The Chinese Shar-Pei is often considered ugly by many people because of the wrinkles that are characteristic of the breed. Shar-Peis are medium sized dogs, with a square, compact body. According to the American Kennel Club, the AKC, the Shar-Pei is 18 – 20 inches at the withers, the highest point of the animal, located between the shoulder blades. The animal weighs between 45 and 60 pounds. Males are usually slightly larger than the females. Both genders appear to be well proportioned.
A Shar-Pei’s head appears slightly oversized, compared to its body. Shar-Pei’s have wrinkles covering the forehead, continuing down the neck to the rest of the face and body. The eyes are often sunken, and in puppies, contribute to a ‘half-asleep’ look. The eyes are almond shaped and dark in color, although in ‘dilute’ dogs, a coloring classification for show purposes, the eye color may be light. Shar-Peis have small, triangular ears that lay flat against the head at all times. The ears are placed high on the head and point toward the front; in some animals, the edges of the ears may curl. Pricked ears are considered a disqualification for show animals. The muzzle of the Shar-Pei is considered one of the major distinctive features of the dog. It is short, compact, and often compared to a hippopotamus muzzle. The top and sides of the muzzle are padded, often causing a slight bulge to appear above the nose. Nose coloration is preferably black, but any color compatible with the coat color is acceptable. In ‘dilute’ color dogs, a self-colored nose is preferred. The interior of the mouth, including the tongue, should be a dark-purple or bluish-black color. The teeth of the Shar-Pei are strong and meet in a scissors bite, where the upper incisor teeth barely overlap the lower incisors.
The neck of the Shar-Pei is thick, and well set into the shoulders. The shoulders should be muscular and sloping. The spine, or topline, of the dog should dip slightly behind the withers, and then raise above the loin. Shar-Peis have broad, deep chests and a high set tail, which curves over the body.
The forequarters, or forelegs, should be straight and moderately spaced. The hind legs are muscular and moderately angulated. The feet should be compact and firmly set, with no splaying. Dew claws must be removed on hind feet, but their removal is optional on the front feet. Show animals have their gait judged. This is judged when the animal is trotting, and should be free and balanced. The feet should meet on a center line when the dog is at a vigorous trot. The gait should combine strong drive from the hindquarters with a good frontal reach.
The Shar-Pei has many different coat colors, but for show purposes only solid coloration is considered. The animal may have shading along the back and ears, but this should be a darker variation of the main coat color. Some groups consider the brindle or sable as acceptable colors while others do not. Nearly all groups agree that flowered, or spotted, Shar-Peis do not have show quality coloration although they seem to be a popular choice for pets. Albinos are also not acceptable for showing.
The Shar-Pei’s temperament is independent. They are often considered snobbish, stand offish dogs because they do not socialize well with strangers. However once a Shar-Pei considers you a part of his family, he will be extremely devoted to you, often following you around all day. The Shar-Pei will stand his ground when confronted by any stranger.