AKC Group: Non-sporting
The Chow originated from the frigid northern steppes of Mongolia, Siberia and China and is regarded as one of the oldest breeds of dog. Used for pulling sleds, hunting and guarding temples, when resources were scarce, they have also been used as meat and stripped of fur. Their name began as Songshi Quan, which translated to “puffy lion dog.” Their DNA indicates they were one of the first breeds to be domesticated from wild wolves. Their modern canine relatives are Spitz, Akita and Shar Pei breeds.
Size: 17 to 20 inches tall; 45 to 70 pounds
Color: Red (above), cinnamon, cream, black or blue.
Life span: 12 to 15 years
Health problems: Allergies, skin conditions, sensitivity to chemicals or medications, glaucoma, entropion, thyroid problems, renal cortical hypoplasia.
A member of the Spitz family, Chows are a sturdy breed. Their coat is dense, coarse and rough. The Chow sports a neck ruff. (There is a smooth-coated Chow that has a dense outer coat over a soft undercoat that doesn’t have a ruff or feathering.) The Chow is a dignified, faithful dog. He may also develop an attitude, a fiercely independent streak and a protective demeanor. He’s very intelligent, but that’s not always a good thing. Without proper socialization, a Chow can become territorial.
Chows do well with kids they’ve been raised with and older, considerate children. With other dogs or cats, they may always be aggressive. With strangers, he’ll be reserved and wary. A Chow tends to keep to himself. When provoked, he may always revert to aggression. Early socialization can help him keep him temperament even and stable, but he may never be able to overcome those natural instincts.
The rough-coated Chow needs to be brushed twice weekly and more often during seasonal shedding. The smooth-coated can be brushed weekly. Occasionally (no matter the coat variety) have your Chow professionally groomed and dry shampoo when necessary. Training should start very early with you as Top Dog. Consistency is the name of the game. The Chow, as loyal to their family as they naturally are, does not seek validation outside themselves, meaning pleasing you for the sake of pleasing you is not a mission of theirs. They won’t respond to your begging, pleading or bribes. They don’t respond to harsh, punitive or inhumane tactics. To get cooperation, they need to know why they should perform the task. They aren’t a breed that readily performs tricks. These dogs have too strong a sense of self. (Maybe it’s because they look like a regal lion.) Socialization will help them realize aggression isn’t the answer to everything. Chows (underneath it all — and all that hair) are a very loving breed.