Chow Chow: All The Things You Need To Know About This Fluffy Dog
There's no mistaking a Chow Chow.
Puffy fur, lion-like face and blue tongue — these features make it one of the most recognizable dog breeds in the world.
But what makes a Chow Chow a Chow Chow? Are they really as aggressive as people say they are? Most importantly, is the Chow Chow the dog for you?
Let's find out.
A Basic Overview of the Chow Chow
Chow Chows are stocky, medium-sized dogs that range between 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 cm) in height, and 45 to 70 lb (20 to 32 kg) in weight.
Their double coats — which can be red, black, cream, fawn or blue — form a ruff around their necks, giving them their distinctive lion-like appearance.
Another unique feature is their tongue, which can be blue-black or purple. This blue-black/purple color extends to their lips, making them the only breed with this coloration in their mouths.
You can also pick out a Chow Chow by its tail (which is always curled over its back) and its hind legs (which are so straight, they give the dog a somewhat awkward gait).
Despite their reputation for aggressiveness, Chow Chows are actually well-behaved. Assuming he's from a good pedigree and has been trained properly, a Chow Chow can be a great companion to anyone who wants to take him home.
What is the Personality of the Chow Chow?
Unlike many dog breeds, Chow Chows have an aloof personality. They're not the sort to hop around excitedly after seeing their masters. If you buy a Chow Chow expecting him to cuddle you at the end of a long hard day, you'll be quite disappointed.
Also, Chows Chows aren't very fond of strangers. If you're going to let a Chow Chow meet Aunt Jane for the first time, you'll have to socialize him first; that is, train him to mingle with people who aren't his masters. Otherwise, he's going to scare off every stranger who comes within a few feet of him.
Chow Chows aren't good with small children either, especially if those children are rowdy. However, they can get along with older, more well-behaved kids, so they're not completely unsuitable for families.
Like the lions they resemble so much, Chow Chows are a dignified bunch who aren't inclined to fun and games. If you throw a ball in front of them expecting them to play with it, they'll probably only look at you as if to say: "What do you want me to do with this?"
Still, if a dog with a cat's personality appeals to you, and you don't mind someone who'll look out for you whenever strangers get too close for comfort, the Chow Chow can be as loyal to you as his ancestors were thousands of years ago.
History and Background of the Chow Chow
The Chow Chow is one of the world's oldest dog breeds, with some sources dating its origins to as far back as 3,000 years ago. It's believed that the dog came from Mongolia and Northern China, where nomadic tribes migrated southward taking their dogs with them.
The Chinese had a lot of uses for the Chow Chow. One emperor was said to have had as many as 2,500 pairs specifically bred for hunting. Chow Chows were also used to guard valuables, as sources of fur trimmings for coats, and even as food.
It wasn't until the 18th century that the Chow Chow was taken out of China and into Europe via British merchant ships. Queen Victoria herself loved the breed so much, she carried a puppy with her wherever she went.
In 1903, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Chow Chow. Today, it ranks 64th in terms of popularity in the U.S. — although some of you might disagree with the ranking!
Are Chow Chows Playful and Fun?
Sadly, no. They're far from being playful dogs.
If you're looking for a pooch who'll keep your toddlers company, the Chow Chow isn't for you. If you need a dog who'll be a willing subject of your next "Top 10 Funniest Dog Moments" video, the Chow Chow isn't for you either. If you're looking for sparkles and sunshine, the Chow Chow definitely isn't for you.
But if you're looking for a loyal friend, a fierce protector, a no-nonsense embodiment of class and dignity, and a pooch who can elicit "oohs" and "aahs" from everyone you meet, the Chow Chow can be all that and more. He may not be the most affectionate pooch on the block, but he's still far from the worst dog anyone can have.
How Much Exercise Does A Chow Chow Need?
As medium-sized dogs with aloof personalities, Chow Chows need only as much exercise as they can do to stay in shape. They don't have to do high jumps (in fact, high jumps and the like are not recommended for Chow Chows of any age), but they do need to watch their weight and eat a healthy, balanced diet.
If you want your Chow Chow to get moving, start with a daily walk. Walk briskly, or at a pace where you feel that your pooch has used up enough energy without over-exerting himself. With Chow Chows, over-exertion is a huge no-no, especially when they're still very young.
Until a Chow Chow is at least 18 months old, you should let his natural youthful energy dictate how much exercise he needs. His bones and muscles are still developing, so there's no need to put too much pressure on them.
Give your Chow-Chow age-appropriate vaccines, and then let him run around your yard. Don't force him to run with you if he's not the running sort. Otherwise, you could do more harm than good.
What are the Grooming Needs of the Chow Chow?
At most, Chow Chows should only be bathed once a week. Any more than that, and you might risk drying out the natural oils that keep their coat soft and shiny. When bathing a Chow Chow, you should:
Prepare a gentle, dog-friendly shampoo and wash cloth.
Remove any mats and tangles you spot on his fur before pouring water on him.
Rub the shampoo as thoroughly as you can, until the mixture soaks all the way into his skin and/or until you work up a lather.
Rinse thoroughly, and repeat as needed until your pooch is clean.
Use the wash cloth to clean any parts that are too sensitive to be shampooed, such as the face and ears.
After you finish bathing your Chow Chow, brush his coat gently towards (not away from!) the skin. Use a pin brush for his long coat, and a slicker brush for his short coat. Again, remove any stray strands of hair that can cause matting and tangling.
With Chow Chows, you need to watch for "hot spots," or itchy red sores on the skin. No one really knows where hot spots come from, but they're a common problem in Chow Chows, so you'll want to take your pooch to the vet as soon as you spot any of them.
Are Chow Chows Easy to Train?
Chow Chows are a pretty smart bunch. However, as any experienced dog owner will tell you, "smart" doesn't necessarily mean "easy to train."
Like cats, Chow Chows can be independent and stubborn. If they haven't already been trained to "Sit," "Stay" and "Heel" during puppyhood, they're not likely to obey these same commands when they're adults.
That's why, when it comes to Chow Chows (and dogs in general), early obedience training is essential. Chow Chows are a naturally proud and self-assured breed, so you'll want to establish yourself as their "leader" from the get-go.
At the same time, you'll want to avoid hitting or screaming at them when they're not doing what you want. Chow Chows don't respond well to any sort of abuse.
One of the most important aspects of training a Chow Chow is socialization. As soon as he's old enough to roam around by himself, a Chow Chow should be introduced to as many people, animals and environments as possible. The more comfortable he is under different conditions, and the better his experiences with the world in general, the less likely he'll live up to his reputation as an aggressive dog.
How Much Does a Chow Chow Puppy Cost?
On average, a Chow Chow puppy will cost around $800 to $900. For a top quality dog, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1,900 to $6,000.
Assuming you're outsourcing your Chow Chow's grooming, you'll have to add another $90 to the budget. And if you account for food, vet bills, routine medical procedures like deworming and neutering, supplies, training and other necessary expenses, your Chow Chow budget can total between $500 to $2,000 in the first year, and $500 to $1,000 for every year after that.
Considering that the breed can live up to 15 years, you'll want to be financially prepared if you're going to make a Chow Chow a part of your family.
Chow Chows are a unique breed, to say the least. They're not for everyone, and can be problematic to people who don't know how to handle them. But those who do know how to handle them will find in this pooch a dignified, loyal and confident friend for life.