Chow Chow

Breed Group: Non-Sporting

Temperament and Behavior

The Chow Chow is known for its cuddly teddy bear-like appearance as puppies and its lion-like appearance and regal manner as an adult. Reserved and dignified, they show little affection but have great loyalty to family. The smooth coated variety is often more active and sociable with strangers than his rough coat brother. They are both low key inside and neither is interested in idle play, with the result that, although they get along with children well, they do not make good playmates. They may accept non-canine family pets if raised with them, but two male Chow Chows will likely spar. Keeping one male and one female or a male Chow and a male of another (submissive) breed is much more apt to keep the peace. Outside they are quite active and, even though they bark little, they make excellent watch and guard dogs. They can be lazy inside; to make sure they get the average amount of exercise they need, get them outside where they become much more active. The strong-willed, stubborn Chow Chow requires an owner who is patient and calm, as well as fair and firm in order to develop the mutual respect required to have a successful relationship. A dominant breed, these dogs do best with an owner who is equally dominant. Because of their independent nature, they are sometimes compared to a cat. Chows do fairly well in an apartment if it is frequently exercised. A small yard is sufficient for them. They are naturally clean and easy to housebreak.

Physical Characteristics

A powerful, sturdy breed, the medium size Chow Chow is known for its blue-black tongue. A stocky, muscular dog, the Chow Chow boasts a lion-like appearance with thick fur around its neck. The breed has a heavy, dense coat that comes in two varieties – smooth coat and rough coat. Both shed heavily and require regular brushing, the smooth coat once a week, the rough coat every other day; more often during seasonal shedding. Coat care is a must if health problems are to be avoided. To prevent hot spots, make sure the dog is thoroughly dry after bathing. Dry shampoo can be used as an alternative to water. Common coat colors include solid red, black, blue, cinnamon, and cream. Less common colors are tan, gray or white. The typical Chow Chow is between 18 and 22 inches tall with their weight ranging from 45 to 70 pounds. The breed prefers a cold climate over a hot one, as they are prone to heat exhaustion.

Trainer's Notes

Chow Chows need to be thoroughly socialized when very young to combat any potential over-protectiveness as an adult, and so that they will get along with cats and other household pets. They also need early obedience training. They are very bright, but a stubborn and sometimes detached breed, which can make training a difficult challenge. It is important to be consistent with them. This is not a breed to use old-fashioned, leash jerking training methods with. A trainer who attempts to use such methods will have little success at best, and at worst, may be bitten.

Photo © by Dzoker available under the CCSA
Chow Chow

Chow Chow, rough coat


The Chow Chow has a number of significant health issues. Almost half suffer from Elbow Dysplasia with about 1 in 5 suffering from hip dysplasia and almost another 1 in 5 suffering from patellar luxation. Entropion also occurs relatively frequently. Avoid puppies with tiny or deeply set eyes. Cataracts, PPM, Distichiasis, and Corneal Dystrophy affect their eyes. Elongated Soft Palate, Hypothyroidism, Bloat and the fact many are intolerant of anesthesia complete the health issues of greatest concern to the breed. The lifespan of a Chow Chow is 8 to 12 years.


The breed ranks 64th in the list of the American Kennel Club’s most popular dogs with between 1,000 and 2,000 registered each year. The Chow Chow endured a period of high popularity in the 1980s. This interest caused many irresponsible breeders to breed Chow Chows with poor temperaments. When buying a puppy, it is important to select a responsible breeder with a sincere interest in the breed.

Breed History

The Chow Chow is an ancient breed of northern Chinese origin. The bone structure of the Chow Chow is quite similar to that of the oldest known fossilized dog remains, which date to several million years ago. An all-purpose dog of China, the Chow Chow was used for hunting, herding, pulling, and protecting the homestead. Some Chinese also utilize the Chow Chow for food, and for its fur that is sold on the market. During the 1800s, the dog was brought to England by merchants. The Chow Chow name was most likely originated from the pidgin English word “chow chow”, a term used to describe the array of miscellaneous items brought back to the country from the Far East. Today the Chow Chow is quite popular in the United States as a companion dog.

Additional Information

Famous owners of the breed include US President Calvin Coolidge, Walt Disney, Sigmund Freud, Kelsey Grammer, Ringo Starr, Martha Stewart, Sally Struthers, and Uma Thurman. The National (US) Breed Club is the Chow Chow Club.

Is A Chow Chow THE BEST Dog For YOU?

Recommended Articles

Three Mistakes Most People Make Looking For A Dog

Six Questions You Must Be Able To Answer Before You Can Find Your Best Dog


The Complete Dog Selection System