15 Things You Should Know About The Chow Chow

With their lion’s mane coats and their thick golden fur, Chow Chows look a lot like the king of the jungle! Chow chows are genuinely eye-catching and lovely; they were named twice.

When you first spot a Chow Chow, it can be hard to tell whether it’s a dog, a teddy bear, marshmallow, or a lion-acting creature. 

One thing is for sure though, with their large teddy bear face and their signature lion-like mane, chows are undeniably hard to forget. Chows have a distinct temperament and physical appearance that is different from other dog breeds.

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Chow chows are one of the most unique dog breeds. They have a cat-like personality and respect combined with the temperament of a guard dog. 

Chows have been in existence for nearly 2000 years. They are believed to have been created from a cross of Spitz-type dogs and Roman mastiff breeds. Like most dogs in the working breed, they were initially bred to aid with work by pulling sleds, hunting, herding livestock, and to act as guards.

Today, chow chows are still valued pets and are still used to protect and guard families, businesses, and residences. However, it takes a particular person to be successful with chow chows. Hence, before buying or adopting a chow, here are 15 things you should know:

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Their robust fur ball body looks like a cross between a lion, bear, and dog. 


1.  They Are One of The Oldest Dog Breeds

Expected have speculated that Chows are one of the oldest dog breeds to exist, with genetic testing proving so. A study of the canine genome done in 2004 established “genetic fingerprints” from 85 dog breeds, 14 were determined to ancient breeds, and the Chow Chow was one of them.

It is believed that chows have been around for approximately 2000-3000 years. Historians have found chow chow-like dogs records in texts from the 11th century.

They are believed to descend from ancient Tibetan Mastiffs, and they may be ancestors of some Spitz breeds like Norwegian Eikhound, Keeshond, and Pomeranian.

The Han Dynasty has depictions of dogs resembling chows appear in paintings and pottery from 206 BC to 22 AD.

Marco Polo remarked about these dogs during his travels. It is believed that one Chinese legend ruler owned 5,000 chows.


2. Their Name is Not of Chinese Origin

The name Chow Chow sure does sound Chinese; only it’s not! In China, this dog breed had several names: bear dog (Xiang gou), black-tongue dog (hei shi-tou), wolf dog (lang gou), and Canton dog (Guangdong gou). 

How the name chow chow came along is interesting. The name comes from a pidgin English term used to describe anything that came from the East during the late 18th century.

British merchants included these dogs in their cargo in the late 18th century. In that time, miscellaneous items, such as dogs, were called “chow chow” and the name stuck.

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Chows have double-coated type coats. They can also be either rough or smooth. 

3. They Were Used as Working Dogs by the Chinese People

Chow chow’s homeland is China. They are believed to have originated in Northern China and Mongolia. These dogs were used for hunting game birds due to their scenting ability. He was a versatile breed used for different kinds of work.

Although this breed originated in Northern China, there were often found in the trading port of Canton in the southern part of China. The Chinese trained these fluffy bear-looking dogs to hunt, pull sleds, guard, and herd cattle.

There is also a theory that some of the Chinese people used these dogs for their meat and fur. In times when food was scarce, chow ancestors served as food.

4. They Are a Lot Like Cats

Chow chow owners will attest to the fact that these dogs tend to act a lot more like cats than canines. They are very independent and don’t appreciate being fussed over.

This dog is not best for dog lovers looking for a canine companion who prefers to just sit on their lap and cuddle. Chows cuddle only when they feel like it, not when their owners want them to. This is simply their nature.

Like cats, chows are somewhat reserved and aloof when it comes to giving and receiving attention. Like cats, chows carry themselves with dignity.  These intelligent dogs, like cats, are not very motivated to please their owners as most dog breeds. 

They tend to please themselves first, and they can’t tolerate physical punishment. Beating or hitting chow chows could result in breaking their vicious spirit. In the same way, they carry themselves, they should be treated with respect and dignity, and if he finds you worthy, he will return the respect with undying loyalty.

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Chows have a gait and manner that makes them appear refined and dignified when they are standing next to you. 

5. They Have Unusual Tongues

The chow’s tongue is one of a kind! When chows are born, they have pink tongues. Their tongue then permanently changes from pink to Blue-black when they are 8-10 weeks old.

When chow chows are fully grown, their turns are fully blue-black, resembling that of a lizard. The only other dog breed with a strange tongue is the Chinese Shar-Pei.


6. Most People Often misunderstand Their Temperament

Chow chows are unique in nature. They are territorial and naturally suspicious of strangers. They tend to take their families and homes very seriously and will do anything to protect what they love.

Without the owner present, chow chows might appear very fierce, especially if they are on their property. Very rarely will a chow let a stranger pass unchallenged, which makes people afraid of them.

It is no surprise that even dog lovers who are used to warm cuddly welcomes of other dog breeds get startled by the chow’s seriousness. However, once the owner greets you and invites you into his home, chows can warm up to a stranger but with no desire to make friends.

Their appearance has also propelled myths about their temperament. Those small, deep-set eyes, scowling face, and lion-like mane can be intimidating for people interacting with the breed for the first time.

More often than not, people tend to misinterpret this breed’s dignity, aloofness, and indifference to other people other than his family. These dogs are not as outwardly affectionate and friendly as other dog breeds.

Before getting a chow chow, understand that he won’t care what strangers think of him and will prefer to mind his own business.

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If given a choice, a chow will prefer to spend time with their favorite person than with a bunch of traders. 

7. They Need Equally Strong-Willed, Stubborn Owners

Chow chows have their own mind and might even overrule you and become your master if you let them. Chow chow puppies are well-behave, seldom disobedient, or destructive.

Sometimes because they are naturally well-behaved, some owners become relentless with training while others by-pass training because they don’t think it necessary.

However, the instance an untrained chow chow matures into adolescence, and they refuse to accept authority. Failing to train and socialize a chow chow puppy properly adamantly will result in behavioral problems when they are bigger.

A chow is only a worthy companion if they are trained and socialized for a tender age. Hence, chow owners have to teach their puppies to accept strangers, new environments, and other dogs.

We recommend socializing a puppy at birth with regular handling by the breeder. A responsible chow chow breeder should introduce his puppies to as many new experiences as possible before placing the puppy into your home.

When your chow is still in puppyhood, it is essential to keep socializing him by regularly introducing him to new places, strangers, animals, and children outside of your house. Socializing him with children within your homestead is especially crucial if you want him to be good with kids as an adult.

Chow chows are only happier if they know what is expected of them and how they should please you. They need owners who are equally strong-willed and stubborn to make them behave properly.

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Chows can easily housebreak due to their stubborn nature. Chow owners therefore need to be patient and consistent with their training. 

8. They are Good Candidates for Puppy Kindergarten Classes

Puppy kindergarten classes are great opportunities for dog owners looking to socialize their dogs. Chow chows are good candidates because they need obedience classes from a tender age.

As soon as your chow puppy is old enough, consider enrolling him to attend obedience classes with a qualified trainer. Ask your vet to refer you to a qualified local kennel club that will host these classes for your puppy.

Even so, we recommend that you continue to train your pup obedience commands at home. Incorporate obedience training into your chow’s daily routine.

We strongly recommend crate training to make housetraining easier. Use a crate as a tool to keep your pup from chewing your stuff when you’re not around and not as a jail.

They are also good puppy kindergarten candidates because they are capable of learning anything they are taught. With a chow, all you need to get them sitting upright is a verbal correction. With firm consistency, the local kennel club shouldn’t have a problem training him.

Keep the training sessions short and fun because chows tend to get bored quickly. If possible, get your chow chow puppy into puppy kindergarten class when he is about 10-12 weeks old. Make sure he completes all necessary vaccines, and his kennel cough vaccine is also up to date before enrolling him in a class.

9. They Do Well on Low-Grain Diets

Chow chows can suffice with a high-quality, healthy, and nutritious dog food diet. However, to reduce the risk of allergies, chow chows do better with low-grain diets.

To extend his life, you will have to keep an eye on what you feed him as well as making sure he maintains the appropriate weight. Chows should weigh somewhere between 40-70 pounds.

If you notice them getting chubby, reduce the amount of food you’re feeding him, and incorporate more exercise.

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If you aren’t too keen on joking or hiking, or you live in an apartment, the chow chow is an ideal companion for you. 

10. They Need to See the Vet Regularly

With a lifespan range of 11-15 years, chows are generally healthy. However, they are also prone to specific health issues. The most common health problems chow chows face are hip dysplasia and entropion.

Before getting a chow chow puppy, look for a good breeder who does routine x-rays on his pup and certifies his breeds free from hip dysplasia before selling them.

I recommend asking the breeder to provide you with a warranty that guarantees the pup is free of any potentially crippling diseases for not less than two years, to be safe. If the breeder is unwilling to do this, find another breeder.

About 50% of all chows are estimated to have hip dysplasia at some point in their lives. A chow diagnosed with this condition will need treatment and attention to lessen the pain and stiffness.

Entropion involves the inward turning of a chow’s eyelids instead of outwards. This condition causes irritation and can lead to blindness if left untreated. Hence regular checkups are recommended for chow chows to help spot some of these conditions early.

They are also prone to other health issues like elbow dysplasia, autoimmune thyroiditis, patellar luxation, eye problems like distichiasis, cataracts, and glaucoma, pemphigus foliaceus, and gastric torsion.

11. They Require Regular Grooming

Chow chows need regular grooming from time to time. Their coat is soft and dense, prone to tangling and matting if not brushed regularly.

Chow owners spend at least an hour or two per week getting all the rough spots out. The good news is their coats get easier to care for as they grow older.

They shed their coats once or twice annually, so you should be prepared to fill a few trash bags when your chow is shedding. Because chows don’t do well with people besides their owners, they don’t warm up to professional groomers.

This means that you are going to have to groom him yourself and at home. Your chow chow will only look and feel better if their favorite person grooms them.

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Chow chows are best suited for pet parents with strong personalities and conviction to socialize and train these independent, yet loyal dog breed.

12. They are Considered the Cleanest of Dogs

Chow chow owners will attest to this. Living with a chow gives you the best of two worlds, a loving canine companion and a clean house.

Like cats, these dogs are dedicated to their cleanliness and have very little “dog smell.” With regular grooming and bathing, these dogs are the cleanest of dogs.

They also don’t require a lot of exercise, making them perfect for people living in apartments. A chow is okay with a 15-minute daily walk around the neighborhood with his owner or family.

13. They aren’t Meant for Inexperienced Dog Owners

If you are looking to buy or adopt your first dog, a chow chow shouldn’t be it! In fact, if you have no experience owning other dog breeds, a chow is also not for you.

Before attempting to raise a chow, make sure you are fully educated about this unique breed. This dog breed is vastly different than most dog breeds you may be familiar with.

As puppies, chows can be easy and sweet to work with, but as they become adults, they can get very dicey. Hence, before owning a chow, learn everything there is to learn about taking care of one before you bring one into your home.

Knowing all there is to know about this breed will result in greater success with training and socialization. What you think you know about dogs won’t be enough with a chow chow.

14. The Famous Sigmund Freud owned a Chow Chow

Sigmund Freud, a famous psychoanalyst, once owned a chow chow known as Jofi. During his sessions, Jofi would often be seen seated in his lap. In fact, he attested to the fact that Jofi made children feel more relaxed during sessions.

Jofi became a significant contributor in helping Sigmund analyze his patients because the dog has a way of telling out nervous patients. He would only approach calm patients.

Other famous for owning chow chows include Martha Stewart, U.S Navy Admiral George Dewey, Linda Thompson gifted by boyfriend Elvis Presley, President Calvin Coolidge, Vanna Bonta, and Janet Jackson.

15. They Inspired a Scene in The Lady and the Tramp

Walter Disney once bought his wife a chow chow for Christmas. The way he presented the gift to his wife made its way to a scene is a Disney movie, The Lady, and the Tramp.

Walt put a chow inside a Christmas wrapped box to give his wife, Lillian. She initially was disappointed to see a box, but when she heard a puppy yelping inside, she became thrilled and excited. The exact same scene was featured in the Disney movie.

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