chow chow

The Chow Chow, with its lion-like mane and stoic demeanor, carries an air of mystique. A breed of ancient lineage, these dignified dogs are a marvel in the canine world, known for their unique appearance and noble comportment.

General Info About the Breed

Chow Chows are a distinctive breed, classified in the non-sporting group by the American Kennel Club. They are well known for their deep-set almond eyes, distinctive blue-black tongue, and a ruff of fur that frames their face, giving them a leonine appearance. Chows are as aloof and independent as they are loyal and protective, making them an intriguing choice for a wide array of dog enthusiasts.

History and Origins of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow is one of the most ancient dog breeds and has a storied history that dates back millennia. Its origins are as enigmatic as the breed’s characteristic deep-set eyes and unique scowl.

Ancient Lineage

Chow Chows are believed to have originated in northern China and Mongolia, possibly as far back as 3000 years ago. They are depicted in artifacts from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD), which suggests that they were a breed of great importance in ancient times.

Multi-Purpose Working Dogs

Originally, Chow Chows were working dogs used for various tasks such as hunting, herding, pulling sleds, and guarding. They were also valued for their fur, which was used to trim coats and their flesh as a source of food. This utilitarian use is reflected in the breed’s strong build and versatile capabilities.

The Name “Chow Chow”

The term “Chow Chow” was a catch-all phrase used by English merchants in the 18th century for the various knick-knacks and curiosities imported from the Far East. The name was eventually applied to the dog breed itself, although it is not clear why this particular term stuck.

Royal Companions

In China, Chow Chows were kept in imperial kennels and were companions to Chinese nobility. They were bred and refined over generations to be the dignified and noble dogs we recognize today.

Western Introduction

The breed was introduced to England in the late 19th century, where they quickly became fashionable. Queen Victoria took a particular interest in the breed, which bolstered their popularity.

The Breed Today

Throughout the 20th century, the Chow Chow solidified its presence in the West. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1903, and its popularity has been steady, with many being drawn to the breed’s distinct lion-like appearance and proud demeanor.

The history of the Chow Chow is a blend of myth and mystery, with the breed’s distinctive features making it a subject of fascination throughout the centuries. Today, the Chow Chow is less of a working dog and more of a companion animal, but it still carries the dignified essence of its ancestors.


chow chow


Size Characteristics of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow is a medium-sized breed with a powerful, sturdy frame. Here is a detailed look at the size characteristics of the breed:


A typical Chow Chow stands between 17 to 20 inches at the shoulder. This height gives them a strong presence without being overly large or cumbersome.


A healthy adult Chow Chow typically weighs between 45 to 70 pounds. Males are generally at the higher end of this range, while females are often slightly lighter.


The Chow Chow should be symmetrical and balanced. The distance from the elbow to the ground should be approximately half the dog’s height at the withers. A well-proportioned Chow will appear square when viewed from the side.

Body Structure

The body of a Chow Chow is compact with a broad skull and a flat, broad back. They have well-muscled loins and strong hindquarters. Their unique straight hind legs contribute to their distinctive, stilted way of moving.


Chow Chows have a strong and muscular build, with a deep chest and well-sprung ribs. This build was necessary for their historical roles, which required endurance and strength.


Overall, the Chow Chow is a well-built dog with a proud and dignified stance. They carry their tail curved over the back and have a ruff of fur around the head and neck, which gives them a mane-like appearance, adding to their imposing look.

One of the most distinguishing features of the Chow is their lush double coat, which can be either smooth or rough. They come in various colors, including red, black, blue, cinnamon, cream, and white. Their straight hind legs contribute to a stilted gait, and their small, triangular ears add to their distinctive expression.

When compared to other breeds, Chows are similar in size to the American Bulldog or the Dalmatian but are more compact and have a more unique gait due to their straight back legs. Their size and strength were prized for their work in cold climates and challenging terrains, and these characteristics continue to make them a distinctive and powerful breed.


chow chow



Chow Chows have a reputation for being distant and independent. They are typically reserved around strangers but deeply loyal to their family. They are not known for being particularly playful, preferring to maintain a dignified composure. While they can coexist with other dogs and pets if raised together, Chows can be territorial and may not be the best fit for homes with small children due to their intolerance of rough handling.


The intelligence of the Chow Chow can make them a challenge to train. They have a strong will and often require an owner who understands canine behaviors and can provide firm, consistent training. Socialization from a young age is crucial to help them develop into well-adjusted adults.

Exercise Requirements and Energy Level of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow, while dignified and somewhat aloof in appearance, has specific exercise needs that are crucial for their physical health and mental well-being.

Moderate Exercise Needs

Chow Chows have a moderate level of energy and do not require excessive amounts of exercise. However, they do need daily physical activity to maintain their health and prevent boredom. A couple of 15-minute walks or a single longer walk coupled with some playtime are usually sufficient for most Chows.

Mental Stimulation

Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise for this intelligent breed. Puzzle toys, training sessions, and games that challenge their mind can help keep them engaged and content. Without adequate mental stimulation, Chows can become listless or develop unwanted behaviors.

Low to Moderate Energy Level

Chow Chows are not typically high-energy dogs that will run and play tirelessly. Instead, they tend to have a more laid-back approach to life. Their energy bursts are usually short-lived, followed by periods of relaxation.

Tolerance for Exercise

While Chows will enjoy and benefit from regular walks, they are not a breed built for endurance sports or extreme weather conditions, particularly heat. Due to their thick double coat, they can overheat quickly, so it’s important to monitor them during exercise and avoid strenuous activity in hot weather.

Exercise as Part of Routine

Regular exercise should be part of the Chow Chow’s routine. It can help prevent the development of obesity, which is a concern for the breed, given their propensity for a slower metabolism.

Suitable Activities

Chow Chows often enjoy leisurely walks, light hiking, and play sessions that do not require excessive exertion. Activities that allow them to explore at their own pace are typically more enjoyable for them than those that require high levels of agility or speed.

Exercise and Socialization

Exercise time can also be an opportunity for socialization. Exposure to different environments, people, and other dogs in a controlled manner can be beneficial, especially considering the Chow’s natural wariness of strangers and other animals.

In summary, while Chow Chows may not demand extensive exercise, they do need regular, moderate activity to stay healthy and happy. Owners should ensure that exercise is a consistent part of their Chow’s life, but also be mindful of the breed’s limitations and individual preferences.


chow chow


Grooming Requirements of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow is renowned for its dense double coat that requires comprehensive grooming to maintain its health and appearance. Here’s a detailed look at the grooming needs of a Chow Chow:

Regular Brushing

The Chow Chow’s thick coat needs regular brushing to prevent matting and tangling. Owners should brush their Chow at least two to three times a week, with daily brushing being ideal during seasonal shedding periods. A slicker brush, long-toothed comb, and undercoat rake are essential tools for effectively grooming a Chow’s coat.


Chow Chows don’t need frequent baths, but a monthly bath will help to keep their coat clean and reduce shedding. It’s crucial to use a dog-specific shampoo that caters to their skin and coat needs and to ensure the coat is thoroughly rinsed to prevent residue build-up, which can cause skin irritation.


After bathing, a Chow’s coat should be carefully dried to prevent any dampness from lingering in their dense fur, which can lead to hot spots or skin infections. A blow dryer on a cool setting can help to fluff the coat and dry the undercoat effectively.


Chows are heavy shedders, particularly during the change of seasons. Their undercoat will come out in clumps, which requires increased grooming during these times to keep shedding under control.

Ear Care

Regular checks and cleaning of the ears are essential to prevent wax build-up and infections, particularly since their heavy coat can lead to reduced air circulation around the ears.

Nail Trimming

Chow Chows need their nails trimmed regularly to prevent discomfort and overgrowth that can lead to walking issues or injury.

Dental Hygiene

As with all breeds, maintaining good dental health is vital. Regular brushing of the teeth or use of dental chews can help prevent periodontal disease.

Eye Care

Chow Chows can be prone to eye issues, so their eyes should be checked regularly for any signs of irritation or abnormal discharge and cleaned gently with a soft, damp cloth.

Professional Grooming

Some Chow owners opt for professional grooming services every few months to keep their dog’s coat in good condition, particularly if they show their dogs or prefer a specific type of cut.

In summary, while the Chow Chow’s grooming requirements are extensive, with regular care, the grooming routine can become a bonding experience between the dog and owner. Proper grooming not only keeps the Chow looking majestic but is also a crucial aspect of maintaining the breed’s overall health and well-being.


chow chow


Health Issues of the Chow Chow

Chow Chows, like all breeds, are prone to specific health issues. Awareness and proactive care can help manage these conditions. Here are some common health concerns associated with the Chow Chow breed:

Hip Dysplasia

This is a genetic condition where the thighbone doesn’t fit snugly into the hip joint. Over time, it can cause arthritis and is particularly problematic in medium to large breeds like the Chow Chow. Regular vet check-ups and maintaining a healthy weight can help manage this condition.


Entropion is an eye condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea. It is painful and can lead to more severe problems like ulcers or perforations. Surgical correction is often required.

Elbow Dysplasia

Similar to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia is a malformation of the elbow joint that can lead to lameness and arthritis. Weight management and proper exercise can help alleviate the symptoms, though surgery may be necessary in severe cases.

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

Chow Chows can be susceptible to thyroid problems, where the immune system attacks the thyroid gland. This can lead to hypothyroidism, which often manifests as weight gain, lethargy, and coat problems. It can be managed with medication once diagnosed.

Skin Problems

Their thick double coat can hide skin conditions that may arise from allergies or parasites. Regular grooming and vet check-ups are essential to catch these issues early.

Gastric Torsion (Bloat)

Chow Chows may be at risk for bloat, a life-threatening condition where the stomach distends and can twist. Symptoms include restlessness, a swollen abdomen, and retching without vomit. This is an emergency requiring immediate veterinary attention.

Patellar Luxation

This condition occurs when the kneecap is dislocated from its normal position in the groove of the thigh bone. It can cause pain and abnormal gait.

Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR)

CMR is a hereditary eye condition in Chows that can cause retinal lesions, though it often doesn’t lead to blindness.

Ear Infections

Because of their deep-set ears and thick fur, Chows can be prone to ear infections. Regular cleaning and monitoring are necessary to prevent issues.

Diabetes Mellitus

Chow Chows can develop diabetes, which will require lifelong management with diet and insulin.

Owners should maintain regular veterinary check-ups to monitor for these health conditions and should discuss with their vet the recommended health screenings for the breed. A healthy lifestyle, including a balanced diet and regular exercise, is also vital for preventing obesity, which can exacerbate many of these health issues.

It’s important for potential Chow owners to work with reputable breeders who screen for these health issues and can provide health clearances for puppy parents. With proper care, Chows can live a full and happy life, typically ranging between 8 to 12 years.



Notable Dogs From the Breed

One notable Chow Chow was President Calvin Coolidge’s pet named Timmy. Another famous Chow belonged to Sigmund Freud, who reportedly brought his Chow, Jofi, to his therapy sessions, believing the dog had a calming influence on his patients.

Comparable Breeds

Comparable breeds to the Chow Chow include the Shar-Pei, known for its distinctive wrinkles and similar aloof temperament, and the Tibetan Mastiff, which shares the Chow’s sturdy build and protective nature.

General Summary of the Breed

The Chow Chow stands out with its majestic coat, proud bearing, and unique history. While they may present a training challenge due to their independent nature, they can be loyal and affectionate companions in the right home. With proper care, attention to their physical and grooming needs, and socialization, the Chow Chow can be a regal and rewarding addition to any household.

Chow Chows are a distinctive breed, classified in the non-sporting group by the American Kennel Club. They are well known for their deep-set almond eyes, distinctive blue-black tongue, and a ruff of fur that frames their face, giving them a leonine appearance

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