Chinese Shar Pei

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AKC Group: Non-sporting

Their history can be traced back to the southern provinces of China known as the Kwung Tung. They were the dogs of peasants, helping to herd cattle, guarding the family or homestead and hunting wild pigs. Shar Pei translates to “sand skin” or “shark skin.” They were used in China as dog fighters because their rough, prickly coat allowed them to escape an opponent’s grip. The first Shar Pei may have been a mutation of the Chow Chow, Great Pyreness or Tibetan Mastiff.

Size: 8 to 20 inches tall; 45 to 60 pounds

Color: Solid red, cream, fawn or black.

Life span: 7 to 12 years

Health problems: Entropion, hip dysplasia, thyroid problems, bloat, autoimmune disorders, allergies, skin conditions, sensitivity to chemicals or medications and malabsorption.

The Shar Pei is distinguishable for the wrinkly skin on his face and body. His coat is short, straight and sits close to the skin. When socialized properly, the Shar Pei is a friendly dog — overcoming his natural independence and aloofness. A serious and confident breed, Shar Peis tend to keep to themselves. A Shar Pei demands respect but can give it out (if properly trained). If used as a fighting dog, it will be hard to get rid of those instincts and will never be a great pet. If he wasn’t mistreated, ensure he’s properly socialized with children and other pets.

Life with a Shar Pei can be difficult. They can be stubborn, in fact almost obstinate when the mood strikes them. (It’s best not to start with a Shar Pei if you’ve never shared your life with a dog.) Determined by nature and bred as a hunter, don’t let your Shar Pei off-leash in public. The local cats and wildlife will be forever grateful.

Grooming needs are low: brush him when he needs it. You’ll spend more time inspecting his skin folds and ears (which require constant attention) than you will brushing him. Proper socialization is your number one priority with a Shar Pei. Without it, they can be aggressive, standoffish or shy and develop a bond with only one person. A happier, more adjusted Shar Pei will bond to the whole family. In other training matters, you’ll need to be strong, direct and consistent. You’re the Top Dog and if you waver or are inconsistent, your Shar Pei will feel he’s the Alpha instead. This does need to be established by being harsh or heavy-handed with him. It’s also important for all family members to be involved in training, otherwise he may only listen to one member. The easiest part of his training will be housebreaking; he’ll figure it all out for himself.

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