Shar Pei are easily recognisable by the loose folds of skin on their bodies and their 'frowning' expressions. They are squarely built and short-coupled and look powerful with good bone. Their coat is short and bristly and harsh to the touch. The Shar Pei dog comes in many colours – see the breed standard for details. Adult Shar Pei measure 46-51cm and weigh around 18kg.
The Shar Pei dog breed is centuries old and is a cross of the Mastiff and Nordic breeds. The blue tongue is a characteristic shared with the Chow Chow and this breed is also in its make-up. The Shar Pei dog was originally considered a delicacy in China and the outlawing of them as pets on the mainland forced the breed into near extinction. Thankfully, Matgo Law, a concerned breeder, was able to inspire interest in the Western world and the breed was saved. When Shar Pei first reached the West in the 1970s, they were classified as the rarest breed in the world.
Well-socialised Shar Pei are devoted to their families. They are loyal, playful and active but can also be stubborn and territorial if not trained properly when young. They are naturally suspicious of strangers. They will be fine with cats if they have been introduced to them when puppies but there can be problems mixing with other dogs. They often hate the cold.
The most common health problems affecting the Shar Pei are skin infections in the excessive skin folds, and various eye conditions. They also may suffer a particular condition which causes fever and joint swelling (familial Shar Pei fever).
Whilst an active breed, Shar Pei dogs will take as much or as little exercise as offered as long as they have access to free play. As a guide, an adult dog should be offered an hour's exercise daily, though he will happily accept more. If the dog is quarrelsome with other dogs, make sure he is on a lead and suitable restrained to ensure he cannot cause any trouble.
Your dog's diet needs to have the right balance of all the main nutrient groups including a constant supply of fresh water. It's important to conduct regular body condition scores to ensure you keep your dog in ideal shape and remember to feed him at least twice daily and in accordance with the feeding guidelines of his particular food.
Some lines have very close-set tails and these must be inspected and cleaned to prevent infection. The eyes as well should be inspected daily. The coat itself just needs a going over with a soft brush.