The Chow Chow is a powerful and compactly built dog from ancient China. This is a dog breed of unique characteristics. The most noticeable physical feature of this dog breed is its blue-black tongue. An old Chinese legend says that their tongue got its color when the Chow Chow licked drops of color while the sky was being painted. Because of their looks, you might think that these dogs are mean, but a well raised and socialized Chow Chow isn't aggressive.
FUN FACT: These dogs are born with pink tongues, and the tongue will turn blue-black at 8 to 10 weeks.
18-22 in (46-56 cm)
44–70 lb (20–32 kg)
The Chow Chow is a native dog breed that first came to life in the region of East Asia. This is one of the first dog breeds that emerged right after the first domestication of dogs in general. It is widely believed that these dogs were the models from which stone lion statues were made and were placed to guard Buddhist temples.
We know that the native Chinese dogs and other ancient dog breeds from that region have been scientifically proved to be the closest relatives of gray wolves. Some of the breeds that have that basal lineage are Chow Chow, Akita, and Shiba.
Some researchers claimed that the Chow Chow is the original ancestor of many dog breeds and some of them are Samoyed, Pomeranian, Keeshond, and Norwegian Elkhound. During the time of the Chinese T’ang Dynasty, one of their more esteemed emperors by the name of Ling was an owner and a breeder of Chow Chows. These dogs were treated as equal members of the “Imperial Household”. They had a diet that consisted of only the best ingredients such as high-quality rice and meat. The ancient Chow Chows even had many servants and helpers as well as military escorts and guards. These dogs weren’t kept outside and the emperor made sure that they slept on rich and soft carpets and even awarded them some of the highest titles and decorations and the most famous of these orders was the Order of Kai-Fu. These old and ancient dogs had several purposes which included guarding the Royal Palace as well as being hunting dogs. Even in those ancient times, these dogs were sometimes kept as pets and family members.
The Tibetan monasteries had a special relationship with these dogs and were specialized in breeding the blue-coated Chow Chows. The process of achieving a perfect blue-coated line of these dogs took many generations and required a great deal of their dedication. The blue-coated dogs are still being used today in these monasteries as hunting, herding, and guarding dogs.
By the end of the Tang dynasty, great poverty and many problems befell the Chinese. These dogs stopped being bred and were kept only by the richest and noblest Chinese. They also remained on duty in Chinese monasteries. There weren’t many original Chow Chows left since it was beginning to become significantly harder for the Chinese to own a dog.
In those ancient times, these dogs were mostly used for hunting, herding, sleigh pulling, and guarding duties. The ancient Chinese used to fashion clothing out of the Chow Chows coats, and when times became tough, they even started consuming dog meat.
In the northern parts of China, big Chow Chow farms could be found. There were even traditions in the Manchuria region when a farmer’s daughter marries, she and her new husband would receive Chow Chows as a gift and to start a farm of their own. In the ancient and traditional Chinese medicine, a Chow Chows tongue is considered to have many healing qualities.
These dogs first came to the USA at the end of the 18th century. They were brought overseas by the sailors that were returning from their merchant and army voyages from China. These dogs were transported in the crates in merchant ships. The famous silk road was also used for the transportation of this dog breed and the evidence of Chow Chow dogs can be found all across that famous route.
The first and one of the most famous Europeans to talk about and describe the original Chow Chows was nonother than Marco Polo himself. He was invited to China by the special request of a great Chinese “mogul” in the 13th century. Marco Polo wrote about these dogs in his books about his travels. Still, the Chow Chows remained mostly unknown in the West until the late 15th century. The European merchant sailors that were employed by the biggest company of that time, the East India Trading Company, brought these dogs back with them out of pure curiosity.
This ancient dog breed started gaining popularity at the end of the 19th century when several English noblemen and women fell in love with these dogs. Lady Faudel-Phillips was one of the noticeable individuals that had a Chow Chow. She immediately fell in love with them and she even started and organized the famous Amwell kennels. She became one of the biggest authorities on this dog breed and subsequently became one of the leading exhibitors of Chow Chows of that time.
One of the best years for this dog breed that we have to mention is the year 1895. Three significant and historic events happened that changed this breed’s history. Dog by the name of “Chow VIII” became the first-ever Chow Chow dog show champion. A dog by the name “Peridot II” was awarded a “Best in Show” title at the famous LKA Championship dog show, and the Chow Chow breeding club came to life.
The first official dog breed standard was based on the dog who was owned by Lady Faudel-Phillips’s mother. The name of that dog was Chow the VIII and the owner’s name was Lady Granville Gordon. She played a pivotal role in the registration of this breed and she is credited for registering this breed by the American Kennel Club by the name of Chow Chow and not just by the generic term “Foreign breed”.
FUN FACT: In China, this breed is called Songshi Quan.
Dog Breed Characteristics
These dogs can be described as sturdy that has a square in his profile and a broad skull and small, triangular, erect ears.
The Chow Chow coat comes in two variants: rough and smooth. The rough coat is thick and beneath that coat is soft and thick undercoat. The smooth coat is hard, dense, and smooth outer coat. Both types of the coat come in five color variants: red (range from light golden to deep mahogany), blue, black, cinnamon, and cream. This is a widely recognized breed that is registered in both the FCI and the AKC.
The FCI or Fédération Cynologique Internationale issued a Chow Chow standard and in that standard, they describe these dogs as being active, compact, short-coupled, and very well balanced. They belong to Group 5 (Spitz and primitive type), Section 5 (Asian Spitz and related breeds). These dogs do not have a working trial. The FCI standard also mentions that the ideal height for male dogs of this breed is 19 - 22 in (48 - 56 cm), and 18 - 20 in (46 - 51 cm) for females.
This dog breed was registered on a definitive basis by the FCI on 10th December 1957.
Because of his profuse double coat, they require regular grooming. You need to brush him at least three times a week to keep hair under control and to keep the coat healthy. They shed heavily during the shedding season, so you will need to brush him daily. Bath him once a month or more often if he gets dirty while playing outside. Bath can also help remove the shedding coat. The rest is basic care: brush his teeth weekly, trim his nails as needed.
FUN FACT: Chow Chow dogs have 44 teeth, while the other dogs have 42.
The Chow Chow is an active dog breed that requires moderate exercise. Few daily walks and moderate playing with toys will be enough for this breed. Make sure to avoid exercise and walking during hot periods in the day, because the breed doesn't tolerate humidity and high heat very well. They are best suited for living indoors with his family. Like most dog breeds, the Chow Chow reacts best to positive training methods. It is in their nature to be calm, quiet and they are usually very well-behaved, but they can also be somewhat stubborn and show some resistance to training. These dogs become stubborn and attached only to special individuals. With that in mind, it is extremely important to start training as soon as possible. These dogs gain respect for the people that care and work with them the most.
FUN FACT: The blue-coated Chow Chow in most cases has a blue or gray nose.
Despite their cute appearance, they are very protective and strong-willed dogs. This is why early socialization and puppy training is required. He is distrustful of strangers and can be aggressive toward other dogs if not raised properly. He can be stubborn so during the training you need to be patient and positive and avoiding harsh training methods. Because they are very intelligent you can start training at eight weeks old. Well-raised Chow Chow should never be aggressive or shy.
This is a good family pet. He is very protective of his family. If they are raised with children they will go well with them but they will not tolerate a lot of abuse from a young child. So you must teach your child how to properly play with the dog.
Chow Chows and other animals
These dogs if raised properly, shouldn’t be aggressive. If they do indeed display aggression, it is mostly directed towards other dogs, especially of the same breed and gender. They have strong hunting instincts, so it is not recommended that you mix Chow Chow's company with cats and smaller dogs. Once again, these types of behaviors can be managed with proper and early socialization.
The Chow Chow is generally a healthy breed with a life expectancy of 8-12 years. Like all other dog breeds they are prone to some health problems: entropion (eyelid to roll inward, irritating or injuring the eyeball), hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation, cataract, glaucoma, distichiasis, skin problems, and allergies. There are a few recommended health tests you should perform to ensure the dog is healthy: hip evaluation, ophthalmologist evaluation, elbow evaluation, thyroid evaluation, and patella evaluation.
Before deciding if the Chow Chow is the right dog for you, be sure to do a lot of research. Talk to other Chow Chow owners and breeders. Also, make sure to find a reputable breeder who will gladly answer all your questions about the dog. Always ask to show you health certificates of both parents and if possible request to see parents. Some bad breeders will try to fool you with the coat color. They will say that they have puppies with rare or exotic colors such as champagne, silver, chocolate, etc, but in fact, that are just fancy names for regular Chow Chow colors. When buying a dog always make sure that you buy from a registered breeder and we would strongly recommend that you search Chow Chow breeders on the World Dog Finder website or to check with your national cynology association.
World Dog Finder team