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How Much Exercise Do Shar Peis Need? Vet Approved Advice

Kit Copson

By Kit Copson

fawn shar pei dog at the park

Vet approved

Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo

Reviewed & Fact-Checked By

Dr. Chyrle Bonk

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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The Shar Pei is an ancient Chinese watchdog that combines regality, intelligence, loyalty, and a hint of stubbornness in one big, wrinkly package. Don’t be fooled by that calm exterior, though. Every dog has slightly different exercise needs, but Shar Peis require around an hour of exercise per day as a general guideline.

That said, they’re not as high-energy as some other breeds.

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Exercising a Shar Pei

Exercising your Shar Pei isn’t just about making sure they’re walked enough. You also need to factor in this intelligent dog’s need for mental stimulation.

Though those droopy eyes can deceive you into thinking they’re more partial to a good snooze than a brain workout, Shar Peis are super smart and enjoy a challenge, whether that be training sessions, working out how to extract delicious treats from a puzzle feeder, or hiding treats for them to find on a doggy treasure hunt.

As for physical exercise, your Shar Pei can get some of this with the activities mentioned above, but it’s also important to make sure they get a few brisk walks on a daily basis. If possible, include some visits to off-leash areas in parks to give your Shar Pei some free roaming time, but only if they have good off-leash behavior and can respond to basic commands like “come”.

You don’t have to limit exercise to just walking, though. Daily walks are essential, but you can also play games like tug-of-war and fetch with your Shar Pei at home.

three shar pei dogs of different colors lying on the grass
Image Credit: Marcelino Pozo Ruiz, Shutterstock

How Long Should I Exercise My Shar Pei For?

The PDSA recommends around an hour per day for Shar Peis, but this isn’t a cast-iron rule. Every dog has different needs, and you’ll need to factor in your Shar Pei’s age, energy levels, and overall health to determine how much would be appropriate. Speak to your vet if you’re not sure how much exercise would be just about right for your dog.

For example, a senior Shar Pei that has slowed down somewhat won’t be able to exercise for as long as they did when they were younger. Likewise, Shar Pei puppies should always be exercised gently—no intensive activities—to prevent damage to their developing joints.

It’s best to start puppies off with short, low-intensity walks and gradually build up the length of time. That said, even fully-grown Shar Peis aren’t the best at high-intensity activities like jogging or long, strenuous hikes, and they’re also prone to overheating. On that basis, stick to activities that don’t require intense effort and take extra care in hot weather.

Signs of overheating include:
  • Excessive panting
  • Labored breathing
  • Bright red gums (bear in mind that Shar Peis have blue-black tongues naturally)
  • Hot and dry nose
  • Excessive drooling with a sticky consistency
  • Lethargy
  • Collapse
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Signs of Boredom in Dogs

Not getting enough exercise or mental stimulation may lead to your smart Shar Pei acting out to get your attention and/or keep themselves busy. A lack of exercise can also affect their weight for the worse and therefore their overall health. If you spot any of the following signs, you may want to reassess whether your Shar Pei has enough outlets for their energy.

  • Chewing things around your home
  • Excessive barking
  • Pacing
  • Tail chasing
  • Excessive self-grooming
  • Excessive licking of objects, people, or other pets
  • Restlessness and agitation
  • Digging holes
  • Frequently demanding attention
  • Escaping
  • Riffling through the trash

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Fun Activities for Shar Peis

In addition to your Shar Pei’s daily walks, there are plenty of ways to keep them fit and mentally stimulated without spending a fortune. Here are some ideas:

Obedience Training Practice

Even if your Shar Pei has all the basics down, there’s nothing wrong with repeated practice sessions or teaching them a new skill. This engages their brain and gets them moving. Shar Peis thrive off of a challenge and will be pleased to get some tasty treats (or whatever motivates them most) as a reward.

Shar Pei Labrador Mix dog is sitting on the grass wearing a harness while his owner gives him a walk
Image Credit: Ripio, Shutterstock

Teach Tricks

If your Shar Pei is fed up with the same old training routine, you can spice things up by teaching them a new trick. Simple and popular tricks to teach include “put it away” (put toys in a box) and “turn around”, but there are plenty of others, too.

Basic Games

For most dogs, you simply can’t beat a good old game of fetch, tug-of-war, or frisbee, so get out into the yard (or stay indoors, whichever works best) and have a play session together. Simple games also provide an opportunity to bond with your pooch.

Vary Your Walks

It’s great to let dogs get familiar with a walking route, but it’s also a good idea to change it up now and again to let them enjoy all the interesting new scents and scenery.

shar pei dog with owner walking outdoors
Image Credit: Stari Vrac, Shutterstock

Scent Games

Since Shar Peis are really smart, you can take things up a notch and get them to use their snouts to seek things out. Examples include having your dog rummage through boxes to find treats hidden inside, picking the paper or plastic cup with a treat under it, or playing a doggy version of hide and seek.

If your Shar Pei knows how to stay, have them wait while you hide, then give a command like “Find me”. This may take some practice, and you’ll need to start with spots where it’s easy for them to find you before gradually increasing the difficulty level.

Interactive Toys

If you have to be out of the house for longer periods, you can keep your Shar Pei entertained with interactive toys like puzzle feeders. These come in various forms, including board game-style setups with treats hidden under little doors and plastic eggs that dispense treats as your dog pushes them around.

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Final Thoughts

While Shar Peis aren’t as high energy as, say, Border Collies, Australian Shepherds, and Huskies, they still need a certain amount of daily exercise—both physical and mental—to keep healthy, calm, and sharp-minded. Just be careful not to overdo it, especially in warmer weather, because Shar Peis are at particular risk of overheating.


Featured Image Credit: Kanyshev Andrey, Shutterstock

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