The Chow Chow is a beautiful breed, but one that causes some controversy too.
Will this glorious guard dog also make a great family pet?
Do you have what it takes to make the most of owning your very own little lion?
What is a Chow Chow?
The Chow Chow is a sturdy, powerful dog.
They have a high set tail and a fluffy coat.
They weigh between 44 and 70 lbs. Growing up to 21 inches tall.
This is because of their working history.
Origins and History
The Chow Chow is one of the oldest dog breeds in the world.
At over two thousand years!
The breed dates back to the Han Dynasty.
That’s around 150-206 BC.
They were originally used as a sporting and hunting dog.
Chinese aristocrats used them to hunt game birds.
In fact, one Chinese emperor was said to have had a kennel of 5,000!
Since then, Chows have taken on many roles.
These include herding, carting, guarding and hauling. Or simply being pets.
Spread to other countries
Chows were taken abroad from 1800. Before then China had a ‘closed door’ policy.
In the 1820s, Chow Chows showed up at the London Zoo.
They were labelled as the “Wild Dogs of China”.
Chows first appeared in the US in 1890.
Finally being let in to the AKC in 1903.
In Britain around the 1920s Queen Victoria had one.
The breed first appeared in shows at Crufts in 1925.
They were recognized by the United Kennel Club (UKC) in 1934.
The origin of the name is up for debate.
One belief is that long ago in China, Chows were a food source!
They were named the ‘Edible Dog.’
The Cantonese word for edible is Chow.
However, a more common explanation comes from the 18th-century British Empire.
Ship captains used the term “chow chow”.
It was pidgin English for various items in a ship’s cargo.
When these dogs became part of the cargo.
They were classed in this “chow chow” grouping, and the name stuck.
Chow Chow Dog Description
The Chow Chow is reported to be related to Spitz dogs of the Nordic type.
They are also said to be similar to the mastiff. Sturdy, squarely built and powerful dogs.
They are compact yet strong. They have a tail that is set high and carried close to their back.
The breed is known for their shorter, stilted gait.
Chows have a large head. With a broad, flat skull and a short, deep muzzle.
Chow Chows have a unique blue or black tongue.
Many people consider their natural expression to be scowling.
Chows are a medium sized dog.
A male fully grown stands 18-21 inches tall.
He weighs 55-70 lbs.
Weight for a female is typically 44-60 lbs.
They stand 17-20 inches tall.
These dogs can have any solid color.
They may also have lighter patches.
This will be on their ruff, tail and the back of their upper hind legs.
Common colors are:
Chow Chow Dog Breed Grooming & Care
Chow Chows have two coats.
All Chows have a soft undercoat. But they can have either a smooth or a rough topcoat.
The smooth-coated Chow has a hard, dense, short outer coat.
The rough coat is the more well-known type of Chow.
It has a heavy lion-like ruff and leg and tail feathering.
This breed require thorough brushing. This should be done at least twice a week.
It will make sure their coat does not get matted.
This is particularly important around the head.
It’s also useful with the softer coats found on puppies.
Chows should have a monthly bath.
Just make sure they are thoroughly dried afterward.
Use a cool air dryer to ensure you don’t overheat your Chow.
Ears and eyes need cleaning once a week. Nails should be trimmed regularly.
Chows are considered very clean dogs, but they do shed seasonally.
Chow Chow Temperament
Their personality is dignified. He’s serious and aloof.
These dogs are keenly intelligent. They do have an independent spirit.
They also have a reserved and suspicious nature around strangers.
However, these dogs are very loyal to their family.
The Chow Chow is a natural watchdog.
It is essential that you socialize your puppy from the day they arrive home.
This is due to their potential for guarding.
You will also need to meet both parents.
Make sure that they are comfortable around strangers.
Chow Chow Breed Health
Due to its deep-set eyes, the Chow has limited peripheral vision.
This means it is best approached from the front.
In addition, they may suffer from eye issues.
Other known health issues include:
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Hip and elbow dysplasia is when the socket is abnormally formed.
It means that the joint does not fit properly.
This is a hereditary disorder. It can cause pain and even lameness in dogs.
Breeders should have both parents’ elbows and hips tested.
The most common thyroid issue is hypothyroidism.
Some common symptoms of this are obesity, hair loss, and skin problems.
Hypothyroidism can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Patellar luxation is when the kneecap pops out of place.
Dogs can be diagnosed as young as eight weeks of age.
Make sure any puppy you’re considering has been tested.
Unfortunately, Chow Chows are also classed as brachycephalic dogs.
There are some research studies and vets that disagree.
They instead class Chows as mesocephalic dogs.
This means dogs with a head of medium proportions.
Their face is still more flattened than their wolf ancestors.
Although not as extreme as some other breeds.
Be aware that they are still likely to have compromised breathing and overall health.
Chows have folds of skin on their face.
These are caused by shortened muzzles.
This extra skin can easily hide trapped dirt and bacteria.
If not properly cleaned they can lead to sores and infections.
Dogs that suffer from brachycephaly also struggle with over heating.
When dogs overheat they can become very uncomfortable and ill.
If not cooled fast enough they can even die.
Another common problem with flat-faced dogs is teeth overcrowding.
This can lead to dental decay.
Due to the struggle to breathe, Chows are likely to breathe noisily and snore.
Insurance for flat faced dogs is expensive.
Some conditions are completely excluded from cover.
This is an alert dog. It requires a moderate level of exercise.
A steady paced walk is sufficient. Chows are not built to be runners.
Be careful to avoid any strenuous exercise.
Avoid walking your Chow Chow when it’s too hot or humid.
Spend most of your time together in training.
Chow Chow Training
They are very intelligent dogs. However, they can be stubborn animals.
Therefore, positive reinforcement is critical for success.
Chows are naturally wary of strangers.
Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended.
Chow Chows are more and more popular.
They currently rank in 74th place out of 194 breeds.
The good news is that Chows are serene, dignified dogs.
However, they have lots of health risks. This breed is therefore not for everyone.
Chow Chow Puppies
Chow Chows have serious health issues.
We would recommend choosing another breed.
One that has health issues you can test for.
Not structural issues to do with muzzle length.
Here are some other breeds you might like:
References and Further Reading
- CKC Brachycephalic Dogs Entering Chase Ability Events. Canadian Kennel Club, 2018.
- Cerundolo, et al. 2004. Treatment of canine Alopecia X with trilostane. Veterinary Dermatology.
- Do you have a brachycephalic dog? Oakhill Veterinary Centre, 2018
- Graham, et al. 2007. Etiopathologic Findings of Canine Hypothyroidism. Veterinary Clinics: Small Animal Practice.
- Kaiser,et al. 2004. Magnetic Resonance Measurements of the Deviation of the Angle of Force Generated by Contraction of the Quadriceps Muscle in Dogs with Congenital Patellar Luxation. Veterinary Surgery.
- Packer, et al. 2015. Impact of Facial Conformation on Canine Health: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. PLOS One.
- Riecks, et al. 2007. Surgical correction of brachycephalic syndrome in dogs: 62 cases (1991–2004). Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Witsberger,et al. 2008. Prevalence of and risk factors for hip dysplasia and cranial cruciate ligament deficiency in dogs. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
- Yuill, 2018. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs. VCA Hospitals.