Shar Pei

Shar Pei
Shar Pei are easily recognisable by the loose folds of skin on their bodies and their 'frowning' expressions. They are squarely built and short-coupled and look powerful with good bone. Their coat is short and bristly and harsh to the touch. The Shar Pei dog comes in many colours.
  • Dog suitable for experienced owners
  • Extra training required
  • Enjoys active walks
  • Enjoys walking an hour a day
  • Medium dog
  • Minimum drool
  • Requires grooming once a week
  • Non Hypoallergenic breed
  • Quiet dog
  • Guard dog. Barks, alerts and it's physically protective
  • May require training to live with other pets
  • May require training to live with kids

Shar Pei Key Facts

Life Span: 9-11 years

Weight: 18kg

Height: 46-51cm

Colours: diverse colours including, black, cream, red or blue

Size: Medium

Kennel Club group: Utility


Family-friendly: 2/5

Exercise needs: 3/5

Easy to train: 3/5

Tolerates being alone: 4/5

Likes other pets: 2/5

Energy level: 2/5

Grooming needs: 3/5

Shedding: 5/5

History and Origins

Country of Origin - China

The Shar Pei, also known as the Chinese Fighting Dog, is thought to be descended from the Han Dog, a ancient guarding breed that lived in China around 2000 years ago.

The Han Dog gave rise to two different breeds - one a heavier, more bulky dog which went on the become the Chow and a smaller wrinkled dog who became used for fighting who became the Shar Pei. Both have the same unique blue tongue showing their linked ancestry.

The wrinkled skin along with their bristly coat was an intentional characteristic to give them an advantage in fights as their opponent would find it hard to get a good grip on them or cause serious injury.

The fighting career of the Shar Pei ended when organisers were able to import larger stronger dogs, and the breed became virtually extinct when Communist leaders who felt owning dogs was a Western decadence, slaughtered any they could find.

By 1978, they found a place in the Guinness Book of World Records as the rarest dog in the world before a group of breed enthusiasts used the few that were left to recreate the breed. Now their numbers have risen and their future is secure - although responsible breeders are still working hard to breed for both temperament and health.


Well-socialised Shar Pei are devoted to their families. They are loyal and can be playful and active but more often are rather aloof and can also be stubborn and territorial if not trained properly when young. They are naturally suspicious of strangers. They will be fine with cats if they have been introduced to them when puppies, but there can be problems mixing with other dogs. They often hate the cold.

Ideal Owner

The Shar Pei will suit an owner who enjoys their unconventional looks and who likes their aloof nature.

Health and Common Issues

The most common health problems affecting the Shar Pei are skin infections in the excessive skin folds, and various eye conditions. They also may suffer a particular condition which causes fever and joint swelling (familial Shar Pei fever).

Exercise Needs

Shar Pei’s will take as much or as little exercise as offered as long as they have access to free play, but they are often happiest spending time in the garden. As a guide, an adult dog should be offered an hour of exercise daily, though he will happily accept more. As Shar Pei’s are often not keen on interacting with other dogs, long walks on lead are often best, so an active owner is needed.

Space Requirements

The Shar Pei doesn’t need a large home but will enjoy a good-sized garden. As he is not always a particularly dog social, he will do well in a more isolated environment without close canine neighbours.

Nutrition and Feeding

The Shar Pei diet needs to have the right balance of all the main nutrient groups including a constant supply of fresh water. It's important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed him at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.

Grooming Shar Pei Dogs

Some lines have very close-set tails and these must be inspected and cleaned to prevent infection. The eyes should also be inspected daily. The coat itself just needs a going over with a soft brush.

Training Shar Pei Dogs

Shar Pei’s look on training as something very definitely beneath them and they are a challenge to train. At the very least they should be socialised with other dogs when they are puppies and trainer to walk on a lead and harness.

Did You Know?

The Shar-Pei’s wrinkles originated from his dog fighting days to prevent opponents being able to easily get hold of him and cause injury, while his prickly coat would feel unpleasant in their mouth causing them to quickly let go.

If you read his original breed standard, you can discover why this dog looks as unique as he does. It says the Shar Pei should have a head shaped like a melon, a mouth like a mother frog, clam-shaped ears, a face like a grandmother, a neck like a water buffalo, a body like a fish, a back like a shrimp, all coupled with horses’ buttocks on dragon’s legs with feet like garlic!

Best Family Dog Breeds

Shar Pei’s do not make for good family dogs as they are not a lover of games or disruption, and they prefer a quiet household.

While many dogs are traditionally thought of as being good with children, all dogs and children need to be taught to get on with and respect each other, and be safe together. Even so, dogs and young children should never be left alone together and adults should supervise all interactions between them.

Similar Breeds:



French Bulldog


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What to consider next


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