Chinese Shar-Pei

Chinese Shar-Pei

The Chinese Shar-Pei has had a presence in China since around 200 BC. The name literally means "sand skin," a reference to the Shar-Pei's sandpaper-like coat. The strong-willed breed requires regular, consistent training and socialization as they may become dominant or aggressive without—but a well-socialized Shar-Pei can be a loyal and friendly companion. While mannerly with consistent training and well-suited to apartment life, the Shar-Pei is not an ideal choice for a first-time dog owner.

Other Names

The Chinese Shar-Pei is also known simply as Shar-Pei. The plural of Shar-Pei is also Shar-Pei.

Physical Description


Shar-Pei have a short, harsh coat and loose, wrinkled skin that may be any solid color or sable with a darker shade at the ears and back. While Shar-Pei puppies have distinctive saggy skin, the wrinkles become less prominent as the dog ages—the head and neck keep the wrinkles while the rest of the body 'grows into them.'


Average Height: 18-20 inches


Male: 50-65 pounds

Female: 40-55 pounds

Breed Standard & History

The compact Chinese Shar-Pei is solid and square in appearance. The head is large and covered in wrinkles, with small eyes that offer a scowling expression. The tongue and mouth should be bluish-black in color, or lavender for dilute-colored Shar-Pei. The tail should be high-set and round, carried over the back. The whole body should appear muscular and powerful. Confidence, an alert nature, and a regal stance should be displayed. – AKC Breed Standards

The Chinese Shar-Pei is an ancient breed—not only do statues from the Han Dynasty and earlier depict the Shar-Pei, their DNA shows them to be a basal breed that predates modern dog breeds that emerged in the 19th century.

They were used as farm dogs and to hunt boar—their prickly coat and loose skin aided them in escape without injury. If an attacker bit onto the Chinese Shar-Pei's skin, it was loose enough that the dog could turn around to strike back. Their fierce nature and wrinkly, armor-like skin also made them favored as participants in the cruel sport of dog fighting.

The Chinese Communist Revolution saw a sharp decline in examples of the Shar-Pei, so a businessman from Hong Kong smuggled 200 dogs into the United States to save the breed. The AKC recognized the Chinese Shar-Pei in 1992.

AKC Breed Category

Non-Sporting Group


General Temperament

While stoic and suspicious of new people, the loyal Chinese Shar-Pei is affectionate with family members. The independent Shar-Pei is happy to spend time near family but is not adverse to relaxing on his own. Early and continued socialization is important to ensure a well-behaved, non-aggressive dog. Without enough socialization, the breed may not be able to distinguish between a new person and a threatening person.

Family Life

Are Chinese Shar-Pei Good with Kids? Shar-Pei are devoted to their family members, but do not tolerate rough treatment or horseplay. Households with children under 10 are not ideal for the Shar-Pei. Supervision should be provided anytime children are interacting with Shar-Pei.

Are Shar-Pei Good with Other Pets? A home where Shar-Pei are the only pet is ideal as they tend to be aggressive with other dogs, especially of the same sex, and are likely to chase and injure cats or small animals.


As they were bred to protect farms and homes, the Shar-Pei is an impressive watchdog and may scare off intruders with his deep, resounding bark. Unless well-socialized, Shar-Pei may choose to reinforce their bark with a bite. It is important to provide socialization and training from puppyhood to prevent accidents.

Energy Levels

Low-energy Shar-Pei do not require much exercise or activity. They're content to sit on the couch most of the day and enjoy a couple of short, easy walks each day.

Specific Concerns

  • Can be stubborn
  • Cannot tolerate hot weather
  • Potential for mouthiness and bites without adequate training and socialization
  • Not tolerant of children
  • Can be aggressive with other dogs
  • A long list of potential health concerns



Shar-Pei are content to hold down the fort during the day and are a good choice for apartments or smaller homes.


A few walks outside are all a Shar-Pei needs for his low energy level. They are not suited to life outdoors, and cannot tolerate cold or hot temperatures. Fenced areas and walks on a sturdy leash are important for this dominant breed to prevent fights with other dogs and cat chasing.


A couple of walks and a few indoor training sessions per day will keep a Shar-Pei happy and healthy.


Shar-Pei are not known for their stamina—the short-snouted breed tends to overheat in hot weather or with too much activity. Regular breaks and easy outings are best for the Shar-Pei.

Activity distance rating

  • Running Miles: Shar-Pei are not ideal running partners due to the short face and small nasal passages that are features of brachycephalic breeds.
  • Hiking Miles: A low-impact hike with plenty of water and breaks may be suitable for a more active Shar-Pei, but the breed does not tolerate hot weather and may overheat easily. Longer or difficult hikes are not idea for the Shar-Pei.


The general recommendation for how much high-quality dry dog food (based on average weight and activity level) to feed a Shar-Pei is 1½ to 2 cups per day. This should be split between two meals. Shar-Pei may suffer from bloat, a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. To prevent bloat, smaller meals should be provided and activity should be minimal after feeding.

Shar-Pei can exhibit food guarding behaviors. Any instances of resource guarding should be discussed with a trainer before it escalates. Children should never be allowed to touch or remove food from any dog while it is eating.

Alone Time

Alone time is not a concern for the Chinese Shar-Pei. He may be able to stay home for the whole day, and does not tend to suffer from separation anxiety. He will be happy to spend time with his people when they are nearby, but is not demanding of attention.

Health and Grooming

Life Expectancy

8-12 years


The Shar-Pei's short, sandpapery coat sheds quite a bit, but doesn't require much brushing. The skin may be more of a concern—Shar-Pei are prone to skin irritation and infections and special care may be necessary. Minimal bathing, and ensuring the skin folds are completely dry after getting wet, are important to prevent infections and irritation. Trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail. This is often done at the groomer's. Special care should be taken with the Shar-Pei's ears as they are prone to ear infections. Water in the ears can make this problem worse.

Common Health Issues

Chinese Shar-Pei are prone to breed-specific health concerns, including:

  • Skin allergies and infections
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Knee and joint concerns
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Eye conditions
  • Shar-Pei fever
  • Cancer
  • Gastric torsion (bloat)

Health concerns may be minimized in Shar-Pei by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.



Shar-Pei are stubborn by nature, though are quick-to-learn when properly motivated. Food is usually a strong motivator for Shar-Pei. Establishing your place as pack leader and not giving the Shar-Pei an inch will result in a well-behaved adult dog.

Discouraging nipping and guarding behaviors early can prevent dangerous situations in the future. Always discourage play biting in young Shar-Pei. Every time a puppy nips, get up and walk away. Do not interact with a dog who is biting—instead, ignore the rough, rude behavior and offer lots of praise for gentle play.

Advanced Training

While not a top candidate for agility or advanced obedience training, Shar-Pei will benefit from continued training and may learn some entertaining tricks.

Sporting Dog Training

Shar-Pei, while used for hunting in the past, are not ideal sporting dogs. They are not well-suited to strenuous activity or extreme temperatures.

Breed FAQ

Here are a few commonly asked questions about Chinese Shar-Pei.

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Flowered is a term to describe a specific splotchy, spotted coloring that Shar-Pei may inherit due to a recessive gene. This coloring is a disqualification per the AKC standards as it is considered a genetic anomaly. While there are no known health risks associated with the Flowered Shar-Pei, specifically breeding for the trait is not recommended.

Chinese Shar-Pei are prone to a hereditary inflammatory disorder called familial Shar-Pei fever (Shar-Pei fever or FSF), which includes symptoms such as extremely elevated temperature, pain, swelling in the hocks, lethargy, and loss of appetite. Shar-Pei fever may be triggered by physical or emotional stress such as other illness, sudden changes in environment, and isolation. Offspring of seemingly healthy dogs may show signs of this disease as Shar-Pei can be carriers of the condition without presenting symptoms.

There is no cure for this disease—prevention and management of the symptoms upon onset are the best practices. If an episode occurs, a veterinarian will make recommendations for care and to help reduce future bouts of illness. The buildup of amyloid caused by Shar-Pei fever may contribute to kidney and liver failure, which are not reversible.

Research has suggested that the same gene mutation that causes the Shar-Pei's hallmark wrinkles may also be responsible for Shar-Pei fever. Dogs with multiple copies of the genetic mutation that causes wrinkles have a higher chance of presenting the symptoms of Shar-Pei fever. Dogs who have presented with Shar-Pei fever should never be bred.

Bone mouth and meat mouth refer to the appearance of the Chinese Shar-Pei's muzzle. The meat-mouth Shar-Pei has a wrinkled muzzle, while the bone-mouth offers a dry, bonier muzzle closer to the appearance of the original Shar-Pei. Neither is favored over the other in the breed standard accepted by the AKC.