Edis Ichim is an Ambassador of the EU Federation of Shar-Pei Clubs, breeder, dog handler and owner of the Blueline Hunter Kennel in Romania. He is also known as the best Shar-Pei breeder in his country and he was my first choice when I bought my dog – Kino (Dante of Blueline Hunter). Due to the large amount of misinformation available online about this particular breed, Edis agreed to discuss with me what makes a Shar-Pei trully unique, the importance of a Pedigree, the difficulty of being a reputable breeder and more in this exclusive interview. Also included are some unique facts about the breed, healthcare and nutrition info.
The Shar-Pei was cited by the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the world’s rarest dog breed and they are very independent and owner-oriented dogs. What exactly made you choose this particular breed?
At the beginning I was an English Setter and Dogo Argentino breeder, I never thought I was going to fall in love with a breed such as the Shar-Pei but, somehow I got to work for one of the biggest Shar-Pei kennels in the world – Khambaliq – and I just fell in love with this breed. What impressed me the most was their special character. They are very loving dogs, very devoted to their owner, and one of the most cleanest dogs I’ve seen. In one word, they are extraordinary!
You are an Ambassador of the EU Federation of Shar-Pei Club in Romania, member of AChR, a breeder and a handler. Can you tell me what does it mean to be a responsible breeder?
Firstly, a responsible breeder should love the breed and not the money. A responsible breeder means to select healthy and beautiful dogs. You cannot put the physical aspect first when it comes to this particular breed. This requires years of hard work and a lot of experience.
Reputable breeders always have a guarantee for their puppies and require your signature on a contract. Some contracts also require that the new owner spay or neuter the dog, in order to protect the line from irresponsible breeding. What should an owner expect to receive, besides the standard contract, when buying a puppy from your kennel?
I can offer a guarantee that the dog doesn’t have dysplasia, demodicosis and entropion, which is what reputable breeders regularly offer when selling their dogs. Nobody can guarantee that the dog doesn’t have and will never have FSF (Shar-Pei Fever). This condition can occur later in life in healthy dogs and, currently, there isn’t a known reason for it even if most of us are trying to eliminate it as best as we can when breeding our dogs.
What is the difference between a “show quality” and a “pet quality” dog?
A “Pet Quality” dog is as healthy as a “Show Quality” one. The difference is of a morphological nature and only a breeder and/or a dog judge can notice it. Generally speaking, there are only minor differences. (note: Kino is a “Pet Quality”dog simply because I wanted a healthy Shar-Pei for me and my family).
How do you tell if a person is not fit to own a Shar-Pei and what is your criteria for choosing a responsible owner?
Sometimes we can be wrong and not choose the best person for our dog or we can refuse the perfect owner. I simply guide myself after a set of questions and that’s how I can tell if he/she is the right owner or not. Anyway, I never sell a puppy to someone who firstly asks about the price. I exclude those people from the start.
If a person decides to buy a puppy from one of your litters, what is the process that you use?
Firstly, I have to decide if I am going to sell the puppy to a certain person. When the owner is completely certain that he wants the puppy, we set up a meeting to see if he is indeed fit to own a Shar-Pei.
How important is a proper socialization with other dogs and humans of varying ages and sizes? Do you do any early training with the puppies in order to socialize them?
It is very important. After the vaccination scheme is completed it is necessary to take the puppy out and allow him to play with other dogs, with strangers and generally, with everything that is new. An early socialization will be beneficial in the future and when the puppy will grow up, there will be less problems.
How long does it take to prepare a dog for a show? Can you name a few of the titles received by your dogs along the years?
A show training takes between two weeks and a month, it very much depends of the dog’s behaviour and socialization. I can name a few of my dog’s titles: twice Champion European Baby with BOB (Best of Breed) Baby, Ch. European Puppy with BOB Puppy, Ch. Mondial Puppy BOB, twice Vice Ch. European, 7 titles of International Champion, numerous Champion titles in Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, North Macedonia, Republic of Serbia, numerous CAC and CACIB.
According to you, what is the difference between a “backyard breeder” and a “puppy mill breeder” and how important is buying a Shar-Pei that has a Pedigree?
It is very hard to find a reputable breeder when it comes to these particular dogs. Many people breed Shar-Pei for money and, currently, there is no regulation for breeders. Basically anyone that has a female dog pays a FCI (Fédération Cynologique Internationale) tax and becomes an official breeder. Theoretically, this makes anyone equal with the reputable breeders. The difference is made by the quality of the dogs. Unfortunately sometimes regular people do not know how to choose a quality dog and so they turn to the so-called “backyard breeder” who breed dogs without any knowledge. People choose to buy dogs from them due to the lower price. Sadly, it doesn’t take long for them to spend twice as much on dog’s medication and for different veterinary interventions. This happens because many of these dogs have genetic medical disorders. It is extremely important for a dog to have a Pedigree because that’s where you can see the dog’s family tree and there is a bigger chance to get a healthy dog according to the standard. Like I said before, a reputable breeder cannot guarantee 100% that everything will be fine but he tries everything possible to make the best for this breed and to eliminate the known health problems.
Why do you think most people choose to buy a dog from a backyard breeder and not from a licensed one (note: a licensed breeder is the registered member of the Kennel Club)?
Like I said before, due to the cheap price and even if we are in 2020, many people are misinformed. With a simple search online we can find anything there is to know about this breed’s standard.
From your own perspective, what is the criteria people should look for in a reputable breeder?
Well firstly, a future Shar-Pei owner must always go and see the dogs personally, at the kennel. They must observe the dog’s temperament, how the puppy is kept, if the dogs are in a good condition, properly mantained and groomed. They must find out if the breeder is a FCI member, if he goes to dog shows, competitions and so on. This should be a mandatory research for a future owner because this proves if a breeder is a reputable one or not.
What’s the most interesting experience you’ve had with your dogs?
I think that the most interesting experience is my entire life with them. I simply can not get enough of my dogs and I feel trully blessed to live and breath the same air they do, every single day. This is the real experience for me.
Can you recommend any veterinarians specialised in the Shar-Pei breed from your contry and world-wide?
In the country that I live in (Romania) there are a few vets specialised in this breed such as: Cristian and Ana Moscu. (* note: also Razvan Valentin Tanasescu of SaniVetCare) As for the international veterinarians I can name dr. Jeff Vidt and dr. Linda Tintle (*note: I am going to add Matthew Purnell from Swanzdale Veterinary Care Center in Scarborough, UK, who is Kino’s personal vet)
What are your goals for the next year?
My future plans are strongly connected to my dogs. The most important thing for me is to have my dogs healthy. As long as I have my dogs beside me, nothing can stop us and obviously we want to win as many show titles as possible. Win or not, I would love to meet my frinds who own and love the Shar-Pei breed.
- A literal translation of the Shar-Pei name: ‘sand skin’ because they are usually a sandy colour and their fur is surprisingly rough.
- They are very suspicious of strangers and other dogs, which is why an early training and socialization are necessary.
- A Shar-Pei requires only minimal grooming. The wrinkles don’t need any cream or talc, or any type of special cleaning, as mentioned in some articles available online. Any skin infection (staphylococci, Demodectic Mange and other bacteria) is caused by the environment or alimentation, not by the nature of their wrinkled skin!
- The Shar-Pei, just like the Chow-Chow, has a blue-black tongue. These are the only two breeds featuring this characteristic.
- Lots of dark, reddish-brown ear wax is normal, but not yellowish discharge, swelling or redness! (according to Eleanor Paulus, past vice president of the national breed club and author of the Paulus Chinese Shar-Pei Health Care Newsletter) Due to the nature of the Shar-Pei ear, folded tightly to the head, the inner ear has a hard time getting fresh air to circulate continuously, which results in the wax being dark in color. The ears should be cleaned weekly, but don’t overdo the products. The pup should be accustomed at a young age to having his ears cleaned regularly. Do not use hydrogen peroxide!
- Never allow your vet to prescribe your Shar-Pei an oral treatment based on steroids (corticosteroids) for an ear infection or for any other minor infection! Steroids are extremely strong and affect almost all the systems in the body, even in the lowest dose. The most common side effects in a Shar-Pei are increased thirst and urination, followed by more severe ones. More than that, the dose can not be stopped abruptly because it can cause serious, even life-threatening consequences!
- Most Shar-Peis suffer from flea allergy dermatitis (FAD) so if you spot any redness and hair loss around the tail base and down the rear legs, followed by excessive scratching, always check for any signs of fleas.
- While they will be affectionate to everyone in their household, Shar Peis are known for picking a favourite person.
- Their tongues are either black-blue or a lavender colour depending on the colour of their fur.
- Individual dogs Shar-Pei vary in their exercise needs. This is a very adaptable breed. They can do well with a very active owner, walking every day, or living in an apartment with a few short walks.
- Eye disorders including entropion, glaucoma, retinal dysplasia, and SARDS are known to occur in the breed. Other conditions that can occur are: Hypothyroidism, Amyloidosis, Familial Shar Pei Fever. The Shar Pei fever is normally a inflammatory condition which can cause high temperatures and aching joints. This fever is not normally life threatening, but it can be the first step towards the dog developing amyloidosis (a build up in the dogs liver, kidneys, spleen and/or gastrointestinal tract, and this can prove fatal).
- They do not require much house training – they are fastidiously clean and are famous for holding it in until they can go outside
- Proper socialization consists of both positive and negative experiences with other dogs of varying ages and sizes! A dog should learn how to behave and react in various situations from an early age. It’s a common mistake to let puppies socialize only with dogs of the same size and age, or to interfere and pick up the puppy to “protect” him from other dogs. Well socialized adult dogs will never attack and bite a puppy! They will only “worn” a young dog and remind him of his place in the “pack”. In such situations, the puppy should have a playful and submissive attitude and should not be encouraged to be dominant!
- A good breeder should be able to explain the puppies’ pedigree, noting why he chose each sire, and how it improved his line.
- Inbreeding, often called line-breeding, is the act of breeding within the immediate family (for example mother/son, father/daughter and sibling/sibling matings). Outcrossing is the term that applies to breeding with unrelated specimens or animals that are separated by at least five generations.
- Responsible breeders should test their dogs for any genetic disorders that run in the breed. Any dogs that test positive should not be bred!
- If you choose to begin breeding, you will be required to follow strict guidelines to keep your dog up to breed standards!
- A reputable breeder should not guarantee that a dog is a champion or of show quality! There is no way to determine this, especially at the young age that pups are sold. A reputable breeder will be able to determine which of his puppies have show potential.
- A reputable breeder should be able to explain the puppies’ Pedigree, why he chose each sire, and how it improved his line.
- A reputable breeder will sell the puppies after they are 3 months old, never sooner! You should always be able to contact your breeder with any questions or concerns you may have.
- Puppies must always be sold with a Pedigree, a contract, care instructions and should be up-to-date on vaccinations
- When a puppy reaches 2 weeks of age their eyes should be open, if this doesn’t happen then eye tacking is required. This is a temporary measure in which stitches are placed in the eye lids to roll the lids “out” of the eyeball. This is not the equivalent of an eye operation as some Shar-Pei owners are told by the inexperienced breeders!
A Shar-Pei needs a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age, and lower in proteins. I usually use brands that have no more than 23% Protein, such as Eukanuba. Pork meat should always be avoided, and also beef meat, due to the fact that most Shar-Pei dogs are allergic to it. When buying a puppy, it is ideal to continue feeding the same food as the breeder for the first few days at home, to minimize the risk of gastrointestinal disturbances. If you choose to change a puppy’s diet, do it gradually. The best time to feed your dog is after a walk, in order to prevent bloat, which can be fatal. You can either feed him one time or two times per day if the dog is adult (over 1 year old), and three or four times daily if you have a puppy.
Below is a list of ingredients that I personally use when feeding my dog. Kino is 7 years old and he never had any health issues, skin infections or any gastrointestinal disturbances. I always mix the following ingredients with the kibbles in order to provide him a fresh and healthy alimentation. Never use salt or other type of spices when cooking for your dog!
- fresh fish, such as Mackerel, Salmon, Tuna. Never feed your dog raw fish, as it can contain bacteria like salmonella or certain parasites!
- canned Tuna in water or brine
- Mozzarella and any type of unsalted cheese
- fresh, boneless chicken, cooked with spaghetti/rice or plain
- boiled vegetables: carrots, bell peppers, zucchini (you can mix them with the meat mentioned in this list or simply with boiled rice)
- yogurt (I personally use the Greek style for its rich, creamy texture)
- Kefir and/or double cream
- fresh boneless Turkey plain or cooked with rice and/or vegetables mentioned above
- Lamb meat with rice and/or vegetables
- canned food: Schesir, Applaws
- spaghetti mixed with yogurt and fresh cheese
- treats: chicken or duck fillets and those that do not contain rawhide, such as the ones by Rosewood
*The following images are property of Edis Ichim are are posted with his approvel.
If you decide to buy a Shar-Pei from a reputable breeder but you don’t have time to attend dog shows, ask for a “Pet Quality” dog. This applies to any dog breed. A “Pet Quality” puppy means that the dog will be less expensive and you will still have the guarantee that you will get a healthy puppy, according to the breed’s standard.
If you want to adopt a Shar-Pei, check out The Shar Pei Rescue of Great Britain, recognized by the Kennel Club as an official Shar Pei breed rescue.
*Note: when buying or adopting a dog, always keep in mind the costs for healthcare, routine vet visits, annual check-ups, vaccinations, regular flea and worming treatments and a high quality dog food.