Over the last 10 years, miniature Shar-Pei puppies have regained popularity along with other miniature and toy breeds. Given the fast pace of the American lifestyle, miniature Shar-Peis can make ideal companion pets.
What Is a Miniature Shar-Pei?
A miniature Shar-Pei is a purebred Chinese Shar-Pei that represents the original size of the breed. It wasn't until the breed gained AKC recognition that the 18 to 20 inch size range became the standard. Breeders of what is now commonly thought of as the "mini" simply chose to continue breeding the original size Shar-Pei, which measures 17 inches or less at the shoulders and weighs between 25 to 40 pounds.
This breed was originally developed in China in 200 BCE, and came to include a mix of the Chow Chow, Bulldog, Mastiff, and Terrier. As the Mastiff began to emerge, this breed grew in size over time. Most people aren't aware that the Miniature Shar-Pei is actually a more accurate representation of the original breed's proportions. Those who are breeding what is now known as the miniature Shar Pei are actually breeding the more accurate representation of this breed, which isn't generally recognized as by the time it was registered by the AKC, the larger unoriginal breed was more well known.
Miniature Shar-Peis Are Not Teacup Dogs
The word miniature itself is somewhat deceiving in regard to this breed because these are not teacup-sized dogs, nor are they pets you will want to tote around in a purse like an accessory. These dogs generally have the solid, stocky frame of their larger counterparts, as well as the familiar wrinkled and short face. They are meant to be walked on leashes, and they are heavy enough to make it difficult to carry them for more than brief periods of time.
The general appearance of a miniature Shar-Pei is the trade-mark typical hippopotamus-shaped head, wrinkled head and body skin and a height not exceeding 17 inches. The eyes must be clear and almond shaped. The tongue and inside of the mouth should be blue to black, but a gray, purple, or lavender tongue is acceptable. A lot of pink on the tongue and prick ears are considered disqualifications in show dogs. Even with the miniature version, the chest of the dog is deep, and the neck is only of medium length, blending into well-set, broad shoulders. The dog's back is broad and short, while the tail is thick at the base and rises to a point that curls.
Coat and Grooming
This breed comes in black, blue, brown, chocolate, cream, dilute apricot, fawn lilac, red, or sable. They are not a heavy shedding breed but will shed somewhat more than usual during fall and spring. This breed comes with three coat types:
- A brush coat is no more than 1 inch long and is described as feeling like velvet when touched.
- A horse coat is short, about 1/4 inch long at the most, with a rougher, sandpaper-like feel that sheds a bit less than other coats.
- A bear coat is up to 1 inch long and feels smooth to the touch.
You will need to brush your miniature Shar-Pei several times a week to keep their coat and skin healthy. Dogs with bear coats will need daily brushings. They should be bathed if they get dirty or smelly, but you do not need to bathe them more than is needed. In fact, too many baths can dry their skin and cause skin problems. It's important when bathing this breed to make sure all the water is dried away with a clean towel from the folds of their skin and not allowed to sit and accumulate. You will also need to clean their ears often, as dirt and debris can get caught in the folds of their ears.
While Shar-Peis are described as aloof and standoffish, the breed is also known for being utterly loyal to their owners. These puppies have an amiable nature with their owners.
Protective Family Dog
The miniature Shar-Pei is often described as adaptable, goofy, and is even guilty of being a couch potato on occasion. They can make good family dogs, especially if raised as a puppy with the children, although older children may be better for them. They will most likely be protective of family members, so it's important to socialize them early if your children intend to have a lot of friends coming in and out of the home. They also should have a secure, fenced yard because of their protective nature.
Intelligent and Quiet
Being very intelligent and people-focused dogs, they can be easy to train, although they also have been bred for independence and you may need to work on finding rewards that keep their attention. They are also not heavy barkers and are generally considered to be quiet dogs, though they will bark if strangers approach.
Are Miniature Shar-Peis Aggressive?
Shar-Peis have received some bad press related to biting when they are nervous, stressed, or fearful. Generally, this tendency is no more predominant in this breed than any other dog. Since the breed was originally developed for fighting, they do have a tendency to not do well in homes with other dogs, particularly with same-sex pairings. They also have a prey drive and may not be a good fit for a home with cats or small pets.
You will need to devote time each day to exercise with this breed. They are not the highest energy breed, but they are definitely not regular coach potatoes, either. Regular walks are important, as well as play time with you in the yard.
Health and Lifespan
The average lifespan of a miniature Shar-Pei is between 9 to 12 years. They can suffer from a variety of health conditions, including:
- Allergic dermatitis is endemic to the breed and manifests itself in the dog's skin. Other skin diseases that can be an issue, including seborrhea, demodectic mange, and lip-fold pyoderma. Proper cleaning and grooming is a must to keep your miniature Shar-Pei free of skin problems.
- Shar-Pei recurrent fever syndrome is a condition endemic to all sizes of Shar-Peis. This condition is also known as "swollen hock syndrome," or Shar-Pei auto inflammatory disease (SPAID). This condition includes a period of fevers accompanied by swelling in the ankles and the muzzle.
- Gastric torsion, or bloat, is always a risk for deep-chested breeds like the Miniature Shar-Pei.
- Glaucoma, cherry eye, and entropion are all issues with the eyes that often affect all types of Shar-Peis.
- Miniature Shar-Peis can be afflicted by several painful joint disorders, including luxating patella, elbow dysplasia, and hip dysplasia. Puppies can also suffer from eosinophilic panosteitis, an inflammation in the bones.
- Obesity leading to heart disease, diabetes, and joint conditions is common among all sizes of Shar-Peis.
- Miniature Shar-Peis are at higher risk of mast cell tumors compared to other breeds.
- Amyloidosis, which leads to diseases of the liver, pancreas, and kidneys, is common with miniature Shar-Peis.
- Miniature Shar-Peis have a higher probability of being born with problems absorbing nutrients into their bodies, particularly vitamin B12.
- Periodontal disease is a very common problem with miniature Shar-Peis, and regular dental care is a must.
- Many mini Shar-Peis suffer from gastrointestinal disorders, including megaesophagus and inflammatory bowel disease.
- Because of their brachycephalic faces, they are at risk of developing respiratory problems.
Getting a Miniature Shar-Pei
If you're looking to buy a miniature Shar-Pei puppy, you can expect to pay around $1,500 to $2,500 from a breeder. You can contact the Miniature Shar-Pei Club of America for referrals for breeders. If you want to rescue one, there are no groups dedicated to the miniature version, so you will need to work with rescues dedicated to all sizes of Shar-Peis. The North American Shar-Pei Rescue is a good resource for finding dogs that need homes across the United States.
Common Myths and Misconceptions
There are a few myths surrounding mini Shar-Peis that need to be dispelled.
- First, these dogs are not rare, as some pet stores would have you believe in order to charge an excessive price for puppies. Despite their size and weight, these puppies come from purebred Shar-Pei bloodlines.
- Second, the American Kennel Club does not recognize this miniaturized version of the Shar-Pei as a separate breed. These dogs are eligible for registration simply as Chinese Shar-Peis. There are specific breeders that specialize in producing the original size of Shar Pei, and many of these dogs are registered with papers issued by the Miniature Shar-Pei Club of America.
- Third, since these dogs have not been "down-sized" like many other miniaturized breeds, miniature Shar-Pei puppies do not carry any genetic health problems that are not already found in the AKC standard size Shar Pei.
Is the Miniature Shar-Pei the Right Dog for You?
The miniature Shar-Pei can be an excellent companion for a family who wants a protective dog that's affectionate with their owners. Because of their protective nature, they need early socialization and training and may be a better choice for homes with older children. They also have specific grooming requirements because of their distinctive folded skin and suffer from many health conditions, so you should factor the time and expense of owning the breed into your decision to bring one home.