With their compact size, bulk, and intimidating appearance, no wonder the Chinese Shar-Pei had once been bred as a fighting dog.

However, this medium-sized breed is actually calm, loyal, and independent.

Despite being part of the non-sporting dog breed group, the Chinese Shar-Pei makes an excellent companion and guard dog.

But what makes this dog more interesting is its physical features—the wrinkly face, the bristly skin, the black-blue tongue, and other key traits that make a unique yet lovable pooch for the family.

In this article, let's get to know more about this dog breed, its history, traits and characteristics, personality and temperament, possible health issues, and what sets it apart from all the other canine breeds.

Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed: An Overview

When you see a mid-sized dog with wrinkly skin on its whole body, a seemingly frowning face, and tiny eyes and ears—no doubt, that's a Chinese Shar-Pei.

Did you know that “Shar-Pei” actually literally translates to “sand skin”? Not surprising given their bristle-like coat.

The American Kennel Club describes this fella as “an alert, compact dog of medium size and substance” with a “square profile,” “a loose skin covering the head and body,”  and “a hippopotamus muzzle.”

Standing from the withers at 18 to 20 inches and weighing 45 to 60 pounds, this breed has a lifespan of 8 to 12 years.

They are adaptable dogs that can live in an apartment setting, thanks to their size and calm demeanor.

Although novice dog owners can enjoy having a Chinese Shar-Pei, it may pose more challenges for them than for experienced owners.


Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed: History

Originating from southern China, Chinese Shar-Pei were traditionally kept as property guardians, hunters, herding dogs, and fighting dogs.

As peasants' dogs, they sure were expected to be well-rounded and versatile.

Some believe that this is an ancient breed, dating back to the Han Dynasty 2,000 years ago.

However, there was no proven evidence to actually support this claim except for old statues of dogs that might have also been a Chow chow or a Pug.

This breed was also once on the brink of extinction when China became a communist nation in the 1940s.

They imposed a hefty tax on dogs, causing almost all canine breeds to be wiped out in the country.

Because of this, the Chinese Shar-Pei has once been named the rarest dog breed in the world.

However, thanks to a man named Matgo Law, this breed was able to make its way over to Hong Kong and Taiwan and eventually to the United States.

Dog owners in the US showed interest, and in 1974, the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. was established.

The American Kennel Club recognized it as their 134th breed in 1992.

Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed: Traits and Characteristics

Its extremely harsh coat is one of its most distinguished features. There are actually three coat types for this dog: the horse coat, the brush coat, and the bear coat.

The horse coat is the shortest and the coarsest and is said to be associated with a more dominant temperament.

The brush coat is only slightly longer than the horse coat. Dogs with this type of coat are said to have a calmer temperament.

And the longest among the three is the bear coat which measures more than an inch at the withers.

This, however, is found as a fault and is not accepted as a standard coat type for Chinese Shar-Pei.

AKC recognizes the following standard colors for this dog breed:

  • Black
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Cream
  • Fawn
  • Red Fawn
  • Red Sable
  • Fawn Sable
  • Cream Sable
  • Apricot Dilute
  • Lilac Dilute
  • Blue Dilute
  • Chocolate Dilute
  • Five Point Dilute
  • Isabella Dilute
  • Black Sable

The non-standard colors are White, Blue Sable, and Brown Sable.

A solid color dog may have shading (primarily darker) down the back and on the ears.

The shading is often a variation of the same body color and may include darker hairs throughout the coat.


Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed: Personality and Temperament

Some dog owners say Chinese Shar-Pei enjoys the company of humans more than they do other dogs. And perhaps that's true.

This breed is extremely loyal to its family but aloof to strangers. Although they are generally calm, their fighter dog history comes through when they sense danger.

They are excellent companions and watchdogs for the family because of their devotion and overall protectiveness.

However devoted they may be, this breed can also be strong-willed and independent. They definitely need an assertive master, or else they'd be a headache to train.

This dog is also generally tolerant towards children but may not be playful enough for them.

Care Needs of a Chinese Shar-Pei

Grooming Needs

The Chinese Shar-Pei is actually easy to groom. They don't require much brushing and bathing unlike other breeds thanks to their “sand skin.”

Bathing once a month should be enough to keep them clean and healthy looking.

And because their coats are short and bristle-like, they don't shed that much. But a thorough brushing once a week should be done to remove excess fur and dirt.

Also, always make sure to pay extra attention to the folds in their skin. These skin folds are prone to bacteria and infection if not cleaned and properly dried on a regular basis.

Teeth should also be brushed 2 to 3 times a week to avoid tartar buildup.

Nails should be trimmed at least once a month using a grinder. Ears should also be cleaned on a weekly basis, preferably using ear-cleaning solutions to float the debris instead of trying to dig them with swab cotton.

Training Needs

They have a tendency to overreact to strangers and can get aggressive when they feel it necessary!

This protective instinct has to be toned down a little that's why early socialization is important.

Enrolling your dog in a kindergarten class while he's still a puppy should be considered to expose him to different environments and pets.

Apart from this, Chinese Shar-Pei also needs a firm and strong-willed owner to match his own. Otherwise, you won't get his respect.

On the other hand, they're fairly easy to train as they are intelligent and a quick study except for when they're being stubborn.

Also, their exercise needs depend on the individual pup. Since they are highly adaptable, they can do well with either an active owner or a couch potato.

Feeding Needs

A high-quality dry or wet dog food, one that is appropriate for his age and condition, is recommended for a Chinese Shar-Pei.

As this breed has the tendency to be overweight, make sure their food is properly portioned.

About 1.5 to 2.5 cups a day divided into two meals should be enough to sustain them and get the nutrients they need for the day.

If you plan on giving them homemade meals, consult with your veterinarian as to what he can recommend feeding your dog.


Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed: Possible Health Issues

Just like any other breed, there are certain conditions owners have to look out for.

Most of the possible health issues they may face usually have something to do with their dog's eyes, skin, and bones or joints.

Shar-Pei Fever

Also known as Swollen Hock Syndrome, Shar-Pei Fever is called as it is because it is an inherited auto-inflammatory disease reported to occur in about 23% of Shar-Pei.

A fever usually breaks out for 24 to 36 hours with temperatures as high as 103° F to 107° F and is accompanied by swelling of the hock joint, resulting in lethargy, abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and shallow breathing.

It usually manifests before 18 months of age but can also happen when the dog is an adult.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Just like any other medium to large breeds, they are also susceptible to getting Hip and Elbow Dysplasia.

This is an inherited degenerative disease wherein the ball and joint in the hip and/or elbow don't fit well, causing pain and difficulty in movement.

One of the early signs is lameness in either or both limbs. This can be corrected via therapy or surgery.

Cutaneous Mucinosis

This breed's skin mostly contains a substance called mucin which causes wrinkling.

However, some Shar-Pei has an excess of mucin which causes clear bubbles to form on the skin that may later rupture or ooze.

Cutaneous Mucinosis is said to be associated with allergies and is usually treated with steroid therapy.


This skin condition usually happens as secondary to allergy, infection, or any diseases that can affect the skin. Seborrhea is characterized by developing flaky skin with a rancid odor.

Medicated shampoo is usually recommended for this along with the treatment of any prior or underlying disease that triggered it.


Another common skin condition for Chinese Shar-Pei is Pyoderma. This is a bacterial infection of the skin, and just like Seborrhea, is usually a secondary infection resulting from other conditions like allergy or hypothyroidism.

Pyoderma is often treated with antibiotics.


Glaucoma in dogs can be either hereditary or caused by other eye diseases.

This condition is defined as having increased pressure in the eye. Some of the symptoms may include pain and vision loss.

Usually, glaucoma is removed via surgery and eye drops will be prescribed.


Another possible disease in the eye, entropion in dogs is the inward rolling of the lower eyelid in both eyes. It can cause irritation and vision loss and can occur before a dog turns a year old.

Corrective surgery can be done but only when the dog reaches adulthood.

The Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc. strongly suggests the following health screening tests be done on your pup as soon as possible:

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

Apart from the above-mentioned diseases, this dog is also considered a brachycephalic breed which means it's also prone to breathing problems because of its short snout.

Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed Fun Facts!

  • Their name ‘Shar-Pei' refers to their skin as it literally means “sand skin.”
  • The only two breeds that have lavender or black and blue tongues are the Chow Chow and Chinese Shar-Pei. A black tongue is believed to ward off evil spirits according to Chinese folklore.
  • The Chinese Shar-Pei's wrinkly skin originally acts like body armor when they were still involved in dog fights. It prevents their opponents from harming internal organs as they can only grab or bite the skin.
  • This breed was once considered the rarest breed in the world.
  • The plural form of Shar-Pei is still Shar-Pei, according to the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America, Inc.

FAQs on the Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed

What is the difference between a Shar-Pei and a Chinese Shar-Pei?bone-mouth-shar-pei

Breed enthusiasts say there are two types of Shar-Pei: the meat mouth and the bone mouth.

It basically refers to the appearance of the snout of this dog.

Meat-mouth-shar-peiThe “bone mouth” is said to be the original form back in China, hence called the traditional Chinese Shar-Pei.

The “meat mouth,” on the other hand, is the more modern, American Shar-Pei, if you will.

Breeding practices throughout the years caused some features to exaggerate, including their wrinkly skin.

However… there were no references in the American Kennel Club regarding these two distinctions.

Can Chinese Shar-Pei be left alone?

Because a Chinese Shar-Pei is generally independent, it can be left alone but ideally, for not longer than 4 hours.

With proper training, however, they can be excellent guard dogs while you're away at work.

Just remember that even large and independent dogs can develop separation anxiety if left often and for far too long on their own.

Does a Chinese Shar-Pei need a lot of exercise?

A good thing for inactive pet owners, Chinese Shar-Pei doesn't need a lot of exercise. Brisk walking once or twice a day should be enough to keep them fit and happy.

Just always make sure that they have something to be busy with because a bored Shar-Pei can be destructive!

Keeping them active with different mental and physical activities is always important.

Chinese Shar-Pei Dog Breed — Final Thoughts

If you're looking for an interesting-looking dog with an equally interesting background, the Chinese Shar-Pei is the perfect breed for you.

Just knowing their traits and characteristics, personality and temperament, and even the possible health issues can give you a clear picture of how to take good care of them.

Not only can they protect your family wholeheartedly, but you can also be assured of having a calm, loyal, and independent addition to your circle of loved ones.

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Jossana started as a TV writer in 2017, until her love for dogs gets the best of her and started writing about them instead for Top Dog Tips. Jossana is the proud mama to Xavier and to mixed-breed dogs Zorro, Budak, Lucky, and Lily, who she loves spoiling with toys and treats.