allow that. This makes them relax more and sleep better if they are comfortable near their leader. They do not like being alone for too long or being too far away from their family, so making them comfortable areas to have that are their own can help them stay calm and docile, which they generally are anyway.

Feeding Schedule

As far as feeding your Chinese Shar-Pei, you should feed them between 1.2 to 1.75 cups of dry kibble food per meal. They will eat twice a day, so this will equal out to 1.5 to 2.5 cups of kibble per day. Occasional snacks and treats are fine, and be sure to leave out plenty of fresh water for them to drink. Using a high protein dog food will keep them energetic and healthy.

Coat, Color and Grooming

The coat of the Chinese Shar Pei is noticeably bristly and the coat is incredibly loose and wrinkly, which is due to bad breeding long ago. Their short noses make it so they cannot be in the heat too long. However, they are extremely clean dogs that do not produce much of a smell and come in various colors like fawn, cream, sable, blue, black and red, among many others.

It is recommended that you brush your dog once per week to remove any debris and dead hair, and he can be bathed everything 3 to 4 months, as bathing will cause skin irritation. While bathing, be sure to dry into his folds really well to lessen the chance of yeast infections and rashes. You can trim their nails once per month and it is recommended to brush their teeth a few times per week.

While checking their body over, watch for skin irritation or rashes which are common for this breed. Always check their ears too for irritation, and if there is buildup, gently clean the outer ear portion. As always, if you are worried about anything, contact the vet for help. He may prescribe cleaners or antibiotics for certain situations. Also, doing weekly body exams will prepare them for inspection by the vet, which can be scary for them at times.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

While widely considered a family pet, small children should be supervised within the area of a Chinese Shar-Pei. While training early, they can be socialized with children and it is recommended, but an adult should be present. Children should be shown how to come up to dogs and how to pet them. Otherwise, this breed gets along great with children and loves to play with them and be around all of the action.

The Chinese Shar-Pei is a loyal, devoted family dog that is never far from their leader. This breed loves human interaction and is happy to be wherever his family is. They will alert their family to danger or anything unusual, and they will protect and guard them against predators. Overall, the Chinese Shar-Pei is a welcoming addition to the family.

To close out, the Chinese Shar-Pei is a great dog to own as long as they are socialized and trained as puppies, otherwise they will be stubborn and take over leadership. This breed is otherwise loving and devoted to their owners and families and makes some of the best guard dogs. While they rarely bark by nature, they will alert you to any danger. They also tend to stay near their owners, because of their protective nature, and can always be found close by.

They can also live nearly everywhere as long as they have a place to walk with their owner. They love going to the park and playing but they cannot stress out their bodies or stay in the heat too long. The Chinese Shar-Pei overall makes a great family dog that will guard your home and steal your heart!

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.