Chow Chow Breed Information

Chow Chow Breed Information

Loved by Chinese nobility in ancient times and depicted in artwork from as early as 206 B.C. the Chow Chow is a distinguished and regal lion-like dog that has an unmistakable appearance. While they might not be the most playful dog in the world, their loyalty is almost unmatched.

Medium in size, with a thick double-coat, Chow Chows can give you a workout when it comes to their grooming routine. If you have the time and patience needed to maintain their signature coat, however, they can repay you with 9-12 years of protective loyalty.

While they aren’t a perfect fit for every family, and can be rather suspicious of people not in their immediate circle, Chow Chows can be independent, intelligent and quiet companions. They won’t require miles worth of jogging per day and can relax comfortably in an apartment as well as a palace. 

If you’ve often thought about adding a Chow Chow to the family, here’s everything you need to know about this breed.





Space Needed

Large Garden

Life Span

Large Garden

Exercise Required

1 - 2 hours per day


1 - 2 hours per day


Said to be one of the oldest pure breeds of dog in the world, the Chow Chow can trace their origins back to the Han Dynasty in 206 B.C. Artefacts and artwork from this period have been found to depict these dogs in much the same look as they have today.

In ancient times, Chow Chows were a sporting breed of dog used mainly for hunting leopards and wolves throughout China. When not used for hunting, Chow Chow made excellent guard dogs for both humans and their property.

As they became more popular, their fierce loyalty became appealing to Imperial royalty and other forms of Asian nobility. Chow Chows are extremely independent, highly distinguished, and more than willing to not only be a devoted companion to their people but also willing to protect them from any threats.

Historical Timeline

  • 1781: The breed was described in the “Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne” book written by naturalist Gilbert White. The breed has changed very little since this time.
  • 1820: The London Zoo kept Chow Chows as part of their animal exhibits and labelled them as the “Wild Dogs of China”
  • 1865: Queen Victoria of England was given a Chow Chow as a gift which helped boost the breed’s popularity at the time.
  • 1890: Takya was the first Chow Chow to be exhibited in the USA at the Westminster show in New York. She took 3rd place in the Miscellaneous class.
  • 1895: The first Chow Chow breed club was formed in England.
  • 1901: A live animal import from China arrived in San Francisco, with a male Chow Chow named Yen How as part of the shipment. 
  • 1903: The American Kennel Club recognized the Chow Chow as a breed. Yen How was the first of the breed to be registered.
  • 1925: US President Calvin Coolidge shared the White House with two Chow Chows named Tiny Tim and Blackberry.

Today, Chow Chows are part of the AKC’s Non-Sporting group and the UKC’s Northern Breed group. Both the AKC and UKC require an exhibition quality Chow Chow to stand 17-20 inches tall and weigh anywhere from 40 to 70 pounds. Males are slightly larger than females, but slight variations between the genders is not a disqualifying fault in most cases.

Temperament & Personality

If you are slightly stand-offish and introverted, you will probably get along great with a Chow Chow. They are not known for their excitement or affection, and won’t go out of their way to please you. They are generally very laid back and quiet, and while they can be extremely well behaved, they are also somewhat stubborn and can be head-strong.

Chow Chows had been bred for centuries to be guard dogs, and because of this protective ancestry, they can be very standoffish with strangers. This should not be mistaken for aggression and instead should be viewed as a more reserved and suspicious nature. Puppies that have been socialized properly will be much more willing to consider befriending strangers than Chow Chow’s that have not been properly introduced. 

Aggression Levels

While their faces look to always be in a grumpy mood, a well-socialized Chow Chow should never be overly shy nor aggressive. They will bark at strangers to alert you of their presence, but should never openly challenge the visitor. 

Once you welcome the visitor in a friendly nature, most Chow Chows are intelligent enough to understand that this visitor is no longer a threat. Even when properly socialized, most Chow Chows are not overly excited to see people. They will tolerate strangers and will love interaction from their human family, but won’t go out of their way to be goofy and endearing like other breeds such as Golden Retrievers.

Being Around Children

Families with small children may do best to avoid Chow Chows. While the breed can be very patient and loving with children they are raised with, they still prefer a much less hectic lifestyle. Small children that tug on ears or tails may not be the Chow’s favourite human.

Older children that can act calm and reasonably around dogs will do much better with a Chow Chow sharing the family space. The breed is dignified enough to tolerate children, but won’t actually enjoy being around them unless they are as calm and reserved as the Chow himself.

Being Around Other Pets

Since Chow Chows were originally used for both hunting and herding, they can be somewhat questionable around other animals. If raised with them and socialized properly, your Chow should do well with other pets in the household.

However, most Chow Chow get along better with other dogs if they are of the opposite sex. They have been known to get into random squabbles with other dogs of the same sex, whether they are Chow Chows or not.

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While Chow Chows are said to be very intelligent, they can also be extremely stubborn and very independent. This can make training a Chow a challenge for impatient or inexperienced dog owners. 

Patience and consistency are very important when training a Chow Chow. They are generally very eager to learn and are smart enough to quickly pick up on almost anything. However, their independent and stubborn side may keep you on your toes when trying to keep a Chow focused on the task at hand.

Puppy training should start as early as 8 weeks old, with even younger puppies being exposed to many different sights and sounds in their environment so they are well-rounded and don’t shy away from new experiences.

Chow Chows are said to be very clean dogs, and their somewhat snobby attitude has been likened to that of a cat. Because of this haughty disposition, Chows are extremely easy to housetrain and do amazingly well with crate training. 

When using a crate, always keep in mind that it should not be used as a jail cell for punishment. It’s a safe haven for your Chow to relax and retreat to if household actions are getting too active for his liking.

Puppy Training & Socialization

As soon as you bring your new Chow Chow puppy home, socialization should start. This can be as simple as exposing your new puppy to other members of the family, including other pets, as well as introducing him to new or strange sounds on a daily basis.

Puppy training classes from the age of 8 weeks onward are an excellent option as well and can be used to form the groundwork of basic commands such as sit or stay. Even with adequate training, Chow Chows are naturally suspicious of visitors and will need to follow your guidance on who is accepted in your home and who is not. Always greet visitors happily and your Chow will be tolerant of their appearance too.

Being a thick-jawed Spitz-type breed, a Chow Chow has a very strong bite. Training your puppy to play gently and not to bite when playing can be important. Positive reinforcement is just as important as being patient and consistent in your training. 

What might be cute as a puppy can be destructive and unwanted behaviour as an adult – but by then, correcting that behaviour is much more difficult. Always teach your puppy early how to be a well-mannered and confident companion to you and your family.

Possessive Side

Chow Chows are known to have a possessive side. This is normally seen as “resource guarding” when it comes to food, treats or toys. Some Chows might not be happy if their favourite toy is taken away or if it seems like someone is attempting to take their food. This may be from another pet, or even a human child.

Some dog behaviourists see this as a ranking status within the family more than a dominance issue. Your dog should be a part of the family, not the leader of it. If you notice dominant or possessive behaviour as a puppy, use distraction tactics or other training methods to correct the behaviour. Contacting a dog behaviourist or puppy trainer in your area can help nip this potential issue in the bud.


Chow Chows are not known for their athletic build or speed; in fact, they are more commonly referred to as “clunky” and “stiff-legged” rather than “agile” or “athletic.” 

The biggest issue with a Chow is their combination of an extremely thick double-coat and a slightly squashed face. They are more prone to overheating than some other breeds, and as a result, do not do well in hot or humid areas, nor can they handle heavy exertion.

Walking Companion

They might not win any agility competitions, but a Chow Chow will happily plod around the block with you at a leisurely pace. A short 10 minute walk two or three times a day is plenty of exercise to keep your Chow happy and healthy.

If you are looking for a four-legged companion to jog with or cycle with, a Chow Chow might not be the best option. They do much better seeing the world at a slower pace. If you’re looking for someone to take a short walk out to the mailbox or to roll the garbage bin to the end of the driveway before retreating back inside, a Chow is just the dog for you.

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Food & Nutrition

As with any breed, the amount of food your Chow Chow will eat is going to depend on his age, activity level, and general metabolism. For the average Chow, around 2 cups of high-quality food per day is a good recommendation. You can break this up into two smaller meals to ensure your Chow is not scarfing it all down at once.

Snacks and treats should be fed in moderation, and table scraps should be avoided entirely. This is especially true of cooked bones or food high in sugar and fat content. Additionally, some Chow owners opt for a grain-free or low-grain diet which helps dogs that might be suffering from skin conditions or allergies.

Optional Supplements

Some Chow Chow owners will offer their dogs regular supplements in addition to a high quality and well-balanced food. Sometimes these supplements can target trouble spots or simply offer preventative all-around benefits.

A few of the supplements you may consider for your Chow include:

  • Fish Oil: This can help with both coat and skin conditions, as well as being used as a preventative for dry skin. It’s also said to be a great anti-inflammatory for Chow’s that may already be suffering from skin conditions due to allergies.
  • Glucosamine: Said to be a beneficial lubricant for joints and ligaments, glucosamine supplements can help with dogs that may be predisposed to hip dysplasia or are suffering the effects of arthritis.
  • Probiotics: An assortment of beneficial bacteria that helps regulate your dog’s intestinal tract. For Chows that often suffer from upset stomachs or food sensitivities, adding probiotics to their diet can help over the long term.

If you aren’t sure which supplements to use, or even if your dog needs supplements, talking with your vet can go a long way in deciding if this is the right route for your dog. Some Chows can definitely benefit from supplements, while others may not need them and it will simply end up being a waste of money for you.

Health & Care

While Chow Chows are generally very healthy and can happily live up to 12 years, they can be somewhat more prone to certain issues. Not every Chow Chow will deal with these conditions, however, if you are considering adding a Chow to your family it’s a good idea to know what your new four-legged family member may be prone to.

Eye Issues

Some bloodlines of Chow Chow are much more prone to eye issues than others. For example, certain Chows may be more predisposed to cataracts and glaucoma. Left untreated, this can lead to blindness.

Additionally, eyelids that roll either inward (entropion) or outward (ectropion) so that the eyelashes rub and irritate the eye itself can be much more common in Chows than in other breeds. If you notice your dog having red or watering eyes, be sure to check the eyelids. Both entropion and ectropion can be treated with minor surgery.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Both hip and elbow dysplasia are conditions that affect the skeletal system; more specifically, the pelvic and elbow joint sockets. Some bloodlines may be more prone to dysplasia than others, but reputable Chow Chow breeders will have their breeding stock evaluated by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) before breeding to ensure the puppies are not predisposed to these issues.

Dogs suffering from hip dysplasia will have pain when walking normally, and may not be able to stand up without assistance or walk upstairs. A licensed veterinarian will be able to take X-rays and determine whether a dog is suffering from any form of dysplasia, and in many cases, surgery can be done once diagnosed.

Since both hip and elbow dysplasia is hereditary, responsible breeders will be happy to provide their OFA health certifications on their breeding dogs. When purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder, don’t be afraid to ask about their orthopaedic clearances.

Endocrine Ailments

Hypothyroidism is not uncommon in Chows. This ailment will affect their metabolism and can lead to a loss of energy, weight gain, and more. If you feel like your Chow might be suffering from hypothyroidism, your veterinarian can diagnose it through a simple blood test. If diagnosed, it can be fully managed with medication.

In addition to hypothyroidism, alopecia is another issue that may affect dogs with endocrine ailments. Alopecia is a form of hair loss that can look similar to mange, only without the skin conditions. In thick double-coated breeds such as Chow Chows, alopecia can look devastating.

Treatment can include melatonin supplements and medications, though recovery will depend on the individual dog as well as the severity of the hair loss.

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If you’re getting a Chow Chow, be prepared for a lot of grooming. These dogs are very thick, double-coated breeds that have a signature lion-like mane and body coat. If you expect to keep your Chow looking their best, you may end up with a full kit of grooming tools including:

  • Detangling combs
  • Course combs
  • Undercoat rakes
  • Slicker brushes
  • Pin brushes
  • Shampoos and conditioners
  • Blow dryers
  • Grooming scissors
  • Clippers

If that wasn’t enough – be prepared to use those tools two to three times per week. If you plan on showing your Chow Chow, you may even be using some of those tools on a daily basis. 

Matting is a very common issue with Chow Chows, especially around the ears and along the chest and neck. You may also want to trim up the back end for hygienic reasons. 

Chows are not a hypoallergenic breed, so if you suffer from pet dander allergies, you may want to consider another breed of dog for your four-legged companion. These big fluff balls are very heavy seasonal shedders and will cover your furniture in dog hair unless you stick to a grooming routine that will help remove the undercoat before it has a chance to shed on its own.


Luckily you won’t have to bathe your Chow as often as you will need to brush him. Bathing once or twice a month is plenty for the average Chow Chow. Though if your curious friend happens to find a mud puddle or decides to dig through the garbage can, an extra bath may be needed.

After the bath, be sure you thoroughly dry your Chow Chow from head to toe. A blow dryer comes in handy here. Leaving a damp undercoat can lead to skin irritation and rashes, so it’s always best to spend plenty of time ensuring your Chow is blow-dried completely.

Also, pay attention to the ears. Leaving the inside of the ears damp can lead to ear infections. After a bath, take a dry cotton ball and dab the inside of the ears to remove any excess moisture. 

Tooth Care

As with other dog breeds, keeping your Chows teeth clean is important for their long term dental health. Tartar buildup can lead to gum diseases, weakened teeth or infections. 

Start teaching your puppy to tolerate tooth brushing using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. Manually brushing your Chows teeth once or twice a week can go a long way in preventing any oral diseases or ailments.

Toenail Clipping

Keeping an eye on the length of your Chow’s toenails may be difficult with their big fur-covered feet. If you hear a tip-tap of the nails touching the hard floor, it’s time to trim them. Trimming the toenails once a month or every 6 weeks is normally often enough to keep them maintained.

You can trim your Chow Chow’s toenails yourself with clippers or a grinder, or have a groomer or your vet do it. A dog’s toenails do contain blood vessels that can be cut into if you trim too far back. This not only causes pain for your Chow Chow as well as bleeding but can also damage his trust and make subsequent toenail trimming much more difficult when he remembers this painful experience.