Chow Chow

Chow Chow
John Walton
Written by John Walton

The chow chow is one of the most distinctive looking dog breeds in all of the dog breeds in the world. It’s known for having a proud and independent spirit that many dog owners have described as being cat-like. if you’re looking for a dog breed to cuddle with on the lazy days or during winter, then the chow chow is not for you, as they can be quite aloof. However, for the right person, he can be an extremely loyal companion that makes an excellent guard dog due to his wariness of strangers.

Breed Characteristics

AdaptabilityAbove Average
TrainabilityAbove Average
Health and GroomingAbove Average
All Around FriendlinessLow
Exercise NeedsBelow Average

Dog Breed Group:Working dogs
Height:Seventeen to twenty-three inches at the shoulder
Weight:Forty to seventy pounds
Life Span:12 to 15 years

The chow chow is an impressive looking dog in every way. They have deep set brown eyes in a large head, and are surrounded by a wonderful fluffy coat. It is said that the chow was meant to combine the nobility of a lion with the complacency of a panda, the appeal of a teddy bear, the grace of a cat, and the loyalty and devotion of a dog.

He’s not very fond of being fussed over or hugged, preferring to be by himself, but he will still show devotion to his owner. He is quiet and attentive, and if he’s raised with children, then he will take to them quite willingly.

Being socialized with a lot of strangers will result in a cool-headed approach, though the breed is still quite territorial and protective. Don’t be surprised if your chow chow runs over to your side when a stranger approaches, and will provide a clear warning to those who get close without an invitation.

The most noticeable feature of the chow chow is its blue-black tongue. Chinese legends state that it received this blue color when the breed was created. The dog licked up some drops of the color of the sky as it was being painted. It’s certainly a note of pride for the breed, and makes them quite unique from other dog breeds that exist.

The chow chow’s straight hind legs give him a somewhat stiff gait that appears choppy when he walks. This makes him not very speedy when it comes to going for a jog, so he doesn’t make for a good exercise companion out on the road. He does have good endurance, however, and can walk for miles with you.

Training is an aspect that requires a gentle hand. Usually, a verbal reproach is all that a chow chow will need to understand that his behaviour is incorrect. Being too firm or resorting to physical means of correction will not do well with the chow chow. It becomes counterproductive and he won’t respond at all. You can earn his respect with firm consistency, and he will take to your training commands with a positive attitude.

serve as guides for the blinds and are also proficient in different types of therapies.

Main Highlights
  • Chow chows can be quite independent dogs, so it’s important that you teach them that you are the head of the household to prevent them from taking over. Being stern is something that they can appreciate and come to respect, as long as you aren’t too aggressive with your methods.
  • They have a tendency to bond with one person within the household. They will love the other family members, but will be quite suspicious of strangers.
  • Their coats require a lot of maintenance in order to keep their appearance.
  • Daily exercise is recommended, but they’re quite suitable for all kinds of homes, including condos and apartments.
  • Their deep-set eyes make it difficult for them to see anything in their peripheral vision. Because of this, it is best to approach them from the front to avoid spooking them or having them lash out.
Breed History

The chow chow is considered one of the oldest breeds to exist, and the genetic testing that has been done proves this. Believed to originate in Mongolia and Northern China, they were kept by the nomadic Mongolian tribes as they moved south throughout the country. Early depictions of the breed have been seen on pottery and in paintings from as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E to 22 A.D.). It is said that one Chinese emperor even kept 2,500 pairs of chow chows as hunting dogs. However, the breed was also considered a delicacy, and the fur was trimmed from their coats to be used for clothing.

British merchants who came to China in the late 18th Century returned with some of these dogs in their cargo. They weren’t originally called the chow chow; many names before then were «hei shi-tou» (black tongue dog),»lang gou» (wolf dog), «xiang gou» (bear dog), and «Guangdong gou» (Canton dog). It was only through the merchant tongue that referred to miscellaneous items on a boat as «chow chow» that the name for the breed stuck.

It wasn’t until a century later that the breed was being imported into Europe on a regular basis. Queen Victoria, who was known to be an avid lover of dogs, made the breed quite popular. The first chow chow to make an appearance in an American dog show was in1890, and took third place in the Westminster Kennel Club.

The breed was officially recognized by the AKC in 1903. They then became all the rage amongst the rich and famous during the roaring 1920s, and became the presidential dog for Calvin Coolidge and the First Lady, who kept both one black chow chow and a red chow chow. Even Sigmund Freud was a fan of these dogs, and his daughter kept and bred them. The most recent celebrity to keep such dogs is Martha Stewart, who often featured her chows on her television show.


The Chow chow can be around seventeen to twenty-three inches tall at the shoulder, and will weigh around forty to seventy pounds.

Personality and Character

The chow chow has often times been compared to a cat. He can be aloof, extremely reserved, intelligent, dignified, independent and stubborn to a fault. Although he always appears to have a scowl, he is not an aggressive breed.

Nor is he shy, preferring to confront with his size alone rather than hide in the corner. They tend to mind their own business, and are never out to start trouble with strangers or other animals. Without an invitation into the home, however, they have no interest in strangers and will see them as a challenge. Careful socialization will teach him not to bite when approached, and should start when he is still a puppy in order to round out his personality.

Health and Potential Problems

When it comes to your chow chow, you want him to be as healthy as possible. However, even with all of the love and care in the world, there are some conditions that he will succumb to over time. Being aware of these conditions can prepare you in the future for when they arise, so that they won’t come as a surprise to you. Some of these conditions may not appear at all until the dog has reached full maturity. A few of the conditions that your chow chow can suffer from are:

  • Canine hip dysplasia: this is an inherited condition that affects the thigh bone. What happens is that it doesn’t fit quite as well as it used to in the hip joint. This can cause the rubbing of bone together, which can ultimately lead to arthritis. Pain is evident, and your dog may begin to limp on one or both legs. This condition typically doesn’t present until the dog is much older. X-ray screening can be done to see if your puppy is prone to the condition. Although it is hereditary, it can be worsened through environmental factors, such as rapid growth, overeating and obesity, and falling on slippery surfaces.
  • Entropion: this is a disorder of the eye, which causes the eyelid to roll inward. This can result in injury or irritation of the eyeball. It can affect one or both eyes, and can be corrected through surgery. If you do notice that your chow chow starts rubbing his eyes on a regular basis, then take him to the vet immediately.
Care Features

Chows can live in both homes and apartments, but they should not be left to live outside in a backyard or a kennel. They’re not very good at dealing with heat, especially with their thick fur, and should be kept inside when it is sweltering out.

Daily exercise is a must for the chow chow, but rigorous and high-intensity workouts are not necessary. They have moderate energy levels, and a good long walk of fifteen minutes or more will do them just as good. They’re not prone to wandering off if they are outside, but a security fence is still recommended in order to protect him from traffic and to deter strangers who are eager to approach him when you’re not around.

They are quite easy to house train, but should not be left alone at home for long periods of time when they are puppies. This is because they are prone to chewing things when you’re not around to stop them. The use of a crate can curtail this, and it should be used as a tool, not a source of punishment. He prefers being at your side, so punishment that is immediate and short does best to keep him trained.

Chow chows are quite smart, and are capable of learning anything that you want to teach them. A verbal correction is all that is necessary to keep their behaviour in line. Earning respect from your chow chow is necessary for him to listen to you, and you should not resort to physical means of punishment, as this will cause him to shut down and no longer respond to you. Use firm consistency, and don’t let him have his way all the time, or he could become too difficult to train.

Feeding Schedule

When it comes to food, a chow chow should get about 2 to 2 3/4 cups of dog food. How much you choose to feed your dog should be dependent on his size, his metabolism, his age, and the quality of dog food that is being fed.

Chow chows can be kept in good shape if his food is measured and provided twice a day instead of leaving the food in his bowl all the time. This will cut back on the chances of him becoming overweight. If you do notice that he is starting to put on weight, cut back on his food and/or introduce more exercise into his daily routine.

Coat, Color and Grooming

Chow chows are known to have two different types of coats: rough and smooth. The rough coat is the more common variety and is what most people think of when they considering the chow chow. It is quite thick and abundant, and stands away from the body. Beneath this is a soft woolly undercoat. The smooth coat, on the other hand, is quite hard and dense. There is no obvious ruff around the shoulders and head, so this kind of chow chow does not have the classic mane that people are used to seeing.

In both kinds of coats, the chow chow can come in a variety of colors: red, black, blue, cinnamon, and cream. They can be solid colors, or solid with lighter shades around the head ruff, tail and feathering in the fur itself. Rarely will you ever find chow chows with patched markings. When you’re looking for a new puppy, don’t be swayed by breeders who are using exotic names to describe a dog’s coat, such as champagne, silver or lilac.

They are just using fancy names for the colors that they already come in, so avoid these breeders like the plague. They’re only trying to get you to spend more money by declaring their chows as «rare.»

When it comes to brushing, they should be brushed at least three times a week in order to maintain their fabulous coat. This will remove loose hair and prevent it from getting on your couch and clothing. This also reduces the doggy odor from their coats.

Use a stainless steel comb that has medium-coarse teeth, a medium-sized slicker brush for the legs, and a pin brush for the longer body coat. Keep a bottle of diluted conditioner to spray onto the coat as you brush in order to minimize tangles. Brushing a dry coat can result in breaking. Be sure to brush the fur all the way down to the skin in order to eliminate mats and tangles.

Your chow chow can be bathed at least once a month, or even more if he goes outside a lot and gets dirty. Nail care can also be taken care of during a bath, as the nails are a bit softer to deal with and makes them easier to cut. This should be done at least once or twice a month. Care should be taken, as the chow chow can be sensitive about his feet.

Dental hygiene is also keen, in order to remove tartar and prevent bacteria from accumulating. He has quite a large mouth to fit his large head, and positive reinforcement should be used to make the experience more enjoyable for both you and your dog.

Children And Other Pets Compatibility

When chow chows are raised with children, they can do quite well with them. However, they are not a rough and tumble play kind of dog who will tolerate a lot of abuse from children. This is why they don’t do well with very young children. Older children should be taught how to approach these dogs and the appropriate times to interact with them, such as when they’re not eating or sleeping. When it comes to other dogs in the household, it is best to keep them with dogs of the opposite sex, as long as they have been neutered. Chow chows tend to fight with dogs of the same sex.

When it comes to getting a chow chow, it’s easy to fall in love with their fluffy adorable looks, but they’re more than just a prancey show dog. They have more tenacity than many first-time dog owners are ready for, and that can leave them wholly unprepared for what’s in store.

A chow chow is not going to greet anyone and everyone that comes to your door, even if they are eager to provide attention (and the occasional treat) to your dog. They’re quite wary of new people, and will protect their owners first and foremost before accepting them into the home. The chow chow may not be a breed for everyone, but exercising patience and socializing early can certainly smooth things over quite quickly when your guests enter your home.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.