At one time the rarest dog breed in the world, The Chinese Shar-Pei has made a popularity comeback in recent years. The breed originated during China’s Han Dynasty as a peasant’s dog- a useful animal to hunt, herd, and guard livestock. Communist China nearly drove the breed to extinction with mass executions, but breeders in Hong Kong kept the line going.
“Shar-Pei” literally means “sand-paper”, and when feeling the dog’s coat one can understand why it is nicknamed as such. With its rough, wrinkly skin and frowning expression, the Chinese Shar-Pei makes a name for itself as the most unique breed in the Non-Sporting group.
Characteristics of the Chinese Shar-Pei
Let’s take a look at the unique features and temperament of the phenomenal Chinese Shar-Pei.
Standing 18 to 20 inches tall and weighing 40 to 60 pounds, the Chinese Shar-Pei is a medium-sized, yet bulky dog. It’s blue-black tongue, permanently frowning expression, and folds of loose skin covering the neck and other parts of the body give the Shar-Pei its infamous look. Chinese Shar-Pei puppies, unlike the adults, are completely covered in wrinkles, which people generally either find adorable or hideous.
The breed’s hard, sand-paper coat can be found in solid shades of black, red, fawn, or cream. Despite what you may think, the breed actually does shed frequently, although the coat never needs to be trimmed. A monthly bath and brushing will take care of your pet’s grooming needs.
Many words can be used to describe the temperament of the Chinese Shar-Pei: loyal, independent, calm, intelligent, strong, and friendly. Shar-Pei’s are extremely loyal to their family members, but are standoffish around strangers, making them great guard dogs and companions. Chinese Shar-Pei’s do make good family pets, but children in the family should be a bit older, as this breed has a certain tenacity, vigor, and dominance against any perceived threats, including cats and other dogs, and especially other dogs of the same sex. Due to these instincts, Chinese Shar-Pei’s will chase and seize cats and rodents without a second thought, so these are not good pets for households with pet cats or rodents. Shar-Pei’s can live between 8 and 12 years and can grow more stubborn with time if they are not trained properly as puppies.
Despite their independent personalities, Chinese Shar-Pei’s can suffer from severe separation anxiety if not trained well as puppies, so when traveling it is a good idea to bring them along. However, keep in mind that this breed can suffer from stomach troubles due to food and water sources that it is not used to consuming, so it is a good idea to bring water and food from home when traveling. To avoid car sickness, feed your dog at least an hour before traveling, and don’t provide him with as much food as usual if he seems stressed out by the trip. As with many things for this stubborn and intelligent breed, travel anxiety can greatly be reduced if your Chinese Shar-Pei has been trained properly.
Caring for the Chinese Shar-Pei
How does one properly care for such a unique, timeless breed? Read below to find out.
Your Chinese Shar-Pei will need to be fed a high-quality dog food that is appropriate for its age- puppy, adult, senior, etc. Treats can be a valuable tool to use during training- and your Chinese Shar-Pei will definitely need a lot of training- but avoid feeding your pet too many treats as this can cause obesity, which can lead to a host of other problems. Table scraps should also be given sparingly, and avoid especially those table scraps containing bones and contents rich in fat. Always consult your veterinarian if you are concerned about your pet’s diet or weight.
Unlike some other breeds, the Chinese Shar-Pei is an extremely adaptable breed, and therefore individuals can vary in their need for exercise. As a general rule, though, Chinese Shar-Pei’s require a short daily walk at minimum. Strong and sturdy animals, Chinese Shar-Pei’s enjoy rough play and can tolerate longer walks and hot days. As with your pet’s diet, consult your veterinarian if you believe your pet requires more or less exercise than it is currently receiving, as too much or too little exercise for each individual can lead to weight problems and other health issues.
Perhaps more than with any other breed, early training and socialization for your Chinese Shar-Pei are absolutely essential. Those individuals who did not receive proper training as puppies can be extremely stubborn and difficult to re-train. The training your Shar-Pei receives should be firm, confident, and consistent. It is advised that only experienced dog owners should take on the task of owning and training a Chinese Shar-Pei, as owners who are too easy on their pet during training will end up regretting this later on. As far as housetraining is concerned, though, Chinese Shar-Pei’s are a relatively easy breed to housetrain and will seldom have accidents in the house.
Unfortunately, Chinese Shar-Pei’s are prone to a myriad of health issues including eye disorders such as entropion, glaucoma, and retinal dysplasia, as well as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome). Other potential health concerns include respiratory, gastrointestinal, cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, immune, and skin disorders. These skin problems can result from the multitude of wrinkles that the Chinese Shar-Pei is known for. Certain cancers, such as skin and mast cell cancers, are also common in the breed.
For more frequent care, your Chinese Shar-Pei’s nails should be trimmed weekly. You should also clean your pet’s ears weekly with an ear-cleaning solution. To avoid skin irritations, your Chinese Shar-Pei should be bathed monthly.
Because of so many potential health problems, Chinese Shar-Pei’s should be taken to the vet regularly for systematic examinations. As always, consult your veterinarian if you have any questions or concerns about your companion’s health.