With his deep-set eyes and large head, accentuated by a mane of hair, the Chow Chow (Chow for short) is an impressive-looking dog. His looks might make you think he's mean or ill-tempered, but a well-bred and well-raised Chow isn't aggressive.
Instead, it's said that the Chow combines the nobility of a lion, the drollness of a panda, the appeal of a teddy bear, the grace and independence of a cat, and the loyalty and devotion of a dog. He's also dignified and aloof, as befits a breed that was once kept in imperial Chinese kennels.
He's not really fond of being hugged or fussed over, but he'll be a quiet, attentive companion to his favorite person, and his loyalty extends to other family members. If he's raised with children, he'll accept them willingly, but he's not the type of dog to tolerate abuse, so he's best for homes with older kids who know how to treat dogs.
If he has lots of positive encounters with strangers during his impressionable puppyhood, he'll handle strangers with equanimity. This is, however, a highly territorial and protective breed, who'll give a clear warning to anyone approaching without his person's welcome.
The breed's most memorable physical feature may be his blue-black tongue. According to Chinese legend, the tongue got its blue hue at the time of creation, when a Chow licked up drops of the color as the sky was being painted. He also stands out for his almost straight rear legs, which give him a stiff, choppy, or stilted gait. He's not speedy, so he's not the best choice for a jogger, but he has excellent endurance and can be a good walking companion.
When it comes to training, a verbal correction is usually all that's required to set the Chow Chow straight. No dog should ever be hit, but it's especially counterproductive with this breed. The fiercely proud and independent Chow will never respond to physical abuse. But earn his respect with firm consistency, and you won't have any problem training him.
If you admire the Chow Chow's unique appearance and independent spirit, you'll have a fiercely loyal companion who will be a true treasure in your household.
Chows can adapt to a variety of homes, from palaces to apartments. But they should always live indoors with their people, not stuck out in a backyard or kennel. They don't tolerate heat well, so keep them indoors when the weather is sweltering.
Like any dog, an adult Chow Chow needs daily exercise to stay healthy and happy, but not much — he'll be satisfied with a couple of 15-minute walks daily or one longer walk.
A Chow Chow is a homebody who's not prone to wandering, but you'll still want a secure fence if you've got a yard; it will protect him from traffic and prevent strangers from approaching him when you're not around to supervise.
Chows are easily housetrained, but crate training is strongly recommended. Crates make housetraining easier and keep your Chow from chewing things while you're away. The crate is a tool, not a jail, however, so don't keep your Chow locked up in it for long periods. The best place for a Chow is with you.
Chows are more than capable of learning anything you can teach, and a verbal correction is usually all that's required to set them straight. No dog should ever be hit, but it's especially counterproductive with this breed. The fiercely proud and independent Chow will never respond to physical abuse. Earn his respect in puppyhood with firm consistency, and you won't have any problem training him. But if you let the cute pup have his way all the time and then try to train him, you're sure to face problems.
When they're raised with children, Chow Chows can do well with them, but they're not a rough and tumble dog that will tolerate a lot of abuse from a young child. Chows do best in families with older children who understand how to treat a dog.
As with any dog, always teach children how to approach and touch your Chow, and supervise all interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear pulling from either party.
Chows who are socialized and trained well can get along with other dogs and cats, especially if they're introduced to them in puppyhood. They do best, however, with dogs of the opposite sex; they may fight with dogs of the same sex.
Some compare the Chow Chow's disposition to that of a cat: aloof, reserved, independent, dignified, intelligent, and stubborn.
Despite his scowl, a good Chow should never be aggressive or shy. Chows tend to mind their own business and don't usually start trouble. They'll play with their people, but strangers are of no interest to them unless they're approaching the Chow's home without invitation from his owner — in which case he'll challenge the trespasser. He will, however, let strangers touch him if introduced by one of his owners.
A Chow Chow must be extensively socialized — introduced to new people, dogs, and situations — as a puppy if he's going to be safe and relaxed as an adult.
Chow Chows are generally healthy, but like all breeds, they can get certain health conditions. Not all Chows will get any or all of these diseases, but it's important to be aware of them if you're considering this breed.
If you're buying a puppy, find a good breeder who will show you health clearances for both your puppy's parents. Health clearances prove that a dog's been tested for and cleared of a particular condition.
In Chows, you should expect to see health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips and from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certifying that the eyes are normal.
Because some health problems don't appear until a dog reaches full maturity, health clearances aren't issued to dogs younger than 2 years old. Look for a breeder who doesn't breed her dogs until they're two or three years old.
The following problems aren't common in the breed, but they may occur:
Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHD) is a heritable condition in which the thighbone doesn't fit snugly into the hip joint. Some dogs show pain and lameness on one or both rear legs, but you may not notice any signs of discomfort in a dog with hip dysplasia. As the dog ages, arthritis can develop. X-ray screening for hip dysplasia is done by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or the University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). Hip dysplasia is hereditary, but it can be worsened by environmental factors, such as rapid growth from a high-calorie diet or injuries incurred from jumping or falling on slick floors.
Entropion causes the eyelid to roll inward, irritating or injuring the eyeball. One or both eyes can be affected. If your Chow Chow has entropion, you may notice him rubbing at his eyes. The condition can be corrected surgically.