The striking Chow Chow may look like a big, cuddly teddy bear, but this puffy dog is rather aloof with everyone except his closest family members. Despite their cool demeanor with strangers, the Chow Chow's furry, folded countenance and blue-black tongue draw lots of attention when they are out and about. The ancient breed is thought to have originated in Mongolia and Northern China and moved south through the rest of China with nomadic tribes. They are independent and believe they know what's best, so early training is crucial to raising a Chow that's well mannered. Patient obedience training is rewarded with a devoted dog who is wonderful company to his favorite people.
In China, Chow Chows are known as Songshi Quan. Their name is often abbreviated to one Chow.
Chow Chows have either rough or smooth double coats. The rough coat is coarse, dense and plentiful, with a woolly undercoat, and feathering on the tail and legs. The fur on the rough coated variety stands straight off the body and forms a full ruff that frames the head. The smooth coat is not as coarse as the rough coat and doesn't form a ruff or feathering on the legs and tail. The coat colors are red, black, blue, cinnamon, and cream, and may be solid or solid with lighter hues on the ruff, tail, and featherings.
Average Height: 17-20 inches
Average Weight: 45-70 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Chow Chow is the only breed of dog to feature a distinctive blue-black tongue and lips. The breed is sturdy and heavy-boned, though the females have a slightly more refined, feminine build. The Chow's large head features folds above the eyes that form the dog's distinctive 'snooty' scowl. The breed has a noble posture and head carriage. Their hind legs have little angulation at the hock, which gives them a short, somewhat stiff gait. Chows are smart, dignified dogs who usually bond with a single favorite person.
The Chow Chow is one of the oldest dog breeds, though it is unknown exactly how far back they date. They originated in ancient Northern China and Mongolia where they helped nomadic peoples on the hunt, possibly also serving as food when game was unavailable. As they moved South with the nomadic tribes, the breed eventually became popular as hunters and companions for Chinese nobility. One Tang dynasty emperor is said to have had 5,000 of the dogs in his royal kennel.
In the late 1800s, the breed came to England, where it was dubbed Chow Chow. At the time, the word 'chow chow' was used on ship's manifests to describe the miscellaneous curios imported from the far East. The fluffy dog was included among the chow chows and the name stuck. As she did with many other breeds, Queen Victoria brought attention to Chows when she took a fancy to them and included them in her collection of dogs.
Chow Chows were first shown in the US in the 1890s and were officially registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1903.
AKC Breed Category
Chow Chows are not quite as gruff as their scowls imply, but are independent of spirit and standoffish with strangers. They are not highly gregarious and would rather spend time with their favorite person than do just about anything else. They can be stubborn, and require an experienced owner with the time for patient, consistent training. Chow Chows should be socialized when they are young so they are relaxed around strangers.
Are Chow Chows Good with Kids? Chow Chows will tolerate children they have been raised with, but they won't suffer harsh treatment. Chows do best in homes with older children who know how to treat dogs and respect the breed's boundaries.
(Note: Every dog has a unique personality and distinct life experiences that affect his disposition. As a rule, adults should always supervise playdates between kids and their four-legged friends.)
Are Chow Chows Good with Other Pets? Chow Chows are best suited to homes where they are the only pet. They can be aggressive with other dogs, especially those of the same sex, and they may chase cats and other small animals.
Chow Chows are territorial and protective of their families.
Are Chow Chows Good Guard Dogs? Yes. Chow Chows are watchful and will alert the household to trespassers. They'll also go on the offensive if they sense their pack is under threat.
Chow Chows are mellow dogs who don't tend to be excitable or rambunctious.
- Without proper socialization, Chow Chows can be aggressive towards unfamiliar people and dogs.
- They are aloof with strangers.
- Though devoted to their families, they are not a cuddly, affectionate breed.
- They are stubborn and require consistent, calm training.
- They're best suited to experienced dog owners.
- They're known to bond with one person above all others.
- The Chow must be approached from the front because his facial wrinkles impede his peripheral vision.
- They're suited to apartment or city living if they can go outside frequently.
Chow Chows cherish time spent with their families and should live indoors with them. They adapt well to apartment living as long as they are given opportunities to exercise. Heavy shedding comes with the Chow Chow, so expect to pull out the vacuum cleaner frequently.
The Chow Chow's thick coat keeps him warm in cool weather, and he enjoys spending hours outside when it's cold. When it's hot and humid, however, his coat can make him overheat. In summer, exercise your Chow during the early morning or evening hours when it's cooler to prevent heat-related illnesses.
Chows don't require vigorous exercise, but they need an hour of moderate exercise each day. Several walks around the neighborhood and romps in the yard should keep them physically fit.
Chows don't have the stamina to play and cavort all day. They like short play sessions followed by periods of rest.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Chows are not ideal running partners because their thick coats can cause overheating, and their straight rear legs are not suited to distance jogging.
- Hiking Miles: A Chow will happily join you on mid-length, easy hikes—as long as it's in the wintertime.
Generally, this breed requires about 2 to 2¾ cups of good quality dry dog food each day, given in two feedings. This amount will vary, however, based upon your Chow's activity level and age. Discuss the optimal diet and quantity of food for your Chow Chow with his veterinarian.
The Chow Chow doesn't mind spending time alone, as long as he gets adequate exercise. If he must spend full days at home while you go to work, make sure a person your Chow knows (and likes) can come and take him for a walk.
Health and Grooming
Chow Chows require brushing about three days per week, whether they are rough or smooth coated. During seasonal shedding, daily brushing helps keep fur under control. It's important to wet the hair while brushing it so the fur doesn't break, as well as to brush down to the base of the fur to prevent matting that can lead to skin problems. Clean your Chow Chow's ears with a gentle, dog-friendly cleanser to prevent dirt buildup that can cause infections. Brush his teeth several times a week, and trim his nails every month or so to prevent cracking.
Common Health Issues
Chow Chows may be prone to some breed-specific health concerns, such as:
- Canine hip and elbow dysplasia
- Gastric torsion
- Elongated palate
- Eye disorders, including glaucoma and cataracts
- Patellar luxation
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Chow Chow by purchasing from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
Chow Chows are intelligent, but also highly independent and stubborn. Training at all levels—from housetraining to advanced obedience classes—takes time and patience. They will learn the rules of your home when training is consistent and positive. Socialization is particularly important with this breed, who can be aggressive with other dogs and gruff with strangers if these traits are tolerated.
Chow Chows generally prefer long walks with their favorite person over agility tests or dog sports. However, to keep your dog active and engaged, agility training is a good idea. Just keep the training sessions short and change them up, so your Chow doesn't get frustrated and refuse to participate altogether.
Sporting Dog Training
Chow Chows don't have the temperament or energy to be a quality hunting partner. Their facial wrinkles also give them poor peripheral vision, which means they won't be much help in the field.
No. Chow Chows shed heavily and, as a result, release pet dander into your home. Dander is the cause of most pet-related allergies. Are Chow Chows Mean?
The combination of aloofness and protectiveness has earned the Chow Chow an undeserved reputation for being mean. They are not mean, they are just reserved and guarded. They aren't interested in people who aren't members of their pack, and if they sense a threat, they will become aggressive.
Most Chows are not very interested in swimming, though they can learn to swim. Be aware that their heavy coats put them at a distinct disadvantage in the water by weighing them down. They must be watched closely when near any body of water, and may be best off just wading in the water.