Shar Pei Temperament and what to expect when choosing a Shar Pei

Are you thinking of adding a new four-legged friend to your family? If so, you may be wondering if the Shar Pei is the right breed for you. This blog post will help you decide by outlining the pros and cons of owning a Chinese Shar Pei. They are one of the most recognizable dog breeds that are steadily gaining new followers and devotees. So, read on to find out if this rare and very special dog breed is a good fit for your lifestyle.

Shar Pei sleeping
The Shar Pei is one of the most recognisable breeds in the world

History of the Shar Pei

Many believe that the Shar Pei is an ancient breed, referring to Han Dynasty figurines dating back to 200 BC, which bear a striking resemblance to the wrinkled small dogs we know today. Mentions of "wrinkled dogs" appear in ancient Chinese manuscripts. The earliest written reference to the wrinkled dog is found in a Chinese manuscript from the 13th century.

The name Shar Pei translates into “sand-skin or harsh sandy coat” referring to their rough, short coat. They can come in all variety of colours like brown, black, fawn, red, cream, blue and many more. Their tongue is lavender to blue black, same as they chinese Chow Chow.

The Shar Pei falls into the utility breed group.

Utility means fitness for a purpose so they have been bred for a single purpose. They were developed as a fighting dog and a hunter.

Jean Yu, an orientalist from Washington, D.C., who has studied ancient Chinese manuscripts, maintains that the Shar-Pei was originally intended for their use as hunting dogs, and that their main prey is the mongoose. Apparently, the coat was developed to make it harder to take hold of the dog in a fight.

The Shar Pei almost became extinct in its native China following the prohibition of dog ownership by the Chinese government. Dog ownership was deemed a “decadent bourgeois luxury”. Some breeders in Hong Kong kept the breed going and saved it.

Today, the Chinese Shar Pei is recognized both by the British and the American Kennel Club.

Although puppies are wrinkled throughout, in adults the wrinkles reduce a bit as they grow into their skin and there are usually extensive loose skin folds around the head, neck and shoulders. Their lips and muzzle are well padded. Shar Pei shed twice a year but are easy to groom with a weekly brushing.

What is it like to live with a Shar Pei?

In this article, we'll take a closer look at the breed's temperament and personality so you know if this dog is right for you.

Shar Pei need an experienced and understanding owner who can treat them with love and trust and who has the time and patience to dedicate to them. The breed is naturally independent and you will need to start training and socializing your dog as soon as possible. Strolls into busy areas like shopping centers and parks will also help socializing your dog.

Shar Pei looking sad
The Shar Pei comes in many different colours

Shar Pei are naturally protective and incredibly loyal dogs, but their independent demeanor means they are better suited to experienced owners and people who are more familiar with the breed. If socialised well, they can make great pets and are the type of dog that will literally protect your family at the cost of their lives. The Shar Pei will either sleep at your feet while you watch TV, or lie in one place to watch all the entrances to the house, as well as keep an eye on their parent. They will rarely make a fuss and are also not known to be overly destructive. You are definitely choosing your best friend and protector, when choosing a Shar Pei. A Shar Pei also loves a cuddle and being near you.

Shar Pei are strong-willed dogs whose personalities can overwhelm unprepared parents. As their owner, you need to make sure that you’re the alpha of the pack and establish leadership early.

They are not the most sociable breed and can sometimes react to unfamiliar dogs hence early puppy classes are highly recommended to socialize. The good news is that Shar Pei are intelligent and eager to please their parents, which makes them easy to train. They’re also very devoted dogs to their family but can be a bit reserved with strangers. Shar Pei will make excellent watch and guard dogs. It’s often said, that they’re people dogs and prefer company of their hooman to other dogs.

If the breed enjoys a good daily walk and gets proper nutrition indoors, they are generally considered apartment-friendly dogs. The daily exercise per day should be around 1 hour. If you’re looking for a dog that can jog with you, then the Shar Pei might not be right for you due to his short nose. As many breeds with short noses they tend to snore and overheat easier.

Shar Pei characteristics in a nutshell

  • Devoted and extremely loyal

  • Excellent watchdog and guard dogs

  • Prefer human company to other dogs

  • Not as high energy with 1 hour daily exercise being usually sufficient

  • Independent and needs a strong alpha in their owner

Potential diseases in the Shar Pei breed

As you might have learnt by now the Shar Pei is a very devoted and loyal dog. But like with most pure breeds, they are at risk of certain conditions.

Shar Pei may require special products to clear skin folds. Care must be taken to ensure that there are no fungal or bacterial infections in the folds. All Shar Pei should be checked regularly. Common skin problems can be Seborrhea or Pyoderma.

Typical are also eye problems. Entropion is a disease where the eyelids can roll inwards. Ear infections can be common due to their small ear canals.

Shar Pei Autoinflammatory Disease (SPAID) or Shar-Pei fever is an inherited syndrome defined as recurrent episodes of fever and inflammation with no known pathogenic or autoimmune cause. Shar Pei Familial Fever is a serious and common genetic disorder that causes chronic fever and swollen hocks.

When purchasing a Shar Pei, choose one that has undergone OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals; genetic screening to minimize the many Shar Pei genetic diseases. In 1978, the Chinese Shar Pei was one of the rarest dog breeds in the world, meaning that every Shar Pei alive today is descended from a small number of breeding individuals, so inbreeding was required to increase their population. It needs to be established if your Shar Pei is a carrier of genetic diseases.

All of the above can make the Shar Pei quite expensive when it comes to insurance so make sure you have the financial freedom for the extra costs.

Many dog owners are unaware of the danger in some pet toys and accessories that can worsen health issues, when they innocently buy cheap products from the Far East. Avoid synthetic rubber play things like chew bones, nylon bones or tug o' war ropes from polyester; polyester collars could cause skin irritation especially with a Shar Pei. They're not breathable and make the dog sweat which can increase risk of bacterial infections. Natural Hemp is also antibacterial. Swap out those harmful materials with our eco friendly pet products from hemp.

A cream Shar Pei
Shar Pei are very loyal and devoted dogs. They will love you unconditionally

What else If you finally decide to take the plunge with a Shar Pei, a good breeder for this type of breed is absolutely crucial. A good breeder will welcome your questions about temperament, health checks and answer questions about what to look for in a dog and what kind of life you can offer. A good breeder can tell you about the breed's history, explain why one puppy is considered a good pet while another isn't, and discuss what health problems can affect the breed and what to do to avoid them.

The most important thing to remember when choosing the perfect puppy for your family is that all dogs are different, even of the same breed. Knowing the basics of the breed is an important first step in finding the right puppy and you have just taken this important first step!

If you want to learn more about other dog breeds, check related articles or sign up to our newsletter here. We are working hard to add all dog breeds as soon as possible to have a whole extensive library for everybody!

Fun facts

According to the American Kennel Club the Shar Pei can come in up to 21 colours making them one of the most colourful breeds. Another interesting fact is that the Shar Pei tongue is pink when they’re born. By the time the Shar Pei turns 2, their tongue should have darkened considerably.

Another fact is that the Shar Pei was featured in 1979 on the cover of the Life magazine. It was published after a Hong Kong breeder tried to export the breed to other countries to save them from extinction. Sales of the Shar Pei skyrocketed afterwards.

Final thoughts

If you’ve read this far and are still convinced that the Shar Pei is the pup for you, congratulations! You’re in for one of the best relationships of your life.

If you have a Shar Pei in your life already, why did you choose them? Leave us a comment below and let us know what drew you to this breed. And don’t forget to share photos of your new pup with us – we can’t wait to see them!

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