The Chow Chow is a beautiful breed of dog, a loving and respectful companion that tends to bond more closely with one or two family members rather than the entire family. Fiercely protective of its master and property, the Chow Chow can be very intimidating indeed to those with whom he/she is not familiar considering its typically "scowling" expression. Regardless of this, the breed has enjoyed popularity as a pet for thousands of years, and continues today. Often said to have the personality of a cat, as it can be somewhat aloof and independent, the Chow Chow is referred to as SongshiQuan in China, which means "puffy-lion dog." This is easy to understand, given the appearance of the "ruff" or mane of thick, dense hair around the neck area.
The history of the Chow Chow is a bit uncertain, since authorities know the breed is at least 2,000 years old, and perhaps much older. It is believed that the breed originated as a result of crossing the Samoyed and the Mastiff of Tibet. The Samoyed is a breed that originated in the northern areas of Siberia. However, this theory has been refuted because of the presence of a blue-black tongue, a trait which seems to indicate that the Chow Chow's real ancestors are the Keeshond, Pomeranian and Norwegian Elkhound . Other theories contend that the breed originated in the arid steppes of northern China/Mongolia, and is actually a primitive descendant of the wolf.
In the early years, the Chow Chow functioned as a sporting dog; this is attributed to the fact that the breed is capable of great speed and stamina, and is a clever hunter with great scenting powers. A hunting dog depicted in a bas-relief in China from 150 BCE that appears to be very friendly with children closely resembles the Chow Chow. During the Roaring Twenties in the United States, the breed was an extremely popular pet among the rich and famous; in fact, Timmy was a black Chow owned by President Calvin Coolidge and his wife.
A dog of medium size, the Chow Chow is squarely built and heavily boned, with solid muscles that lend to the breeds' characteristic working appearance. Typically colored cinnamon, black, red, blue or cream, its heavy, thick coat reflects the breed’s ability to easily endure extremely cold climates. In fact, the Chow Chow has a coat that is double-layered, and may be smooth or coarse in texture and appearance. The breed's ears are wide-set and triangular, resting on a skull that is small, flat, and short. Almond-shaped eyes are wide set, usually dark brown and medium in size, and may be deeply set as well.
Perhaps the most notable feature of a Chow's appearance is the blue-black tongue inside a black mouth. A curly tail that adorns its back is another distinguishing feature of the Chow Chow. When grown, most Chow Chows will weigh between 45 to 70 lbs. and reach heights of about 18" to 20".
Generally speaking, the Chow Chow makes a good pet particularly for children and an excellent family dog. While it is cautious and protective in the presence of strangers, the breed is not usually aggressive. Families with other pets may find that the Chow Chow is not a good mix, as the breed works hard to dominate other dogs. However, depending upon socialization and exposure to other pets while the dog is very young, that behavior may be controlled. This breed should begin obedience training early on to ensure that when grown, it is a well-adjusted pet. Because the breed is not overly active, the Chow Chow makes a great apartment dog as long as he is given a daily walk or some form of physical activity on a daily basis.
Health The Chow Chow breed is prone to several health conditions including canine hip and elbow dysplasia, cataracts, glaucoma, distichiasis, gastric torsion, diabetes mellitus and lymphoma. In addition, the breed is a high risk for Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), a condition in which cell surface molecules mediate interactions of white blood cells with other body cells.
Because of the breed's origination from cold climates, it is important that owners watch carefully for signs of over-heating, particularly those living in areas of the U.S. where climates are generally hot and humid.
It is no surprise that the Chow Chow needs extensive grooming, given its thick, dense coat. The breed sheds heavily, and requires regular brushing to remove loose hair and prevent knots. A steeltoothed comb should be used to brush the coat, with special attention paid to areas that are particularly prone to "knotting" or tangling such as beneath legs and behind the ears.
Bathing should only be undertaken about 3 to 4 times per year, as bathing too frequently will remove the natural oils of the coat, leaving it soft instead of a bit coarse to the touch, which is natural for the breed.
Well-known Chow Chow Owners
Martha Stewart, Drew Barrymore, Janet Jackson and Sigmund Freud are a few well-known celebrities who have enjoyed Chow Chows as pets over the years.
Chow Chows as Pets
If you are considering a Chow as a pet for yourself or your family, it is generally a good choice. Keep in mind that they can be dominant, and that it is important that you socialize your puppy at a young age, particularly if he/she will be around other pets. Chow Chow's are generally good with children, although protective of family/property. Many Chow Chow's tend to bond more closely with one or two members of the family as well, so keep that in mind when choosing a family pet.
Group Classification: The Chow is categorized in the Northern and Non-Sporting groups.
Country of Origin: N/A
Date of Origin: N/A
Shedding: Heavy Shed
Body Size: N/A
Weight M: 45-70 pounds
Height M: 18-22 inches
Weight F: 45-70 pounds
Height F: 18-22 inches
Litter Size: 5 puppies
Life Expectancy: 12-15 years
Recognized By: CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR
While the Chow Chow is known to come in solid red, cinnamon and cream, black or blue, it can also be found in tan, gray and sometimes even white.
The Chow is said to do well in apartment sized living spaces with sufficient exercise but will likely do much better with a small yard in which to patrol his or her perimeter. Chows should not be left in direct sunlight in the heat of summer. They will need an area of extensive shade and plenty of cool water.