Chinese Shar-Pei
Web Site

This web site was updated on Friday, September 28, 2007 6:15 PM

History of the Chinese Shar-Pei

The origin of the Chinese Shar-Pei can be traced to the province of Kwun Tung and has for centuries existed in the southern provinces of China. These dogs helped their peasant masters in various tasks such as herding cattle, guarding the home and family, and have proven themselves to be qualified hunters of "wild game, usually wild pigs."
The Shar-Pei is believed to have shared a common origin with the smooth-coated Chow-Chow because of the blue-black mouths and tongues, possibly the Great Pyrenees, a source of the double dew claws, and the Tibetan Mastiff. It was believed in ancient times that the dark mouth of the Chow-Chow, exposed when barking, helped to ward off evil spirits. The first Shar-Pei may have appeared as a mutation. The Shar-Pei when translated means "sand-skin" or "shark skin." This uniquely rough, loose, prickly coat enabled the Shar-Pei to wriggle out of its opponents grasp while fighting in the dog pits. The coat when stroked against the grain may be abrasive, producing a burning, itching sensation. Their tail is carried over their backs on either side exposing the anus. The first tail set is a tightly curled tail, a "coin" tail. The second tail set is the loose curl, and third is carried in an arch over the back. The Shar-Pei with his tail sticking out straight or between his legs was thought to be cowardly. The tail should denote bravery.

While viewing the body head on, if the toes were slightly turned out this was thought to help the dog with balance according to old-time dog-fighting g fanciers. The Chinese crawling dragon with his feet pointed east and west was considered a sign of strength. Because of these poor breeding practices many of the Shar-Pei have bad fronts. A dog with straight forelegs is correct.

Incidentally, any dog in China that protects property is called a fighting dog, whereas in Canada and the United States they are referred to as guard dogs.

Following the establishment of the Peoples' Republic of China as a communist nation, the dog population was virtually wiped out. If not for the efforts of Matgo Law of Hong Kong, the Shar-Pei would not be here today. Due to his dedication to the breed, a small number of Shar-Pei were brought to the United States in the 1960's and early 70's. In 1974 American and Canadian fanciers answered Matgo's appeal for help and in 1976 the first Shar-Pei was registered. The foundation stock brought over from Hong Kong were of poorer quality then the Shar-Pei we see today. In August of 1991 the Shar-Pei officially completed the requirements for recognition by the American Kennel club and was placed in the Non-Sporting Group. In 1992 the Canadian Kennel Club also officially recognized and grouped the Shar-Pei in group 6, Non-Sporting n g events. Since that time several Shar-Pei are now and continuing to become CKC and AKC champions.

Together the United States and Canada can now boast over 100,000 Shar-Pei in the world. This unique breed is also recognized by the FCI, HKKC, and the CSPCGB. The CSPCGB operates independently receiving no input or influence from the [British] Kennel Club. I would also mention that the FCI recognizes the HKKC standard and not the AKC's at this time, as per its general policy of using the standard from the country of the breed's origin.

The AKC Standard

The Standard is the physical "blueprint" of the breed. It describes the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others. The Standard describes an ideal representative of the breed. No individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the breeder to strive towards.
Because of copyright concerns over the collection of all the Standards at any single site storing all the faqs, AKC Standards are not typically included in the Breed faqs. The reader is referred to the publications at the end of this document or to the National Breed Club for a copy of the Standard .


Shar-Pei are extremely devotion to their family, and as with all breeds early socialization is important. Because the Shar-Pei can be stubborn and somewhat standoffish towards strangers, puppy kindergarten and general obedience should be a consideration for a new prospective owner.

Crate Training

Crate training is a positive way to train your dog. Your dog will come to think of its crate as a safe place to re-treat to when they need some quiet time.


Many Shar-Pei throughout the world have gained their titles with Companion Dog (CD), Companion Dog Excellence (CDX), and Utility Dog (U.D.) degrees. They have also proven themselves in tracking and retrieving. The Shar-Pei have won many conformation titles and are known to have an excellent gait when at full trot.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is its tongue black?

Do any other breeds also have a black tongue?
The Shar-Pei shares this distinctive characteristic with only one other breed, the Chow-Chow, indicating that there may be a common ancestor.

What happens if a Shar-Pei has a spotted black tongue, is it mix?
If the Shar-Pei has a spotted tongue it is a major fault. The tongue should be a bluish black unless it is a dilute in which case a lavender tongue is acceptable. A solid pink tongue is a disqualification.

What colors do the Shar-Pei come in?
The Shar-Pei can be a number of colors. The coat must be solid in color and any Shar-Pei with a "flowered coat" (spotted) or black and tan in coloration (i.e. German Shepherd) is a disqualification. Colors include black, cream, fawn, red-fawn, red, sable, apricot, chocolate, isabella, and blue. The nose may be black or brick (pink with black), with or without a black mask. A Shar-Pei can also have what is called a "dilute" coloration. Meaning the nose, nails and anus of the dog is the same color as the coat, (i.e. chocolate coat with chocolate nose, nails and anus). All of these color variations are acceptable and beautiful, but the coat color must be solid and well blended throughout the whole body of the dog.

The puppies are SO cute and wrinkly! Do they stay this wrinkly?
No, in the adult Shar-Pei the wrinkling is confined mainly to the forehead and withers. However, some have more wrinkles than others.

Are they good with other dogs? Children? Cats and other pets?
Yes, like most breeds if raised with children and other pets the Shar-Pei can be a loving member of the family. Puppy kindergarten is a good way to socialize your puppy with other dogs, people, and unfamiliar surroundings. When considering a Shar-Pei as your family dog make sure you see the parents of your prospective pup. This will help you determine what your pup's temperament will be like. "A well-bred Shar-Pei, bred by a pedigree-knowledgeable breeder, rarely, if ever, has had a problem with this in the past 10 years. While it's true some of the original 12 dogs imported to the United States that make up the breed's genetic foundation in this country were street dogs with nasty dispositions, conscientious breeders have made tremendous strides in eliminating people-aggressiveness tendencies." This is why socialization when young is very important. The Shar-Pei thrive on lots of attention and interaction.

Why do Shar-Pei shy away when a person tries to pet them on the head or approaches to quickly?
"The breed's eyes are hooded by skin, which limits its peripheral vision. As a result, they have difficulty seeing people approach from either side until they're almost directly in front of them. The sudden appearance startles the dogs, which causes them to shy away. When approached from the front, Shar-Pei don't react this way." Always let the dog sniff your hand and allow him/her time to familiarize themselves with you. Sniffing is a dog's way of making friends just as we say "Hello" or shake hands. Young children especially should be taught how to approach a dog and a child should never approach a dog unless with their parent(s) and the dog's owner are present.

Are they suspicious of strangers? Do they make good watch dogs?
Yes, they are aloof with strangers and make excellent watch dogs. They are defensive of their home and loved ones. They are an independent breed, very owner-oriented. "A plus as well as a minus in the training situation. Independence is a plus because dogs possess the necessary confidence to work at a distance from their handlers, but it's a minus because it sometimes translates into stubbornness". Training sessions should be brief and not with force. Shar-Pei respond best to praise and or food reinforcement as a reward for good behavior.

Do Shar-Pei snore?
Yes, Shar-Pei snore, some more then others. The Shar-Pei also snort which may be mistaken for growling. As with all squashed-faced breeds, Bulldogs, Pugs, etc., snoring and snorting go hand-in-hand.

Do they shed much?
No, only once a year to lighten their dense coat for the summer. Always use a bristled brush or a hound glove.
How long do they live?

They live to be approximately 8 to 12 years of age but some have been known to live as long as 15 years or more.

Is the Shar-Pei suitable for apartment living?
Yes, but they need daily exercise otherwise they will begin to feel pent-up. This should include more then just taking them out to do their duties.

Are Shar-Pei intelligent?
Shar-Pei are very intelligent and excel in obedience training. They are quick to learn therefore training should be varied in order to maintain their interest.

Do Shar-Pei drool?
Only after they eat do they get slobbery due to water getting trapped in the folds of their muzzle. Oh, and of course if they are offered some tasty treats!

Can Shar-Pei tolerate extremes in temperature?
Shar-Pei should not be left in the sun for long periods of time as they can get over heated easily. In cold weather the Shar-Pei are fine but should not live as an outdoor dog. Remember to put Vaseline on the pads of their paws to protect them from the salt some cities put down for vehicles. This salt can burn the pads of their feet and be very painful. The Shar-Pei do not do well with climate extremes, "because of the health problems living as an outdoor dog presents (i.e., flea bite dermatitis, inhalant allergies to plant material) and because of the breed's possible increased susceptibility to airborne diseases such as parvo. The social isolation associated with living as an outdoor (or kennel) dog also is not beneficial to this owner-oriented breed".

What is the general disposition of a Shar-Pei?
"The Shar-Pei is a bright, affectionate dog that makes a terrific companion animal. In addition it is an able contender in the obedience or agility ring when trained with the appropriate methods. It is easily house-trained, exceptionally clean and requires minimal grooming. And, it is stable and temperamentally dependable when bred by reputable breeders knowledgeable in genetics"

Health Problems

In general, dogs with any of the following conditions should not be bred. You want to make sure that the parents of the puppy you may be considering have been cleared or checked for any of these conditions. The following health conditions are not present in all Shar-Pei. This is an introduction to health problems that may occur in this breed and is not intended as a generalization.
If your veterinarian requires more information about the Chinese Shar-Pei, send the name and address of your veterinarian (for overseas orders, send $2.00 in U.S. funds for postage) to:

Jeff Vidt, DVM
210 S. Park Street
Westmont, IL 60559-1940

The Shar-Pei are 1 of 14 breeds that can have this condition. This is where the eyelid rolls in towards the eye, rubbing against the cornea and irritating this sensitive structure. Watery eyes, infection, even a corneal ulcer, can occur. Surgical correction is required. Dogs with this condition should not be bred, as a genetic component is suspected.
The thyroid glands secrete a hormone which controls the basic metabolic rate of the entire body. Inadequate hormone levels reset the body to function at a lower metabolic level. In that case, dogs fatten easily on a normal diet, become sluggish, and are easily chilled. Hair changes are most noticeable and include loss of hair from the flanks and back, increased pigmentation of the skin, scaling and seborrhea (an abnormality in the production of skin cells.) Secondary bacterial infection of the skin is common. The ears may also be affected, filling with thick, yellow greasy material which may predispose the dog to ear infections. Blood tests will determine the level of thyroid function and administration of thyroid hormone can treat the condition.
Familial Shar-Pei Fever and Amyloidosis
Familial Shar-Pei fever also known as "Swollen Hock Syndrome" (SHS) typically may include the following symptoms:
Swelling of the hock joint and sometimes other joints can be affected.
Reluctance to move.
Sometimes a swollen painful muzzle.
Abdominal pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and shallow breathing.
"Familial Shar-Pei Fever (FSF) is an episodic fever disorder. Shar-Pei with this disorder have one or more bouts of unexplained fever, usually 103-107 degrees but rare cases may go higher. Fevers usually start when they are less then 18 months old but sometimes the first attack is not until they are adults. Fever episodes usually become less frequent with age. Fevers last 24-36 hours in most cases without treatment". The disorder is "thought to result from an inability to regulate the immune system. Dogs suffering from this disorder are at risk of dying from a related disorder, amyloidosis. Affected Shar-Pei with amyloidosis have an inability to break down chemicals released in the bloodstream when inflammation results from abnormal deposition of amyloid protein throughout the body. While not all dogs with Shar-Pei fever die of amyloidosis, when they do, death most commonly occurs between the ages of 3 and 5 years".
The CSPCA has setup a charitable fund. A tax-deductible donation may be made payable to:

CSPCA Charitable Fund
c/o Lee Arnold, Chairman,
P.O. Box 7007, Bedminster,
NJ 07921.

Demodectic Mange
The mite, Demodex canis, starts off as small dry areas on the head, chest, and legs of the Shar-Pei. Because the dog scratches to relieve the intense itching, the skin becomes red and raw with a leathery look about it. Check with your veterinarian for prescribed medication, shampoos, and other appropriate treatment.
Seborrhea Oleosa
Severe rancid body odor which comes from raw, scaly, bloody skin. Could be caused by hypothyroidism, yeast infections, and or food allergies. This situation should be immediately discussed with a veterinarian and the appropriate shampoos and medication can effectively treat this condition.
Overbites are very common. This can occur due to the misplacement of the incisors causing an overcrowding. Extraction at a young age can prevent the adult canines from cutting into the hard palate.
Tight Lip Syndrome
This is where the excess flesh from the lower lip covers the teeth making it difficult for the Shar-Pei to chew. This excess flesh also traps food and is usually associated with an overbite.
Due to the breed standard calling for small ears, this results in the Shar-Pei having very narrow ear canals. Attention should be taken in cleaning the ear thoroughly with a vet prescribed ear solution. Do not use a Q-tip to dig down in the ear canal. Use a make-up pad to gently clean the ear and then let the dog shake.
Nose - Stenotic Nares
These dogs snore because of excess flesh. If the dog is unable to pass air with ease, surgery to altar the folds of the nostril may be necessary. An "elongated soft palate" is likely to be the cause of "respiratory distress."
Carpal Laxity
This is a weakness is the carpal ligaments which causes instability and bowing forward in young puppies. Decrease the protein level and exercise on a non-slippery surface. In severe cases soft wraps will be in order.
Patellar Luxation
Is where the knee cap slips out of its socket. Any Shar-Pei with this condition should not be bred.
Hip Dysplasia
A dysplastic dog has an abnormal hip joint where the femur and acetabulum are misaligned. This can range in severity from mild (controllable) pain to dogs in such agony they must be put down. Make sure the parents of any puppy you consider has been cleared of Hip Dysplasia through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals.
"Megaesophagus and or diaphramatic hernias may not be detected until the dog is much older when they will appear underweight or emaciated with a history of vomiting. This is a developmental defect possibly a delayed maturation of the esophageal nueromuscular system. Mild cases in young dogs can improve with careful feeding." Feeding the dog by elevating the food in such a way as to raise the dog's front end. Putting food bowls on a stair or two and then allowing them some time to digest in the same position may help.
Cutaneous Mucinosis
"Mucin is the substance in the Shar-Pei skin that causes all the wrinkling. It is clear and stringy and acts like glue in fight wounds." Some Shar-Pei have an excess of Mucin causing it to form clear bubbles on the skin that may rupture and ooze. May be associated with possible allergies and can be treated by a alternate day steroid therapy.
Being one of many deep chested breeds, bloat can occur in Shar-Pei. Can also be caused by the way you roll your dog. Although similar to colic in horses, "bloat and torsion occur when the stomach swells with gas and then twists and cuts off its blood supply. Without timely surgical intervention the condition is fatal". The dog must see a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Chronic Inflammatory Bowel Disease
Often complicated by food allergies and or Chronic stress diarrhea. Usually responds to a strict hypoallergenic diet.
Some Shar-Pei can be susceptible to allergies caused by food, grass, plants (indoor and outdoor), flea bite dermatitis an allergy based condition where the dog develops an itchy rash in reaction to flea saliva after being bitten. Try to keep the dog's living quarters and play area as flea free as possible. Other allergies are "Inhalant allergies" that causes the dog to lick his/her paws, scratch, and rub its muzzle. "Eliminating the allergy's cause, using the correct type of shampoo and administering antihistamines or cortisone are common forms of treatment". Always consult a Shar-Pei knowledgeable veterinarian for proper treatment and care. "In addition some breeders believe the Shar-Pei has a weakened immune system that makes it more susceptible e to and less able to recover from airborne viruses such as parvo. This condition makes timely inoculation especially important".
"In regard to cancer, several forms have a high incidence in the breed. At present, the CSPCA is surveying club members to determine which are most prevalent. Once isolated, the organization's Charitable Trust plans to fund relevant cancer research".

Food allergies may cause skin and stomach diseases. This breed should have a well balanced, preservative free diet and one that is low in protein, approximately "(16-21%)." Some alternatives to rawhide and store bought treats are raw or cooked veggies when ever you are steaming some up for yourself, nothing from the cabbage family or onions, and most fruits such as bananas, apricots, apples, etc. are also healthy alternatives to store bought treats. No table scraps because we as humans tend to dress up our veggies with butter, margarine, salt, sugar, and/ or gravy. Anything with soya or beef, dyes, or chemical preservatives liked BHA, BHT, or Exthoxyquin should be avoided. Instead look for foods that are preserved with vitamins A, C, or E. A chemical-free food is often enough to make a huge difference in a dog's health.


The Shar-Pei requires minimal maintenance. Brushing with a good bristle brush every other day keeps its unique coat in excellent condition. Bathing may occur occasionally using warm water and a good shampoo recommended by a vet. Contrary to popular belief the Shar-Pei do not need to be bathed every week. This constant bathing will make the skin dry (increase itching) and cause the coat to look dull. By doing this you will wash all of the dog's natural oils away. Only bath the dog if he/ she smells with a vet recommend shampoo for general bathing needs. The nails of a Shar-Pei grow fast so frequent clipping is in order. Always touch your puppy's paws and the puppy all over to get them used to grooming. Because the Shar-Pei have tiny ears frequent cleaning is a must. Usually once every week or every two weeks depending on the individual dog. Use cotton swabs or make-up pads (cotton ones) with an ear solution from your vet. Do not use Q-tips as it may push the waxy build-up further down the ear canal. After you have cleaned the ears let them shake and then later clean the excess. The ears, eyes, and the whole body in general should be inspected frequently to have a happy, healthy Shar-Pei.


Puppy Buyer's Guidelines
These are just a few suggestions a new prospective owner of a Shar-Pei puppy should be aware of and consider when looking for a new puppy:
* Puppies should at least be 8 weeks of age before going to a new home. A puppy needs adequate time with his/ her littermates and mother for proper socialization to begin.

* Buyers should see both parents. "Although it's normal for a Shar-Pei to behave in a standoffish manner when in the presence of strangers, neither the sire nor the dam ( nor puppies) should behave in a shy or aggressive manner.

* Buyers should look for a puppy that is confident not shy, aggressive or fearful.

* Health should be of the utmost importance for a new prospective owner. No discharge from the eyes or nose, distended or potbellied abdomen, dull coat, and no lethargic behavior.

* Check with the kennel club in your area if you are not sure about what papers you are entitled to, but you should not be asked to pay extra for the registration papers of your new puppy. Papers included in the purchasing g price of your pup are a signed pedigree, copies of the contract of sale and health guarantee, a complete health record that includes the dates of worming and a veterinarian's certificate proving inoculation. "The breeder also should provide written proof he or she will take the puppy back within a limited period of time if it is found to be ill or suffering from some defect. Dogs should be examined by a veterinarian within 48 hours of the sale. Pet quality dogs should be sold with a spay/ neuter contract or limited (i.e. non-breeding) registration".

* The price of a pet quality Shar-Pei, and again it depends on where you live, should be between "$300-$500" in the United States and in Canada $600-$800. Show quality starts at $1000 and escalates from there.

Shar-Pei Mailing List
This is the website for eGroups. At this link you will find a list of email groups geared to Chinese Shar-Pei fanciers.

Heidi Merkli (
Created Feb. 6, 1995.

Revision: March 14, 1999
Changes to rescue and club sections
Revision: Sept. 28, 1998
Changes to and new hyper links added.
Revision: Feb. 22, 1998
Changes to health, grooming, diet, FAQ's sections. Addition: Puppy Buyer's Guidelines.
Revision: Oct. 24, 1997
Additions to frequently asked question section. Correction to mailing list address.

Revision: Sept. 16, 1997
Changes to health and rescue sections.
Additions: Crate Training, Vet List and Mailing List.
Revision: March 10, 1997
Changes to health, rescue and FAQ's sections.
Revision: July 1, 1996
Changes to health and rescue sections.

Copyright 1995-2001 by Heidi Merkli.