Famed for its unique blue-black tongue, the 'Lion Dog' is an ancient breed of dog. Instantly recognisable with its full mane, this mysterious and oriental looking dog has retained its popularity through the centuries.
The Chow Chow is often simply called the Chow. The precise history is lost in the China of antiquity however; some experts think that the Tarters, who invaded China a thousand years before Christ, brought back to the West some middle-sized dogs that looked like "lions" with blue-black tongues. The Chow as it is known today is easily recognizable in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 22 A.D.). Other artefacts indicate that he was even a much older breed and that he may have come originally from the Arctic Circle, passing through Mongolia and Siberia to finally arrive in China. Some scholars claim that the Chow was the original ancestor of the Samoyed, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Pomeranian and the Keeshond. In more recent times, around 7th Century A.D, it is reported that one Chinese emperor kept something like 2,500 of Chow type dogs as hunting and sporting animals to accompany his reputed 10,000 followers during the hunt. Admired by emperors as well as by Western royalty, used by Chinese peasants for food and clothing, and adopted as a beloved pet of many movie stars in Hollywood in the glamorous 'Roaring Twenties' heyday, this dog has had a exciting history.
Average height to withers: 19-22 inches for males and 18-20 inches for females.
Average weight: 25-32 kg for males and between 20-27kg for females.
The Chow's heavy head and muzzle is surrounded by an outstanding ruff of hair. Often, the words 'lion-headed' or 'lion-like' are used to describe the Chow's head. The eyes are almond shaped and deep set giving the dog a quiet and thoughtful look. Perhaps, the most unique feature of the Chow is the blue-black colour of the tongue and tissues of the mouth, a characteristic that the Chow shares with only a few other mammals. So important is this feature that a Chow with a pink tongue or a tongue spotted with pink is disqualified under the Breed Standard and cannot be shown.
The Chow Chow can have one of two different types of coat; either rough or smooth. The most common coat is the long-haired or rough, which has an outer coat which is long and straight with coarse guard hairs which do not mat or tangle as easily as the soft, thick undercoat. The smooth coated Chow Chow has a short, hard, dense "smooth" outer coat and a definite undercoat.
There are five colours in the Chow: red (light golden to deep mahogany), black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon) and cream. The predominant colours of the Chow are red or black. The reds may be light or dark, solid throughout or shaded on the tail and legs. Less common are the so-called 'dilute' colours of cinnamon or fawn (a dilution of red) or blue (a dilution of black) also exist. Occasionally a cream will appear, but usually this dog will usually also have a pink or flesh-coloured nose so that it cannot be shown according to the Chow Chow Club's Breed Standard. The cinnamons and blues are somewhat less common than the predominant colours of red or black. The tail of the Chow lies on the back and is a most notable and decorative part of the Chow contributing to the altogether noble and handsome appearance. Thick at its root, tapering off to the tip, the tail is high set on the body.
The Chow Chow is a highly intelligent and independent dog but can become quiet dominant within a household if allowed to be so, It is important early socialisation is introduced to ensure a well rounded dog is produced, as they can become 'clingy' and fix on one family member. They are usually quite happy to being touched and stroked by strangers if he is introduced by one of the owners and approached properly.
This is a little dog that does not really need to lead a pampered lap dog life. The quiet and refined aloofness temperament must never be confused with a fierce or intractable temperament. This is a breed that minds his own business and does not generally initiate trouble. The Chow is a loyal little dog who is noble and clever but who can be strong willed and stubborn at times.
Chows are generally quite healthy dogs who will live on average between 9-15 years. The owner of a Chow must take car in warm weather due to its thick coat and avoid a situation which could lead to heatstroke. All dogs can suffer from heat stroke, for example if left in a car on a sunny day, (not even necessarily a warm or hot day). Heatstroke can affect any dog, but is always a very serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Once the signs of heat stroke are detected, there is little time before serious damage - or even death - can occur. Dogs cannot sweat through skin like humans can, and release excess heat through panting, their nose and their pads of their feet. If the dog is unable to do this, the internal body temperature will rise and at 106 degrees, irreparable damage will occur to the dog's organs and internal systems.
Signs of heat stroke include increased internal temperature of over 104 degrees, hard and laboured panting, gums which are visibly red, lethargy, disorientation leading to loss of consciousness or collapsing. If you have even the slightest suspicion that your dog is suffering from heat stroke, you must take immediate action. First, move your dog out of the heat and away from the sun right away and begin cooling your dog by placing cool, wet rags or cloths on the body - especially the foot pads and around the head, taking care not to use ice cold water. It is also advisable to sponge your dogs mouth or offer cool water but do not allow to gulp water. You must at this point seek immediate veterinary attention, even if your dog appears to be better.
Chows can also suffer from Entropion, a condition in which the eyelid folds forwards. This is usually genetic in origin and can be painful so surgery is usually needed to remove and excess skin. The prognosis is usually excellent once treated.
As you would expect from a dog with a luxurious coat, the Chow needs to be brushed at least twice weekly or more if possible. Grooming is essential to keep the long, thick coat in peak, clean condition and regularly check for signs of flea infestation. Many adult Chows with the 'lion ruff' must be handled with care because it can be stripped away easily by too much grooming.