The Chow Chow is a large lion-lookalike breed with a typical weight of 32 kg and a lifespan of 15 years. It is described as an independent, loyal, and docile breed. The Chow Chow is one of the oldest living breeds of dogs we have today. It has a sturdily built body, equal in height and length, a large head with small triangular erect ears, a very dense double coat, and a characteristic blue-black/purple tongue. It has a moderate length muzzle, large black nose (lighter coloured in cream coats), and dark oval-shaped eyes. The front legs of this breed are perfectly straight while the hind legs appear straight from the hocks downward. It has small, round, cat-like feet with strong and hard pads that cushion the dog from the ground. The tail is highly set and carried well over the back.
The coat of the Chow Chow can be smooth or rough and is particularly thick over the neck area that forms a distinctive ruff or mane. The rough-coated type has a profuse, dense, straight guard hairs with a soft woolly undercoat. The smooth-coated type has a short, dense double coat that is plush-like in nature. Coat colours range from whole coloured red, black, blue, fawn, or cream. Male Chow Chows stand between 48 – 56 cm at withers while females have an average height of 46 – 51 cm at withers.
The Chow Chow is originally from northern China where it is known as Songshi Quan or “puffy-lion dog”. It is known to be one of the oldest living canine breeds in existence, dating back between 2,000 to 3,000 years ago. Experts believe it either came originally from China or from Arctic Asia and then migrated to the high steppe regions of Mongolia or Siberia and then to China. It was originally used as a temple guard, as a hunting dog, a war dog, a sled dog and as a general purpose working dog in ancient Tibet, China and Mongolia as evidenced by archaeological artifacts dug dating from 150 BC. It was also used as an important food source in ancient China and its valuable pelt was utilized as trimmings on clothes. The first Chows arrived in Britain in 1780, brought by traders from China in clipper ships. In 1820, an English newspaper published a news article referring to an oriental dog imported from China with a thick red coat and a blue-black tongue. This report gained so much attention that interest in the breed soared. In 1828, the London Zoo imported some Chows from China which were called “the wild dogs of China”. Queen Victoria also had a Chow Chow in 1865. The breed was officially registered and recognised by the Kennel Club in 1894 and a breed club was established a year after.
The Chow is independent, loyal, and quiet. It has a very independent nature, often aloof towards strangers and happily alone in its own space. It is a loyal dog to its family which often displays affectionate behaviour but will never seek attention from total strangers. Most of the time, the Chow will become attached to a single member of the family, especially the one who feeds him, but is nevertheless loyal to the whole family and will typically accept visitors as long as they are welcomed to the house. It rarely barks but when it does, there will be a good reason for it, which makes it an excellent watchdog. It is also one of the cleanest dog breeds, often seen licking at his own feet, face, and fur similar to what a cat does when cleaning itself. In fact, it has a lot of cat-like mannerisms, including being afraid of water. The Chow absolutely hates to get its feet wet but will enjoy playing outside all day in good weather.
Training is a bit of a challenge. The Chow Chow is not the easiest breed to train in obedience owing to its independent nature. However, it should be taught basic obedience command which it can learn relatively easy. Lead training should also start early, preferably doing so in a secure environment such as the home yard before taking the puppy outside on the street. Do not allow the puppy to pull but rather train him to walk progressively by your side. Never let a dog off the lead until it is trained to return on call. Early exposure or socialisation to as many people, places, other animals and experiences as possible is also highly recommended. Taking the Chow to a busy area will get it used to people moving around. Training the dog to get used to the car is also a good method to bond with your dog. Take the dog on short trips but never left the dog alone inside the car.
Although the Chow has a dense double coat all over, it is not a heavy shedder. Regular brushing on a weekly basis is advised in order to help remove loose dead hair. Brushing carefully down to the skin will promote a healthy blood circulation. Any tangles should be removed, paying special attention to the long hairs behind the hindquarters, front legs, and on the chest. It absolutely hates water so when giving the Chow a bath, make sure to bathe him on a warm sunny day, bathe the dog outside on leash and let him shake its wet fur thoroughly before rubbing him dry with a towel. It has a soft, very dense undercoat which takes time to dry so make sure the dog does not get cold.
The Chow is a compact, heavily-built breed that should not be persuaded to jump onto furniture or go up and down the stairs as this might injure its legs, hips, or joints. It is known to suffer from the following health problems:
Exercise is very minimal while the Chow is still a puppy but the amount can be gradually increased as the dog gets older. A long daily walk is an ideal exercise for an adult Chow Chow, but it will also get enough physical activity by letting it roam freely in a well-secured yard. Do not take the dog for a walk during hot, humid weather or it will suffer severely. An ideal time is during the early morning or late in the evening when the weather is cool, if permissible. After taking the dog for an exercise, it is wise to let it drink enough water and let it rest quietly.
The Chow Chow is a loyal breed and is excellent with children. However, they should be thought to handle a Chow puppy properly. A puppy that needs a rest (and it needs a lot of it!) should be left alone. It will not grow up to be a stable breed if it’s always disturbed when it wants to sleep. Most Chows are infamous cat chasers and will stop at nothing to go after them. It has a strong herding instinct and may try to chase other small animals from time to time.