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Shar Pei Temperament: A loving and little fighter in a wrinkly body

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. With their devoted, loving and affectionate temperament, the Shar Pei has won the hearts of many people. Can it win yours?

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, steadily gaining new followers and devotees. So, read on to find out if this rare and exceptional 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 resemble the small wrinkled dogs we know today. Mentions of a "wrinkled dog" appeared in ancient Chinese manuscripts. The earliest written reference to the wrinkled dog is 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 various colours like brown, black, fawn, red, cream, blue and many more. The texture of the Shar Pei skin and coat makes them harder to get bitten or grabbed.

Their tongue is lavender to blue black, the same as the Chinese Chow Chow.

The Shar Pei falls into the utility breed group.

Utility means as much as "fit for purpose", so they have been bred for a single purpose. For example, the Shar Pei was 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 initially intended as a hunting dog and its main prey was the mongoose. Apparently, the coat was developed to make it harder to take hold of the dog.

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". However, some Hong Kong breeders kept the breed and saved it ultimately.

Today, the Chinese Shar Pei is recognised 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 muzzles are well-padded. The Shar Pei sheds twice a year but is easy to groom with a weekly brushing.

In Q2 2022, 139 Shar Pei puppies have been registered with the UK Kennel Club.

The numbers are a little bit down compared with 2021, but we are sure the Shar Pei devotees will get the breed going.

Q1 2021

Q2 2021

Q3 2021

Q4 2021

2021 Total

Q1 2022

Q2 2022








Source: October 2022

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.

The Shar Pei needs an experienced and understanding owner who can treat them with love and trust and has the time and patience to dedicate to them. The breed is naturally independent, and you must start training and socializing your dog as soon as possible. Strolls into busy areas like shopping centres and parks will also help socialise 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 temperament means they are better suited to experienced owners and people who are more familiar with the breed.

If socialised well, they can make excellent 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 and keep an eye on their parent.

They 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 must ensure that you're the pack's alpha 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 socialise. The good news is that Shar Pei is intelligent and eager to please its parents, making them easy to train. They're also very devoted dogs but can be reserved with strangers. Shar Pei will make excellent watch and guard dogs. It's often said that they're people dogs and prefer the 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. However, if you're looking for a dog that can jog with you, the Shar Pei might not be suitable for you due to its short nose. Like 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 of 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 devoted and loyal dog. But like most pure breeds, they are at risk of certain conditions.

Shar Pei may require unique 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 expected 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 severe 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. Therefore, 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 regarding 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. In addition, they're not breathable and make the dog sweat, increasing the risk of bacterial infections. Plant-based materials, like natural hemp, are 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

How to choose your Shar-Pei puppy

If you finally decide to take the plunge with a Shar Pei, a good breeder for this breed is crucial. A good breeder will welcome your questions about temperament and health checks and answer questions about what to look for in a dog and what kind of life you can offer.

In addition, 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. Therefore, knowing the basics of the breed is an essential first step in finding the right puppy, and you have just taken this critical first step!

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

Shar Pei 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. However, their tongue should have darkened considerably when the Shar Pei turns 2.

Another fact is that Shar Pei was featured in 1979 on the cover of 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. This wrinkly dog has a loving and protecting temperament. They will always keep an eye out for you and make sure you're safe. That can make them sometimes a bit possessive, but it can be all alleviated with dedicated training and socialising.

If you have a Shar Pei in your life already, why did you choose them? Leave us a comment below and tell us 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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