Chinese Shar-Pei Overview

Dog Breed:
Chinese Shar-Pei
Breed Group:
Independent, suspicious, loyal, alert, and calm
18-20 inches
45-60 pounds
Life Span:
8-12 years
Coat Colors:
Over 20 different colors
Area of Origin:
Best For:
Experienced dog owners/Homes without small children/Owners able to provide early training and socialization
Adult Food:
Best Dog Food for Chinese Shar-Peis
Puppy Food:
Best Puppy Food for Chinese Shar-Peis

Chinese Shar-Pei Characteristics

Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Chinese Shar-Pei

  • Instantly recognizable through their wrinkled appearance

  • Generally calm but protective nature

  • Became a victim of puppy farms and unscrupulous breeders

The name Shar-Pei means ‘sand skin,’ which is a reference towards their harsh bristle-like coat. But it’s probably not their coat, which is the feature that they’re best known for. The mass of loose wrinkles, especially as a puppy, making them instantly stand out from other breeds. As they grow, they do fill out some of the folds of skin, but they still retain some around the face and along their back.

Generally, they’re a calm dog to live with, but the breed does retain their watchdog nature. As a result, they’re particularly aloof with people they don’t know.

Sadly, the Shar-Pei became a target for unscrupulous breeders and puppy farms who bred without attention to the health and temperament of the breed. Now it’s become a less popular breed, responsible breeders have been working hard to reestablish the Shar-Pei’s loyal character and to reduce the risk of health problems.

Chinese Shar-Pei Breed History

  • An ancient breed going back to 200BC

  • Nearly became extinct in the early 1970s

  • Recognized by the AKC in 1991


An ancient breed, the Shar-Pei, is thought to have originated in Kwangtung Province and has existed since 200 BC in China’s southern provinces. Evidence has included statues dated from this period, which closely resemble the breed and then later a 13th-century manuscript which mentions a wrinkled dog with characteristics of the Shar-Pei.

The combination of the wrinkles and harshness of the coat were initially developed to help the dogs ward off wild boar when being used as hunting dogs. When they later became dogs bred for fighting, the folds of skin made it difficult for their opponent to grab hold of them. Even if the other dog did get a grip, the Shar-Pei was still able to turn and twist within their loose skin towards their opposition.

There is little modern history about the breed. Following the establishment of the People’s Republic of China, dogs were virtually eliminated, with none being seen in cities and few remaining in the countryside. During this time, some Shar-Pei were being bred in Hong Kong and had it not been for the work of a small group of enthusiasts, the breed would likely have become extinct.

It was 1966 when a few dogs who were registered within the Hong Kong Kennel Club, arrived in the US. Matgo Law of Down Homes Kennels in Hong Kong then appealed to dog breeders in the US to save the Chinese Shar-Pei, and having been met with an enthusiastic response, more dogs were imported in 1973.

In 1991 the American Kennel Club finally recognized the Chinese Shar-Pei, and they now rank 64th in popularity out of a total of 195 breeds.

Chinese Shar-Pei Size & Weight

  • Compact, medium-sized dog

  • Males and females of a similar height and weight

  • 18-20 inches and 45-60 pounds


The Shar-Pei is a compact dog of medium size. Unusually, both males and females have the same height and weight recommendations within the breed standard, although you can expect females to be more at the lower end of the scale. This means a height of between 18 to 20 inches and a weight of between 45-60 pounds.

Chinese Shar-Pei Personality & Temperament

  • Independent and aloof to strangers

  • Devoted and loving to their family

  • Dislike of weather extremes


Alert and independent, the Shar-Pei is totally devoted to his family. However, don’t expect him to go running up to strangers to say hello, they are notoriously aloof with people they don’t know. Calm and confident, they are very intuitive to the moods of their people, who they love to be around all the time.

The Shar-Pei is, however, also very protective of their family and will take on the watchdog role. Because of this, it’s essential to have planned appropriate socialization during their first 20 weeks of life and then continue to ensure they have positive meetings with new people and friendly dogs.

This is a breed that can live with children, but it’s recommended that they grow up with them or have exposure to children throughout their lives. The Shar-Pei can be less tolerant of other dogs compared to some breeds. This then means that careful supervision is essential when meeting new dogs and being ready to intervene if games become too rough.

The Shar-Pei tends not to be an overly active dog within the home, and so they can adapt to apartment living as long as they have several opportunities to go outside every day.

With their short nose, the Shar-Pei can quickly overheat and struggle for breath when the weather turns warmer. They’re also well known for their hatred of wet weather, so a mild climate is the best option for this breed.

Chinese Shar-Pei Health & Grooming

  • Check with breeders for health conditions in the pup’s parents

  • Minimal grooming requirements

  • Care needed to dry the folds and wrinkles if they get wet


There are some health concerns associated with the Shar-Pei breed. So, it’s essential to speak to your breeder to find out what testing has been done and whether their dogs have experienced problems in any of the following areas:

Entropion: This is caused by the eyelid rolling inwards, causing the lashes to rub against the eye. This is a very painful condition that can result in blindness. Surgery is generally needed to correct the problem.

Shar-Pei Fever (Swollen Hock Syndrome): This condition results in the swelling of the hock joint resulting in the dog being reluctant to move. They also experience abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and shallow breathing. Another worrying symptom can be unexplained fever with temperatures as high as 103 to 107 degrees.

Cutaneous Mucinosis: Mucin is the substance that causes wrinkling of the skin. Some Shar-Pei have too much mucin, and it causes clear bubbles to form on the surface of the skin that may then rupture and ooze.

Other skin conditions which the Shar-Pei can experience include demodectic mange, seborrhea, and pyoderma.

The short, harsh coat of the Shar-Pei has very little ‘doggy’ odor and requires little grooming. They need just a weekly brush most of the year, increasing to every day during the shedding season. If you do bath you Shar-Pei, it’s essential that you carefully dry all the folds and wrinkles to prevent a yeast or fungal infection from developing.

Chinese Shar-Pei Training


Now the Shar-Pei is probably not going to be the first choice of breed if you have aspirations in the world of performance sports. However, they are very capable of learning all the basic behaviors to become a well-mannered pet. Patience will be needed, along with several short training sessions a day.

The Shar-Pei will learn much quicker with reward-based training methods than getting into a battle of wills with the use of force. Scent work games are likely to popular with this breed. The dog is far superior in this ability compared to humans, and it doesn’t need to them to blindly follow commands, making it perfect for the Shar-Pei!

The Shar-Pei doesn’t have a high prey drive but do be aware that all dogs can be tempted into chasing at times, so don’t let them lull you into a false sense of security! They do, however, have a lot to say for themselves and tend to be quite quick to respond to a situation with a bark. One more thing on noise from your Shar-Pei…because of their nose shape, they also tend to be loud snorers!

Chinese Shar-Pei Exercise Requirements


    Every dog needs to go on a walk each day. It stimulates their minds, they get to ‘smell’ who has been around, and it helps to maintain their fitness levels. The intensity level does vary though, and the Shar-Pei is not generally a dog who needs high-intensity exercise every day. An on-leash walk for thirty minutes twice a day is enough for many of the breed.

    Shar-Pei’s tend not to be overly playful, though there are always exceptions, and younger dogs are more likely to be up for a game.

    Chinese Shar-Pei Diet & Feeding

    • Speak to your vet for feeding advice for your dog

    • Select a food suitable for your dog's age, size and exercise level

    • Be aware of the risks and signs of bloat


    For advice on your individual dogs’ nutritional needs, do chat with your veterinarian or pet nutritionist.

    Generally, most dogs will stay on a specially formulated puppy food until they’re around 6 months of age. Then they’ll transition onto adult food, which needs to be selected according to your dog’s size, age, and exercise intensity.

    The Shar-Pei is a breed that can get bloat, which is caused by gas filling the stomach, which can then become twisted. Sadly, this can be a fatal situation. While the exact causes are not known, it is thought that dogs having one large meal a day or being fed directly before or after exercise may increase the likelihood of bloat occurring.

    You may also be interested in:

    Chinese Shar-Pei Rescue Groups

    There are times when a Shar-Pei will find itself in need of a new home. If you interested in offering a fresh start for a Shar-Pei in need, do contact the breed rescue in your area which can be found through the Chinese Shar-Pei Rescue Trust website –

    For further information on the breed, do check out the website for the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc.