With all those wrinkles, Shar-Peis — officially, Chinese Shar-Peis — probably have one of the most unique appearances in the world of dogs.
Shar-Peis originated in southern China more than two thousand years ago. The breed was originally used as guard dogs and shepherds.
After the communist revolution the breed almost disappeared. Luckily, in the early 1970s a breeder from Hong Kong sent a number of Shar-Peis to the United States. They were an instant hit. That’s when the breed began to recover and even made the cover of Life Magazine! They are still considered to be one of the rarest dogs in the world.
The American Kennel Club says they at the 61st most popular breed in the United States. They are not that common in New York City. The NYC Department of Licensing says there are currently 187 Shar-Peis registered with the city.
The name “Shar-Pei” means “sand-skin,” referring to their distinctive short, rough coats. Shar-Peis have broad muzzles, blue-black tongues, small eyes, tiny triangular ears, and loads of characteristic folds of loose skin about the head, neck, and shoulders. (If you want to know why Shar-Peis are so wrinkly, check out this study at the Science Daily website.)
They generally stand about 18 to 20 inches tall and weigh from 45 to 60 pounds, making them medium-sized dogs. Their life expectancy is from 8 to 12 years.
Do Shar-Peis Make Good City Dogs?
At a recent edition of the American Kennel Club’s Meet the Breeds exposition I met a Shar Pei breeder named Marge Callthorp. She owns Mar-Bo Kennels in East Haddam, CT and has been breeding Shar-Peis for more than forty years. She says their various characteristics and behavior make them great apartment dogs.
Do Shar-Peis Bark a Lot
Shar-Peis are not excessive barkers. Callthorp says they are guard dogs and they will bark when they detect something unusual, like a stranger at the door, but other than that they are largely pretty quiet. This is good news for your neighbors in your building. Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.
Are Shar-Peis Easily Trained?
It’s important that dogs living in shared spaces like apartment buildings to be well-behaved. You don’t want your dog pestering people in elevators, hallways, and lobbies. Shar-Peis are about average when it comes to training. They obey first commands about 50% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes them about 25 to 40 repetitions for them to learn new commands.
As with most dogs, early training and socialization are essential. You don’t want your Shar-Pei bossing you.
How are Shar-Peis with Strangers, Children, and other Animals?
Callthorp says Shar-Peis can be affectionate with their owners, but a little more aloof when meeting new people. She says they are good with children. They can be cautious around other dogs and animals.
Another Urban Dog essential is early socialization. Your Shar-Pei is going to encounter people and other dogs on pretty much a daily basis. Make sure you enroll your puppy in a socialization program as soon as they are eligible.
Do Shar-Peis Require a Lot of Exercise?
Shar-Peis do not require a lot of exercise. Their type of guarding behavior is to generally sit and protect, not patrol. Taking them for periodic walks will suffice. You aren’t going to have to find wide open spaces to run your Shar-Pei.
Taking Care of Your Shar-Pei
Shar-Peis don’t require a ton of grooming. A bath once each month is plenty. You should clean the folds periodically. Make sure they are dry once you’ve cleaned them.
The Bottom Line
We think Shar-Peis can make great Urban Dogs, but as with most dogs, just make sure you keep them engaged, socialized, and well-trained. For more check out the Chinese Shar-Pei Club of America. And for tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s house-hunting guide. Bigger dogs pose a particular challenge, but don’t worry, you can find places that accept large breed dogs.
If you are on the fence about getting a Shar-Pei, then you should check out the Instagram of Annie and Paddington. Paddington is a particularly cute Shar-Pei who hails from Australia and has a really great Insta. I purposefully picked what I considered a relatively low-wattage cute-ness pic which you can see below. And if that’s low-wattage, wait till you see the rest. Click here for more: @anniepaddington