The exact history of Chow Chow as to where it came from is unknown. What is known is it is a breed that has been in existence for quite a while. In fact, the oldest dog fossil discovered, dated several million years ago, has the same structure as those of Chow Chow pictures painted on Chinese pottery. These potteries date as far back as 206 BC.
Due to similarities when it comes to their distinctive trait of black and blue mouth and their point of origin being China, there is a possibility that Chinese Shar-Pei and Chow Chow are related. Chow Chow may have also contributed to the development of the other breeds such as Keeshond, Norwegian Elkhound, Pomeranian and Samoyed.
Chinese use Chow Chow as a working dog. Chow Chow performs tasks related to herding, pulling cart and sled, guarding of boats, hunting wolves and protecting homes. This all-around dog is capable of withstanding the most hostile of environments. Sadly, the extent of Chow Chow’s usefulness to the Chinese did not stop at being working dogs. The Chinese also use the dog’s big, thick fur in making coats. They also eat Chow Chow and consider it as a delicacy.
In the late 1800’s Chow Chows were brought to England by sailors of trade ships. The name “Chow Chow” was derived from “Chow Chow”, a slang term for various items carried by ships. By 1920’s, they have become a popular pet especially among the rich and famous.
Chow Chows are medium-sized, stocky, sturdily built dogs, with an almost square profile. Their height ranges from 18-22 inches or 46-56 centimeters, and their weight is usually between 45 – 70 pounds or 20-32 kilogram.
Their two most distinctive features are their almost straight hind legs and their blue-black tongue. This bluish color extends up to their lips. Their other characteristics are their large, broad head, flat skull, broad and deep muzzle, erect ears with rounded tip, blue or black nose with well-opened nostrils and deep set, dark, almond-shaped eye.
Chow Chows have a very dense double coat, which is either smooth or rough. Their fur is noticeably thick around the neck, giving it their distinctive lion-like mane appearance. Chow Chow’s coat colors may be red, blue, black, cream and cinnamon or fawn. They have broad and deep chest and curly tail that is set high and carried close to the back.
Chow Chow is an intelligent dog breed but is quite difficult to train. Unlike other dog breeds, Chow Chows do not have that strong desire to please their masters. They are only willing to do what they feel like doing. An independent thinker, they cannot be forced into doing anything and will not tolerate any form of physical punishment.
Taking into consideration the type of work Chow Chow was initially bred for, it is common to see adult Chow Chows’ temperaments manifesting into characteristics that may be difficult to deal with sometimes. Chow Chows are naturally territorial and suspicious of strangers. They usually start out as lovable, easy-going puppies. However, many of them transform into a troublesome dogs at 5 to 8 months. Their hard-to-deal-with traits can be observed in the form of guarding toys and food, pushiness, irritable aggression, aloofness and hostile guarding of territory and owner.
For well-bred Chows, irritable aggression is not normal, while the rest of the traits are normal part of the breed’s temperament. With proper training and socialization, these traits should be manageable. Positive, reinforcement training well up to adulthood is recommended.
They are a delightful addition to a family, but they are not for everybody. They take it upon themselves to protect the family they love. Chow Chows save their affection for those they love dearly and do not find the need to seek attention from anyone else. Chow Chows have a generally pushy and dominant character. They are strong-willed dogs that need a strong-willed owner.
Chow Chows are prone to hip dysplasia. This condition can be extremely painful for dogs and can lead to irritable and aggressive behavior. They are also prone to having loose skin on their forehead, which can cause wrinkle above the eye and consequently, very poor peripheral vision. This can make a Chow Chow jumpy and easily startled if approached incorrectly. Chows are also prone to having sight handicaps and discomforts, which can lead to other problematic behavior.
Other health problems common to Chow Chows are elbow dysplasia, slipping kneecaps and thyroid diseases. Healthy Chow Chows are expected to live between 10 to 15 years.