Popularized and adored for their unique facial structures and compact bodies, Chow Chows have delighted people for years. But did you know that they are one of the oldest dog breeds around?
The Chow Chow is a popular dog breed whose origin traces all the way back to ancient China. Back in the day, these dignified dogs could often be seen accompanying Chinese noblemen. Owners continue to adore them today for their ever-lasting loyalty and serene personalities.
But before you adopt or purchase a Chow Chow for yourself, it is important to read up on the breed to ensure that the Chow Chow is the right fit for your living situation and lifestyle.
Luckily for you, this comprehensive Chow Chow dog breed information tells you everything you need to know about the breed, including all of its fun quirks!
Chow Chows are one of the most ancient dog breeds still around today and were often depicted in pottery and sculptures dating from the Han Chinese Dynasty around 206 A.D. to 22 A.D.
Some historians even argue that the breed traces back even further from this time period, and may have originated in the Arctic Circle before arriving in Mongolia, Siberia, and China.
During the breed’s early days, Tibetan monasteries raised blue-coated Chow Chows for protection, hunting, and herding.
Under the T’ang Dynasty, Emperor Ling made sure his Chow Chows were fed only the best rice and meat by his faithful army of servants. They were so beloved that they had a military escort and were even awarded high courtly titles and decorations.
During the late 15th century, the Chow Chow began to gain recognition in the Western hemisphere after sailors and merchants from the East India Company brought them back home with them.
During the early 1900s, Chow Chows were beginning to be bred and entered into competitions and shows. However, it wasn’t until the 1920’s when the Chow Chow became more recognized in the United States and its popularity began to rise steadily.
To this day, more and more people are catching on about this wonderful breed.
Are Chow Chows Good Family Dogs?
Chow Chows are not the best family dogs.
That being said, there are many, many families who would like to punch me in the face for saying that! So here’s why Chows don’t make the best family dogs, and you can decide for yourself, based on your family:
Chow Chows tend to bond with one or two persons only. They also tend to be territorial of their space, which can be an issue for families with small children. Children rarely understand their own “personal bubble” at a young age…let alone a dog’s.
That being said, Chows are very intelligent and possess a natural instinct to protect their loved ones.
Chow Chows are known to be loyal and quiet dogs, BUT they can also be headstrong, stubborn, and aggressive.
Because you are choosing a dog that will hopefully become a cherished member of the family, it is important to make sure you are choosing one that is compatible with both your lifestyle and unique interests.
At the end of the day, any dog breed’s ability to fit in well with a family depends on the owner’s preparedness (that’s you!) and how well it was trained and socialized from an early age.
Keep reading to find out how to prepare for a Chow Chow.
Chow Chows are medium-sized dogs that should weigh somewhere in the range of 44 – 60 pounds.
Chows require a nourishing diet (i.e., NOT Wal-Mart brand dog food!), a regular grooming schedule, and a low-maintenance exercise routine in order to remain happy and healthy.
Because they are relatively inactive, they don’t require a rigorous amount of exercise per day.
Chow Chows need to consume between 989 and 1,272 calories per day, depending on their size and age.
They can be fed either once or twice a day. Most owners, however, choose to feed their Chow Chows twice a day. No matter which option you choose, make sure you are feeding your Chow Chow according to a consistent schedule.
At least 10% of their diet should be composed of protein. However, they are protein-sensitive animals. This means that they cannot properly digest large amounts of protein, and may develop skin problems as a result.
When researching dog foods, make sure you find one that lists a meat source, such as chicken or beef, as one of its five primary ingredients. While it is okay if a product has meat byproducts in it, the byproducts should not contain a large amount of digestible protein or make up a large portion of the food.
Fats and carbohydrates are also important components of a healthy diet, as they help maintain a healthy coat and breakdown glucose, respectively.
Chow Chows are adored for their thick, lionlike double coats that are composed of a rough undercoat and either a rough or smooth topcoat.
In order to help them maintain their polished appearance, you need to commit to putting in around several hours of grooming time at least once a week.
Make sure you are equipped with the right grooming tools. There are a variety of different brushes on the market, including the:
- Bristle Brush
- Wire Pin Brush
- Slicker Brush
The slicker brush is a critical tool to keep in your arsenal, as it is effective in detangling and getting rid of mats in your Chow Chow’s thick coat. The wire pin brush is also a good tool for medium-to-longhaired breeds like the Chow Chow.
Along with brushing their fur, remember to clean their ears, cut their nails, and brush their teeth. If you aren’t comfortable with doing these tasks yourself, make sure you take your Chow Chow into a professional groomer to do them instead.
We recommend bathing your Chow Chow every six weeks. If your dog has a smooth topcoat, it will not need to be bathed as frequently as one with a rough undercoat.
Chow Chows are not high-energy dogs, but they do need to be exercised daily for around 30 minutes to an hour.
Casual walks or time spent playing games such as frisbee or catch are fun and easy ways to help keep your Chow in tip-top shape.
A healthy dog is a happy dog, after all!
Because of their thick coats, it is important to avoid exercising your Chow Chow outside during hot weather.
Chow Chows are known to be quick learners when it comes to housetraining.
When it comes to other types of training (such as obedience or trick training), they can be stubborn and tough to deal with.
Unlike many dog breeds, Chow Chows do not live to please their owners.
Inexperienced owners may grow frustrated with their Chow Chows while attempting to train them. Patience and plenty of positive reinforcement are vital for success (make sure you have plenty of treats on you!).
Physical punishment and yelling will not get you anywhere, and will likely damage your relationship with your Chow Chow.
Chow Chow Health Issues
The average Chow Chow lifespan is 9-15 years. Chow Chows are known to experience fewer health problems than other, larger breeds. However, there are still some diseases that the Chow Chow has a genetic predisposition to. As a result, some owners create a preventative health plan that will help them monitor, and even prevent, risks for these diseases.
Reputable Chow Chow breeders will be open about any health problems that have occurred in their lines. We don’t recommend buying Chow Chow puppies from pet stores.
Health problems that are commonly associated with Chows include:
- Hip dysplasia — a condition that prevents the hip joints from functioning properly
- Elbow dysplasia — a condition that occurs when the elbow experiences developmental abnormalities
- Patellar luxation — the dislocation of the kneecap
- Autoimmune thyroiditis — a disease that affects a dog’s ability to control its metabolism
- Cataracts — a clouding of the normally clear areas on eye lens
- Distichiasis — the growth of extra hair in the eyelash area
- Glaucoma — a disease that causes inadequate fluid drainage from the eye
- Stomach cancer
- Gastric torsion — also known as bloat, gastric torsion causes a dog’s stomach to dilate and then rotate around its axis
Whether you purchase a young Chow Chow from a breeder or adopt an adult from a shelter, you will want to bring it to the veterinarian as soon as you can.
Should your vet spot any worrying symptoms or potential health problems in your Chow Chow, he or she can work with you to adopt a regime that will help you avoid health issues in the future.
Things to Know About Chow Chows
1. The #1 Thing to Know About Chow Chows: They Were Originally Employed as Working Dogs
In his early days, Chow Chows were employed for a variety of tasks. Their Chinese owners would use them for guarding, hunting, and pulling sleds.
Some historians believe that Chow Chows were also used as war dogs during the Tang dynasty.
There are records that show that Chow Chows were sometimes bred for human consumption.
2. The Term “Chow Chow” is Not Chinese
In China, Chow Chows are referred to as “songshi quan,” which translates to “puffy-lion dog.”
During the 18th century, “Chow Chow” was simply used to label anything that came from the East. It could describe everything from dolls to precious porcelain items.
Because the dogs would usually travel along with these goods, merchants would collectively label them all as “Chow Chows.”
3. Their Coats Come in Five Different Colors
Chow Chows come in a variety of gorgeous, head-turning colors. The official coat colors for the Chow Chow include:
4. Martha Stewart Had a Chow Chow
Martha Stewart has owned a wide array of pets over the years, including Chow Chows.
Many of them are champion show dogs. In fact, her Chow Chow Genghis Khan II won Best in Breed at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2012.
You’ve likely seen him on her instagram once or twice, as she loves showing him off. Her other Chow Chows were Genghis Khan’s grandfather, Paw Paw, Max, and Zu Zu.
5. They are Known to be Standoffish Around Strangers
Chow Chows are known to be aloof, and even aggressive toward strangers and other dogs.
Some insurance companies even refuse to cover Chow Chow owners because of this. Their somewhat rude behavior can be attributed to their history as guard dogs.
If you want to add additional pets to the household, you will need to socialize your Chow Chow from an early age to avoid issues.
In general, you will want to conduct proper training and socialization with your Chow Chow to prevent dangerous situations from occurring.
Chow Chows also have a propensity toward barking, so you will need to address that behavior during the early stages of training as well.
6. They Have Blue Tongues
Chow Chows are born with pink tongues that gradually turn to a blue-black color as they age.
So if you spot a Chow Chow that has a pink tongue, that means that it is either a mixed breed or still a puppy.
Blue dog tongue fun facts:
- Because of their unique blue and black tongues, Chow Chows were thought to have the ability to ward off evil spirits.
- The Shar-Pei is the only other dog breed that has this unique tongue coloring.
7. They Used to Be Put on Display at the London Zoo
Chow Chows arrived in England in 1880. Fans called the breed the “Wild Dog of China”, and were able to visit and admire them at the London Zoo, which labeled them “Black-Mouthed Chinese Dogs”.
After the breed grew in popularity, Queen Victoria grew interested in them and even adopted some as pets.
There are varied accounts regarding the type of lives the Queen’s Chow Chows lived. Some say that the Queen took them everywhere she went, while others claim that they were locked inside a cage at Windsor for most of their lives.
8. Chow Chows are Bad at Swimming
Due to their heavy fur, Chow Chows do not do well in water.
When wet, the Chow Chow’s wooly undercoat becomes waterlogged and heavy, making it difficult for him to stay afloat. His deep chest and short legs are not optimized for swimming either.
As a result, your Chow Chow will likely experience great difficulties if he is coerced into swimming in deep water.
9. Sigmund Freud Had a Chow Chow
Sigmund Freud’s beloved Chow Chow Jofi would frequently sit in on his sessions.
Due to his ability to calm children and help Freud analyze his patients, he was an especially helpful partner. Using Jofi, Freud could determine whether or not his patients were feeling nervous. Jofi would only approach the calm ones.
Freud once wrote:
“Dogs love their friends and bite their enemies, quite unlike people, who are incapable of pure love and always have to mix love and hate in their object relations.”
– Sigmund Freud
10. Their Back Legs are Completely Straight
If you have ever seen a Chow Chow strolling on a walk with their owner, you may have noticed them move in a unique, stilted gait.
This is because their back legs are completely straight!
It is important to keep an eye on your Chow Chow while walking or exercising it, as the tight ligaments in their hind legs make them easily susceptible to injury.
11. A Chow Chow Inspired a Scene from “Lady and the Tramp”
During the early days of his marriage, Walt Disney gave his wife Lillian a Chow Chow as a Christmas present.
The puppy was hidden inside a hatbox as a surprise. This moment ended up inspiring the scene in “Lady and the Tramp” when Jim Dear gives his wife Darling a Cocker Spaniel named Lady after placing her inside a hatbox.
12. Households With Toddlers or Small Children May Want to Wait Before Getting a Chow Chow
If you have young children, you might want to wait a little before getting a Chow Chow.
Small, screaming children running about may trigger your Chow Chow’s aggressive instincts. Those who attempt to manhandle the Chow Chow may be on the receiving end of a painful bite.
This is why it is so important to not only socialize your Chow Chow starting from a young age to prevent problems like these from arising, but to also teach young children how to respectfully handle and play with animals.
13. Many People Compare Their Personalities to Cats
Mysterious and aloof are two popular terms used to describe both Chow Chows and cats.
Their personalities may not be for everyone, but it is clear that their owners wouldn’t want any other companion.
Unlike other companion animals, Chow Chows and cats simply enjoy their independence and living their lives on their own terms. But for the right owner, their bonds of loyalty often prove to be strong and lasting.
14. They Are a Member of the AKC’s Non-Sporting Group
Unlike the six other groups organized by the AKC, the non-sporting group is comprised of a diverse array of breeds, the Chow Chow being among them.
Their most common attributes are the fact that they have wet noses and four legs. ;-)
Other than that, they differ widely in appearance, size, and even coat length.
Chow Chow FAQ
Chow Chows do not fit the traditional definition of a good family dog. Unlike most dog breeds, Chows do not live to please their owners. Instead, they are aloof, independent, and quiet – which are personalities often associated with cats.
Chow Chows are considered one of the most expensive dog breeds to buy. You can expect to pay $1,000 – $10,000 for a Chow Chow puppy, depending on his lineage. But don’t forget: a dog doesn’t stop costing money after you bring it home!
Chow Chows tend to be more naturally aggressive than other dog breeds. They can be territorial and protective of their loved ones.