Key Breed Facts
Intelligence / Trainability
Children and Other Pets
Caring for a Shar Pei
Average Cost to keep/care for a Shar Pei
The Shar Pei has to be one of the most recognised breeds in the world thanks to their wrinkles and blue/black tongues. However, their coat too is another distinguishing feature being quite bristly to the touch. They boast being one of the most ancient breeds on the planet and were originally bred to hunt, guard and herd although they were often used as fighting dogs in their native China too.
The dogs we see today are less wrinkled and taller in the leg than the original dogs that first came out of China and back in the seventies, they were considered one of the rarest breeds in the world. Thanks to careful and selective breeding, the Shar Pei has become a popular choice with many people not only here in the UK but in other regions of the world too and breeders have successfully bred out many of the health issues that once plagued the breed.
These extraordinary dogs have been around for centuries having first been developed by crossing Nordic dogs with Mastiff-type breeds. They boast a blue tongue which is one of the distinguishing physical traits of the Chow Chow and as such, it is thought they too were used to create the Shar Pei. The breed originated in China where they were originally bred to work as herding, guarding and hunting dogs, although at the time they were a popular choice as fighting dogs too.
At one time, they were considered a delicacy in their native China which saw a law being passed forbidding anyone from owning a Shar Pei as a pet. It nearly to the breed vanishing off the face of the planet forever. However, a breeder promoted the Shar Pei outside of China which luckily saved the breed from extinction although at that time, these dogs were classed as one of the rarest breeds in the world.
The first dogs to be taken out of China were shorter in the leg and had a lot more folds and wrinkles with many adults suffering from a condition known as entropion, a painful eye condition that needs veterinary attention. Over time with careful and selective breeding, these issues have been successfully bred out of the Shar Pei with breeders producing dogs with longer legs, not so many folds in their skin and much healthier eyelids.
Today, the Shar Pei is one of the most popular breeds here in the UK and in other countries too thanks to their extraordinary looks and kind, loyal natures whether they are companions or family pets as long as they live with people who are familiar with the breed or this type of dog.
Height at the withers: Males 46 - 56 cm, Females 46 - 56 cm
Average weight: Males 25 - 29 kg, Females 18 - 25 kg
The Shar Pei is one of the most recognisable dogs all thanks to the loose folds found on their faces and bodies. They are quite compact and square, but very powerful looking showing a lot of bone. Their heads are quite large but not so much as it is disproportionate from the rest of their body. They have flat, broad skulls with a moderate stop with dogs having a moderate amount of wrinkles on their cheeks and forehead.
They boast moderately broad, slightly padded muzzles and lips. In profile, their bottom jaw seems to be wider below than at the top. Their nose is wide, large and ideally black in colour although other colours are allowed under the breed standard. Their eyes are almond-shaped, medium in size, dark in colour with dogs having their trademark frowning expression. Dogs with lighter coats can have lighter coloured eyes which is allowed. Ears are set high and are small, thick and triangular in shape with slightly rounded tips, they fold downwards towards a dog’s eyes.
Their tongue, the roof of their mouth, gums and flews are a bluish/black colour although dogs with lighter coats and amber eyes can have a self-coloured pigment in them and a lavender tongue. They have a strong jaw with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones.
Necks are moderately long, full and strong sitting well on a dog's shoulders with a little loose skin underneath being allowed. Shoulders are well laid back, sloping and muscular. Front legs are straight and moderately long with dogs showing a good amount of bone, but mature dogs do not have any wrinkles on their legs.
The Shar Pei has a compact, sturdy body with a broad, deep chest and short, strong back. Their topline dips a little just behind the withers before rising to a dog's short, but broad loin. In adults, there is a little amount of wrinkling on their shoulders and at the base of their tail. Hindquarters are strong, moderately angulated and muscular with dogs boasting powerful back legs. Feet are moderately large, but compact with well knuckled toes. Their tails are nicely rounded and taper to a fine point with the base being set very high. Dogs carry their tail curved and high, whether in a tight curl or curved over their backs.
When it comes to their coat, the Shar Pei boasts having a harsh, straight coat that stands off the body but which is flatter on all four limbs. They do not have an undercoat and the length of the hair can vary from being bristly and short to thicker and longer, but it always stands off a dog's body and is coarse to the touch. All solid colours are acceptable with the exception of white and a dog's coat can be lighter on their tails, the back of their thighs. They can be found in various colours which includes the following:
The Shar Pei is a very loyal and affectionate dog by nature even though they may always have a frown on their faces. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because they need to be handled and trained by someone who is familiar with this type of dog. They are known to be quite independent and reserved, but once they form a bond with their owners or families, they become valued members of a household. These dogs love being inside the home where it is cosy and warm because they really dislike the cold.
They can be very wary and aloof when they meet anyone for the first time, but would not show any sort of aggression towards a stranger, preferring to just keep out of the way. It's essential for a puppy to be well socialised from a young age and their training has to start as soon as possible too. The Shar Pei needs to be taught who is the alpha dog in a household because they are much happier and more obedient when they know their place in the pack. If a Shar Pei is allowed to rule the roost, they will and this can lead to a dog becoming unruly and hard to handle.
The Shar Pei is an intelligent dog, but they need to be handled and trained with a firm yet fair hand. They do not respond well to any sort of harsh training or correction. However, if an owner is too soft, a Shar Pei, as previously mentioned, will start to show a more dominant side to their personality which is something to be avoided at all costs.
They do have a strong stubborn streak in them which means they need to be handled and trained by someone who is familiar with this type of dog. It takes a lot of patience and consistency to train a Shar Pei and even then they are not known to be the most obedient of dogs.
The Shar Pei is a good choice as a family pet as long as they have been well socialised from a young age and if they have, they become devoted to every member of a household including the children. However, care has to be taken when they are around younger children and toddlers just in case playtime gets too rough and someone gets knocked over and hurt.
If a Shar Pei has grown up with a cat in the household, they generally get on well with them. However, they will think nothing of chasing a cat they do not know. When it comes to smaller pets, care needs to be taken when they are around a Shar Pei and any contact is best avoided. They can be aggressive towards other dogs especially if they have never met them before even when they have been well socialised.
For further advice please read our article on Keeping Children Safe around Dogs.
The average life expectancy of a Shar Pei is between 9 and 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Like so many other breeds, the Shar Pei is known to suffer from a few hereditary health issues which are worth knowing about if you are planning share your home with one of these active and unique looking dogs. The conditions that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:
As with any other breed, the Shar Pei needs to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, dogs need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
Thanks to their short coats and because they not have an undercoat, the Shar Pei is not high maintenance in the grooming department. However, it's essential for their folds and wrinkles to be checked on a regular basis to make sure they are kept clean and to always dry them thoroughly because if moisture is allowed to build up in the folds, it provides the perfect environment for a yeast infection to take hold which can be really hard to clear up.
It's also very important to check a Shar Pei's ears as often as possible and to clean them when necessary. If too much wax is allowed to build up in a dog's ear, it can lead to an infection taking hold which once it flares up can lead to all sorts of other ear issues if not treated correctly. It's also important to check a dog's eyes and to clean them when necessary.
The Shar Pei is not a high energy dog, but they do need to be given the right amount of daily exercise and enough mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in. With this said, two walks a day with the first morning walk being shorter and the second in the afternoon being longer and more interesting is essential to keep these dogs happy, healthy and fit.
They really enjoy letting off steam in a back garden whenever possible, but the fencing has to be very secure to keep a Shar Pei in. If they are not given enough exercise or enough mental stimulation, it can lead to dogs developing unwanted behavioural issues which includes them being destructive around the home.
With this said, young Shar Pei puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in causing a dog a few problems later on in their lives. They should not be allowed to run up and down stairs or to jump up and down off the furniture because it puts too much strain on their growing joints.
If you get a Shar Pei puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
If you are looking to buy a Shar Pei, you would need to pay anything from £750 to over £1100 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. Finding insurance cover for a Shar Pei can be quite hard, but some companies will agree to offer cover to the breed. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Shar Pei in northern England would be £26.10 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £40.90 a month (quote as of May 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £50 - £70 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Shar Pei and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1200 a year.
As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Shar Pei would be between £80 to £120 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.
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