The Shar Pei is versatile working breed that has thrives for hundreds of years in the southern provinces of China. This clever, even-tempered, loyal but fairly stubborn dog requires skilful and confident owner who is ready to devote sufficient time and efforts to its socialisation. Presently it enjoys average level of popularity in the United States and European countries.
Distant predecessors of the Shar Pei may have already dwelled in southern parts of China during the Han Dynasty around 200 D.C. Archaeological excavations discovered ancient sculptures featuring a canine, which bears strong resemblance to the today’s Shar Pei. However the first written references of this unique wrinkled dog dates back to the XIII century. As a matter of fact, «Shar Pei» literally means «sand skin», but more relevant translation of this phrase would be «rough, sandy coat».
It’s generally accepted that either the Chow Chow or the Tibetan Mastiff were used in the development of this breed. Some fanciers believe that it descended from different Spitz-type varieties. Nevertheless both theories lack solid proofs so they are no more than pure speculations.
Originally the Shar Pei was bred exclusively as a versatile farm dog. It was made responsible for guarding livestock and domains, hunting game and herding domestic animals. There was also a popular belief that formidable appearance of this dog could drive off evil spirits from the homestead. It was frequently utilised as a fighting dog since the loose and hard skin made a reliable protection from the teeth of other canine combatants.
The Shar Pei faced the perspective of complete extinction when China turned into the People’s Republic of China. Under the communist rule all companion dogs were considered as a symbol of a capitalistic society and therefore they were almost entirely exterminated by the 50s of the XX century. At that point only scarce number of purebred specimens could be found in a distant Chinese countryside as well as in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
In 1973 a Hong Kong breeder named Matgo Law pleaded to Western canine lovers to assist him in rescuing the Shar Pei that was on the brink of disappearance. Thanks to highly unusual look of this dog it immediately evoked interest of lots of individual breeders so it quickly gained wide acceptance.
It was recognised by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1992. The modern-day Shar Pei majorly plays the role of a quiet, gentle and extremely loyal pet although some of these dogs are also trusted with guarding of their homes and families.
Because of improper breeding practices of lots of greedy breeders it’s hard to make any generalisation about temperament of the Shar Pei. On the whole if you acquire the pup from a responsible person you will get a well-balanced, confident and extremely staunch family pet. Despite its tremendous attachment to its masters this dog has certain independent streak and tends to demonstrate its affection in fairly reserved fashion. A well-socialised specimen is completely fine with familiar kids although it will never tolerate rude treatment from them. That’s why it’s essential to teach the children how to behave themselves around dogs.
The Shar Pei usually receives all new people with a great deal of aloofness but once socialised it mostly behaves itself politely with strangers. It’s rather difficult to make friends with this dog and some of its specimens are capable of forming close attachment only in their puppyhood. In most cases the Shar Pei becomes a vigilant and attentive watcher. Although it rarely performs guarding duties, it usually makes an undaunted family and personal protector.
Severe canine aggressiveness is a typical temperamental attribute of the Shar Pei. This dog is notoriously famous for its explosive temper and will never retreat once provoked by a strange canine. Moreover some of its members purposefully pick on other dogs. It also possesses strong hunting instincts and will use any given opportunity to chase and dispatch the neighbour’s cat. This breed can be trained to tolerate individual pets but some dogs may suddenly pounce on a family cat after the years of a peaceful co-existence.
The most common problems for the breed include:
· familial Shar-Pei fever/FSF;
· streptococcal toxic shock syndrome/STSS;
· swollen shock syndrome;
· renal failure;
· ear infections;
· eye problems;
· breathing problems;
· vitamin B12 deficiency;
· selective IgA deficiency
· skin problems;
· skin allergies;
· atopy/respiratory allergies;
· canine hip dysplasia;
· elbow dysplasia;
· deflated muzzle;
· mast cell cancer.
The Shar Pei requires average amount of care. Its short coat (“horse-coated” type) needs only weekly brushing to look healthy and well-groomed. Be mindful though that the “brush-coated” type (longer coat) of Shar Pei sheds moderately all the year around and very heavily during changes of seasons. Shorter coated dog is a light shedder with the exception of several times during the year when it replaces its coat.
The hair of this breed tends to provoke allergic response even in those people who don’t have this problem. So it is surely not the best choice for allergic sufferers.
It’s absolutely necessary to clean facial folds and ears of the Shar Pei at least on a daily basis (ideally after each and every meal). Otherwise food, dirt, water and other alien objects that easily get trapped between its wrinkles will cause severe irritations or even infections. Other grooming procedures include regular nail trimming and weekly teeth brushing.
Despite prominent intelligence of the Shar Pei it’s a rather slow learner. The point is that it has well-expressed propensity to independent thinking and will never obey your commands blindly. Moreover the desire to please is too weak in this dog to serve as an effective motivator.
Boredom is another problem that the handler often faces while working with the Shar Pei. That’s why training sessions must be kept short and fun and be provided with plentiful of delicious treats. It’s totally inadmissible to use negative reinforcement in relation to this dog as it will make it even more wilful and strong-headed.
The Shar Pei needs rather little amount of daily exercise. Actually this dog will be quite happy with long walk and doesn’t crave for regular playtime in a safely fenced yard. However it’s still important to occasionally provide your pet with a chance to frisk and run off-leash.
Once exercise needs of this dog are met it remains calm and well-behaved indoors. That’s why the breed will become an excellent companion for both an apartment dweller and a countryman.