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  • Temperament: Loyal, Independent, Calm
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 61 of 194
  • Height: 18-20 inches
  • Weight: 45-60 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 8-12 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Chinese Shar-Pei head facing left
Chinese Shar-Pei lying in three-quarter view
Chinese Shar-Pei coat detail
Chinese Shar-Pei standing in three-quarter view

GENERAL APPEARANCE

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.

HEAD

The head is large, slightly, but not overly, proudly carried and covered with profuse wrinkles on the forehead continuing into side wrinkles framing the face. Eyes – Dark, small, almond-shaped and sunken, displaying a scowling expression. In the dilute colored dogs the eye color may be lighter. Ears – extremely small, rather thick, equilateral triangles in shape, slightly rounded at the tips; edges of the ear may curl. Ears lie flat against the head, are set high, wide apart and forward on the skull, pointing toward the eyes. The ears have the ability to move.

BODY

Neck – medium length, full and set well into the shoulders. There are moderate to heavy folds of loose skin and abundant dewlap about the neck and throat. The topline dips slightly behind the withers, slightly rising over the short, broad loin. A level, roach or swayed topline/backline shall be faulted. Chest – broad and deep with the brisket extending to the elbow and rising slightly under the loin. Back – short and close-coupled. Croup – flat, with the base of the tail set extremely high, clearly exposing an up-tilted anus. Tail – the high set tail is a characteristic feature of the Shar-Pei. A low set tail shall be faulted. The tail is thick and round at the base, tapering to a fine point and curling over or to either side of the back.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – muscular, well laid back and sloping. Forelegs – when viewed from the front, straight moderately spaced, with elbows close to the body. When viewed from the side, the forelegs are straight, the pasterns are strong and flexible. The bone is substantial but never heavy and is of moderate length. Removal of front dewclaws is optional. Feet – moderate in size, compact and firmly set, not splayed.

COAT

The extremely harsh coat is one of the distinguishing features of the breed. The coat is absolutely straight and off standing on the main trunk of the body but generally lies somewhat flatter on the limbs. The coat appears healthy without being shiny or lustrous. Acceptable coat lengths may range from extremely short “horse coat” up to the “brush coat,” not to exceed 1 inch in length at the withers. A soft coat, a wavy coat, a coat in excess of one inch at the withers or a coat that has been trimmed is a major fault. The Shar-Pei is shown in its natural state.

HINDQUARTERS

Muscular, strong, and moderately angulated. The metatarsi (hocks) are short, perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Hind dewclaws must be removed. Feet as in front.

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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 socialization are essential—a dominant adult Shar-Pei without them is a serious problem waiting to happen.

Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Chinese Shar-Pei

Find a Puppy: Chinese Shar-Pei

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Care

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.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
Occasional Bath/Brush

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Regularly

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.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

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 socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Shar-Pei grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
May be Stubborn

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

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

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Chinese Shar-Pei
Chinese Shar-Pei
Chinese Shar-Pei
Chinese Shar-Pei
Chinese Shar-Pei

History

For much of its long history China, vast and impregnable, was a closed society immune to outside influences. As such, China developed a culture unique to itself. This singularity is clearly seen in Chinese dog breeds. From the clownish Pug to the dignified Chow Chow, China’s dogs are breeds apart, with their own look and feel. Among this ancient canine clan, perhaps none is as uniquely Chinese as the Shar-Pei.

Native to China’s southern provinces, the Shar-Pei goes back more than 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. It was believed to have been a peasant’s dog, and in the manner of peasant’s dogs in all times and places, the Shar-Pei was expected to be versatile. Chinese farmers employed these rugged, intelligent dogs as hunters, herders, and guardians of livestock against predators and rustlers.

The People’s Republic of China was established in 1949. The Communist regime frowned on dog ownership and systematically slaughtered much of the mainland’s purebred dog population. A few good specimens of the Shar-Pei were preserved, however, in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

The breed’s documented U.S. history began in the mid-1960s, but American interest in the breed truly began in 1973. In that year, a Hong Kong breeder named Matgo Law appealed to the U.S. fancy to save the endangered Shar-Pei from extinction. The enthusiastic response from American dog lovers ensured the breed’s survival. The AKC recognized the Chinese Shar-Pei in 1992.

Did You Know?

The Chinese Shar-Pei is AKC's 134th breed.
Statues bearing a strong resemblance to the Shar-Pei have been discovered dating to ancient times, and Chinese manuscripts with references to "wrinkled dogs" exist.
The Shar-Pei, like the Chow-Chow, has a blue-black tongue; these are the only two breeds featuring this characteristic.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

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.

HEAD

The head is large, slightly, but not overly, proudly carried and covered with profuse wrinkles on the forehead continuing into side wrinkles framing the face. Eyes – Dark, small, almond-shaped and sunken, displaying a scowling expression. In the dilute colored dogs the eye color may be lighter. Ears – extremely small, rather thick, equilateral triangles in shape, slightly rounded at the tips; edges of the ear may curl. Ears lie flat against the head, are set high, wide apart and forward on the skull, pointing toward the eyes. The ears have the ability to move.

BODY

Neck – medium length, full and set well into the shoulders. There are moderate to heavy folds of loose skin and abundant dewlap about the neck and throat. The topline dips slightly behind the withers, slightly rising over the short, broad loin. A level, roach or swayed topline/backline shall be faulted. Chest – broad and deep with the brisket extending to the elbow and rising slightly under the loin. Back – short and close-coupled. Croup – flat, with the base of the tail set extremely high, clearly exposing an up-tilted anus. Tail – the high set tail is a characteristic feature of the Shar-Pei. A low set tail shall be faulted. The tail is thick and round at the base, tapering to a fine point and curling over or to either side of the back.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders – muscular, well laid back and sloping. Forelegs – when viewed from the front, straight moderately spaced, with elbows close to the body. When viewed from the side, the forelegs are straight, the pasterns are strong and flexible. The bone is substantial but never heavy and is of moderate length. Removal of front dewclaws is optional. Feet – moderate in size, compact and firmly set, not splayed.

COAT

The extremely harsh coat is one of the distinguishing features of the breed. The coat is absolutely straight and off standing on the main trunk of the body but generally lies somewhat flatter on the limbs. The coat appears healthy without being shiny or lustrous. Acceptable coat lengths may range from extremely short “horse coat” up to the “brush coat,” not to exceed 1 inch in length at the withers. A soft coat, a wavy coat, a coat in excess of one inch at the withers or a coat that has been trimmed is a major fault. The Shar-Pei is shown in its natural state.

HINDQUARTERS

Muscular, strong, and moderately angulated. The metatarsi (hocks) are short, perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other when viewed from the rear. Hind dewclaws must be removed. Feet as in front.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
APRICOT DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 473
BLACK Check Mark For Standard Color 007
BLACK SABLE Check Mark For Standard Color 480
BLUE Check Mark For Standard Color 037
BLUE DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 474
BROWN Check Mark For Standard Color 061
CHOCOLATE DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 477
CREAM Check Mark For Standard Color 076
CREAM DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 476
CREAM SABLE Check Mark For Standard Color 348
FAWN Check Mark For Standard Color 082
FAWN SABLE Check Mark For Standard Color 338
FIVE POINT RED DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 478
ISABELLA DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 479
LILAC DILUTE Check Mark For Standard Color 475
RED Check Mark For Standard Color 140
RED FAWN Check Mark For Standard Color 150
RED SABLE Check Mark For Standard Color 155
BLUE SABLE 481
BROWN SABLE 482
WHITE 199

Markings

Description Standard Markings Registration Code
BRINDLE Check Mark For Standard Mark 051
MASK Check Mark For Standard Mark 128
POINTED Check Mark For Standard Mark 130
SABLE Check Mark For Standard Mark 026
SADDLE PATTERN Check Mark For Standard Mark 131
SPOTTED ON WHITE Check Mark For Standard Mark 071
WHITE MARKINGS Check Mark For Standard Mark 014

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