With their striking bear-like appearance, chow chows are unmistakable. They are loyal pets which build strong bonds with their owners but are wary of strangers. If not properly trained, they may be aggressive towards both people and other dogs. Chows are high maintenance and expensive to keep. Potential owners should consider whether they posses the skills to train these dogs correctly.
Which breed group is the Chow chow in?
Breed group: Utility
Chow chow breed history
Research suggest that the chow chow was present in China as early as the 11th century but may not have originated there. Some believe that these dogs were taken to China from Mongolia, others that it was the Tartars who introduced the breed. The chow chow’s ancestors probably included the samoyed, Norwegian elkhound, Keeshond and the Pomeranian.
Chow chows were hunting dogs and there is evidence that they were also used to guard livestock. The breed arrived in Europe in the 18th century via trading ships. Queen Victoria received a chow chow as a gift in 1865 but it was the Marchioness of Huntley who began to promote the breed in this country. It acquired its unusual name as miscellaneous cargo on ships was referred to as chow chow and when the dogs were imported by merchants, the term stuck.
Chow chow breed characteristics
These large dogs boast unique characteristics including a blackish tongue and thick coat which gives them a bear-like look. They have large heads, moderately long muzzles and wide noses. Their oval eyes are dark and their ears are small, slightly rounded and thick. Ears are set wide apart and carried upright but tilted over the dogs’ eyes. This creates the appearance of scowling and so imbues chow chows with a somewhat gruff look.
Chow chows are muscular canines with sloping shoulders and deep chests. Their cat like feet are small and round. Chows carry their tails over their backs and their coats may be either smooth or rough. Rough-coated chows have very thick and dense hair that stands off the body. Their outer coats are coarse while their undercoats are softer. Thicker hair around the neck forms a mane. Smooth-coated dogs have shorter double coats with dense, straight hair that stands upright and which feels wonderfully plush to the touch. Coats may be a variety of colours including black, blue, cream, fawn, red and white.
Aloof and dignified, chow chows are nonetheless generally loyal dogs which form strong bonds with their families. They can be wary of strangers, boast impressive intelligence but can be aggressive. These dogs require a firm hand during training to prevent a tendency to dominance becoming established. They suffer from separation anxiety and are good watchdogs. The strong prey drives of chow chows will see them attempt to chase anything that moves.
- Lifespan: 9-15 years
- Height: up to 51cm
- Weight: up to 32kg
- Dense coats
- Distinctive mane
- Dark tongues
- Scowling appearance
- Dark oval eyes
- Ears flop over eyes
- Wary of strangers
- Suffer from separation anxiety
- Strong prey drive
- Good watchdogs
- Tendency to dominate
- Can be aggressive
Health issues with the chow chow
Chow chows are known to be prone to several health conditions as follows:
- Entropion and other eye problems
- Cruciate ligament issues
- Addison's disease
- Cushing's disease
- Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency (E. P. I)
- Phemghigus foliaceus (PF)
- VHK-like syndrome or Uveo Dermatological UV syndrome
- Breathing issues
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Alopecia X
What is the chow chow bred for?
Chow chows were bred as hunting dogs and later to guard livestock.
What sort of owners does the chow chow suit?
Chows chows are very high maintenance on the grooming front and suffer from separation anxiety. They require owners who have the time and patience to devote to brushing their impressive coats and entertaining their dog. Chows shed copiously throughout the year and this could be problematic for house proud owners. These dogs are expensive to insure and are known to suffer from issues with their joints so are not good choices for those with small budgets. They should not be taken on by inexperienced owners as they require effective training to eliminate dominating tendencies and aggressive behaviour. They cannot be trusted off lead due to their strong prey drives and possible aggression towards other dogs. This makes them unsuitable for those who enjoy roaming in the countryside or spending time on beaches.