Shar Pei

Other names: Chinese fighting dog, Sharpei

Shar Pei
Shar Pei

The Sharpei dog is an atypical animal, thanks to the skin-folds and blue-black tongue so highly regarded by the breed’s enthusiasts. He has a balanced but independent temperament, so the education of this Chinese fighting dog can be complicated if violent methods are used. He is an intelligent dog that quickly understands what is expected of him if his human colleagues are patient and coherent with him. Protective, calm and affectionate without being clingy, this dog adapts perfectly to family life.


Key facts about the Shar Pei

  • Life expectancy : Between 10 and 13 years
  • Temperament : Calm, Intelligent
  • Size : Medium
  • Type of coat : Short, Hard
  • Price : Between £600 and £770

Physical characteristics of the Shar Pei

Adult size

Female dog Between 17 and 20 in
Male dog Between 17 and 20 in


Female dog Between 40 and 55 lb
Male dog Between 40 and 55 lb

Coat colour

Only pure colours are allowed except white: black, brown, blue, beige, fawn or cream. The dog's tail is often clearer and darker tones along the back and ears are allowed.

The blue Sharpei is particularly appreciated.

Type of coat

His hair is short.

Note that there are two types: The Sharpei horse coat which has very short hair and the Sharpei brush coat which has longer hair, which all the same never exceeds 2.5 cm in length. There is also the Sharpei bear coat which has longer hair (greater than 2.5 cm) but which is generally not recognized by official dog clubs.

The hair must be straight, hard and bristling. There is no undercoat.

Eye colour

Black or brown in beige dogs.


The Shar Pei is a sturdy, solid and compact dog with very short hair. The head is large compared to his body, the skull is wide and flat, the top of his beak is a little accentuated. Abundant and fine wrinkles cover the forehead and the orbital region, which then extend downward to form folds. The eyes are small and sunken. The ears are very small, in the form of an equilateral triangle, attached very high above the eyes. The skin forms creases throughout the body, which is a peculiar characteristic of the breed. The tail is located very high, curved above the back but without touching it. Another peculiarity, like his cousin the Chow-Chow, is the Shar Pei’s blue tongue.



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In his social group, the Sharpei dog is a very endearing being, who seeks attention and caresses. Some will have a more distant and reserved temperament but this will never taint the affection that he has for his master.


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The Shar pei knows how to be jovial and enthusiastic but it is not his main trait. However, playing sessions can be proposed, in particular to strengthen the master-dog relationship and to improve his education.


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The main characteristic of this wrinkled dog is his quietness. He is very quiet which allows him to be able to integrate perfectly with the family life.


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This dog is a thoughtful animal that adapts perfectly to the lifestyle of the members of his social group. If his masters are active and athletic, he will be capable of following them, despite his more moderate nature. If his masters are rather calm, he can adapt with great pleasure as well.

This ability to adapt makes him an intelligent dog whose company is very pleasant to share on a daily basis.


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Traditionally, the Shar Pei was bred by Chinese peasants especially for his hunting skills. Today, he is preferred for his temperament and his unique physique rather than for his skill set.

Fearful / wary of strangers

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This fancy dog is especially reserved and will not go naturally to people he does not know. He will not show himself to be in any way aggressive when seeing strangers, but will instead appear suspicious. 

Good socialisation is necessary from masters who do not want to see this trait of his personality amplify with age.


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Depending on the personality of the Sharpei, he will be more or less independent, but in each case, he always retains a share of autonomy and freedom.

Behaviour of the Shar Pei

Tolerates solitude

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With a very calm and somewhat independent temperament, the adult Sharpei can stay home alone for a few hours without causing any big problems. He must, however, be accustomed from an early age to dealing with solitude if he is to manage it.

Easy to train / obedience

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This wrinkled dog has the bad reputation of being stubborn, however, he is not. Of course, his upbringing demands consistency and firmness, but it won’t be hindered by a stubborn temperament.

It is true that the Shar Pei has a strong personality, in the sense that if he is rushed or does not understand what is asked of him, he will quit easily. He can be difficult to motivate sometimes. But if he understands what is expected of him and the exercises are repeated regularly, with patience and consistency, he will study with enthusiasm.

Education must be initiated from at the age of 2 months and it should be mixed with high quality socialization.

Positive methods of education are preferred because this combative dog does not appreciate injustice. Although sometimes difficult to motivate, brutal methods will only stunt his progress.


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He is a natural guardian due to his protective instincts, so the Shar Pei may be heard barking to deter any intruder from entering his home. His education will soften or strengthen this trait according to the expectations and needs of the Masters.

Tendency to run away

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This Chinese fighting dog is far too protective of his own to flee, especially since he appreciates the cosy and warm comforts of home.


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Especially as a puppy, the Shar Pei can be destructive; but his calm temperament prevails with age.

Greedy / Gluttony

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This dog will rarely refuse a treat but be careful because he can quickly suffer from excessive weight-gain.

Treats can be used to stimulate his education by motivating him to cooperate, but excess should be avoided.

Guard dog

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This Chinese fighting dog is a very good guard as he has a fairly developed sense of ownership. Indeed, he does not easily allow anyone he does not know or who does not inspire trust to enter his home.

Without ever being aggressive, he will behave in a deterrent manner due to his stature and serious bark.

First dog

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This dog is often adopted for his atypical physique. However, he is still a dog that needs a firm and early education. Novice masters could quickly be surpassed.

If he is not well educated or socialized, he can become dangerous - because his past as a fighting dog could push him to impose himself against his peers, against whose blows he remains impervious due to his armour-like folds. 

In fact, before adoption, it is important to become aware of all the characteristics of the breed, and not just his looks.


Shar Pei in a flat

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Living in an apartment in a city environment is quite possible for this quiet dog. Pay attention all the same to his guarding instincts which could, if not controlled, bother the neighbours.

The Sharpei appreciates the comfort of an indoor life and could not stand physically or emotionally to live outside.

Whether he lives in a house with access to the outdoors or in an apartment, he will need several outings a day.

Need for exercise / Sporty

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This Chinese dog needs doesn’t need to spend much energy. He is not a great sportsman but he still enjoys long walks in the countryside.

He can be satisfied with three walks a day, in the morning, at noon and in the evening, without them being very intense. With a puppy, walks should be used for training in the mental, olfactory, and social arts.

Travelling / easy to transport

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Transport for this medium-sized dog is not complicated. But for everything to go well, it is imperative that he is socialized from an early age to the different environments and distractions that he will face on the road.

In public transport such as the train, the wearing of a muzzle will be mandatory as with all dogs of his size. By car or aeroplane, he will have to travel in a transport box adapted to his size. In buses or metros where dogs are allowed, his proper education will be indispensable.


Shar Pei and cats

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If a Shar Pei is to coexist with a cat, it will be appropriate to raise them together, otherwise the relationship could be tricky. 
This profoundly creased dog will never make best friends with a cat; the best your efforts at socialization and education can hope to achieve is tolerance.

He must be trained with commands such as " Leave" and "Stay”. Likewise, the cat should always be allowed to flee or take refuge in height if necessary.

Shar Pei and dogs

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This fighting dog is not the most sociable of his kind. To prevent him from becoming violent, socialization is necessary. This is one of the major points of his education that cannot be neglected or underestimated.

Also, regular, supervised peer meetings will have to be offered to the Sharpei puppy throughout his growth so that he accumulates many positive experiences.

Shar Pei and children

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A family with children will not pose any problems to the Shar Pei if the children respect him and ground rules are quickly introduced.

Shar Pei and the elderly

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Despite the calm temperament of this dog, he is still a dog with strong personality who will resist the manipulation to which other breeds are vulnerable, and therefore it is difficult for him to adapt to fragile people. In addition, active masters are more recommended for this dog.


The price of a Sharpei varies depending on his origins, age and gender. An average of £770 is asked for a dog registered with Kennel Club.

An average of £40 /month will be required to meet the physiological needs of this Chinese fighting dog.


The maintenance of this dog's short hair is not complicated but requires a certain rigour and constant monitoring, especially with regard to his folds and the skin problems that they engender.

Watch out: some believe that it is necessary to put talcum powder between the folds of the Sharpei’s skin, but it is absolutely not necessary to do this. Simple regular brushings and baths with  PH-neutral shampoo are enough to maintain the coat.


The annual moults are light and simply, but he requires a brushing regularly.

Nutrition of the Shar Pei

Premium kibble is enough to satisfy the needs of this Chinese fighting dog. Caution: if household rations are offered, they should not be too greasy.

Daily rations must be proportional to his physical activity and adapted to his age, weight, size, and state of health. Attention must be paid to dogs that do not spend enough energy as they could quickly suffer from overweight.

Only one meal a day should be given, generally in the evening and in a quiet place. Self-service is to be avoided. Likewise, it will not be a good idea to feed this dog with leftovers which are too greasy for him.

A veterinary follow-up is recommended during the puppy's growth season.

Health of the Shar Pei

Life expectancy

The lifespan is estimated about 12 years.

Strong / robust

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Although he has a robust constitution, the Shar Pei still has some predisposition to health problems, mainly because of his skin folds.

Withstand heat

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Like many dogs, the heat is hardly supported by the Shar Pei. Access to fresh water and the possibility to rest in the shade are essential during hot weather.

Withstand cold

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Since he has no undercoat, this dog does not tolerate the cold and therefore cannot stay out too long. It is not unusual to see dogs dressed with a coat for winter walks.

Tendency to put on weight

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If his diet is unbalanced, and too few walks are offered to him, this wrinkled dog may actually have a tendency to gain weight.

Common illnesses

  • Entropy/ectropion (ocular affection)
  • Congenital idiopathic megaoesophagus (digestive system condition)
  • The Shar-Pei family fever (onset of fevers of unexplained origin)
  • Coxo-femoral dysplasia and elbow
  • Skin problems due to the numerous folds of the dress (Pyoderma, mucinosis, Demodicosis, atopic dermatitis canine, etc.)
  • Localized mastocytoma (skin tumour)
  • Allergies
  • Difficulties during birth

Good to know

It is advisable to always favour the adoption of a dog registered in the Kennel Club. Indeed, like all Molossians, the Sharpei is a controversial figure, especially in relation to his eventual categorization into the standards of the breed. It is always better to be able to justify his origins.

Origins and history

He is a very old breed, but there is no precise information about his origins since they reach back to the Han dynasty - i.e. from 206 years BC to 220 AD. The Shar Pei was particularly widespread in the provinces around the China Sea where it was used as a fighting dog but also as a hunting and guard dog. Today it is a very fashionable dog, highly in demand as a pet and widespread in the United States and Britain: the latter has been awarded "co-ownership" of the paternity of the race.


Good names for a Shar Pei: Cuddy, Joey, Nicki, Ugo

Find out more dog name ideas here


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