Shar Pei Guide

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Physical Description Of The Shar Pei

By: Melissa Coleman
Unusual, yet dignified; adorable yet hippo-faced; classy yet half comic – all these terms can apply to a Shar-Pei. Short and muscular, the head of a pup you will find is a “furrowed field.” Both the back and sides will have a lot of loose skin--as though, he has donned a cloak two sizes larger. This “cute” wizened wrinkled look however disappears and the adult dog is handsome with just a few wrinkles/folds at the lower body.
Calm, confident, and dignified the dog is reserved with strangers but extremely attached to his pet-parent and family. Since the peripheral vision in the Shar-Pei is limited due to his deep-set eyes and wrinkles –one should be careful not to startle the dog and approach him carefully.
The Shar-Pei has, been over the years bred to enhance certain characteristics and the dog that we treasure today is quite different from its ancestors 2000 years ago. From very few in the 1960s -70s today, there are over 70,000 registered Shar-Peis. And, as with all pure breeds, the AKC has outlined definite standards for the dog.

The AKC breed standards of a Shar-Pei are:

General Appearance

? An alert and compact dog.
? Medium sized and square in profile.
? Close coupled.
? Well-proportioned head, not too large for the body.
? “Hippopotamus” muzzle, short ears, and a high set tail.
? Wrinkles “superabundant” in puppies, but limited to head, neck, and withers in an adult.

Size, Proportion, and Substance

? The male should be larger and has a squarer body than the female.
? The Shar-Pei stands 18 to 20 inches tall at the withers.
? The weight is 45 to 60 pounds.
? The male and female Shar-Pei are graceful and well proportioned.
? The height of the dog from the ground to the withers is almost equal to the point from the breastbone to the point of rump.


? The lips should be very well padded as also the top of the muzzle.
? Sometimes the mouth will cause a small bulge just on top of the nose.
? The tongue is a solid bluish-black in color in solid colored dogs and with lavender pigmentations in lighter colored Shar-Peis.
? A spotted pink tongue is a major fault while a solid pink tongue is a disqualification.
? The tongue’s color may become lighter due to heat or exertion.
? The dog’s strong teeth should meet in a scissor bite. Anything other than that is attributed as a major fault.

Upper Body

? The neck, of medium length should be well developed and well set on the shoulders.
? Surrounding the neck there will be moderate to heavy folds of loose skin.
? Shar-Peis are known to have considerable dewlap around the throat area.
? The chest will be broad and deep, with the brisket extending to elbow and coming up slightly under the loin.


? The top line should dip a little behind the withers and then go up slightly, over the broad and short loin.
? A level or swayed top line is said to be a fault.
? The croup should be flat and the base of the tail set very high, exposing the anus.
? The high set tail is a unique feature of this breed. The tail is thick and rounded at the base, tapering to a thin end, which curls over or lies on either side of the back.
? The absence of a tail is a disqualification.

Head and Skull

? Large with a highly wrinkled forehead.
? Skull should be flat and broad with the stop moderately defined.
? The muzzle should be broad and full, with no snippiness.
? The wrinkles of the forehead should extend to the sides of the face, almost framing the face.
? Sunken, almond shaped eyes, dark in solid colored dogs and lighter in other Shar-Peis.


? Very small, in the shape of equilateral triangles, slightly rounded at the tips.
? The outer edge of the ear may curl. They should lie flat on the head and be set high and wide apart.
? Ears are capable of movement.
? Pricked ears are a disqualification for the Shar-Pei.


? Large and wide.
? Darkly pigmented.
? Black is the preferred coloration.
? If the color of the nose conforms to the color of the coat it is an acceptable trait.


? Muscular shoulders should be set well back with a sloping contour.
? Forelegs should be straight to the frontal view and moderately spaced out.
? Elbows should be aligned such that they are close to the body.
? When viewed from the side the forelegs should appear straight.
? Pasterns should be strong and flexible.
? The bones should be of moderate length, substantial, strong, and sturdy but not heavy.
? The frontal dewclaws can remain or be removed.
? The feet should be moderately sized, well set, and compact. They should not be splayed.


? Strong, muscular and angulated moderately.
? The hocks should be perpendicular to the ground and parallel to each other-- quite short.
? The hind dewclaws should be removed.
? The feet should be of moderate size, well set and compact, they should not be splayed.


? The coat should be of a very harsh texture.
? It should be absolutely straight and standing off the trunk of the body while lying flattened on the limbs.
? Though not shiny or lustrous, the coat should look attractive and healthy.
? A soft and wavy coat more than an inch thick at the withers is considered to be a major fault.
? A trimmed coat is a fault too, the more natural the appearance, the better the dog conforms to the breed standard.
The Shar-Pei is known to have three types of coat:
• The horse coat: This is short and prickly to the skin. This may irritate the skin of sensitive people.
• The brush coat: Thick and about 2.5 centimeters long.
• The heavy “Bear coat”: Resembles that of a Chow. A Shar-Pei with this coat tends to shed the most, once every six months.


? The Shar-Pei should move with a trot.
? At a fast trot, the movement should be balanced and even, with the feet tending to converge on a centerline of gravity.
? The forward reach should be commendable and complemented by a strong drive of the hindquarters.
? A good gait is an essential qualification for a Shar-Pei.

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