Shar Pei

A Complete Breed Guide for Shar Pei Dogs

LAST UPDATED 9 November 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle's qualified veterinarian, Dr Maree Monaghan BVSc (Hons).

This unmistakeable, wrinkled skin breed is one of the most ancient dog breeds still in existence. The name, Shar Pei, means "sand skin" in reference to their short harsh haircoat. The Shar Pei breed rose from being exceedingly rare in the 1970's to extremely popular all over the world in a couple of decades. This rise to fame was due to media focus on the breed - who could forget Rolly from the Purex toilet paper ads!

Shar Pei Facts
Best Toys for Shar Pei
Best Food for Shar Pei
Health Concerns
Related Breeds
Further reading

Shar Pei Facts


Breed size:

Place of origin:





Breed group:

Energy level:

Weight range:



Male: 25 to 29kg, Female: 18 to 25kg

Life expectancy:

Tendency to bark:

Height range:

9 to 11 years


46 to 51cm

Drool factor:

Ease of training:

Coat type:



Short, coarse

Shedding factor:

Overall grooming needs:




All solid colours e.g. black, red, fawn, cream except white

How big do Shar Pei get?

Shar Pei are considered to be a medium sized breed and generally weigh around 18 kg although males can weigh up to 29 kg. Shar Pei grow to between 46 and 51 cm tall (shoulder height)

How much does a Shar Pei cost?

Shar Pei puppies vary in price depending on the breeder. However, most Shar Pei puppies cost from $800- $4000. Of course, as with any breed, it is cheaper to adopt an adult dog from a rescue.

Do Shar Pei shed?

Shar Pei shed very little hair due to their short bristly coat and only require a quick brush once a week to remove any loose coat.

Are Shar Pei good pets?

Shar Pei can make good family pets as long as they receive the correct training and socialisation from an early age. The Shar Pei's origins as a guard dog can predispose them to be territorial, aloof and sometimes aggressive with strangers. With the right training and socialisation, Shar Pei are loyal, calm family members who will fiercely protect their family

How much exercise do Shar Pei need?

Shar Pei are not an athletic breed and will usually be happy with one or two brisk walks per day. It is recommended to walk your Shar Pei in the cooler hours of the day due to their tendency to suffer from heatstroke.

How long do Shar Pei live?

Shar Pei usually live for 9 to 11 years. As with any breed, they will live much longer if you take good care of them, never let them become overweight and keep their teeth in top condition!

Do Shar Pei bark a lot?

Shar Pei are generally quiet, reserved dogs that don't bark a lot. They are more likely to stand back and assess a situation then decide if it is serious enough to bark about

How do I choose a Shar Pei breeder?

When looking for a Shar Pei, your options are to: a) adopt from a rescue (this is our top recommendation!) b) buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!), or c) Research a reputable breeder. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialise their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and select for healthy traits and good temperaments. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Shar Pei History

The Indianapolis Museum of Art

Dogs resembling Shar Pei have been depicted in Chinese artwork dating from 200 BC and "wrinkled dogs" are mentioned in ancient Chinese manuscripts.

Farmers in China used their adaptable Shar Pei for hunting, herding and guarding themselves and their livestock from predators. It was even thought that the Shar Pei's blue black tongue warded off evil spirits!

Despite their important role in rural areas, the numbers of Shar Pei rapidly declined in the 1940s when Communism took over China. The government imposed a high tax on dogs and, by the 1970's, the Shar Pei was listed in the Guiness Book of Records as the rarest dog breed in the world.

A breeder based in Hong Kong, Matgo Law, started a campaign to save the Shar Pei and in 1979, Life Magazine published an issue with a Shar Pei on the cover. Due to the increased media focus on the plight of the breed, the sales of Shar Pei puppies skyrocketed and they are now one of the world's most popular breeds.

Shar Pei Personality

Shar Pei are intelligent, confident dogs that are very loyal to their owners making them excellent guard dogs. Shar Pei adapt well to apartment living due to being naturally clean and easy to housetrain, not barking or shedding much and only needing a moderate amount of exercise. The Shar Pei is not an ideal choice for first time dog owners, however, as they can be very stubborn and, if they do not receive appropriate training and socialisation at an early age, they can be aggressive towards strangers and other animals.

Best toys for Shar Peis

Shar Pei are highly intelligent dogs so toys that exercise their minds are ideal. They do need encouragement to engage in physical exercise and playing fetch is an ideal way to exercise your Shar Pei.

Paws for Life Dental Mint Stick

This multipurpose toy gives your Shar Pei the options of using it as a chew toy or having a hearty game of tug of war with you!

Lickimat Wobble

Turn meal time into fun time with this unique bowl. It has raised dimples on the inside surface to offer extra stimulation when licking and a wobbling motion adds an extra challenge and prolonged enrichment experience.

Chuck It Max Glow Pro Launcher

It is recommended to exercise your Shar Pei during the cool of the early morning or evening to guard against heat stress. This glow in the dark ball launcher is perfect for high-visibility, lighted play.

Zippypaws Sportsballz

With an squeaker for interactive play, your Shar Pei will spend hours chewing and fetching this fun soccer ball.

Shar Pei Diet and Nutrition

Shar Pei Puppies

What To Feed A Shar Pei Puppy

Shar Pei puppies need to eat a premium that is nutritionally formulated to meet AAFCO Guidelines until they are 12 months of age. You may consider a Rotation Diet to provide exposure to different proteins and reduce the risk of food sensitivities.

Raw diets for Shar Pei? Raw diets are not suitable or safe for Shar Pei puppies due to the risk of bacterial contamination, which can lead to food poisoning and upset their sensitive tummies. Plus, an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read more about Raw Diets: The Risks and Benefits.

When should you transition a Shar Pei from puppy to adult food? As a general guide, Shar Pei can usually be transitioned from a 'puppy' food to an 'adult' food at around 12 months of age. This does, however, vary depending on your dog's body condition score - if your pup is underweight, they may require puppy food for a little longer. Likewise, if they're starting to show a bit of 'pudge', it may be time for a lower-in-calories 'Adult' diet.

Best food for Shar Pei Puppies

Advance Medium Puppy

This specialised blend is tailored to improve your puppy's health and wellbeing by promoting strong joints and a healthy immune system. It is also designed to support a healthy heart, skin and coat, and general health and wellbeing.

Royal Canin Medium Puppy

Formulated from highly digestible proteins and optimal levels of dietary fibre, this premium puppy dry food helps support healthy digestion. It is fortified with nutrients to support bone and joint health, as well as an adapted protein content and l-carnitine for healthy muscle development.

Taste Of The Wild Pacific Stream Puppy

This high quality, grain free diet is based on an ancesteral diet with quality meats and fresh vegetables. This fish based diet is high in omega fatty acids for skin and coat, probiotics perfect for sensitive stomachs, and antioxidants for a healthy immune system.

K9 Natural Lamb and King Salmon

This all natural, grain free canned dog food is packed with the goodness of high quality meat, seafood, and produce including sustainably sourced king salmon and grass fed lamb, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables. It is complete and balanced for dogs of all life stages.

Best food for Adult Shar Pei

Shar Pei are very prone to developing skin problems, so a premium diet that supports skin health is ideal for adult Shar Pei. These scientifically-formulated diets also contain balanced levels of protein, fat and carbohydrate plus vitamins, minerals and antioxidants for health and wellbeing.

Royal Canin Dermacomfort

This premium quality dry dog food is a reduced allergen formula to minimise the risk of triggering any existing food allergies. It is also fortified with nutrients to support and nourish the natural barrier function of the skin including omega 3 and 6 fatty acids such as GLA, EPA and DHA.

Advance Sensitive Skin and Digestion

With increased levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a synergistic skin vitamin cocktail and the addition of high quality salmon, this food is ideal for those dogs prone to itchy and sensitive skin.

Hills Sensitive Skin and Stomach

This premium dry food is fortified with an exclusive blend omega 3 & 6 fatty acids, vitamin E and other nutrients to support healthy skin and a shiny coat, making it an ideal choice for dogs with dry, itchy, flaky and sensitive skin.

Zignature Grain Free Kangaroo Formula

This meat-based, limited ingredient diet is made with Australian Kangaroo, a novel protein suitable for food allergies. It is packed with antioxidants, essential fatty acids and vitamins and minerals for life-long nutrtion.

Common Shar Pei Health Problems

The Shar Pei's distinctive wrinkles, large head with a broad muzzle, small nostrils and small folded ears are unfortunately the cause of many of their health problems which include:


Allergic skin disease such as atopic dermatitis and contact allergies are very common in Shar Pei. Atopic dermatitis is a generalised allergy caused by items in the environment such as pollen, dust mites or grasses. It usually results in itchy, red, inflamed skin and ears. Often affected dogs may lick their paws excessively and have recurrent ear infections.

Contact allergies can cause similar symptoms in dogs however the reaction is limited to areas where the dog has come into direct contact with the allergen (usually plants). Diagnosis of allergic skin disease in dogs can take some time as the underlying cause needs to be discovered, usually through a process of elimination.

Ear Infections

Due to their small tightly folded ears and small ear canals, Shar Pei are very prone to recurrent ear infections. Combined with their predisposition to allergies, the shape of Shar Pei's ears is the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria. Signs include head shaking, scratching at the ear, and a smelly discharge.


The facial skin folds of the Shar Pei predispose them to developing disorders of the eyelids. When an eyelid rolls inward, this is called Entropion. This inward rolling causes the eyelashes to rub against the cornea which leads to eye ulcers. Shar Pei puppies often require surgery called "eyelid tacking" at a very young age to roll the eyelids outwards to stop damage to their eyes. Many Shar Pei will require further surgery when they are older. Treatment for both these conditions involves surgery to restore the normal shape of the eyelid.

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

The Shar Pei doesn't appear to have the typical flat face associated with Brachycephalic breeds, however, their abnormally small nostrils severely restrict the amount of air that can flow into the nose. Affected animals can vary in severity from noisy or laboured breathing and snoring, to complete collapse of the airway. This condition is worsened by obesity, heat and exercise, therefore extreme caution is advised when exercising and playing in the heat.

Shar Pei Recurrent Fever

This inherited inflammatory condition causes recurrent fevers, painful swollen joints (particularly the hocks), swollen face and other symptoms such as abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhoea. The symptoms tend to last for 12 to 36 hours and will resolve without treatment. Unfortunately, every time one of these episodes occurs, it also causes internal damage. A protein called amyloid is produced in response to the inflammation and is deposited in many internal organs including the kidneys and many affected Shar Pei will develop chronic kidney disease.

Best Supplements for Shar Pei

Shar Pei's tendencies to suffer from skin, joint and behavioural problems makes supporting these body systems a very important part of ensuring the health and well being of your dog.

Hemp Pet Oil Hoki and MCT Blend

This liquid Omega 3 & 6 supplement may aid in the treatment of allergic and inflammatory skin conditions in dogs. It is made from hempseed oil, New Zealand Hoki oil and MCT from Coconut oil, all natural sources of omega fatty acids.

Dermcare Otoflush

Otoflush helps to remove wax and exudate build up from the ears of dogs to help improve penetration and effectiveness of prescribed ear medication.

4Cyte Joint Support

4cyte Canine is an oral joint support supplement containing Epiitalis, a unique plant oil extract, combined with marine concentrates including green lipped mussel, shark cartilage and abalone.

Complete Calm Chews

Formulated with tryptophan, B vitamins and a blend of multivitamins and nutrients.Tryptophan is a compound that has been demonstrated to help dogs with territorial aggression, dominance aggression, or general anxiety caused by travel or separation from owners.

Related Breeds

China is home to some very ancient breeds of dog, three of whom have black tongues! These breeds are grouped together with the Shar Pei in the "Non Sporting Group" - dogs who are no longer used for their original functions or who do not fit into any of the other groups.

Chow Chow

Another ancient Chinese breed, the Chow Chow is a medium sized dog with a curly tail, very dense double coat that forms a "mane" around its neck and a distinctive blue black tongue. Chow Chows tend to be very protective of their owners and can be aggressive towards strangers and other animals.

Source: The Smart Canine.


This breed had a similar function to the Shar Pei and was used for many centuries as a hunting and guard dog on farms. They also have a blue black tongue and short sparse hair. Their ears and tails taper to distinct points and are often hairless - this is where there nickname "Bamboo Tail" arose.

Lhasa Apso

The Lhasa Apso originated in Tibet where they were used as guard dogs in monasteries. Despite their small size and deceptive long flowing locks, the Lhasa Apso is still a fiercely independent guard dog.


Pugs are affectionate and friendly pets and are considered to be one of the safest breeds for young children. They are smart and easily trainable, given plenty of patience and the right rewards!

Further Reading

How to stop my dog scratching?

Why is my dog getting ear infections?

Preventative vs restorative pet care

Resource Guarding in Dogs