Chinese Shar-Pei

Temperament: Loyal, Independent, Calm

  • Height: 18-20 inches
  • Weight: 45-60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 8-12 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group 

This fascinating but challenging breed of ancient pedigree is steadfastly loyal to family, but standoffish with strangers. The Chinese Shar-Pei has physical characteristics that make him a one-of-a-kind companion and guardian dog.


An alert, compact dog of medium size and substance; square in profile, close coupled; the well-proportioned head slightly but not overly large for the body. The short, harsh coat, the loose skin covering the head and body, the small ears, the “hippopotamus” muzzle shape and the high set tail impart to the Shar-Pei a unique look peculiar to him alone. The loose skin and wrinkles covering the head, neck and body are superabundant in puppies but these features may be limited to the head, neck and withers in the adult.

About the Chinese Shar-Pei

The compact, medium-sized Chinese Shar-Pei is an amalgam of odd physical traits: a broad “hippopotamus” muzzle; a blue-black tongue; small, sunken eyes with a scowling expression; tiny triangular ears; abundant folds of loose skin about the head, neck, and shoulders; the tapered high-set tail—all blanketed by a harsh, sandpapery coat. (A literal translation of Shar-Pei: “sand skin.”)

Shar-Pei are strong, regal, independent guardians famous for intelligence and loyalty. They are suspicious of strangers and other dogs. Shar-Pei are serene dogs, but they will meet a perceived threat with tenacity and vigor. Early training and socialisation are essential—a dominant adult Shar-Pei without them is a serious problem waiting to happen.

NUTRITION A high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) will have all the nutrients the Chinese Shar-Pei needs. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING The Chinese Shar-Pei requires only minimal grooming. They need a bath only every month or so. Nails should be trimmed once a week, ideally using a grinder. The ears should be cleaned weekly, but don’t overdo the products. The pup should be accustomed at a young age to having his ears cleaned regularly. Do not use cotton swabs, and do not use hydrogen peroxide. The best way to clean the ear canal is to “float” debris out of the canal using an ear-cleaning solution. A wide variety of good solutions are available on the market and from the veterinarian.

EXERCISE Individual dogs Shar-Pei vary in their exercise needs. This is a very adaptable breed. They can do well with a very active owner, walking every day, or living in an apartment with a few short walks. The breed also exercises mind and body by participating in obedience, tracking, agility, rally, and other activities that can be enjoyed by dog and owner.

TRAINING One breed expert says, “Get a jump-start on basic obedience, and don’t let the dog be the boss!” Shar-Pei are smart and willing, but sometimes they are stubborn and a bit too smart, thinking of new ways to do things you may not be thrilled with. If you teach them with love and consistency, however, they are a joy. Early socialisation and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Shar-Pei grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

HEALTH There are some unusual and specific health concerns in the Chinese Shar-Pei breed. One of the major problem areas is the eyes; eye disorders including entropion, glaucoma, retinal dysplasia, and SARDS are known to occur in the breed. Other conditions that can occur include respiratory, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, immune-mediated, skin, and gastrointestinal disorders, and certain cancers. The website of the breed’s national parent club, the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, provides detailed breed-health information for owners.

Recommended Health Test from the National Breed Club:

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

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