Chow Chow Breed Information

“The Chow Chow is a large, fluffy dog breed known for its distinctive lion-like appearance, blue-black tongue, and aloof yet loyal nature.”


About the Chow Chow

Group: Non-Sporting

The Chow Chow, affectionately known as the ‘puffy lion dog’, is a breed that charms with its lion-like appearance, fluffy coat, and an aristocratic demeanor. They are dignified, calm, and somewhat aloof which might be misinterpreted as being unfriendly, however, to their families they show great affection and loyalty. Known for their blue-black tongue, these dogs are undeniably unique! But their thick coat isn’t just for show – it needs frequent grooming to prevent matting and to keep their regal look. Stubborn and independent, the Chow Chow requires a patient owner ready to provide early socialization and firm, yet gentle, training. These beautiful dogs with their deep-set eyes are not excessive barkers, but they make a good watchdog due to their reserved nature towards strangers. Despite these characteristics, they can be wonderful pets to those who understand and cater to their special needs.

Physical information

Male Female
Average Height 19-22 inches 18-20 inches
Average Weight 55-70 lbs. 45-60 lbs.
Life Expectancy 9-12 years 9-12 years

Chow Chow Breed Standard

The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard for the Chow Chow breed emphasizes the following key aspects:

  1. Appearance: The Chow Chow is a sturdily built dog, square in profile with a broad skull and small, triangular, erect ears with rounded tips. It’s known for its distinctive ruff or mane appearance.
  2. Temperament: This breed is characterized by a dignified, serious demeanor. They are aloof with strangers but loyal to their families.
  3. Head and Skull: The Chow Chow has a broad and flat skull with a deep and broad muzzle. The facial wrinkles are characteristic, giving them a scowling expression.
  4. Body: The body is compact, with a strong, straight back. They have a well-muscled frame and a tail that is carried over the back.
  5. Gait: The breed is known for a unique stilted gait due to their straight hind legs, which adds to their distinctive appearance.
  6. Coat: The Chow Chow possesses a dense double coat that can be either rough or smooth. The rough coat is abundant and stands off, while the smooth coat is hard and dense, without any obvious ruff or feathering.
  • Acceptable Colors: Black, blue, cinnamon, cream, red, and simply any solid or solid with lighter shadings in the ruff, tail, and feathering.
  • Acceptable Markings: According to the AKC, there are no specified acceptable markings for the Chow Chow breed.

Personality and Ownership Rankings

Friendliness 2 star
Good with kids 3 star
Shedding Level 5 star
Grooming Needs 5 star
Drool Level 1 star
Trainability 3 star
Energy Level 2 star

Breed Highlights

  • Loyal: Known to be incredibly loyal to their families, Chow Chows will quickly form a strong bond with their owners.
  • Dignified: They carry a certain aristocratic demeanor and grace that gives them a regal appeal.
  • Calm: This breed is typically calm and not overly energetic, making them ideal companions for more relaxed households.
  • Independent: Chow Chows are independent dogs that can entertain themselves when left alone for short periods.
  • Watchful: Due to their aloof nature, Chow Chows can make great watchdogs, as they are often reserved with strangers.

National Breed Clubs and Rescues

Clubs and Organizations

Rescue Organizations

Care Needs

The Chow Chow breed can be susceptible to a number of health issues, emphasizing the importance of regular vet check-ups and responsible breeding practices. They are prone to conditions like Hip Dysplasia, Elbow Dysplasia, and eye issues like Entropion. A detailed guide on Chow Chow health-care advice offers extensive information in effectively maintaining the breed’s wellbeing. As an owner or potential owner, being aware of the breed’s health predispositions is invaluable in providing them optimum care.

Recommended Health Tests

  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation

Exercise Needs

Chow Chows have moderate exercise needs compared to other breeds. Daily walks and playtime are crucial to keep them healthy and happy. While they are not the most active breed, maintaining regular exercise will help prevent obesity, a common health issue facing Chow Chows. This article from Wag Walking provides more detailed information about the exercise needs of a Chow Chow.

Actionable Exercise Advice

  • Offer daily walks, making sure to vary the routes to keep them interesting.
  • Incorporate playtime with toys during the day to stimulate them.
  • Always monitor the Chow Chow during exercise, especially in warm weather, to prevent overheating.

Training Needs

Training a Chow Chow takes time, patience, and understanding. They are an independent breed and can often be stubborn. However, they are also intelligent, and with consistent, positive reinforcement-based training methods, they can be well-behaved and obedient. You can gain a deeper insight into Chow Chow training from other owners by visiting the Obedience training section at the popular Chow Chow forum:

Actionable Training Advice

  • Begin training early to instill good behaviors and curb any potential issues.
  • Keep training sessions short and fun to hold their interest.
  • Always use positive reinforcement strategies rather than punishment-based methods.

Nutrition Needs

The Chow Chow breed requires a well-balanced diet that’s high in quality protein and lower in fats and carbohydrates. As a breed prone to obesity, serving sizes should be monitored carefully. It’s also essential that their diet is age-appropriate, as puppies, adults, and seniors have different nutritional requirements. You can learn more about the Nutritional Needs of a Chow Chow from this comprehensive NutriCanine article.

Actionable Nutrition Advice

  • Choose high-quality commercial dog foods that list a source of animal protein as the first ingredient.
  • Monitor serving sizes to prevent overeating and subsequent weight gain.
  • Consider age-appropriate diets, switching from puppy to adult to senior food at the appropriate life stages.
  • Always provide access to fresh, clean water, especially if feeding a dry kibble diet.

Chow Chow Breed History

Breed History of the Chow Chow

The Chow Chow, one of the world’s ancient dog breeds, finds its roots in Mongolia and Northern China. It’s believed that Chow Chows were an all-purpose breed during the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD) – helping with tasks like hunting, herding, pulling, guarding, and even the source of pelts and meat. This widely acknowledged fact is backed up by historical artifacts and paintings dating around this era.

In the early 19th century, Chow Chows were transported to England where they were shown in London’s Zoological Gardens. Early development of the breed in the West during this time was largely random, with Chows mostly maintained as exotic varieties. However, by late Victoria era, the breed had gained significant attention from aristocracy, leading to deliberate efforts towards standardization.

The efforts for breed standardization happened in England with Queen Victoria playing a significant part in the breed’s popularity. The breed initially called the “Chinese Black-Mouth” was eventually referred to as the Chow Chow – an English slang term for curios and knick-knacks from the Orient.

There has been a growing popularity and recognition for the breed since their first exhibition in the United States in the late 1890s. Famously, President Calvin Coolidge and his wife owned a black Chow Chow named Timmy. The dog enthusiast Sigmund Freud also owned a Chow Chow, which he often used in his therapy sessions. Popularity, however, spawned many unscrupulous breeders, leading to temperament and genetic issues in the breed.

Due to these challenges, there have been significant preservation efforts to maintain the quality of the breed. Responsible breeders worldwide now adhere to strong ethical guidelines and health checks to breed healthy Chows with good temperament

Modern Chow Chows are seen mainly in show rings or as companion dogs. They retain their iconic physical characteristics, such as a solid frame, a mane that resembles that of a lion, deep-set almond eyes, and notably, their blue-black tongue. They are known for their aloofness and independence alongside their undying loyalty and protective nature towards their families.

Chow Chow Fun Facts

  • Unique Tongue: Chow Chows are one of the only dog breeds to have a blue-black tongue. As puppies, their tongue is pink, turning to blue-black by 8-10 weeks old.
  • Ancient Breed: The Chow Chow is known to be one of the oldest and most primitive of dog breeds, with DNA findings suggesting they are one of the first wolf-to-dog breeds.
  • Famous people love them: Martha Stewart, Sigmund Freud, and President Calvin Coolidge were some of the famous people who had a Chow Chow as their pet.
  • Double Coated: They have a double coat – a soft undercoat for insulation and a rough topcoat to protect against the elements.
  • Stubborn Yet Loyal: Recognized for their independent and aloof nature, Chow Chows can be stubborn. However, they’re also known to be exceptionally loyal to their families.
  • Strong Hunting Roots: Despite their plush looks, Chow Chows were initially bred for hard work like hunting and sled pulling in Mongolia and China.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Are Chow Chows good with kids?

Chow Chows can get along with children if they are raised with them. However, they can be aloof with strangers, including children they do not know, and they don’t generally tolerate rough or inappropriate play.

2. Do Chow Chows require a lot of exercise?

While Chow Chows are not necessarily high-energy dogs, they do require daily exercise and mental stimulation to keep them healthy and happy.

3. Is a Chow Chow difficult to train?

Chow Chows are known to be stubborn and independent, but with consistency, patience, and positive reinforcement, they can be trained effectively.

4. Do Chow Chows shed a lot?

Yes, Chow Chows have a dense double coat that sheds quite heavily, especially during the shedding season.

5. Are Chow Chows aggressive?

Chow Chows are not typically aggressive, but they can be aloof with strangers and protective of their families, which can sometimes be misconstrued as aggression.

Breeds Similar to the Chow Chow

  • Akita: Like the Chow Chow, the Akita breed is known for its loyalty, independence, and reserved nature. They are similarly protective of their families, make great watchdogs, and demand moderate exercise, similar to Chow Chows.
  • Siberian Husky: Although more energetic than Chows, Siberian Huskies share their thick coat and exotic appearance. Huskies are also intelligent and independent but require a bit more exercise, making them a good option if you like the Chow’s temperament but want a more active dog.
  • Alaskan Malamute: Another breed similar to the Chow Chow in terms of independence, the Alaskan Malamute is also protective and somewhat aloof with strangers. They have high grooming needs like a Chow and do well in families where they can form strong bonds.
  • Norwegian Elkhound: A less common choice similar to Chows, Norwegian Elkhounds are known for their loyalty, a trait shared by Chow Chows. They can also be aloof with strangers, and while more energetic than Chows, they can adapt well to a variety of living conditions.