With his wrinkled skin, blue tongue and hippopotamus muzzle, the Chinese Shar-Pei has one of the most distinctive mugs in dogdom.
According to DNA studies, the Shar-Pei is among the 14 most ancient AKC breeds. Shar-Peis may have been around by 200 B.C., and certainly by the 1200s. In the early 1900s Chinese farmers employed them as guard dogs, wild boar hunters and for dog fighting.
A 1973 magazine article named the Shar-Pei as the world’s rarest dog, bringing the breed worldwide attention. The Shar-Pei went from near extinction to one of America's more popular breeds.
The breed's trademark loose skin gets tighter with maturity, so adults are less wrinkly than puppies. The coat comes in two types, horse and brush, both of which are very coarse. It's so coarse that some people's skin reacts badly when they stroke a Shar-Pei's coat backward.
The Shar-Pei enjoys chewing and playing. His strong jaws mean he needs strong toys.
Shar-Peis have a surprisingly high rate of hip dysplasia, although perhaps because of their stoic nature, many don't seem to be in pain. Nonetheless, we suggest raising them on a diet formulated for large breed puppies during the first year of life. These diets allow the puppy to grow more slowly, while still achieving the same adult size---just a little later. Shar-Peis can also develop knee problems. See your veterinarian if your dog hops on a hind leg repeatedly.
Joint supplements, such as glucosamine chondroitin supplements, are important for protecting joint health throughout life, especially in dogs that may be developing problems.
It's also important to prevent your adult Shar-Pei from getting overweight, which can add stress to the joints. When dieting a dog, you must make sure he gets enough vitamins. We suggest supplementing with a good multi-vitamin, probiotics and, if the coat is dry, a fatty-acid supplement.
The coat requires weekly brushing to remove dead hair. Bathe as needed using a good all-purpose shampoo. Shar-Peis tend to have skin problems. Use an oatmeal or avocado oils based shampoo to combat itchiness.
Keep the wrinkles clean and dry! The folds create the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast. Any deep fold should be cleaned and dried daily.
Shar-Pei ears are generally healthy, but some dogs have problems. You should check them weekly. Apply an ear cleanser any time the ears start to accumulate dark secretions. Some ear wax is healthy; a lot is not. If you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a heavy-duty dog nail clipper.
Shar-Peis tend to be stoic, so you need to watch out for the slightest signs of arthritic changes with age. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in mind.