The Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed is easily recognized because of its deeply wrinkled face and stocky body. Its Chinese name means “sand skin,” referring to the short, rough coat of this breed. Originally a working and hunting dog, Shar-Peis are now mainly kept as family pets, companion dogs and show dogs, but they are excellent guardians too.
The Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed, originating in China as the name implies, is one of the oldest breeds known to man. Even though the exact time of origin or lineages are not known, archeological evidences suggest their existence before the 2nd century. The blue black tongue and the country of origin are two things this breed share with the Chow Chow breed, indicating the possibility of their common ancestry.
The breed remained unchanged for most part of its existence as 13th century Chinese writings describe a stout dog with wrinkles that resemble the Shar-Peis of today. Records of these dogs were lost after China evolved as a Communist country, but it is known that Shar-Peis were popular with the peasant class who used them for hunting wild boar and guarding their houses and families. They were used as fighting dogs too.
Even though the Chinese Shar-Peis fell out of favor in China, the breed continued its existence in Hong Kong and Taiwan, with the Hong Kong Kennel Club recognizing it in 1968. Even though they were introduced in the United States around this time, they received attention only after the appeal of Matgo Law, a businessman from Hong Kong, to save the breed, appeared in a dog magazine in 1973. Most dogs of this breed trace their ancestry to about 200 Shar-Peis smuggled into the country at this time. This ancient breed was thus saved from extinction, and has become quite popular now. It gained the recognition of AKC in 1991.
The Shar-Pei dog breed is stocky with a wide “hippo-like” head that is riddled with the characteristic wrinkles. It measures about 22 inches in height and weighs 55-65 pounds. Three distinctive coat types occur, namely, the horse-coat with very short hair, the brush-coat with hair less than one inch in length, and the bear-coat with hair longer than one inch.
The breed standard recognizes 16 distinct solid color and sable coats, ranging from different shades of cream, red and brown to chocolate blue and black. Spotted coats also occur, but they are not favored. Ears are small, triangular, and folded; the tail is tapering and high-set at the back.
The Chinese Shar-Peis are known for their independent nature. They are stubborn and bold; their temperament is often described as “self-possessed.” Early socialization is very important since these dogs are highly suspicious of strangers and do not easily take to other pets and kids.
Even though their history as guard dogs makes them territorial and aggressive, they are extremely loyal to their family members, and prefer to stay at their side most of the time. This makes them very good companion dogs. They usually bark only when they are worried.
The Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed can be trained with consistent positive reinforcements such as rewards of treats, but they do not take well to the old school of dog training involving harsh punishments.
Grooming and exercise
The short coat of Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed does not need much grooming. A weekly brushing should keep it in good order. However, special attention should be paid to the skin folds, especially those on the face as they are prone to developing bacterial infections. Any indication of skin irritation or inflammation needs prompt attention of the veterinarian.
Chinese Shar-Peis require regular exercises and activities to keep them physically fit and mentally stimulated. Long walks on the leash and games in the yard involving fetching are sufficient.
They need to spend some time outside the house during the day, but living outdoors both day and night may not suit these dogs.
Common health issues of Chinese Shar-Pei dog breed
Shar-Pei dog breed is known to have several breed related health issues. One of them is the Familial Shar-Pei Fever (FSF), a congenital disorder that can have far reaching consequences, besides intermittent episodes of fever. This disorder is often called Swollen Hock Syndrome as fluid accumulation in the ankles usually occurs along with the fever.
Shar-Peis are especially prone to allergic skin conditions too. Other common canine health issues affecting this breed are hip dysplasia, patellar luxation, entropion, hypothyroidism, and otitis externa. Amyloidosis is commonly encountered in them and is thought to be an effect of FSF. They may develop pyodermas in their skin folds too. This breed has a life span of about 10 years.