The Chinese Shar-Pei (meaning “sand skin” in the Cantonese language) or Chinese Fighting Dog is an ancient fighting and working dog that originated in the Guangdong province of China. This distinctively looking breed had descended more than 2.000 years ago, probably from now extinct Taimyr wolves and ancient Spitz type dogs that once lived in the Northeast Asia. That’s why Shar-Peis have some identical genes to the Siberian Husky, Greenland Dog and Finnish Spitz. However, they have much more in common with Mastiff dogs, which suggests that at some point their ancestors had reached Southeast Asia and started interbreeding with Molossoides. The first historical evidence of this breed can be found in the statuary works of art from the period of the Han Dynasty (200 BC). During that time, Chinese emperors often kept these dogs as pets, but they were also used for fighting. However, some scientists are still unsure whether these statues represent Shar-Peis or Chow Chows. The second historical evidence of the breed is a written document from the 13th century that refers to a dog with the wrinkled skin. According to it, these dogs were then mainly kept by farmers, who had used them in various ways, such as property guardians, livestock herders and boar hunters. In that period, people were still using Shar-Peis as fighting dogs too, a trend that continued to this very day, especially in Tibet.
The Chinese Shar-Pei is a basal breed (predates all modern dog breeds) just like the Chow Chow, with whom it shares many traits including the purple tongue and mouth. In fact, only these two breeds have such tongue and mouth, which is why experts believe they are close relatives. Unfortunately, both of these dog breeds have gone through terrible times during the communist takeover of China in the first half of the 20th century. At that time, dogs were often identified with the nation’s dark past, which explains why so many of them had been slaughtered. In the 1950s, the population of Shar-Pei dwindled so much that the breed was brought to the brink of extinction, especially in the mainland of China. In that period, these dogs could have been found only in Hong Kong, Taiwan and in some isolated rural areas. Thankfully, in 1973, Matgo Law, a breeder and businessman from Hong Kong, appealed through a dog magazine to American dog breeders and admirers to help him save the breed from extinction. His appeal bore fruit and soon afterwards 200 of these dogs were smuggled into the USA. Today, the breed is saved from extinction and is very popular around the world. The Shar-Pei is recognized by the FCI on a definitive basis back in 1981. However, it is not included in the class of Spitz and primitive type dogs, but in the Molossian Type group in the Pinscher and Schnauzer – Molossoid and Swiss Mountain and Cattledogs class.
- 1 Chinese Shar-Pei Temperament And Personality
- 2 Shar-Pei Physical Characteristics And Appearance
Chinese Shar-Pei Temperament And Personality
The Shar-Pei is an independent, strong and dominant dog that cannot be mistaken for every other breed thanks to its unique wrinkled skin. Well, it reminds me a bit of the Chow Chow, but only at the first glance. In general, this is a very special dog of many qualities. He is very confident, loyal, calm, brave, protective, determined, noble, and more than eager to please his master. Even though in the past Shar-Peis were primarily used as fighting dogs as well as working dogs for guarding, hunting and herding, they are now mostly known as lovely companions as well as good watchdogs and guard dogs. Chinese Shar-Pei is truly a wonderful family dog. Naturally, he is very affectionate and devoted to all family members and prefers to be around them all the time. In fact, this dog would rather spend time and have fun with people than with other dogs, which tells a lot about its loyalty and dedication to his human family. However, even though this dog is usually dear and loving to all members of the household, he might prove too stubborn and willful for those who spend the least time with him. Also, you have to know that one of you has to be a pack leader, otherwise he’ll try to play this role himself, which is, of course, a recipe for disaster.
The Chinese Shar-Pei is best suited for families with older children (8 or more years of age), but that is not to say he cannot be owned by families with younger children. In fact, this dog can be a wonderful playmate for every child, doesn’t matter how old it is, but only if he is raised with that child. Of course, if you don’t have children, it is recommended to socialize your Shar-Pei as soon as possible with children of all ages. This way you will be sure your dog will become more tolerant and will never hurt any child without some serious reason – bullying or something similarly annoying. However, if you have toddlers in your family, I suggest you never leave them alone with your Shar-Pei. Well, this applies to all other dogs in general, doesn’t matter how much they are actually children friendly. Toddlers as well as very small children are particularly vulnerable and this dog is very strong. He can easily hurt them unintentionally. So, it is definitely better to supervise them while they play. This can also be said for all other children because you can never know what crazy things are on their minds. That’s why it is absolutely necessary that you teach your children how to treat your dog nicely and respectfully.
If you read previous paragraphs, then you are already aware that the Chinese Shar-Pei really makes an excellent watchdog and guard dog. It is literally as if he is primarily developed for watching and guarding. There are a few things that make Shar-Pei such an excellent guardian. First of all, this is a very territorial and dignified dog that won’t let anyone easily on the owner’s, pardon, his property :) Secondly, he is also incredibly protective of his human family. If he senses they are in some kind of trouble, he will defend them with his life. And finally, the Shar-Pei is naturally aloof, reserved and suspicious with strangers to the point he can hardly ever become trustful to any of the people outside his family. So, it is perfectly clear that you will have to socialize your Shar-Pei with other humans as soon as possible to prevent any trouble. A poorly socialized dog can be downright aggressive towards strangers. He might attack and even bite unknown guests if they ignore his loud warning – will bark like mad whenever somebody comes near your property, but is not prone to excessive barking. And even if you extensively socialize your Shar-Pei with different people, he will nonetheless retain its guardian instincts in time.
The Chinese Shar-Pei is a powerful and agile dog with strong hunting instincts. Besides, this breed was once ordinarily used in the hunt on wild boars and other game. So, it is perfectly clear that this dog is definitely not an ideal companion for cats and other smaller pets and animals. Indeed, Shar-Pei will instinctively chase and attack every one of them that comes into his territory. Of course, this can end up pretty badly, which is why it’s very important that you raise or socialize your dog with other pets. The good thing is once he gets used to your pets and become friendly, he will not only enjoy their company, but will also defend them like every other member of the family. Things are more or less the same, if not worse, when it comes to other dogs. Unfortunately, the Shar-Pei is usually very dominant, territorial, aggressive and quarrelsome with other dogs, especially those of the same sex. On top of that, this breed has a long history of “professional” fighting with other dogs, which definitely gives you a hint how dangerous Shar-Peis really are. That’s why it is mandatory to extensively socialize your SP with other dogs as soon as possible. The obedience training is also very important in this case.
Chinese Fighting Dog Training
The Chinese Shar-Pei is definitely not the breed for everyone, especially not for the people who have no or little experience in working with dogs. This is very hardheaded, strong-willed, self-assured and independent dog that can prove really challenging to motivate for the training. This is the reason Shar-Pei is primarily recommended for experienced owners, those who know how to establish themselves as firm, dominant and confident leaders through calm, kind and careful approach (screaming or bullying is forbidden). This is anything but easy, but there is no other way. You should start training a puppy at 8-10 weeks of age. Even a small Shar-Pei can easily soak every command you wish to teach him, which just proves how intelligent and bright this breed really is. So, the sooner you start with the training, the better. Of course, lessons should be constant, short, fun and interesting, but never repetitive. You should often praise and reward your dog with tasty treats for every learned command. It is also recommended that once in a while all other family members join you during the training, so that your dog can get used to commands from all of them. Respecting these rules is the key to success in this dog’s training.
Living Conditions And Exercise Requirements
Main Shar-Pei characteristics are high intelligence, great loyalty, independence, stubbornness, protective nature, vehemence, tenacity, calmness, boldness, strength, agility, playfulness, cockiness, and dignity. This is a moderately active dog that can do well with a fair amount of daily exercise. Usually it will be enough just to take your dog for a short to medium walk once or twice a day. While outdoors, try not let him off-leash too often, especially if he is not properly socialized. Also, never let him lead the way! This is a type of dog that will always strive for a leader position, which is why it is definitely necessary to remind him from time to time that his attempts to be a leader will not be successful. So, the best way is to keep him close or behind you during a walk. Other than daily walks, you should play some lively games with your Shar-Pei (play with toys, fetch game, tug of war) whenever you can. This way your dog will be adequately stimulated both mentally and physically, which is prerequisite for long and healthy life, especially with the sensitive breed like this. However, keep in mind that the amount of exercise should be kept at minimum on hot summer days because this dog can’t stand well the heat.
Proper exercise is particularly important if you keep a Chinese Shar-Pei indoors, which is actually recommended. This is a calm and sensitive dog that will do well in an apartment or a house without a yard. The Shar-Pei is suitable for life indoors for a couple of things. This dog can be easily housebroken, has no doggy odour, shed lightly, and is very clean with adequate care. Also, he will gladly be in the company of his family as often as possible. Needless to say, this way he would have all the needed attention, which is particularly good for his overall mental health. So, yeah, this is clearly a true family dog that won’t do well being left alone in the backyard. However, it doesn’t mean he cannot be kept in a yard. Even though the Chinese Shar-Pei is such an ideal indoor pet, he is nonetheless quite an active and agile dog that will definitely enjoy running around in the open. So, if you wish to own this dog, it would be best that you live in a house with, at least, some kind of enclosed yard. This way your dog will have the best of both worlds without the need for constant exercise. As a plus, the Shar-Pei is not an escape artist, so you will need only a moderate, solid fencing around your yard to keep him safe.
The Chinese Shar-Pei is maybe not some crazy barker, but this dog can still make noise in a bit different way. Like the Boxer or Pug, this is a short-nose (flat-faced) breed with the padded muzzle, which means that these dogs can have certain problems with the breathing. That’s why Shar-Peis often snore, wheeze, grunt, and snort, especially when they are excited. This can definitely be funny to some people, but to others it may be quite annoying. Apart from this, they are sometimes prone to drooling and slobbering, which can, of course, be disgusting to some. So, as you can see, they are truly similar to pigs with these “habits”. Me, myself find this grunting and snorting quite funny and hilarious. Unfortunately, the nose of the Shar-Pei has some downsides too. Apart from its wrinkled skin, such short nose is the main reason this breed is prone to overheating with a chance of heat stroke. That’s why you should always keep your dog in a cool and shaded room with lots of fresh water in hot weather. Also, because of his short nose, this dog should never be taken for a jog or a very long walk for the same reason. The Chinese Shar-Pei can be very active, but briefly. So, you should keep in mind that it is forbidden to over-exercise this dog.
Health – Shar-Pei Fever
The usual lifespan of a Shar-Pei Dog is around 8-10 years. Unfortunately, this is not one of the healthiest breeds out there, which is clearly obvious after its longevity. These dogs can suffer from various health problems, of which, some are quite common, others not so. Among the major concerns are entropion, hip dysplasia, ciliary dyskinesia, renal amyloidosis, skin fold infections, pyoderma, seborrhea, and allergies. Other, not so common, health issues include elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, osteochondrosis dissecans, glaucoma, retinal dysplasia, cutaneous mucinosis, demodectic mange, bloat, cancer, and hypothyroidism. However, there is one unique illness that is only seen in this breed, and because of that it is called Shar-Pei fever (swollen hock syndrome). This is a type of periodic fever (lasting from 24 to 36 hours), which manifests with the swollen hock joints. Other symptoms include heavy breathing, reluctance to move, vomiting, diarrhea, higher body temperature (42°C (107°F)), stomach pain, and weakness. This fever usually occurs in dogs at 18 months of age, but can appear in adult dogs too. The treatment may be rather expensive, and includes temperature and pain reducing medications. So, as you can see, this is a breed of dog that will require not only your full attention, but a good veterinarian. That’s why it is absolutely mandatory that you buy a Chinese Shar-Pei puppy from a reputable breeder, who is very dedicated to his job and has a long tradition of breeding healthy dogs.
Shar-Pei Physical Characteristics And Appearance
The Chinese Shar-Pei is a typical medium-sized dog of square shape – the height at the withers is approximately equal to the body length. Its body is compact and muscular, covered with a unique short coat (no undercoat). This prickly, offstanding coat that stands straight up has the harsh texture similar to a sandpaper. It is one of the most distinctive characteristics of this dog. In fact, the name of this breed, Shar-Pei, which translates as “sand-skin”, was given as a reference to the harshness of its coat. However, there are three varieties of Shar-Peis based on their coat – the horse-coat (the shortest coat, which is very prickly, rough and irritating), the brush-coat (up to an inch long coat, which is thicker and smoother to touch, but extremely irritating when cuddling the fur in the opposite direction) and the bear-coat (the longest coat (over an inch) with the undercoat, which is quite reminiscent of the Chow Chow) that is not recognized by the AKC. This is a dog with moderate grooming requirements. Apart from weekly brushing (daily brushing during shedding), you will have to occasionally bathe your dog and dry well his wrinkles afterwards. Also, it is important that you start with the grooming routines at an early age, because these dogs can be a bit non-cooperative if not used to them. Main Shar-Pei colors are red, fawn, red-fawn, tan, black, brown, apricot, blue, cream, sable, or pale grey. The color always must be solid.
The Chinese Shar-Pei has a very weird looking and rather large head that is quite reminiscent of the hippo. The padded muzzle with a moderate stop is quite broad and short. The skull is flat and broad. The jaws are very strong and teeth meet in a scissors bite. The large and broad nose with wide nostrils is usually black, but can be lighter depending on the coat color. The bluish black tongue is also one of this dog’s unusual characteristics. The almond-shaped eyes with the scowling look are relatively small and deep-set. They are usually dark brown, but can be lighter in dogs with lighter coats. The very small, triangular ears are quite thick, wide apart and high-set. The eyes and ears should be regularly inspected and cleaned. The medium-length neck is very strong and muscular. The chest is broad and deep, reaching the elbows. The stomach is slightly tucked up and the loins are rather short, strong and broad. The back is relatively short, strong and slightly arched. Thick, tapering tail is set very high and is usually curled or curved over or to one side of the back. The forelegs are straight and well boned. The hind legs are well-muscled, strong and moderately angulated. The medium-sized feet have knuckled toes and hard pads. All in all, the Chinese Shar-Pei leaves the impression of a sturdily built, bulky and very strong dog, which is kind of expected from a pit fighter.
Shar-Pei Size And Weight
– Height between 19 and 21 inches (48-53 cm)
– Weight between 50 and 65 pounds (23-29 kg)
– Height between 18 and 20 inches (46-51 cm)
– Weight between 40 and 55 pounds (18-25 kg)
Loose And Wrinkled Skin
The Chinese Shar-Pei is a very unique breed for many reasons, but the most authentic one is the loose and wrinkled skin. There is literally no way you won’t recognize this breed at first sight after its skin. Scientists believe that these wrinkles are in connection with a mutation of the gene HAS2. It is interesting that the Shar-Pei puppies have so many wrinkles that they look almost like wrinkly bags. That is because these dogs are in fact born with the oversized skin. So, as they grow up they slowly stretch their skin, and in the process lose many of their numerous folds. Adult dogs normally have wrinkles on their face, a few around the withers, and at the base of the tail. Wrinkles give this breed a plush toy look, which is why it is so popular and loved around the world. They are also the reason Shar-Peis have been so often used as fighting dogs because they prevent any harm from biting. Unfortunately, the Shar-Pei’s wrinkled skin, together with its short nose, is the main reason these dogs are very sensitive to the heat. Besides, such wrinkled skin is quite susceptible to various fungal and bacteria infections, especially in between the wrinkles. So, it is recommended that you bathe your Shar-Pei occasionally with the gentle dog shampoo. Also, after bathing, it is very important that you thoroughly wipe his skin dry with a towel.
Outstanding Working Dog
Although the Chinese Shar-Pei is now mostly used as a companion pet, that was definitely not the case in the past. Back in the day, this was, first and foremost, a working breed of dog used for various purposes, from watching and guarding to herding and hunting. Now, this might sound a bit odd today, but if you look closely at all of this dog’s qualities, it is more than obvious that this is truly a multipurpose human helper. Like many other working breeds, the Shar-Pei is very intelligent, thoughtful, loyal, devoted, tenacious, fearless, strong, agile, obedient, and self-assured. In other words, he is more than capable to easily understand, learn and do his job properly. On top of that, he can even be trained as a sporting dog, who can successfully compete in agility, obedience, tracking, and herding events. All of this just tells you how truly awesome and versatile, this dog really is. And even though the Chinese Shar-Pei is an independent, stubborn and not-so-healthy breed with a high price tag (more than 1000 bucks), I would certainly recommend it to everyone who has at least some kind of experience in working with dogs. With proper training and socialization, this can definitely be a wonderful companion dog that will make you proud for many reasons.