As a dog professional, clients and friends (and sometimes random strangers) are often asking me for advice about a potential new dog. I’ve owned Chinese Shar-Pei (often called, simply, Shar Pei) in the past, so I’m very frequently asked specifically about this breed. The most common question: are Shar-Pei good with kids?
The short answer is yes… if bred and trained well. Shar-Pei are notoriously aloof – even aggressive – with strangers while steadfastly loyal to their family. When raised alongside children, they can make wonderful companions and protectors.
Adult Shar Pei, such as those from a rescue, can also be acclimated slowly to see the children as part of their inner circle. My own Shar Pei, Buster, could be easily walked by my children and often enjoyed laying at their feet as a steadfast friend and guardian.
Chinese Shar-Pei Personality
When bred to fit the breed standard, the Shar-Pei temperament tends to be quite consistent. Shar-Pei are independent guard dogs; loyal and loving to their family but aloof with strange people and dogs. This is not generally a dog that you would take to the dog park or to your second cousin’s birthday party, but will certainly keep your house and yard safe. Early socialization, puppy training classes, and ongoing training can ensure that you have a well-mannered adult dog that you can still take into the public.
Chinese Shar-Pei are not known for their trainability, but they’re certainly intelligent! According to akc.org, these versatile dogs were once used as far back as 2,000 years ago as hunters, herders, and livestock guardians. Certainly, if you ensure that your Shar-Pei enjoys training, you can teach them any manner of behavior or trick. There are even many Shar-Pei competing in sports like agility and dock diving!
Success Starts Early
So the question remains: how do you ensure that your Chinese Shar-Pei can get along with children? It begins with the breeder, early training, and is continued throughout the dog’s life with training and management for both the dog and children.
Success begins before the dog is born: with the breeder! A responsible breeder will choose dogs with stable temperaments, whose ancestry displays the same. Bonus: these breeders also health test their dogs to ensure they are free of genetic diseases and structural faults. Look for breeders who prove their dogs by titling them, run genetic panels and have their dogs scored by an organization like PennHip (University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Plan) or OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals).
Once puppies are born, it’s vital that the breeder raise their puppies with socialization and appropriate exposure in mind. A Chinese Shar-Pei breeder that raises their puppies with a puppy raising protocol utilizing Early Neurological Stimulation (ENS) and/or Puppy Culture is usually best. Puppies raised with a plan respond to stress, new situations, and learning much better than those that are not – and they expose them positively to children. This ensures that your Shar-Pei puppy has the best foundation for getting along with your kids throughout their lifetime.
Training Your Shar-Pei
Once you bring your puppy home, start early with training. You can begin with puppy classes, or on your own, at home, if you’re an experienced dog owner. There are plenty of tutorials on Youtube.com for puppy training fundamentals like crate training and potty training. Now is the time to include your children. If your kids have a hand in training, your Shar-Pei will look to them as a source of positive interaction, guidance, and leadership.
Never stop training! Training your dog is a lifelong process. Just like you, your dog never stops learning. Every new experience, obstacle, person, or situation will teach your dog something. If you use these as training opportunities, you can control your Shar Pei’s association of these things.
The most important things you should teach your Shar-Pei to make sure that they are safe and happy companions to your kids:
- Place: If you can send your dog to their bed, crate, or cot at any time, your kid can run around or do whatever they please without worrying about your Shar-Pei interrupting or being in the way. This also creates a wonderfully calm dog that can be asked to hang out and do nothing sometimes.
- Not to jump – Instead of allowing your Shar-Pei to jump on you, have them sit before you greet or pet them. Shar-Pei can grow to be 50 or more pounds, so a jumping Shar-Pei is a recipe for disaster with small children!
- Play with toys, not hands – Teaching your Shar-Pei to play with toys like a ball or tug rope instead of hands or other human appendages keeps your children safe from playful nipping or biting. This doesn’t require much effort, just make sure you’re always using a toy to play with your Shar-Pei instead of wrestling or putting your hands in your Shar Pei’s mouth.
- Crate training – Sometimes you might need to introduce new children to your Shar-Pei. The best way to have your Shar-Pei safely meet strange kids is to create your Shar-Pei in the same room while the kids go about their business. This allows your Chinese Shar-Pei to observe, smell, and meet the children without either becoming uncomfortable. Make sure that you have trained your dog to enjoy their crate and associate it with positive things! My favorite way of doing this is to feed the Shar-Pei in their crate, and often offer toys filled with yummy treats while they’re in their crate or kennel.
Train Your Kids, Too!
Just as important as training your Shar-Pei is training your children. Make sure that your kids respect your Chinese Shar-Pei’s boundaries and teach them about dog body language. Never punish a growl, and always respect a dog asking for space by licking their lips, moving away, or growling. Don’t let your children hit, pinch, or pull on your Shar-Pei, and certainly don’t let your children sit, ride, or lay on your dog. This, unfortunately, is why so many family dogs will bite “out of nowhere,” or will develop a dislike of children over time.
No matter how much you trust your dog, never leave them alone with your kids. Anything can happen while you’re gone, and a 50 lb dog could easily hurt your child without meaning to (as well as the reverse).
Should You Get a Chinese Shar-Pei?
In short, if you can dedicate time and patience to socialization and training and you don’t plan to be at the dog park weekly, you and your children will find joy in adding a Shar-Pei. You will never regret having such a loyal and devoted companion, and your children will love growing up with their wrinkly best friend.
Written by Chloe Weasley