Golden brown coat with a powerful mane, compact build – a Chow-Chow impresses with its impressive appearance. But this primitive dog breed is one of the oldest breeds in the world.
The dog is not only beautiful to look at but also stands out because of its very special character: some claim that chowchows have the character of a cat rather than a dog because of their quirkiness. Those who have befriended a chow chow know that the dog not only looks like a lion but also has the heart of a lion.
Chow-Chow, a stately appearance
In China, this breed is also referred to as “polished lion dog”, “bear dog” or “blue tongue” – these nicknames refer to the dog’s striking appearance. The Chow-Chow belongs to the group of Asian Keeshonden.
He has a compact build and weighs about 30 kilos with a maximum height at the withers of 56. There are both short-haired and long-haired representatives of this breed. The short-haired have a fluffy soft coat. Short-haired “Smooth Chows” are less common than the long-haired variant.
This one has a thick undercoat and mane – this lion look is typical of the chow chow. The imposing coat always has only one color. The abdomen and inner thighs may be lighter. The colors black, red, blue, fawn, cream, and white are allowed.
A special feature of the Chow-Chow becomes visible when it opens its mouth: the tongue, the palate, and the lips are blue. What would be cause for concern in other breeds – a blue tongue and blue oral mucosa may indicate oxygen deficiency – is part of the breed standard for Chow-Chow and not a sign of health problems.
There is no unambiguous scientific explanation for the color. There are legends about the blue tongue. For example: when creating the universe and attaching the stars to the sky, blue fragments fell from the sky to Earth. The Chow-Chow ate it. Less mythological explanations assume a connection with blood flow or temperature regulation.
History: ancient variety with versatile use
The breed is from China but has Siberian ancestors. The dog type itself is over a thousand years old: chow chows are among the oldest breeds. They are genetically very different from most current dog breeds.
The chowchow is also thought to have influenced the representation of Chinese temple lions, which guarded many representative Chinese buildings – resembling the lion statues scattered in Europe.
In ancient times, chowchows were actually used as temple guards in China, Mongolia, and Tibet. Later they were also increasingly used as a hunting dog and private watchdog. Thus they became more and more a dog of the people.
This striking breed was also used as a status symbol in the emperor’s court for a long time. It may be that many chowchows have ended up on their owners’ plates. The warm coat was also often used. In the 19th century, the breed came to Europe.
In Britain, the first chowchows could not be admired at home on the couch, but in the zoo. They aroused the interest of the visitors. In 1865 Queen Victoria got one of these striking dogs from China.
This created the need to take a “lion dog” as a pet. The first enthusiasts of this breed founded a chow chow association in 1895. More than a decade later, a “Chow Chow Club” was also established in the US – however, the fluffy dogs remained priceless for most animal lovers and long regarded as a status symbol in the Western world.
Two representatives of this breed also lived in the White House: U.S. President (1923-1929) Calvin Coolidge believed that the chow chows were Tiny Tim and Blackberry.
Nowadays there are almost no chowchows in China. More live in Europe and North America, where the breed was even one of the most popular breeds in the 1980s.
Incidentally, it is not clear where the special name comes from – there are several theories about this. One theory holds that the name comes close to the Chinese word “Gou”. That means dog.
Another explanation is the origin of the word from a variant of the Pidgin English: „tschau-tschau“ can then be translated with delicacy – even today the American word “chow” still popularly means food. The name therefore recalls the times when the chow chow was considered a meat variant. Fortunately, this time is over.
Dog with character and lion heart
It is often said that a chow chow is more like a cat than a dog: “whoever keeps him is far from controlling him”. What is meant by that? The four-legged friends have no “will to please” and are hardly submissive.
They have a fathead instead. They are often aggressive towards strangers and other dogs. If a stranger or a dog is in the territory of the chow chow, it can become terrifying. Basic mistrust of strangers and territorial behavior make the chow chow a suitable watchdog.
Inadequate upbringing can become very aggressive and difficult to control as a watchdog or when meeting other dogs. This can be problematic especially in same dogs – especially in other chow chows. Caution should be taken when meeting smaller dogs, as it can spark the chow chow’s hunting instinct.
Early socialization is therefore urgently needed in this breed. The “lion dog” is a cozy four-legged friend that radiates peace and tranquility. Running loose is not possible with every chow chow due to the hunting instinct of the breed. Nor is it always certain that the dog will listen.
This breed is predisposed to eczema, notches of the eyelids, as well as dysplasia of the elbows and hips. Regular preventive examinations and proper treatment can often delay the course of the diseases so much that surgery is not necessary.
Due to genetic determinations, it is advisable to ensure that the parents are tested when purchasing the puppy: serious breeders only use healthy animals for breeding.
The sad example is Justin Bieber’s former chow chow, who gave his fluffy puppy to a vet when he entered puberty. The vet collected donations to fund the 7-month-old pup’s 8,000-dollar hip surgery. Chowchows can live an average of 14 years.
Daily coat care required
The lion mane should be groomed: owners of the long-haired chow chows should use the brush at least two to three times a week. Four times a week is even better. It is recommended to brush thoroughly once a week and less intensively once a day.
The fur can become tangled, especially behind the ears and at the collar. Bathing is to be avoided unless the four-legged friend is so dirty that one cannot comb it out. However, some chow chow fans recommend a monthly bath. If you bathe the chow chow, it is best to use a mild dog shampoo, for example, use with chamomile.
This reduces the risk of allergies. In the summer, in warmer periods, pay attention to where the skin and tail touch. Skin irritations can quickly develop here. The short-haired variant is easier to care for. Grooming products can contribute to a beautiful and healthy coat.
Advanced dog training
Due to its idiosyncratic nature, the chow chow is difficult in education. He needs clear and consistent commands. If you give in to the eyes of the fluffy “teddy bear” on four legs, this can cause problems later on because the chowchow will try to take matters into its own hands.
A chow chow can also be brought up lovingly and with empathy, but one cannot always assume that he always listens immediately. Instead, he will remain headstrong. Ideally, look for a dog school that already has experience with this breed before the chowchow arrives.
Here your dog can playfully get to know other dogs – good socialization is very important with this breed. Because of his quirky nature, a chow chow is better off inexperienced hands – he likes to take advantage of typical beginner mistakes which can result in uncontrollability in sensitive situations.
If you have little dog experience, you should definitely read up on the theme of dog education. It is also wise to request tips from experienced chow chow owners or from breeders.
Cozy fresh air friend
Agility, dog dance or jogging? All this is not suitable for the cozy chow chow. His thick coat and straight hindquarters hinder long-term training. The four-legged friend especially likes long walks with plenty of sniffing options, but does not place high demands on the sportsmanship of their owner.
Exhaustive walks are not one for the compact dog. In summer, the thick coat of the chowchow should be taken into account. He does not tolerate the heat well.
The Chow-Chow as a family member
A chow chow is not a classic family dog, but of course there are always exceptions. If your heart beats faster for the lion fur teddy bear, consider purchasing a chow chow for you and your environment before purchasing.
The four-legged friend is a good single dog because he likes to have a close relationship with a person. Also consider the time-consuming care of the coat before purchasing, especially with long-haired chow chows.
The dog is also suitable to keep in the house, but the dog is also very happy with an enclosed garden, because he likes to be outside. Before the lion dog move in, also remember that you have the responsibility for more than 10 years – even during holiday periods or when you are sick.
Think about what options you have to house the dog during the holidays – also think about intensive care of the coat. Or plan your trips together with your dog – too hot holiday destinations are not suitable for a chow chow.
In addition to the basic equipment in the form of a dog bed, leash, brushes and combs and food bowls, you should not forget the feed costs and vet costs. In case of illness, these costs can be high.Have yourself and other family members tested for dog allergy.
If you already have a mustache paw and want the chowchow to live with the mustache paw as a new family member, you should definitely choose an animal already accustomed to cats – this socialization has already taken place in some breeders in the early weeks.
Older chow chows have a hard time getting used to potential prey as a roommate. A chow chow can live well with older children if you set clear rules in advance so that the children are respectful and conseqeunt towards the chow chow. Then a lifelong friendship doesn’t get in the way.
This is how you find your dream Chow-Chow
A Chow-Chow is a breed that is not often found. Yet in every country there are serious breeders who are members of an association and with knowledge, passion and paper breeding. You should attach great importance to that.
For example, when choosing your four-legged friend, you can exclude those who are only after profit and do not pay attention to the welfare of the animal. A good breederyou can visit him at home. You can then not only get to know the puppies, but also their parents.
The breeder is happy to inform you about health and is happy to answer all questions about the chow. Upon transfer, the puppy not only has a pedigree and a vaccination certificate, but also a chip and a health certificate.
It is a good sign if the breeder also asks you some questions about the living conditions and your dog experience. This shows that he cares about the welfare of the puppies. Watch out for bread breeders and don’t buy a dog out of pity there.
Often not only the puppies of such breeders suffer, but also the parents who often have to live in loveless conditions and are kept only because they regularly have offspring.
If it is an older Chow, you can search the Internet for animals, for example, Chow-Chows in Distress Associations that are dedicated to these dogs.
Here you will also sometimes find crosses that are similar in appearance to the Chow-Chow and also have the typical character of a Chow. The former owner can find out during a conversation with you whether your dream chow chow suits you.
We wish you a lion-strong time with your Chow-Chow!