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Chow Chow

by PetBond Veterinary Surgeon

Chow Chow

Chow Chow Breed Traits

Extremely loyal companions and family pets
Very easy to housetrain because Chow Chows are extremely clean dogs by nature
They are natural watchdogs
Forms an especially strong tie with the person who takes the most care of them
They are very loyal and loving without being too demanding
They are highly intelligent and in the right hands easy to train and quick to learn new things

Factors to Consider

High maintenance on the grooming front
Chows are heavy shedders all year round and more especially in the spring and autumn
They are expensive to insure
Chow puppies are expensive to buy
Not to be trusted off the lead around other animals and dogs
Prone to suffer from joint issues and arthritis
Can be aggressive towards strangers if not well enough socialised from a young age
Chows have a high prey drive
Not the best choice for first time dog owners because they need to be handled and trained by people familiar with their specific needs

Breed Background

One of the most distinguishing features about the Chow Chow is their blackish/blue tongue, the other being their profuse, thick coat. There are two types of Chow with the first being a smooth-coated dog and the other being the rough-coated Chow. Often aloof and a little stand-offish, they are however, extremely loyal and devoted to their owners and more especially to one person in a household who takes the most care of them.

Over the years, the Chow Chow has become a popular choice with many people both here in Ireland and elsewhere in the world all thanks to their unusual looks and their loyal natures. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because Chows need to be well trained and handled by people who are familiar with this type of dog, or a Chow might just get the upper hand and start exhibiting a more dominant side to their nature.

 

Where & When Did the Chow Chow Originate?

Data detects the Chow Chow was around in China back in the 11th Century BC when at the time they were described as dog with blue tongues that were heavily built, harsh coats and straight hind legs. With this said, some breed enthusiasts believe the breed did not originate China at all and that it was the Monguls who introduced them to the country when they invaded China some 3000 years ago. It was only later that the Chow founds its way to the monasteries of Tibet where interestingly, some monasteries still breed blue Chow Chows.

With this said, some people believe it was the Tartars who bought dogs that looked like lions and which had black tongues back from China thousands of years before the birth of Christ. There is also a lot of evidence of Chows in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD).

There is some evidence of very similar dogs existing in the Arctic Circle where they were taken through Mongolia and Siberia to finally arrive in China. It is thought that breeds like the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond and the Pomeranian are in the Chow’s ancestors. There is some evidence of a Chinese Emperor owning around two thousand Chow type dogs in the 7th century AD which he used as hunting dogs too.

The breed has always been thought of as a “hunting” dog and was used to track down larger prey like wolves and leopards. As far back as the seventh Century BC, the Chow was not only used to hunt, but to guard and herd livestock too. Chows also boast superb tracking skills and are still used in China for this purpose. During the winter months, these powerful, strong-willed dogs were also used to pull sleds. Chows were and are still highly prized in China for their fur and many were reared just for this purpose. Their meat is also still considered a delicacy in remote parts of the country.

It was not only the 18th Century that the Chow first appeared in Europe when dogs were brought back from China on clipper ships although beforehand, the breed had remained a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world for a long time because China had closed its borders right up until the 1800s. The Chow did not appear in the UK until quite a bit later when a few dogs were kept at the London Zoological Gardens. Queen Victoria received a Chow Chow as a gift in 1865. However, it was the Marchioness of Huntley who really promoted the breed in the UK during the late 1800’s and it was Lady Faudel Philips who was to become the leading breeder as well as exhibitor right up until the end of the 1800’s. It was in 1895 that the Chow Chow Club was founded in the UK.

In more recent times, Chow Chows have become popular pets with movie stars during the “roaring twenties” and today they remain high on the list of preferred companion dogs with people the world over including here in Ireland.

Did you know…..

Is the Chow Chow a vulnerable breed? No, they are one of the most popular breeds in Ireland and elsewhere in the world
Queen Victoria received a Chow Chow as a gift in 1865
The Chow is the only other dog other than the Shar Pei to have a blue tongue
It is thought that the emperor of China in the 7th Century owned 2500 Chow dogs that he used for hunting

What should a Chow Chow look like?

Height at the withers: Males 43 – 51 cm, Females 43 – 51 cm

Average weight: Males 25 – 32 kg, Females 20 – 27 kg

The Chow is a large dog that boasts some unique physical traits, one of which is the fact they have blackish/blue tongues and the other being they have very thick, dense coats. They have large heads that does not have a very noticeable stop, their muzzle is moderately long and their nose is wide and large being black in colour except dogs that boast near white or cream coats where their noses are much lighter. Chows with a fawn or blue coat should have black noses, but self-coloured is allowed as a breed standard.

Their eyes are oval shaped and dark, but dogs with blue or fawn coats have eyes that match their colouring. A Chow Chow’s ears are small, slightly rounded at the tips and very thick. Dogs carry them upright and they are set wide apart on their head, tilting forward over their eyes. The way a Chow’s ears stand up on a dog’s head gives them the appearance of always scowling which is another unique physical trait that makes these dogs stand out in a crowd.

They have strong mouths with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have bluish/black tongues and in fawn or blue coated dogs, their gums tend to be various lighter shades with cream and white dogs having the lightest coloured gums of them all. Chows have very strong necks which they hold slightly arched giving them their proud and aloof look.

Their shoulders are well developed, muscular and sloping with dogs boasting straight front legs with lots of bone. Chows are deep chested dogs that have a well sprung ribcage, powerful loins and a strong, level back. Their hindquarters are powerful with well-muscled first and second thighs. They have very cat-like feet being small and round with dogs standing well up on their toes. A Chow’s tail is set high which dogs carry them well over their backs.

When it comes to their coat, Chow Chows can either have smooth or rough coats which are as follows:

Rough-coated dogs have thick, dense straight hair that stands well off from their body. Their outer coat is coarse, but their undercoat is woolly and much softer. Dogs have much thicker hair around their necks which forms a lion-like mane and they boast breeches on the back of their thighs which adds to their overall appeal and impressive good looks.

Smooth-coated dogs have a shorter double coat with dense, straight hair that stands upright and which is very plush to the touch.

The accepted colours for Kennel Club registration for the Chow are as follows:

Black
Blue
Cream
Fawn
Red
Self-red
Shaded Red
White

How should a Chow Chow move?

When Chow Chows move, they have quite a short stride and their back feet do not come very high off the ground so it looks like a dog is skimming it. The result gives the impression of a pendulum-like gait when a dog is seen in profile. Their front and back legs move in parallel motion remaining very straight when they move.

What Do the Kennel Club look for?

The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the Chow breed profile and would judge any faults on how much they affect a dog’s overall health and well-being as well as their ability to perform.

Male Chows should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that some Chow Chows can be a little taller or shorter as well as slightly heavier or lighter than set out in their Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.

Does the Chow Chow Have a Good Temperament?

Chow Chows are known to be loyal, aloof and dignified dogs that are quite independent by nature. They are often described as being more cat-like than dog and although some people say they form a strong tie with just one person in a household which is typically the person who takes the most care of them, they a form strong bonds with the entire family too. They are generally wary of strangers and people they don’t know, but with time and patience and once they get to know someone, they accept being around them with no trouble at all.

Chows are very intelligent dogs, but they can be strong-willed when the mood takes them too. Their training and socialisation must start early for them to become well-rounded, obedient characters. They are known to have a stubborn streak and if allowed, they will show a more dominant side to their character which is something to be avoided at all costs. They need to be given the right sort of direction from a young age and then throughout their lives so they understand their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household.

With this said, Chows form very strong bonds with one person although they are always affectionate and friendly towards everyone in a household. They are not a good choice for first time owners because they need to be handled and trained correctly by someone who is familiar with this type of strong-willed, intelligent dog. They are not a good choice for people who cannot give their dogs the time they need to be well-rounded characters. Because they form such a strong bond with one owner, the Chow can suffer from separation anxiety which can be a real problem for people who spend all day out at work leaving their dogs on their own for long periods of time.

Chows are instinctively suspicious of strangers and people they don’t know, they also tend to be very protective of their family and their property which means they are very quick to let an owner know when strangers are about. They are however, very good around children as long as they have grown up with them, making Chows a good choice for families who are familiar with this type of intelligent dog and who know how to handle them.

It’s in a Chow’s nature to chase anything that moves which means great care has to be taken when walking a dog through the countryside or park where livestock may be around. The one thing Chows are not keen on chasing is anything an owner throws for them which is something these dogs are not interesting in doing whatsoever.

Are they a good choice for first time owners?

Chows are not the best choice for first time dog owners because they are better suited to people who are familiar with their specific needs. Chows grow up to be powerful, strong minded adult dogs and their handling and training must start early and it must be consistent throughout a dog’s life so they understand their place in the pack and just what is expected of them.

What about prey drive?

Chows are renowned for their hunting skills even in a domestic environment and therefore boast having an extremely high prey drive. As such, care should always be taken when walking a Chow off the lead anywhere near livestock or wild animals just in case they decide to give chase.

Will a Chow Chow be Playful?

Chows are playful in their own special way, it just takes them longer to respond to things. Throwing a toy for a Chow to retrieve would be a pointless exercise because most dogs would just look at their owners with a look of “you threw, you go and get it”.

What about adaptability?

Chows are better suited to people who have secure back gardens where dogs can roam whenever possible and where they can express themselves as they should. As such, a Chow is not that adaptable to apartment living and best suited to living in a house with garden either in the town or country.

Will a Chow suffer From separation anxiety?

Chows form strong ties with their families and are never very happy when left on their own for any great length of time which often sees these dogs suffering from separation anxiety. As such, they are better suited to households where one person usually stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never left on their own for too long which could see a dog being destructive around the home as they way of relieving their stress.

Will a Chow Chow Bark Too Much?

A Chow will only bark when necessary and they are not known to be “barkers” just for the sake of it. They are always quick to let an owner know when someone is around and when they don’t like something that’s going on in their environment.

Do Chows like swimming?

Most Chows are not particularly fond of water with some dogs not even liking to get their feet wet or go out for a walk when it is raining. The fact they have such heavy dense coats means that when a Chow gets wet or goes in the water, the weight of their coat alone might just pull them down. As such care should always be taken when walking a Chow off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog falls in and needs rescuing.

Are Chows good watchdogs?

Chows are excellent watchdogs which is something that is deeply embedded in their psyche, having been bred to guard for centuries.

Is a Chow Chow easy to train?

The Chow is an intelligent dog, but they do have a stubborn streak in them which means without the right sort of handling and training, these dogs can be hard to train. However, in the right hands and given the right sort of direction, the Chow is relatively easy when it comes to teaching them the rules and how to behave. The thing to bear in mind, is that Chows need to know why they are doing something and will not do anything they think is not necessary as such a lot of patience and understanding is needed when handling and managing a Chow.

Because the breed is known to be extremely clean, Chows are easy to housetrain, but again without the right sort of handling and enough early socialisation, these dogs can become unmanageable which is why they are not the best choice for first time owners and why they are better suited to people who understand their needs and have the time to dedicate to a loyal, intelligent albeit sometimes stubborn canine companion.

Chow puppies must be taught the ground rules right from the word go so they understand what their owners expect of them. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:

Come
Sit
Stay
Quiet
Leave it
Down
Bed

Will a Chow Chow Be Good With Children and Other Pets?

The Chow is known to be good around children although they do tend to become very protective of them. With this said, they are large dogs and therefore any interaction between the kids and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay calm and no children get knocked over albeit accidentally. The other thing to bear in mind is that Chows can be a little snappy if they feel threatened or provoked which can happen when children get too boisterous around them.

Care needs to be taken when a Chow meets any dogs they don’t already know and the same can be said of any pets in a household. Although they are rarely the ones to start a fight, a Chow will think nothing of defending themselves if they feel threatened by another dog in any way.

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