Chow Pei

Linda Simon
Dr Linda Simon (MVB MRCVS, University College Dublin)
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Two of the most famous and well-known Chinese breeds, the Chow Chow and Shar Pei have been bred together in America to create the interesting looking Chow Pei. Each hybrid puppy inherits its parents’ genes in varying amounts, meaning that even pups from the same litter can look and act very differently. The majority of Chow Peis have the wrinkled face of the Shar Pei and the soft-furred body of the Chow Chow.

The Chow Pei is most prized for its territorial nature and its protective instincts. While sweet-natured with its family, the Chow Pei has the potential to act hostile with new people and can become aggressive in certain situations.

About & History

A cross between the lion-maned Chow Chow and wrinkly Shar Pei, the Chow Pei (also known as the Char Pei), is a designer dog that has only recently been established. While both parent breeds are Chinese, the original crossing of the two is actually thought to have initially occurred in the United States, where most Chow Pei dogs can be found today.

Though the Chow Pei is a recent creation with little history, both of its parents are ancient dogs steeped in antiquity. The Chow Chow is thought to be several thousand years old and has historically filled many roles, including that of a hunter, herder and guardian. The Shar Pei is also believed to have been in existence for at least two thousand years and was traditionally kept as a guard dog and fighting dog.

Interestingly, the Chow Chow and Shar Pei are the only two breeds in the world that have a dark blue-black pigmented tongue. It is quite possible that these breeds are closely linked, meaning a cross between them is likely a very natural step indeed.


Predicting the appearance of a newly-created hybrid dog can be a challenge at the best of times. In some cases, even puppies from the same litter can inherit completely different physical characteristics. Though individual Chow Peis may look more like a Chow Chow or a Shar Pei, most will look like some sort of mix of the two. In general, we tend to see dogs that have the sturdy body of the Chow Chow and the wrinkled face and neck of the Shar Pei – although this is highly variable and anything is possible.

Their large heads possess short muzzles, wide-set brown eyes that are sunken into their skin and a pendulous upper lip. Most dogs will have the small, rounded ears of the Chow Chow, though some will have the minute folded ears of the Shar Pei. Their noses are quite large and may be either black or brown in colour. The tail of the Chow Pei will be carried over their back in the typical Spitz fashion though its fur covering is variable. Of course, just like both their parents they will also have darkly pigmented tongues.

The fur of the Chow Pei is usually dense and very soft and may be black, brown, fawn or cream. These colours may feature en bloc, or dogs may have a mixture of colours on their coat. A darker furred muzzle is not uncommon. Measuring between 38cm and 50cm when fully grown, the Chow Pei is a medium breed. Their bodies are quite bulky and solid and they often reach weights of up to 28kg when fully grown.

Character & Temperament

The Chow Pei may inherit behavioural traits from either parent so it can be difficult to know if they will act more like a Chow Chow or a Shar Pei when mature. However, these breeds share many similar traits, meaning the personality of the Chow Pei is easier to predict than many other hybrid breeds.

Chow Peis are inevitably loyal and will bond strongly to their family members, fiercely protecting them from any perceived threat. Their defensive nature makes them very suitable watch and guard dogs but also means that they are just not appropriate pets for families with children. Chow Peis do not tend to have high levels of tolerance and can act aggressively in certain situations. They do not accept strangers well into their territory and are always on the lookout for unwanted guests, so owners must attempt to thoroughly socialise them when puppies to avoid hostile behaviours.

Chow Peis enjoy having human company and will often spend their time in the same room as the family, wanting to be close by. However, they do not often feel the same way about other animals and do not typically get along well with other pets. Dog to dog aggression can be a particular problem and means that any canine companions should be introduced from puppyhood if they are to be well accepted.

While Chow Peis do form close attachments with their owners, they are not fawningly affectionate and do not like to be fussed over. Their aloof personality and potential for aggression means that they are not suitable pets for inexperienced owners and require extensive training if they are to become well-adjusted adult dogs.


The Chow Pei is an independent and stubborn dog that likes to have its own way and does not like being told what to do. While relatively intelligent, they may understand the command given to them but simply choose to not follow it! Owing to this, trainers must be prepared to settle in for the long haul and will need an abundance of patience. Training sessions must remain consistent and it is essential that the trainer does not become exasperated when the Chow Pei becomes willful.

Failing to provide a Chow Pei with appropriate training is a recipe for disaster as their behaviour can become quickly out of hand. As the Chow Pei has a natural tendency to be dominant, trainers must get them to understand that they are not the one in charge of the relationship; a process which take a long time and a lot of convincing. Positive reinforcement training works the best, as to admonish or punish negative behaviour will likely have an undesired effect.


Neither the Chow Chow nor the Shar Pei are considered particularly healthy breeds and while it is true that cross-breeds are often healthier than their parents, the Chow Pei has the potential to inherit any of the conditions from which its parents suffer.

Atopic Dermatitis

When a dog’s immune system responds in an exaggerated way to normal things, such as foods and pollens, they can develop allergic skin disease, or atopic dermatitis. One of the most common causes of chronic itching, affected dogs are uncomfortable and often have sore and infected skin.

Determining the cause of the allergy can go a long way towards treating it, though this is not always possible. Most dogs are managed on life-long medication and shampoos.

Hip Dysplasia

Inheriting bad hips can limit both a dog’s quality and duration of life. As there are hip screening tests that can accurately check dogs for hip dysplasia, there is no good reason why dogs with hip dysplasia should still be used for breeding today.


Eyelids that fold inwards can rub on a dog’s cornea and lead to chronic ulceration, pain and infections. A surgery is often indicated to alter the shape of the eyelids and remove any excess skin.


An endocrine disease that occurs when there is an inadequate level of thyroid hormone, affected dogs can suffer from a myriad of subtle symptoms, including lethargy, heat-seeking behaviour and chronic skin irritation. A blood test can measure the amount of thyroid hormone in a dog’s blood and low levels can be supplemented with daily medication.

Exercise and Activity Levels

A dog with moderate exercise requirements, a Chow Pei should have access to a securely fenced garden and enjoys being taken on a couple of 45-minute walks each day. While not a rock star athlete, they do enjoy participating in games, such as fetch and Frisbee, and also appreciate the opportunity to keep their mind active by playing interactive games and solving puzzles.

Their distrust of other dogs and the potential for dog fights means that they must always be walked on the lead by a strong and capable owner. It is not advised to exercise the Chow Pei in the heat, especially if they have inherited the longer fur of the Chow Chow. Over-heating is possible, so exercise should be undertaken during the cooler portions of the day.


Grooming requirements will depend on which parent the Chow Pei has taken more after, as the longer fur of the Chow Chow, the more time and care required for grooming. For most dogs, brushing their coat thoroughly two to three times a week is adequate. Owners should use brushes that are able to penetrate through to the undercoat and remove the loose fur that can accumulate there over time. As shedding can be quite extreme during certain times of the year, it can be a good idea to get your Chow Pei used to outdoor grooming sessions.

It can be a challenge to convince your Chow Pei that grooming time is a fun time, as they can become grumpy when you are carrying out routine tasks, such as ear cleaning and claw clipping. While this may not seem like a big deal when they are puppies, this type of behaviour can result in an adult that needs sedation to safely clip their claws. Avoid this by introducing each task from a very young age and rewarding their tolerance.

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