The American Kennel Club might consider the longer hair of a bear-coat shar-pei a fault, but there is nothing actually wrong with the dog. The shaggy coat certainly helps hide all his wrinkles, but the combination of the coat and the skin means he needs plenty of grooming.
Brush your dog once or twice a week. Although his coat is longer than normal, a bear-coat shar-pei doesn’t have an undercoat, so it is not particularly dense or prone to matting outside the shedding season. It is also not long enough to tangle much. If you come across a knot or piece of debris such as a plant burr, just tease it out using your fingers and/or the comb.
Comb through his entire coat to make sure you have not missed any knots or mats.
Watch out for the start of the molt, which happens about twice a year. Your dog's hair will start looking a bit straggly and, of course, there will be more loose hair than normal. At this point his hair will become prone to matting. Start brushing him daily during this period.
Bathe him about once a month (weekly when he is shedding), after you have brushed him thoroughly. Use shampoo and conditioner for dogs with harsh coats, or the products recommended by your vet. The procedure is much the same as for most dogs. Place cotton balls in his ears—water can trigger infections, something to which this breed is already prone—place him in the shower, dampen his coat with tepid water, rinse out completely, repeat with conditioner, rinse again and towel him dry. Take out the cotton balls, comb through his coat and blow-dry him on a low setting. Ask your vet for advice on frequency of bathing and suitable products, because individuals of this breed vary in their needs.
- Always blow-dry a shar-pei after a bath. Moisture in his skin wrinkles could lead to infection. When blow-drying, set the dryer to the lowest setting and use your free hand to lift and separate his coat, moving loose skin as required.
- This is intended as a basic introduction to grooming, not a detailed guide. This is a breed with special needs. Moreover, individual shar-peis sometimes require particular grooming techniques and products, which is something to be discussed during your first visit to the vet.
- Some shar-peis are genetically predisposed to skin infections, although the bear-coat less so than the others, according to Mar Vista Vet. However, his wrinkles still need attention, as do his eyes and ears. If your dog is still a pup, take him to the vet if you notice the eye wrinkle starting to roll inward or outward or touch his eye. Without veterinary attention, this could lead to serious eye problems, including blindness. His ears also have a very narrow canal, making them vulnerable to infections. Take him to the vet immediately if you notice a discharge, redness, a nasty smell or your dog scratching his ears frequently.
Judith Willson has been writing since 2009, specializing in environmental and scientific topics. She has written content for school websites and worked for a Glasgow newspaper. Willson has a Master of Arts in English from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland.