The Chow Chow may look like a big cuddly bear, but they have a fearsome history. In this Dog Breed Corner, we’re going to explore the personality, health, and grooming needs of this fluffy pooch. Are you looking for a Chow expert to care for your furry friend? Mad Paws has Pet Sitters in Sydney, Perth, Darwin, and everywhere in between!
Quick Facts ✔
Height – 46 – 56cm
Lifespan – 10 – 1 years
Country of origin – China
Breed type – Scent Hound
- Experienced Dog Owners
- Apartment living
- Owners who want an independent dog
Breed History ♜
The Chow Chow has quite an impressive history. There are paintings of this dog on ancient artifacts in Northern China, and historians suggest that this dog might be as old as the Han Dynasty of 206AD! The genetic evidence says that the Chow Chow may be even older than that and make up part of the original lineage of dogs.
This far-reaching history begs the question—what have they been doing all this time?
According to historical records, Chows were used for a variety of different purposes. They may have started out as popular hunting dogs for nomadic groups in the northern regions, where they would have brushed shoulders with another ancient pooch, the Siberian Husky.
Another theory posits that this breed started out in the agricultural regions in the South of China. There, they would have taken on the important jobs of driving herds, pulling carts, and guarding the homestead.
While the exact origins of the breed are in dispute, their eventual transition into high class society is well-documented. That’s thanks to the era of the Tang Dynasty which lasted between 618 and 907 C.E. During this time, often called the Golden Age of China, emperors started to breed Chow Chows for prestige. These lucky pups ate like royalty and enjoyed an entourage of caretakers. In turn, they were tasked with guarding the grounds and generally looking impressive—and expensive!—when guests came over.
At the height of this prosperous time, it’s rumoured that emperors could own as many as 5,000 Chow Chows at a time. Given how well these doggos were kept, we can imagine what a huge show of wealth these dogs really were.
The Tang Dynasty would eventually end, and with it, the Chow’s excessively lavish lifestyle. But these dogs wouldn’t go out of favour completely. Over centuries, they would continue to be owned by the wealthiest families in China.
And, these dogs would also enter into the religious sphere. Monasteries took a special interest in the breed, using them for protection and farming. You might notice that the impressive lion statues outside many temples actually resemble Chow Chows. These pups were probably easier for an artist to access than the real thing!
The Chow Chow made their way to the rest of the world on English trade ships in the late 1700s. The breed was instantly popular, but became even more so when Queen Victoria took an interest in them—or at least, was given some as a gift . Though she loved dogs, she might have been a bit overwhelmed by this giant one—her Chows were given the royal treatment, but lived in large cages in Windsor Palace.
Official Chow Chow clubs were established in the UK by the end of the 19th century. And by 1903, the breed had gained recognition by the American Kennel Club.
Today, after a relaxation of the anti-dog legacy of the early days of Communism, Chow Chows are rising in popularity in their home country. And all over the world, they’re quite popular with celebrities and everyday families, alike.
Chow Chow Personality Traits ★
Proud, aloof, and somewhat intimidating, it’s easy to see this breed’s past as an elite guard dog in the present day Chow. People frequently compare the Chow Chow to cats, and it doesn’t take long to figure out why. Chows can be a bit standoffish and independent. They’re not warm towards strangers or houseguests, and like cats, can be quite territorial. Some Chow Chows will show aggression with other dogs, so early socialisation is very important.
And, while this teddy-bear looking dog attracts the attention of strangers and children, they don’t usually appreciate being touched by people outside of their family group. Even with the people they know, they’re not big cuddlers and can develop an aversion to any kind of physical affection or handling. It’s helpful to get them used to human handling from a very early age, but Owners of this breed may still need to warn strangers to keep their distance.
But, just because they don’t like physical affection doesn’t mean that this dog is totally independent. In fact, they don’t enjoy long stretches of time alone, and would rather be in the presence of their family members. If you’re going to be out of town, it’s a good idea to arrange a trusted Dog Sitter to provide them with some company. With a proper meet & greet, your Chow will enjoy having someone around.
And, while you may not be able to read it in their facial expressions, these doggos are extremely loyal, attentive, and respectful to their Owners. You can tell that your Chow thinks highly of you if they rest on your feet, like a fluffy pair of slippers.
These pups are also quite intelligent, despite the fact that they don’t tend to rank highly in intelligence tests. Why is that? Probably because these puppers are stubborn. There’s no tricking a Chow, and they’re self-assured enough not to play along when they don’t feel like it. Chow Chow Owners will be the first to tell you that this dog is much more clever than they let on!
To be sure, the Chow Chow’s personality is a challenge. This isn’t the ideal dog for first time Owners or families with small children. With proper socialisation and training, they can be great companions. But without the right care, those strong guard dog characteristics are sure to appear.
Trainability & Training Tips
The Chow’s intelligence can be both a burden and an advantage when it comes to training. On the one hand, they have the potential to learn quickly. On the other, their stubbornness can make training a challenge. It will take some creativity to figure out how to capture this clever canine’s attention.
One way to do so is by focusing on the Owner-dog relationship. These dogs are selective about who they respond to, and with enough quality time, play, and treats, you can build the rapport you need to make training easier.
You’ll often hear that Chow Chows need a strong leader when it comes to training. That’s true, but it’s not very specific. Yelling at this dog and being overly harsh is likely to turn a Chow off to the whole ordeal. In reality, this dog, like all puppers, will respond best to positive, laser-focused training sessions with clear instructions and rewards for good behaviour. Strong leadership, then, means consistency and clarity, not training with an iron fist.
Again, socialisation is an absolute must when it comes to this breed. Especially if they’re going to be in a household with children or other animals, it’s important to expose them as puppies so that they don’t become aggressive and dominant.
Barking is another reason to train Chows early. With their background as guard dogs, they will develop a warning bark habit if they’re not trained. That said, once they’ve learned not to sound the alarm, they are naturally quiet pups.
The final takeaway for training a Chow Chow is to set up realistic expectations for this doggo. A stoic watchdog at heart, they may never be interested in trying out agility training or fancy tricks. Obedience and proper etiquette towards other dogs and strangers should be the focus for training a Chow.
Exercise Needs & Living Conditions ⌂
Chows are pretty versatile when it comes to living conditions. They’re not high energy and won’t get fussy without large areas to roam. That said, they wouldn’t mind an outdoor space where they can lounge around and look regal—it will remind them of the old days sitting outside palaces and temples!
Just like all breeds, the Chow Chow does need some exercise to stay healthy and happy. But finding the right kind of exercise can be a challenge. Take swimming, for instance, which is typically a great form of exercise for dogs. With the Chow Chow, you have to be careful about the heaviness of their coat. Some splashing around in shallow waters is great, but full-on swimming may be a bit too much for this not-so-active doggo. And, of course, there’s the issue of grooming all that wet fur
And when it comes to traditional doggy games? Your Chow will probably turn up their snout at the idea. They are, after all, descendants of royalty. You won’t find them chasing after a dirty ball or hunting for a good throwing stick. When their Owners have socialised them, they do enjoy a trip to the dog park. Even then, though, you might find them sizing up the other pups instead of playing fetch or tug-of-war.
These dogs make wonderful walking companions, and they seem to enjoy showing off their magnificent mane around the neighbourhood. If you’re not able to take this dog on a stroll everyday, you might consider calling in an experienced Dog Walker. But remember, this pup doesn’t like receiving strange guests, so if you can, arrange for the same Dog Walker.
While they may have made their home in the south of China, these dogs are not exactly made for warm climates. With that thick fur, they can overheat fairly quickly, and should always be monitored while outside.
Since walking is one of the best ways to exercise a Chow, you’ll want to learn how to make each outing most effective. In our article, Are You Walking Your Dog at the Right Time?, you can find helpful tips on when to plan dog walkies for your Chow Chow.
Chow Chow Grooming ✄
The Chow Chow comes in two varieties: fluffy and unbelievably fluffy. The more accepted terminology is smooth- or rough-coated. For either one, though, you’re in for a lot of upkeep. Both coat varieties require daily brushing (with both a slicker brush and comb) to prevent matting and tangles.
In addition to that, you’ll want to set aside time for a more thorough grooming session anywhere from once a month to once every three or four months. There’s a wide range because you’ll want to find the balance that works for your unique doggo. Some Chows will develop skin conditions from too much bathing, others will suffer from oil build-up with infrequent baths.
Chow Chow Health +
In the past, irresponsible breeding practices and even harmful breed standards that prioritised aesthetics over health have threatened the wellness of the Chow Chow. Nowadays, it’s much easier to find a healthy, happy Chow. But Owners should still be aware of the following health risks:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Eyelid conditions, such as Entropion
- Issues related to their brachycephalic bone structure
- Skin allergies
Another concern for Chow Chows is weight gain, which can be difficult to notice with that mane. And with a low energy dog like the Chow, even more difficult to prevent. Regular exercise and a complete and balanced dog diet are good ways to keep the Chow Chow in good shape.
Fun Fact ♥
For this breed’s fun fact, you’ll have to take a look inside their mouth. Chow Chows are one of only two breeds in the world with a black tongue in the breed standard.
But that’s not all! They also have two more teeth than the average pup.
Final Thoughts on the Chow Chow
There are a lot of considerations for anyone looking to welcome a Chow Chow into their life. These dogs have gained a reputation for being aggressive, stubborn, and borderline rude! And it’s true that they aren’t the easiest dogs to train or groom.
But, there’s a reason why this dog breed continues to be so popular. And, it’s not just because of that teddy-bear coat! These dogs are ideal for anyone looking for a self-assured, intelligent, and quietly loving companion. They’re not overly zealous in their affection, but Chows show their love in their own way.
Once you get to know the Chow Chow, you’ll be smitten with this royal, distinguished dog!