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Everything You Need to Know About Shar-Peis

Everything You Need to Know About Shar-Peis

Critter Culture Staff



Shar-Peis are a one-of-a-kind pooch. They're wonderful and adoring family pets as long as they have the proper upbringing. Protective and loyal, they're known for their companionship and high intellect.

Best suited for experienced dog owners, this breed can be a challenge for those not used to such a unique personality. So it's in your best interest to learn about Shar-Peis to see if they're the right fit for your home.


An ancient breed history

Shar-Peis have been around for over 2000 years. Their origins are in Imperial China. Unlike other canines of this place and era, they weren't bred for a royal lifestyle. Instead, they were working dogs. Shar-Peis served farmers and peasants with their guarding, hunting, and herding skills. They were revered by their owners for their loyalty, bravery, defense, and intelligence.

This breed mainly stayed in China throughout the centuries, but it nearly went extinct in modern times. During the 1950s, Shar-Pei breeding and ownership became illegal. Dogs were brought to America to be saved, and they flourished. Today they're a recognized American Kennel Club breed and are one of the most popular family dogs to own.

Shar Pei Dog slowmotiongli / Getty Images


The Shar-Pei's unique appearance

With flat faces and wrinkled skin, Shar-Peis certainly stand out. They're a medium, thick, and muscular dog that can grow to around 20 inches tall and weigh 45-60 pounds. Fur comes in a wide range of colors and lengths. It's a bit coarse, though, which is how the Shar-Pei got the name: it roughly translates to "sand skin" in ancient Chinese.

Portrait Of Shar-Pei Tara Gregg / EyeEm / Getty Images


Grooming and pup maintenance

Portrait of a puppy Shar Pei Dog in outdoors.

Weekly brushing and a monthly bath work well for a Shar-Pei. During the spring and autumn shedding seasons, you'll have to do this more frequently.

Regular teeth brushing and nail trimming are also important for the breed. Ear and eye cleaning are essential to keeping a pretty pup in tip-top shape.


The breed's overall health

veterinarian examines Shar Pei dog with stethoscope

Shar-Peis do have a lot of health issues, but if you maintain a healthy lifestyle and visit the vet regularly, your dog can easily live up to a dozen years. Common afflictions include eye and joint problems, skin infections, and cardiac issues.

Shar-Pei fever is a recurring ailment that involves swollen legs and fevers. Usually, it will correct itself in a few weeks. Brachycephalic airway syndrome is another threat these flat-faced dogs encounter. They're susceptible to breathing problems, so don't overexert your pup or expose them to weather extremes.


Shar-Peis and nutrition

dog drinking water at home

If you're used to dogs, forget what you know with a Shar-Pei because things will be different. Many of these pups suffer from bloat, which flips or twists the stomach and can be fatal. Using a slow feeder, waiting to eat after exercising, and keeping the pup calm are ways to reduce the likelihood of bloat.

Shar-Peis tend to have a lot of food allergies, mainly stemming from beef and other proteins. There aren't specific recommendations for a type of food, so you'll have to figure it out through trial and error. Wait at least three months to observe if new diets improve the pup's health.


Exercise and activity level

Because the Shar-Pei was a hunting dog, it has a natural inclination to go after prey. Therefore, outdoor activity should always be contained in fenced-in areas or done with a leash. That said, the Shar-Pei doesn't need a lot of exercise. One walk per day with a little playtime is fine. These pups are equally okay with going on an adventure or lazing on the couch.

A Shar-pei on a leash, outdoors Winnie Au / Getty Images


Temperament and behavior

Full of love, Shar-Peis hold their family on a pedestal. Though they can be a bit stubborn, they will defend their owners at all costs. Because of this instilled nature, obedience training is a must. Professional schools are ideal, but don't let it end there. Positive reinforcement training should continue throughout their lives.

dog with owner kate_sept2004 / Getty Images


Early socialization

Shar-Peis are fiercely loyal. While this is a wonderful quality in a dog, they take it to the utmost extreme.

Early socialization is critical if you want your pet to tolerate conditions that include living with other animals, meeting new people, and being around children. Otherwise, the results can be disastrous. But if a puppy has exposure to these situations at a young age, it should be fine adapting to most circumstances as an adult.

Spitz and sharpei on a walk in the park. SValeriia / Getty Images


A Shar-Pei's ideal home

Happy couple training cute dog at home

The type of structure isn't important since Shar-Peis do equally well in small apartments or large houses. For them, it's all about the family. They should have an experienced and responsible owner who can take care of their unique needs and work with them. Families have to exercise patience with the dog and show them plenty of love and interest.


Breeder and adoption options

If you've decided that a Shar-Pei is right for you, one route to take is going to a reputable breeder. Forget about online or backyard breeders selling puppies at a discount because you're likely to end up with a sick or problematic animal. True breeders can sell Shar-Peis for $2000 or more, but you'll be getting a healthy dog with a good lineage.

Shar-Pei rescues are another source for adoption. Since these dogs require particular behavioral training, many end up in shelters. Specializing in the breed, Shar-Pei rescues go to great lengths to study their dogs and find them the right homes. Plus, they cost a fraction of a breeder's price.

Man playing with his dog in a car Georgijevic / Getty Images


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