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Chow Chow

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021

chow chow on a retro vintage background

The Chow Chow is a large purebred from Nothern China and is an ancient dog breed. There it is often called Tang Quan or Songshu Quan, Dog of the Tang Empire or puffy lion dog. It is a very distinctive dog, more aloof then clingy but with its owner extremely loyal. Famous Chow Chow owners include Sigmund Freud, Elvis Presley, Martha Stewart and Janet Jackson.

Here is the Chow Chow at a Glance
Name Chow Chow
Other Names Chowdren
Nicknames Chow
Origin China
Average size Large
Average weight 45 to 70 pounds
Average height 17 to 20 inches
Life span 8 to 12 years
Coat type Dense, thick, harsh or smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Brown, red, cinnamon, black, blue
Popularity Somewhat popular – ranked 73rd by the AKC
Intelligence Low to moderate
Tolerance to heat Moderate – not good in the heat so take care it does not get heat exhaustion
Tolerance to cold Excellent – can handle very cold weather and even extremes
Shedding Frequent, heavy and seasonal – there will be a lot of hair around the home!
Drooling Average – there can be some slobber and drool
Obesity Fairly high – monitor its food and make sure it gets enough exercise
Grooming/brushing Needs to be brushed daily – high maintenance
Barking Occasional
Exercise needs Slightly active – some exercise needed to keep it fit
Trainability Difficult to train – needs experienced owner
Friendliness Low – not a social or friendly dog breed
Good first dog Low – best with experienced owners
Good family pet Moderate with socialization – best with single or couple owners
Good with children Low – socialization essential but this is not a breed that is good with children
Good with other dogs Low – socialization essential, make sure it is supervised when in dog parks or out walking
Good with other pets Moderate to good with socialization
Good with strangers Low – not an approachable dog
Good apartment dog Moderate – best in larger home with yard
Handles alone time well Excellent – quite happy to be left alone for long periods
Health issues Fairly healthy but there are health issues it is prone to such as hip dysplasia,eye problems and several forms of cancer
Medical expenses $485 a year for pet insurance and basic health care
Food expenses $270 a year for good quality dry dog food and treats
Miscellaneous expenses $645 a year for miscellaneous items, toys, license, grooming and basic trainingitems
Average annual expense $1400 a year as a starting figure
Cost to purchase $1500
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 66 Maimings: 44 Child victims: 37 Deaths: 8

The Chow Chow’s Beginnings

The Chow Chow is an ancient breed, in fact there have been fossils discovered of dogs very similar that date back a few million years! Research done on its DNA suggests it was one of the first breeds that came from grey wolf. You can find the Chow Chow in Chinese pottery dating back two thousand two hundred years. Its exact origins then are too far back to know much about, some suggest but its origins are Chinese or Mongolian and others that it comes from Asia. It could be related to the Chinese Shar-Pei as they both have that distinctive mouth, blue and black.

It was used for hundreds of years as a working dog by the Chinese, acting as a guard, pulling sleds and carts, hunting various animals from pheasant to sable and wolves, and protecting the family and home. There is also the suggestion that they were war dogs. But they were also bred for their fur to make coats for people and they were and still are eaten, being considered a delicacy. It is believed a Chow like dog came with the armies of Mongolia into parts of Europe and the Middle East in the 1200s.

The Chow Chow came to England in the late 1800s with merchants, its name Chow Chow actually comes from the term used at the time for the various odds and ends that were brought from China to England for trading. It is said that the teddy bear came from a Chow Chow puppy Queen Victoria carried with her everywhere. Her interest in the breed caused it to become more popular in England and a breed club was started in 1895.

New Lease on Life

In 1890 the first Chow Chow appeared in an American dog show and the AKC recognized the breed in 1903. It became the dog to own in America in the 1920s and was a White House resident for a time with its owner President Coolidge. Today it is said about 10,000 Chows are registered with the AKC each year. It is ranked 73rd most popular registered purebred.

The Dog You See Today

This is a large dog weighing 45 to 70 pounds and standing 17 to 20 inches tall. It actually comes in two coat varieties, a dense, rough and thick coat or a hard, dense and smooth one. Common colors are red, brown, black, cinnamon and blue. It is a stocky, sturdy dog with unusual almost straight back legs, a deep chest, high set tail that carries close to its back and curls. Dewclaws are removed in countries where that still happens. The rough coated Chow has thicker fur behind its head giving it a mane like effect or a ruff. The smooth coated Chow does not have that effect.

Its head is wide and large and the skull on top is flat. The muzzle too is broad and has a black nose with opened nostrils. Its eyes are almond shaped, set deeply and dark. It has erect and small ears that then round off at the tip. Its profile is squared and its most distinctive feature on its face is its blue black tongue. This also comes to its lips.

The Inner Chow Chow


The Chow Chow has quite a unique temperament, it is detached especially around people it does not know, it is independent, but it can be aggressive. It is also extremely loyal too though and can be quite devoted to one owner in particular. It is an alert breed so can be a great watchdog who will let you know if there is an intruder trying to get in. It is a brave dog and is very protective so it is also likely to act to defend its home and yourself. Sometime though it can be over protective.

This dog is not best suited to new owners. Experienced owners are much more preferable because of its strong personality and how difficult it is to train. This is a smart and quiet dog, more serious and introverted. If you want a dog that is playful and energetic this is not the right breed for you. This breed needs socialization, it is essential. If you are able to establish respect between the two of you so that you can handle its strong will but enforce rules so that it has respect for you things will go a lot better.

Chows can be prone antisocial behavior which is why that socialization and training are so vital for them. They need a firm owner who can handle a dominant dog. If it thinks it is the boss it can be aggressive, stubborn and hard to control, as well as destructive. It is a dog that needs its space and is often described as almost cat like in its nature.

Living with a Chow Chow

What will training look like?

The Chow is not an easy dog to train and needs owners with a lot of patience, experience and confidence. There is also the option of using a professional trainer or school if you need to, but however it is done, it is essential so be prepared for it to take time and for the Chow to challenge you. Jerking the Chow around or punishing it is not going to be effective, it is likely to snap back at you or shut down. Be patient, calm and positive. Make it think what you want is a great idea. Offer rewards, treats and encouragement and praise its successes. Chow Chows have strong temperaments and are very stubborn and they want to be the one in charge. Things will be gradual but you must be consistent and firm.

Thankfully while obedience training may be harder house training is not. Chows are very clean dogs, almost cat like about it so it will want to go and do its business outside. As important as its obedience training is its socialization. As early as you can you should introduce it to new people, places and locations so it learns to react appropriately to them all. This is not a dog that gets on well with others to be honest, so socialization is key to make sure their protective and aggressive nature does not lead them into over reacting to innocent situations.

How active is the Chow Chow?

It might be a large dog but it is not an active one. It is just slightly active and is really quite lazy, happy to nap and chill around the home. It is very good in cold weathers but in the heat care should be taken it does not dehydrate or suffer from heat exhaustion. It is best in a larger home than an apartment and should have access to a yard. It will need a couple of 15 minute walks a day to keep it happy and healthy. It has been found that the Smooth coated Chow Chow tends to be more active (and more outgoing) than the Rough coated Chow. Make sure the yard is well fenced and secure more so that strangers do not go up to it when it is in the yard, since it does not like them!

Caring for the Chow Chow

Grooming needs

This is a high maintenance dog, it will require daily grooming to look after its coat, whether it is the rough coat or the smooth coated Chow. It sheds a heavy and frequent amount so brushing will help somewhat but expect a lot of loose hair in the home and on you. Rough Chows tend to be more prone to matting too. You will likely need to vacuum daily and clean off your clothes before leaving the house. It even gets onto kitchen counter tops and so can get into your food. Use the right kind of brushes for its coat and a spray conditioner. There will be seasonal blow outs to contend with a couple of times a year too. Many Chow owners use a professional groomer to help keep on top of things. Only bathe it when it really needs it and use a dog shampoo only so as not to dry out its skin.

As well as the coat and loose hair to deal with there are other grooming needs your Chow will have. Its teeth should be brushed at least two to three times a week for good oral health. Its ears should be checked weekly for signs of infection and then given a wipe clean, but no inserting anything into the ear itself. It should also have its nails clipped when they get too long, this may be something to leave to a groomer if you are not sure about it. Dog nails have something called the quick, the lower part of the nail, where there are blood vessels and nerves. Cut too low into that part and it will cause pain and bleeding.

Feeding Time

About 2 to 3 cups of a good quality dry dog food is about average for a Chow, and that amount should be split into at least two meals a day to avoid problems with Bloat. How much can vary from one dog to another though depending on its level of activity, its metabolism, how old it is, its health and its size.

How is the Chow Chow with children and other animals?

It is possible to have Chows that get along better with children, especially with good socialization and when raised with them. However in general this is not a good dog to have around them. It does not like being poked or prodded and should a child tease it too much it could snap. This is not a dog that will be happy to play with kids, it is definitely one more for homes that are child free or at the least ones that have older children who will leave it alone when it wants some space. If children come to visit supervision is a very good idea.

When around other pets it can be friendly when it has been socialized and if it has been raised with them. However if those pets provoke it, it can snap and hurt them. It sees smaller animals as prey to chase and is known to hurt or even kill cats and other small critters that try to pass through its yard. When it comes to other dogs again socialization is essential especially since it is possible it will have dog to dog interactions when out walking or at dog parks. It is more likely to be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

The lifespan of the Chow is 8 to 12 years. It is prone to several health problems and is not an especially healthy breed of dog so owners should be prepared for the costs this might entail. Health issues that could arise include ear infections, eye problems, hip dysplasia, stomach cancer, diabetes, autoimmune disease, skin melanoma and fleas due to its thick coat.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dogs attacking people that caused bodily harm in Canada and the US over the last 34 years, the Chow Chow has been involved in 66 attacks. 44 of those attacks were classed as maimings, meaning the victims were left with permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb. 37 of those 66 victims were children. 8 of those 66 victims died as a result of the attack.

While any dog breed can become aggressive and snap in certain situations it is true that the Chow is more likely than many, and has an average of about 2 attacks a year, that is not counting attacks that may have not caused as much injury, or attacks that may have occurred against other dogs. This is not a social dog, it does have an aggressive side, it does not back down if challenged or threatened. It is very important that as a prospective owner you think about this aspect of it and prepared for it. Socialization and training are absolutely essential. It is also important to give it a home that suits its nature, and that you give it the right amount of attention, treat it well and feed it well.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

A Chow Chow puppy is going to cost about $1500 for a pet quality dog from a good breeder. This is not a cheap dog to opt for. If you want one that meets AKC standards for showing from a top breeder then the price goes up to several thousand if not more. There is the cheaper option of looking at rescues and shelters, these will be more like $200 to $400 but Chows in such places are rare, and likely to be adults not puppies. Avoid using backyard breeders that you find on those online ads or in papers, or pet stores that use puppy mills for their stock.

Once you have your puppy you will have to get some things for it at home, a bed, crate, collar and leash, food bowls and such. These will cost around $200. It will also need a visit to a vet for a check up, blood tests, deworming, micro chipping, shots and spaying or neutering. These will cost about $300.

Annual costs will include medical basics like check ups, shots, tick and flea prevention and pet insurance starting out at $485 a year. Food and treats will be about $270 a year. Miscellaneous costs and items as well as licensing, training, toys and grooming will be about $645 a year. This gives an annual estimated cost of $1400 though that could be more.


Looking for a Chow Chow Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

The Chow Chow is a calm, dignified and confident dog. It has a very strong independent side and is a quiet dog not a lively one. It is easy to house train but not to obedience train so it needs an owner who is experienced and confident and firm. It is not good with children automatically, it is vital that owners of Chows give it early and extensive socialization and at least basic obedience training. It does have an aggressive side to it and that is something owners have to be able to control. When raised properly it is very loyal and devoted to its owner. When not cared for properly it is overly suspicious and can snap, and is hard to control.

Popular Chow Chow Mixes

Chow Chow, Siberian Husky Mix
General Information
Size Medium to large
Height 18 to 23 inches
Weight 40 to 65 pounds
Life span 10 to 12 years
Touchiness Low to moderate
Barking Low to moderate
Activity Fairly high
Breed Traits

Good Family Pet
Fairly hard to train



Chow Pei
Chow Pei
Shar-Pei and Chow Chow Mix
General Information
Size Medium
Weight 40 to 60 pounds
Height 15 to 20 inches
Life span 10 to 15 years
Touchiness Not very sensitive
Barking Rare
Activity Fairly active
Breed Traits




Chow Shepherd
Chow Shepherd
German Shepherd Chow Mix
General Information
Size Large
Weight 40 – 95 pounds
Height 18 – 26 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Touchiness Moderate
Barking Rare to occasional
Activity High
Breed Traits

Craves Attention



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Featured Image Credit: dezy, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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