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Breed information

Group: Non-Sporting
Life span: 13-15 years
Height male: 46-56 cm/ 18-22 inches
Height female: 46-56 cm/ 18-22 inches
Weight male: 20-32 kg/ 45-70 pounds
Weight female: 20-32 kg/ 45-70 pounds
Character: Aloof, Independent, Loyal, Quiet, Intelligent, Protective, Detached


The Chow Chow has been identified as a basal breed that predates the emergence of the modern breeds in the 19th Century. One writer has proposed that the Chow Chow originated in China 2,000 years ago or originated in Arctic Asia 3,000 years ago and then migrated to Mongolia, Siberia and then to China. One Chinese legend mentions large war dogs from Central Asia that resembled black-tongued lions. One Chinese ruler was said to own 5,000 Chows. The Chinese also used Chows to pull dog sleds, and this was remarked upon by Marco Polo. The Chow Chow was also bred for human consumption.

A legend says that the original teddy bears were modeled after Queen Victoria's Chow Chow puppy. It's said that she carried the dog everywhere she went. Her friends disapproved, claiming that it did not befit a Queen to be seen everywhere with a dog, so they paid a dressmaker to make a stuffed version of the animal for her. Today, the AKC registers approximately 10,000 Chow Chows a year. The Canadian Kennel Club registers approximately 350.


A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried closely to the back, the whole supported by four straight, strong, sound legs. Viewed from the side, the hind legs have little apparent angulation and the hock joint and metatarsals are directly beneath the hip joint. It is this structure which produces the characteristic shorter, stilted gait unique to the breed. The large head with broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle is proudly carried and accentuated by a ruff. Elegance and substance must be combined into a well balanced whole, never so massive as to outweigh his ability to be active, alert and agile. Clothed in a smooth or an offstanding rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness. Essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.


The Chow Chow can suffer from entropion, glaucoma, juvenile cataracts, lymphoma, hip dysplasia, diabetes mellitus, canine pemphigus, and gastric cancer. Chow Chows are a high risk breed for autoimmune disease and are at a predisposition for skin melanoma. Due to the Chow Chow's thick coat, fleas can be a problem.


The Chow Chow is an imposing character thanks to his bellowing bark and scowling expression. They originated in China and were used to hunt everything from pheasant to wolves, were commissioned to guard boats and pull carts of cargo. Today the Chow still makes an excellent guard dog, and when treated with love and respect, is himself a loving and respectful companion who tends to attach deeply to one or two members of his family. Chows are an aggressive breed, fiercely protective of their people and property and should only be adopted by experienced dog owners who have the time and energy to devote to proper training and socialization.

Activity Requirements

Chows are large, but only need moderate exercise to maintain health. They are most active in the winter months, and their thick coats can make them irritable in the summer. Several walks a day with an occasional run in the yard or park will meet their daily activity requirement. They can be equally happy in the suburbs or the city, and also thrive on farms where they have herds or flocks to watch over and protect. Chows should never be left off-leash or in an unfenced yard, as they can be aggressive toward strangers and other animals.


Training a Chow takes an experienced leader and is not for the first-time dog owner. Chows are dominant dogs, and will require a trainer prove their leadership before taking direction. They do not like to be told what to do, and forcing a Chow with a strong hand can lead to avoidance behaviors or even retaliation by the dog. Positive reinforcement, lots of dog treats and 100% consistency are the keys to training this breed. If they see an opportunity to manipulate a situation, Chows will take it and run with it. Despite obedience training challenges, Chows are exceptionally easy to house train, and many Chow owners report that even as puppies, their dogs have never had an accident in the home.

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Behavioral Traits

Aggression is the biggest issue with Chows, though it is a problem that can be avoided. Chows are naturally aggressive toward dogs of the same sex, and their hunting instincts can take over if presented with a small dog or a cat. Chows should be kept in a single-dog family, or raised alongside a second dog of the opposite sex and similar size. Chows should not be raised around small children and older children should be taught proper manners when living with a Chow. They are impatient dogs, and don't like to be teased or treated harshly, as they will retaliate. When treated with love and respect, however, a Chow will be equally loving and respectful in return. Chow Chows need to be socialized very early and very often to allow guests into the home. They are naturally protective, and if that instinct is left unchecked can lead to aggressive behavior in adulthood. Homeowners should check their insurance policies before adopting a Chow Chow, as the breed is often not covered.


Chows require a lot of maintenance, thanks to their thick coats. They should be brushed three to four times per week in order to keep the coat healthy and to remove loose and dead hair. Chow Chows are heavy shedders in the spring and fall, and brushing may need to be performed daily. A Chow that is brushed regularly will not develop a doggie odor. They should be brushed with a medium-coarse brush across the body, a slick brush for the legs, a pin brush for the longer sections of hair and should be sprayed with a dog-conditioner as grooming is performed. If a Chow is brushed while dry, his hear will break off. Brushing should occur all the way through the coat, down to the skin in order to prevent matting. They require monthly baths, but if the dog enjoys rolling around outdoors, more frequent bathing is necessary. In addition to brushing and bathing, ear cleaning and tooth brushing should be part of a Chow's weekly routine. Use only a veterinarian-approved cleanser on the ears and brush teeth weekly to prevent harmful bacteria and tartar buildup.

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