Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)
The deep set eyes, dark tongue, and high tail give it away instantly. You’re looking at a Shar-Pei. Oh, and the wrinkles. We can’t forget the wrinkles! These pups are extremely easy to pick out of a doggy line-up with these tale-tale features.
The Shar-Pei breed is distinct, rare, and strong. These dogs look like snugly cuddle buddys, but they’re actually pretty reserved and independent. It’s not always easy to break through a Shar-Pei’s mental and emotional wall, but we’ve got insight and tips to help Shar-Pei lovers unlock the secrets of this ancient breed.
Also Known As…
Sand Skin (literal translation). Cantonese Shar-Pei. Wrinkleface. “Someone oughta take that dog to the vet! His face has been stung by bees!” “Nah, that’s just how he looks.”
The history of the Shar-Pei stretches back as far as 200 B.C. with the Han Dynasty. Native to China’s southern provinces, the Shar-Pei was bred and kept by peasant farmers who wanted to protect their livestock. The pups have many jobs on the farm, mostly hunter, herder, and protector.
In 1949 the People’s Republic of China was formed and the norms of society changed. Dog ownership was no longer commonly acceptable and, regretfully, much of the canine population was wiped out. Fortunately some breeds were saved. These pups were safeguarded in Hong Kong and Taiwan, which helped the Shar-Pei survive and allow us to enjoy them today!
Matgo Law, a dog lover and businessman from Hong Kong, made a move to ensure the safety and survival of the Shar Pei. In 1973 Matgo Law reached out to Americans through a magazine and appealed for help to save these unique dogs. Almost 200 Shar-Peis were smuggled into America and saved.
A full grown Standard adult Shar-Pei can stand between 18 to 22 inches tall. An adult Miniature Shar-Pei will fall between 15 to 18 inches, and a Toy Shar-Pei would be under 15 inches tall.
This breed has a weight range from 40 to 60 pounds.
The Shar-Pei may seem like a slow-paced sleep pup, but they’re very alert and self-reliant. Completely devoted to family members, the Shar-Pei can be indifferent toward strangers.
Quite similar to the Chow Chow, the Shar-Pei breed is very loyal to their handler. They’re known to be independent, strong-willed (stubborn), and protective of family.
With a ancient history of hunting, fighting, and protecting livestock and humans, Shar-Peis have the characteristic of a guard dog. Unless properly trained and socialized, these dogs can be reactive if they feel there’s a threat nearby or if they are in the presence of another pup.
All dogs need socialization to be a participating member of the canine community. Early socialization is absolutely necessary with the Shar-Pei — the chance to experience people outside of the family home, unfamiliar surroundings, sounds, and situations.
This training and education will help ensure that your canine companion grows up to be a well-rounded dog that can behave properly in public.
Intelligence / Trainability
The Shar-Pei breed isn’t known for their intelligence, they’re mostly known for their stubborn and dominant nature. It won’t be easy teaching your new pup commands. This breed may be better for seasoned dog owners or those who are very patient. Training a Shar-Pei needs to start at a very early age and be consistent for progress.
Best Training Techniques For The Shar-Pei
Here are more tips for training your willful pup:
- Start at an early age for the best results.
- Early socialization will help your Shar-Pei at the dog park, training classes, and everywhere else.
- Patience, and lots of it!
- Be the Alpha. If your Shar-Pei takes the dominant role in your relationship, you’ll have a very hard time reclaiming control and setting boundaries with your dog.
- Positive reinforcement lets your pal know they’re achieving desired results.
A Shar-Pei is a great medium-sized dog that can comfortably live in a family home or in a city center apartment. Great for active owners, these pups can keep up on a fun jog or hike. Prone to overheating, your pup would do best in moderate temperatures. The high temperature environments can also cause sweating and skin issues.
Although they’re not exactly cuddle buddies, they do love their owners and family members and desire to stay at your side.
Shar-Pei pups can easily gain weight, so routine exercise is needed. They would thrive in a home with a tall fenced-in yard for regular exercise or in an apartment near a dog park for daily activity.
Good For Families And Kids?
Shar-Pei pups are known to primarily bond with one individual and they are fiercely loyal to their beloved human or family members.
If your Shar-Pei is consistently trained and socialized from a very young age, reactivity shouldn’t be a problem for families with teens or toddlers. The pups are an independent and strong. Adult supervision is always recommended when a young child is playing with any breed of dog. The Shar-Pei may react to an uncomfortable touch from toddlers, so it’s important to make sure everyone engaging with your dog is being respectful . This breed would be best for families with older children who can learn to respect the dog’s space and needs.
The average lifespan of the Shar-Pei breed is 8 to 12 years.
The Shar-Pei was bred to hunt, protects, and was used – eventually – for fighting. The breed has developed very precise issues and diseases throughout time. Although Shar-Pei wrinkles are adorable and make them look like cuddly pups, they also can cause huge skin problems if the dog isn’t properly cleaned or groomed. Make sure your pal is healthy inside and out by becoming familiar with the following health issues specifically found the the Shar-Pei breed.
- Shar-Pei Fever
- Eye Issues (Entropion, Glaucoma, Retinal Dysplasia, and SARDS)
- Patellar Luxation
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Cutaneous Mucinosis
The Shar-Pei isn’t exactly hyper, but they do have moderate energy and need daily exercise. Walks and time at the dog park will be enough to keep your pal in shape. They would also enjoy a fetch session in the backyard.
Create a routine for your pup, otherwise they’ll become lethargic and gain weight – which could cause health issues for your dog. High temperatures outside can overheat a Shar Pei. Try to engage your pup inside the home on hot summer days to get them moving and keep their energy level balanced.
Friendly with (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/other pets?)
These pups are known to prefer the presences of people over other dogs, and they love to be with handlers and owner all the time. A constant sidekick that’s calm and confident, these wrinkled pups seems to have a deep understanding and connection with their favorite human or family members.
Coat & Grooming
The Shar-Pei comes in three different types of coats; Horse Coat (the shortest and roughest coat), Brush Coat (a bit softer and longer), and the Bear Coat ( a long soft coat). The Bear Coat is rare and closer resembles a Chow Chow. The more common coats of the Shar-Pei are easy to maintain. They don’t require frequent baths, combing, or coat trims. The main difficulty an owner may experience would come from the famous Shar-Pei wrinkles, the ears, and nails.
About once a week owners should trim the nails and clean the ears. This breed commonly experiences skin issues. After bathing (and playing outside or sweating) make sure your pup is completely clean and dry between the wrinkles. The Shar-Pei can carry mites and irritants on their skin and between the folds – which can cause skin problems.
Toys A Shar-Pei Would Like Best
The Shar-Pei need toys to hold their attention and interest. Toys are a great way to get your pup up and moving. Mental and physical stimulation keeps your dog from destructive behavior and playing creates an opportunity for bonding time between dog and owner.
This particular breed is very smart. They can also be very stubborn. Items, such as Tug Toys and Fetch Toys, will get your pal playing. However, Shar-Pei dogs are independent and can get bored easily. They may simply stop responding to the toys and move on to something else.
Check out a rundown of the Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs Who Get Bored Easily for a more extensive list.
Recommended Diet or Supplements
The Shar-Pei are well-known for their history of hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cause arthritis, eye issues, and knee issues.
If your dog is having problems with movement or joint pain, you may want to consider supplements for their diet. As always, it’s best to consult your veterinarian first.
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your wrinkly buddy with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with joint issues, pain relief, and ease aggression in dogs during stressful situations. ($17.99-22.99.)
Shar-Peis deserve to relax in peace with proper support for their heavyset frames. Supplements can help them internally. Here is another great recommendation to allow them to unwind in total comfort.
This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s stout body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your favorite buddy. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Shar-Pei Of Your Dreams
- Pei People Shar-Pei Rescue
- North American Shar-Pei Rescue
- Shar-Pei Rescue of Virginia
- Mid-Atlantic Chinese Shar-Pei Rescue
- Adoptable Shar-Peis on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Shar-Pei
Get all the Shar-Pei cuteness and wrinkles you can handle by following these adorable pups on Instagram!
***Looking for a gift to blow your Shar-Pei’s mind? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂
Featured image via Filson.Yosen/Instagram