Chow Chows are well-known for their adorable lion-like appearance. It's impossible to look at a photo of this breed without smiling, from their signature blue tongue to their wide-eyed expressions. It's no surprise that people are drawn to this breed, but many don't know how big these dogs get, how much they cost, or various other facts about Chow Chows.
Origin and History
There is a lot of debate about the origin of the Chow Chow. While some believe they came from Mongolia, others assert that they were actually developed by nomads along China's Silk Road and later spread to neighboring countries. Regardless of their exact origins, what scientists do know is that this dog breed has been around for thousands of years and is thought to have been used as an accomplice in hunting food and guarding campsites while their owners were out on long journeys.
It is not entirely clear when Chow Chows first arrived in Europe. Some sources believe agents of the Dutch East India Company brought members of the breed to Europe at some point between 1602 and the late 1800s, but no clear records exist. The Chow Chow was first registered with the American Kennel Club in 1903, but it wasn't until 1979 that the breed achieved considerable popularity in the United States. The breed was recognized by the United Kennel Club in 1938 and remains one of its most popular breeds today.
The Chow Chow is a powerfully built dog whose sturdy frame belies their past as working dogs. Through the centuries, these canines have been used to pull carts, herd livestock, and even assist in the hunt. This jack-of-all trades breed even spent time as palace guard dogs for the Chinese emperor.
The breed is renowned for their coat, which is thick enough to cover their rolls of "blubber." The rough-coat variety is the most prevalent and is what most people think of when they picture a Chow Chow. The tail, legs, and chest are all full of fluff, but it's the thick "ruff" around the head and neck that gives this breed its royal lion look. The breed's coat can also be found in a smooth-coated variant, though it is less common. Acceptable colors include shades of red, black, blue, cinnamon, or cream.
The Chow Chow's coat is thick and double-coated, consisting of a dense outer coat and a soft undercoat. This combination helps keep these dogs warm in winter months when temperatures dip below freezing, and cool in summer months when temperatures reach above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Chows have blue or brown eyes, which may appear slanted due to their protruding lower lids. Their ears are V-shaped and stand up straight against their head.A full-grown Chow will be between 45 and 70 pounds and 17 to 20 inches tall at the shoulder.
One of the Chow Chow's most famous features is their blue/black tongues, which are quite different from the pink tongue found in other breeds.
The deep fold of flesh and fur around the Chow's eyes somewhat limit their vision, and this is why they are so easily startled when approached from the side. It's always best to announce your presence or make it a habit to approach these canines from an angle where they can see you.
Chows may not be ideal pets for a family with children, although there certainly are exceptions. This is a breed that does not appreciate surprises or sudden moves, nor do they enjoy being hugged. They can do well with children if raised with them, although older children who understand how to respect a dog are a better fit. On the bright side, this breed does make a quiet house companion for adults and requires more moderate levels of exercise compared to other dogs of similar size.
Wary of Strangers
Chows are by nature a very protective breed that will be sure to let strangers know they are not welcome on your property unless you approve it. Though they are not known for aggression, they can appear quite intimidating, and providing these dogs with lots of early socialization and manners training is important to keep their more protective instincts in check.
As a large, active dog, the Chow Chow needs regular exercise. The amount of exercise they need depends on the individual dog's energy level and health issues. A healthy adult will need about an hour of exercise per day, at least five days a week.
A brisk walk is best for this breed. Because they can be stubborn and don't like to be rushed, they should never be forced to go farther than they want to go or be made to run too quickly.
Chows are keenly intelligent and capable learners, but the key is that they have to want it. A chow considers you their equal, and will not automatically listen to you. Chows do best with positive reinforcement training, such as clicker training. In order to hold their attention, you'll need to find something that they find particularly rewarding, such as very delicious treats.
Fortunately, Chows have a reputation for being extremely easy to potty-train. They are very clean dogs and are almost cat-like in their grooming habits. The difficult part is their obedience training. If you are not experienced in training large breeds, consider hiring a professional trainer who is familiar with Chow Chows before beginning your training routine.
While they are considerably healthier than many other breeds, there are a few things to watch for:
- Eye Issues: Chows are susceptible to entropion, an abnormality of the eyelid. They also commonly are affected by other eye conditions, such as glaucoma and cataracts.
- Heatstroke: This breed is prone to heatstroke and care should be taken with them in the summer, especially in very hot climates. They can overheat easily and prefer colder weather.
- Hypothyroid: Chows are at risk of a hypothyroid condition called autoimmune thyroiditis. Owners should be aware of the symptoms as it can cause not only health problems but also behavioral changes.
- Joint problems: Like many medium and large dogs, Chows are at risk of hip and elbow dysplasia. This painful joint condition can lead to lameness and may require surgery. Chows are also susceptible to patellar luxation, where the kneecap can slip out of place.
- Gastric torsion: This serious condition is also known as bloat and occurs when the stomach fills up with gas and fluid and "twists." If the dog is not brought to a veterinarian immediately, the condition can be fatal.
In order to properly groom a Chow Chow, you must brush them frequently and have them professionally groomed on a regular basis. Grooming bills can quickly add up. Consider this when deciding whether to bring a member of the breed into your home.
Brushing a Chow Chow should be done using either a pin brush or a slicker brush. These brushes will remove loose hair from the coat, which will help prevent matting. The pin brush should be used once every two weeks, while the slicker brush should be used once every three weeks. Massage your dog's skin with olive oil after brushing to keep their skin healthy and moisturized.
This is a fairly long-lived breed, reaching about 8 to 12 years on average, although some can live up to 15 years.
Fun Facts About the Breed
The Chow Chow is an interesting breed with a unique appearance. Due to their rarity, there are a handful of facts many are unaware of about the breed, including:
- The name "Chow Chow" is thought to have come from the Mandarin word meaning "blacksmith" or "armorer," due to the black-and-white coat of some varieties of this breed.
- They are the only breed with blue-black tongues.
- The Chow Chow is related to Tibetan Mastiffs.
- According to legend, an emperor sent his men out to find a dog that could pull down a bear or tiger. The men returned with several dogs that were similar in appearance but different in temperament. One of these dogs was named Chow Chow because it was good at pulling down bears and tigers.
- Chow Chows are one of the most ancient breeds in the world, dating back at least 2,000 years.
Purchasing or Adopting a Chow Chow
If you're looking for a Chow Chow puppy, a good place to start is the Chow Chow Club, the parent club for the breed in the United States. They have a breeder directory available and information about finding responsible breeders. The AKC PuppyFinder page also has a breeder search available. Chows are one of the more expensive breeds of dogs to both purchase and own. The median price for a Chow is between $1,200 and $1,300. Show-quality dogs can cost $6,000 or more.
If you aren't necessarily searching for a purebred chow puppy, you can search the PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue to see if any are available at shelters. You can also search these breed-specific organizations:
- Chow Chow Rescue of Central New York: A nonprofit organization focused on rescuing and rehoming purebred Chow Chows in the eastern United States.
- Chow Chow Rescue Society: A volunteer-based organization dedicated to rescuing and searching for acceptable homes for available dogs.
- Chow Chow Haven: A rescue organization saving Chow Chows, providing public outreach regarding the breed, and locating forever homes.
Is the Chow Chow Right for You?
The Chow Chow is definitely not a beginner's breed, and you should seriously evaluate your lifestyle before acquiring one. Do you have small children who might tug or pull on your Chow Chow puppy? Do you entertain frequently? These are not always the ideal situations for a Chow. On the other hand, a Chow can make a sturdy, protective, affectionate companion for those who understand their unique personality.