Chow Chow: What To Know Before Buying

Are you ready to welcome a miniature lion into your home?

The Chow Chow is an ancient dog breed that dates back at least 2000 years.

They carry themselves with an air of nobility and are often called bear dogs due to their intimidating appearance.

Their temperament is aloof, arrogant and quite spoiled at times.

However there is a reason why these walking teddy bears are so well loved. A patient owner will find a devoted friend like no other.

If you think the Chow Chow is right for you, read on for a complete care guide…

Chow Chow

What is a Chow Chow? (Overview)

A Chow Chow is a purebred dog breed from China.

They are one of the oldest dog breeds and have a history in hunting and even war.

Their resemblance to bears has sparked rumors that they actually descended from bears however this is not true. They descended from pack animals just like other domestic dogs.

The American Kennel Club classifies this breed as non-sporting and they are commonly used as guard dogs.

As guardians of the household they are protective to a fault. Their unfriendly and territorial behavior towards strangers has given them a reputation for being fearsome and aggressive. Chows are not aggressive by nature but they will never be as friendly as most other breeds.

Chow Chows love their owners dearly, but their love is kept within the family.

This high maintenance breed needs a very dedicated and committed owner. In addition to picky eating and intensive grooming, owners will have to learn to manage their natural arrogance.

  • Overview: Purebred.
  • Purpose: Guard Dog.
  • Weight: 45-70 pounds.
  • Size: 17-20 inches.
  • Temperament: Headstrong, protective and serious.

Pros and Cons

Pros:

  • Fiercely loyal to their owners.
  • Endearing teddy bear appearance.
  • Gets along well with cats.
  • Excellent guardian of the home.

Cons:

  • Very territorial and can be unfriendly.
  • Expensive grooming requirements.
  • Bad for inexperienced owners.
  • Unwilling to socialize with others.

Chow Chow Appearance

All Colors Of Chow Chow

The Chow Chow’s defining feature is their fluffy double coat with a showy lion’s mane around their neck.

Puppies tend to resemble giant cotton balls.

The official breed standard classifies the Chow Chow as a medium sized dog with a very thick bone structure. It is muscular and sturdy with square proportions.

Droopy eyes and a scrunched face make the dog look as though it is always frowning or turning up its nose.

A black tongue with darkly pigmented gums is another one of this breed’s defining feature – it is found on only one other breed, the Shar Pei.

Height and Weight

Both male and female Chows stand between 17 to 20 inches at their withers. Males can weigh anywhere between 55 and 70 pounds, while females usually only grow out to 50 pounds.

Colors and Coat

A range of ginger and cinnamon shades are the most common fur colors for this breed. Ginger colors can be anywhere from gold to deep red.

Black, bluish grey and creamy white are also possible.

It is easy to see why they are known as teddy dogs – their thick, fluffy coat is one of the most luxurious that you can find on any breed. Their coat will appear shiny and velvety and their face is framed by a rough and an iconic lion’s mane.

These balls of fluff are extreme shedders (especially during the warmer months) and will need daily brushing.

A summer haircut keeps their thick fur from weighing them down on hot days.

6 Fun Facts About Chows

  1. England’s Queen Victoria kept a Chow Chow among her many pets.
  2. While many dogs appear to have a built in smile, Chows have a built in scowl. This only emphasizes their serious and often arrogant nature.
  3. In addition to their historic roles as guards and war dogs, Chow Chows were also used as sled dogs in China.
  4. The breed has been prized by royalty and aristocracy – with their regal appearance it is very easy to see why.
  5. Chow Chow means food in Cantonese. A throwback to their unfortunate history of being raised for food until such practices were outlawed.
  6. The breed’s worldwide recognition began in the late 18th century when it was imported to England.

Chow Chow Personality and Temperament

Chow Dog

Chow Chows are not like most dogs.

These dogs are highly intelligent, but very serious and take no nonsense. They are often very self-absorbed and there is only enough room in their world for themselves and their owners.

If you are expecting a playful loving pup then look elsewhere.

Chows often believe that the world revolves around them – spoiled behavior is not unheard of and they can be very pushy when they do not get their way. They enjoy jobs and tasks more than running or rough and tumble play. Do not expect one to jump or catch a ball like other dogs will.

Puppies will start out playful and inquisitive but will mellow out as they get older.

Adults are largely indoor dogs, but will appreciate a long hike or a stroll around the yard.

A Chow Chow will always prefer the company of their owners and will never really learn to love other people.

The best you can hope for is that once they are well socialized they are aloof and indifferent to strangers. A young or poorly socialized Chow will mouth off to a stranger – they will be loud and aggressive.

There will be times when your pooch will behave selfishly even towards you. Above all, this dog is a protector and not a people pleaser.

Is The Chow Chow A Good Family Dog?

The Chow Chow’s protective nature makes them one of the very best family dogs, so long as your family does not expect a cuddly and affectionate pup.

These dogs show their love by placing themselves right by your side.

This dog will fit into any family that will respect them for who they are. In general, young children are far too rambunctious for such a serious minded dog.

Caring for a Chow Chow

Brown Chow Chow

First time owners may find themselves caught off guard by a Chow Chow’s nature – they are certainly not like most dogs.

Grooming is costly and training is very difficult, as is finding the right food for such a sturdily built dog. To add to the difficulty, they are known to be picky eaters.

In spite of their difficulty, they do make great pets for single owners.

Their owner will become their entire world and they will not want to know anyone or anything else.

Exercise Requirements

This is not an energetic dog but they still need moderate daily exercise to keep them from growing bored.

Chow Chows prefer walking to anything else.

Your pooch will need about 30 minutes of exercise a day – so a 15 minute walk twice a day will work.

While these dogs will still play with toys, they are not exactly run and fetch dogs. Walking courses, backyard scavenger hunts and games of hide and seek are much more appreciated. A particularly patient pup can be taught to pull a wagon (after all their East Asian ancestors were trained to pull carts and sleds).

  • Number of Walks Per Day: 2.
  • Total Exercise Needed Per Day: 30+ Minutes.

Hugging A Chow Chow

Grooming and Shedding

Be prepared to invest a lot of time and money when grooming a Chow Chow.

Their exact grooming requirements will change with the season.

You will need to dedicate about 30 minutes to brushing every day, using special combs to work out tangles and mats on both layers of the coat. A matted undercoat is very uncomfortable for them.

Dogs with darker pigments in their mouths are susceptible to oral cancer, so daily dental care will be needed. Keeping up with your dog’s dental hygiene lets you find abnormalities early.

Feeding and Diet

Your Chow will eat a variety of different foods but they will not accept everything.

It can take some time to find a healthy food your pooch will love.

Calcium is the most important nutrient in this breed’s diet. It helps support healthy bone growth and density.

Protein is the second most important and can be obtained through wet food or raw treats. Carbs and fats should only be present in very low amounts.

An adult dog needs 2-3 cups of dry kibble per day. This can be supplemented with wet or raw foods occasionally.

Calories Per Day:Cups of Kibble Per Day:
800-12002-3

Known Health Problems

Some Chows are bred for scrunchier faces to create a more defined scowling look.

Unfortunately this can lead to brachycephalic airway syndrome. The effects include breathing difficulty, sleep apnea and increased heat sensitivity. Whilst breathing problems can be managed at home, surgery is needed to treat the condition entirely.

Another common condition with this breed is Entropion.

This is where the dog’s eyelids are turned inward towards the eyeball. Take your dog to the vet if they are frequently squinting or rubbing at their eyes.

How Long Does A Chow Chow Live?

Your loyal friend and protector will be by your side for 10 to 15 years.

How Much Does A Chow Chow Cost?

You should expect to pay around $1000 for a Chow Chow puppy. However care and grooming costs can easily total thousands of dollars per year.

How To Train A Chow Chow

Cream Chow Chow

Training a Chow Chow takes much more patience than most other dog breeds. No matter how much they protest and resist, they must be trained and socialized like any other dog.

These naturally headstrong pups may see training as a breach of their boundaries and will put up a fight to be able to run the show. Training must involve mutual cooperation between the two of you.

Never give in to their stubborn behavior or you will lose any respect your dog may have for you.

Lack of respect for an owner leads to aggressive and destructive behavior.

Your dog will respect you so long as you remain patient with their many moods and never take your frustration out on them.

Basic manners and housebreaking will come easy once your dog is willing to obey.

Socialization however, will be a true challenge for a Chow Chow.

Getting the dog to make friends should not be your goal. Instead you should focus on keeping your pup from lashing out at others. Obedience classes and puppy kindergartens are a must for getting your dog to trust other people outside of the family.

Chows are very intelligent, but do not require very much mental stimulation. They are happy so long as you remain engaged with them.

You can practice basic commands by setting up a walking course in your backyard. Your pooch will enjoy this better than any training game.

Practice basic commands (sit, stay and heel) as you and your pup walk the course together.

You must make it clear that you are the one in charge.

Quick Breed Summary Table

Breed Characteristics
Size:17-20 inches.
Weight:45-70lb.
Lifespan:10-15 years.
Coat:Fluffy double coat.
Color:Ginger, brown, gold, cream, black and blue.
Do They Shed:Yes.
Temperament:Arrogant, aloof, headstrong, serious and protective.
Intelligence:High.
Socialization:Requires special socialization training from an early age.
Destructive Behavior:Can lash out if poorly trained or socialized.
People Skills:Very attached to owners.
Good with Children:Yes (aged 10+).
Activity Levels:Moderate.

Summary

The Chow Chow is a wonderful pet for experienced owners.

They make great companions for single owners, but will fit into big families too.

However everyone needs to be ready to accept the dog’s unique personality for what it is.

They are strong willed and tend to believe they are the center of the universe. Their spoiled behavior can certainly put an owner to the test.

However you will never find a more devoted friend – unconditional loyalty is the breed’s strongest suit.

A Chow Chow is not the dog for everybody. But if you are sure that they are the dog for you, your miniature lion will be your home’s guardian for years to come.

If you have any questions let us know in the comments section below…

Thomas Woods Face Portrait
Thomas has been a dog lover since he was 6 years old when his parents got him a rescue Labrador. Since then his love for dogs has lead him to study Animal Behavior & Welfare. He now keeps a six year old English Bullmastiff and educates pet parents through his online publication Perfect Dog Breeds.

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