Shar-Pei – Dog Breed

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Breed: Shar-Pei
Temperament: territorial and dominant
Lifespan: 10 -12 years
Maintenance: low
Recommended for: experienced dog owners wanting something different

History of the Shar Pei

An ancient breed originating in China, the Shar-Pei would protect its owner’s farms and property and was believed to have been used in dog fights. The breed became more popular in Australia after the appearance of a pup – ‘Rolly’, on a television commercial for toilet paper. Currently there are between 600-700 registered Shar-Pei in Australia. Its dominant tendencies has prevented the breed from achieving a broader popularity.


The wrinkled folds of skin are most abundant whilst the dog is a juvenile. However the wrinkles may not be apparent in very young pups. As the dog gets older the wrinkles will become more apparent until the dog starts to approach full size and maturity. The dog will eventually ‘grow into its skin’ and the wrinkles will only be apparent on-and-forward-of the shoulders. Some small wrinkling may still occur on the tail dock.

It is likely that the wrinkles in the coat were developed as an ornamental feature of the breed, rather than the common belief that it allowed the dog to turn on its opponent when fighting. Chinese breeders are noted for their love of the grotesque variation, such as the bubble-eye and lionhead goldfish.

The coat appears in two types.

  1. Horse coat: Very short and prickly. Stands up away from the body.
  2. Brush coat: Longer and softer than the horse coat but still up-standing. Both coats are regarded as course.

Shar-Pei may appear in any solid colour except white. It is a mid-size dog, standing as tall as a boxer but much more square and compact. Bitches are generally smaller than dogs, but may be longer in the body. Average weight is about 25kg.

Shar-Pei Temperament

Aloof and wary of strangers, the breed has a very dominant temperament and requires firm training from an early age. Puppy preschool is essential as the Shar-Pei is a very stubborn breed and if not properly trained can be very difficult to manage. Any owner must be experienced enough to hold control over the dog from the outset. The dogs are very loyal to their owners and breeders say that past aggressive tendencies have been eliminated, however one must always satisfy themselves that they are buying a pup from a reputable breeder. Have a look at the parents and be satisfied that they are manageable, non-aggressive dogs. Males will generally remain aggressive towards other dogs. Shar-Pei can be very social with humans and are said to prefer the company of humans rather than dogs. They are also very territorial.

Feeding a Shar-Pei

The dogs are moderate eaters. Breeders say that high protein diets can contribute to skin problems.

Health and lifespan of the Shar-Pei

The wrinkles make the Shar-Pei prone to skin disease and dermatitis. The skin disease may first become visible from 10 months of age and an odour will generally accompany the disease. A natural moult does occur in the breed and breeders say that this will sometimes resemble the disease. No odour will accompany the natural moult.

The deep-set eyes, combined with the loose folds of skin hanging over the brow can also result in eye problems such as entropion (turned-in eyelids). The brows can be stitched back at three to four weeks of age if it is likely that the dog will suffer from entropion. Surgery may be required. Lifespan about 10-12 years.

Maintenance and cost

The Shar-Pei does have a tendencies to drool – it’s wise to keep a face cloth handy for those messy moments. Grooming is not often required, the breed will moult twice yearly, though a intermittent wipe with a hand mat will usually suffice. Pups cost between $800 – $1500.

Ideal owner

Shar-Pei’s are not for the first time dog owner. One needs to make a commitment to training this breed and must be aware of its possible aggressive tendencies. The uniqueness of the breed does make it popular with those who want something a bit different. The breed is popular with those who have time to make the commitment in training and socialising and are capable of showing dominance over the dog.

National contacts

To find up-to-date contacts for breeders, contact the following organisations.

Dogs NSW
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872

Dogs Victoria
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599

Dogs ACT
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 – Fax: (02) 6241 1129.

Dogs West
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190

Dogs SA
Phone: (08) 8349 4797

Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864

Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844

Dogs NT
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409