Chow Chow: Breed Characteristics, Training, Care & Nutrition

The Chow Chow is a unique breed of dog from China that is distinctive among dog breeds with its distinctive blue tongue. The Chow Chow has FCI recognition and is included in the FCI standard in group Group 5: Spitz and Archetypes, in Section 5 Asian Spitz and related breeds – without working trial with the standard number 205. The watchful dogs are all over the world known and popular.

Chow Chow Dog Breed Information

Size: 46-56cm
Weight: 20-32kg
FCI group: 5: Spitz and archetypal dogs
Section: 5: Asian Spitz and related breeds
Country of origin: China
Colors: Fawn, black, cream, red, blue, fawn
Life expectancy: 9-15
Suitable as: Companion, family, and guard dog
Sports: –
Temperament: Brittle, Independent, Loyal, Calm
Outlet needs: rather low
Drooling potential: medium
The thickness of hair: low
Maintenance effort: high
Coat structure: Long hair: luxuriant, dense, straight, and sticking out / Shorthair: short, lush, dense, straight, sticking out, and fluffy
Child friendly: yes
Family dog: yes, with good education
Social: no

Origin and Breed History

The Chow Chow comes from China, where it is one of the oldest dog breeds and is counted among the archaic dog breeds. The breed is genetically the closest to the wolf and is very closely related to the Shiba, the Akita, the Alaskan Malamute, and the Siberian Husky, which are also original breeds. Researchers have been able to locate the oldest finds of these dogs in the areas of Siberia and Manchuria in north-eastern China. There are terracotta figures that show the Chow Chow and are probably over 2000 years old. Even in ancient times, the Chow Chow was valued hunting dogs, sled dogs and served as reliable companions and guard dogs. However, there are indications that the dogs themselves had to serve as meat suppliers when food was scarce.

The breed was very popular with the Chinese emperor and the nobility and was bred for appearance and function from an early age. It was not until 1880 that the original breed, which emerged from the spitz-type dogs of the native peoples, was brought to England. Seven years later, there was a separate breed of fluffy dogs in England, which was also known as the lion dog. The Kennel Club did not recognize it as a separate breed until 1894. After that, the breed characteristics were defined and repeatedly reinforced in order to achieve a particularly human-like expression on the face. Meanwhile, this is no longer desired in breeding.

The name Chow Chow was not fixed for the breed until later. In China itself, the majestic dog is still called Songshiquan, which roughly means puffed-up lion dog, or Hsiung Kou, which stands for bear dog. Experts assume that the name Chow Chow came about through a corruption of the Chinese expression for dog “gou”. In Germany, the breed was initially called the Chinese Spitz. Only later did the name Chow Chow become established.

The appearance of the modern Chow Chow is very different from the original image of the breed. Overbreeding has exaggerated the characteristics of the Chow Chow to the point of absurdity and has resulted in a number of health problems. In the meantime, some breeders want to go back to the original image of the Chow Chow, which looks much more like a Spitz.

Nature & Temperament of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow is not only a special dog in appearance, it has a very original character and bonds particularly close to its owner. He is usually neutral or distant towards strangers, while he enjoys the closeness of his caregiver and only reluctantly is separated from them. His calm demeanor and relaxed way of reacting to stressful situations inspire fans of the breed. He has an almost majestic demeanor in his calmness and strength. Nevertheless, Chow Chow’s original heritage makes itself felt again and again. So he is loyal to his owner but does not have the will to learn that many other breeds show.

He always has to understand the meaning of an action in order to be enthusiastic about it and often goes his own way. He can integrate well in the family and is also patient with children, although he is not a big player, he will be happy to go on excursions and walks. You can demand things from him and give him tasks that he carries out conscientiously, as long as he sees the point in it. This way he can be a good guard dog without barking a lot. Its owners should not be hectic people living in a wild extended family. Singles or small families are ideal, although their permanent caregiver will always be the focus for the Chow Chow. As a dog of the original type, it can be very idiosyncratic and needs clear boundaries and an owner who acts patiently, calmly, and consistently. Despite his high level of intelligence, he will hardly be enthusiastic about dog sports, long hikes with his owner are the lion dog’s favorite.

The character traits of the Chow Chow are its serious behavior with a calm almost stoic nature, intelligence, and independence. A slight hunting instinct is present in most representatives of the breed, as well as a protective instinct, which with patience and training can be easily channeled into the appropriate bans.

Is a Chow Chow a Family Dog?

The Chow Chow is only conditionally suitable for keeping in a family. The dog does not like hectic and irregular everyday life and too many people in the household can mean stress for the stoic dog. Small families with older children and with early familiarization with the family members are possible.

The Appearance of the Chow Chow

Anyone who has seen a Chow Chow will always recognize this special breed. With its thick fur, which is particularly pronounced on its neck and neck, it is reminiscent of a lion, which is why it is often referred to as a lion dog. The tongue of this breed is characteristic: it is blue. He has a strong physique with a firm stance and a height at the withers of 46 to 56 cm. With a weight of around 25 to 30 kilograms, he is quite a powerhouse, but his calm demeanor rarely upsets him. The fur of the Chow Chow is very dense and sticks out from the body like a stuffed animal. A kind of mane forms on the neck and nape of the neck, which is typical of the image of the breed.

Two coat variants are allowed in breeding, the standard variant with the long coat and a short-haired variant, in which the coat is significantly shorter but has the same characteristics as the long-haired dogs. There is quite a wide variety of coat colors, with each color only ever appearing in one color. The colors are red, black and fawn.

How Big is a Chow Chow?

A Chow Chow can reach between 46 cm and 56 cm in height at the withers, although it often appears larger due to its lush coat of fur.

Training and Keeping the Chow Chow – This is Important to Note

The Chow Chow is a serious dog with little instinct to play, who wants to be very close to its owner and yet has lost none of its originality. Good socialization in a puppy group makes sense, but in most cases, there is no need for further dog training. Because the Chow Chow is not a dog that is enthusiastic about sports and he is not really enthusiastic about normal obedience either. His upbringing depends entirely on the consistency and experience of his caregiver. A close bond based on trust and solid rules is the best basis for harmonious coexistence.

Due to his calm and serious nature, he does not let himself be disturbed and can therefore be kept in the city without any problems. Although he dislikes dog sports, he enjoys going on long walks and spending time outdoors. When training and keeping the Chow Chow, the owner should always keep the stoic nature of the dog in mind and be patient. Therefore, the Chow Chow is not really suitable for beginners. With a dog-experienced handler who knows the ins and outs of the breed, the Chow Chow can become an even-tempered and loyal companion.

Are Chow Chows Dangerous?

No, the Chow Chow is not easy to train, but it does not show any aggression towards people or other dogs. He has a hunting instinct that should be kept under control and will bond very closely with one person.

Diet of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow has no special dietary requirements. Allergies and intolerances rarely occur in the original breed. However, should intolerances occur, it makes sense to ask a veterinarian for advice and adjust the diet accordingly. It is important to only get a high-quality feed that has a particularly high meat content.

Good puppy food is necessary for young dogs and from the age of 7, you should switch to senior food. Wet food and dry food are both well suited for nutrition, the choice depends entirely on the preferences of the owner. Because the Chow Chow is not overly gluttonous, it is difficult to bribe with treats, and training with food has rarely occurred.

Healthy – Life Expectancy & Common Diseases

Since the Chow Chow is very overbred, it unfortunately only has a short life expectancy of around 8 years. The new breeds, with the older appearance, can also live up to 14 years.

Due to overbreeding, which has accompanied the breed for a very long time, there are some breed-typical diseases from which a Chow Chow often suffers. The fur of some representatives of the breed is also too heavy and interferes with the dog’s movements. In addition, the animals of this breed always suffer from the heat in summer and it can lead to circulatory problems and heart problems. Allergies and hypothyroidism have also been observed in many Chow Chows.

Also striking are the deep wrinkles on the face of most Chow Chows, which can lead to inflammation and problems in the eyes. In the meantime, the breed with the extreme facial wrinkles is also frowned upon in the VDH and the FCI and since 2011 a more original image of the dog has been preferred again. Nevertheless, there are breeders who pay little attention to the health of the animals and breed purely on the basis of appearance and exaggerated breed ideas.

With the new guidelines for breeding, more attention is paid to the health of the animals and many problems no longer exist with the new dogs. It is therefore important to pay close attention to the breeder and what type of Chow Chow he is breeding.

How Old Do Chow Chows Get?

The life expectancy of the Chow Chow depends heavily on its health. A healthy animal can live up to 14 years, but the overbred dogs, with the extreme ideal of beauty, suffer from various diseases and only reach a life expectancy of about 8 years.

Grooming of the Chow Chow

With its dense and long fur, the Chow Chow requires a lot of care. Daily brushing is a must, otherwise, the fur can quickly become matted and the dense ruff needs special care. Here burrs and ticks like to collect in the coat, which is why the dog should be examined thoroughly after a walk. The dog’s facial folds should be checked regularly and always be dry and clean, otherwise, the skin can quickly become inflamed. The fur between the pads must be cut back if necessary and the claws should not be too long.

During the molt, the Chow Chow sheds a lot of hair and its owner has to brush it several times a day to get the dog’s undercoat properly out of the coat. This makes it easier for the dog to change its coat and makes the summer heat a little more bearable for the dogs of this breed.

What Brush Do I Need for a Chow Chow?

The coat of the Chow Chow requires a lot of care, so it is best to get a brush for Nordic dogs. There are also special brushes for Spitz and Samoyed that work very well with the Chow Chow’s coat texture.

Chow Chow Activities and Training

The Chow Chow loves long walks with its owner. He is the ideal dog for hikes and mountain tours, although care must be taken that he does not get too hot, as dogs overheat quickly. Even in everyday life, he needs a lot of exercises and fresh air, although he is not a sporty dog. Jogging, cycling, or being accompanied on horseback are usually too much for the plush dog. Therefore, almost all dog sports are eliminated. Some members of the breed still get enthusiastic about retrieving food bags, but most Chow Chows just want their regular long walks.

As the owner, you should be considerate of the dog’s needs and not overwhelm him. If you are looking for a sporting companion or want to practice a dog sport, you should better look for another breed.

Good to Know: Peculiarities of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow has a distinctive appearance and serious character. These dogs imprint on a person and are faithful and loyal to their owner. That is why he has always been popular with Chinese nobility and even the emperor. Even the famous Nobel Prize winner Konrad Lorenz appreciates the characteristics of the breed and described the Chow Chow as the ideal one-man dog.

The most distinctive feature of the Chow Chow is its blue tongue. All representatives of the breed have a blue or at least greyish tongue. Experts disagree on why the dog’s tongue and usually also the lips of the dog have this unusual color. The only thing known so far is that it has a genetic component.

Why Does the Chow Chow Have a Blue Tongue?

The blue tongue of the Chow Chow probably has a genetic background. However, the researchers do not agree on the cause of the coloration, the proportion of dark-colored bodies in the mouth area of the Chow Chow is probably very pronounced.

Cons of the Chow Chow

A disadvantage of the Chow Chow is its stoic nature and its ignorance or detachment towards other people apart from its reference person. However, for dog-experienced people who know what they are getting into with a Chow Chow, this is not a problem and they can still make a good dog in a small family.

Is the Chow Chow Right for Me?

The Chow Chow is not a lap dog, although it is very attached to its owner, it is not very cuddly and will almost never romp around wildly. He also needs a lot of exercises and finds it difficult to stay alone. Since his bond with the owner is so close, he is well suited as an office dog. Other dogs are usually indifferent to him, although he is a peaceful fellow and avoids quarrels. Due to his serious and stoic nature, he does not usually feel comfortable in large and hectic families. Singles or small families with one or two older children would be ideal for the lion-like dog.

Seniors who are still fit and like to go hiking can also get a Chow Chow with a clear conscience if they already have dog experience and are aware that they have to follow a consistent education.

Where to Buy Chow Chow Puppies

A Chow Chow puppy should always be bought from a reputable breeder. It is also important to ensure that the breeder takes the health of the dogs into account and does not breed strictly based on appearance.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

Leave a Reply


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *