Chow Chow

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Introduction


One of the most distinguishing features about the Chow Chow is their blackish/blue tongue, the other being their profuse, thick coat. There are two types of Chow with the first being a smooth-coated dog and the other being the rough-coated Chow. Often aloof and a little stand-offish, they are however, extremely loyal and devoted to their owners and in particular to one person in a household.



Over the years, the Chow Chow has become a popular choice with many people both here in the UK and elsewhere in the world all thanks to their unusual looks and their loyal natures. However, they are not the best choice for first time owners because Chows need to be well trained and handled by people who are familiar with this type of dog, or a Chow might just get the upper hand and start exhibiting a more dominant side to their nature.


History


Chow Chows have been around for thousands of years and are thought to be related to Nordic Spitz-type dogs. They were highly prized in China for their guarding and hunting abilities, but the breed remained a bit of a mystery to the rest of the world for a long time all due to the fact that China had closed its borders right up until the 1800s. The Chow did not appear here in the UK until the nineteen twenties and they were not exhibited until 1925 when they appeared at Crufts dog show.



However, the actual origins of the breed have been lost in time although some people believe it was the Tartars who bought dogs that looked like lions and which had black tongues back from China thousands of years before the birth of Christ. There is also a lot of evidence of Chows in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD).



With this said more evidence has been found of very similar dogs in the Arctic Circle where they were taken through Mongolia and Siberia to finally arrive in China. Some people believe the Samoyed, Norwegian Elkhound, Keeshond and the Pomeranian are the Chow's ancestors. There is some evidence of a Chinese Emperor owning around two thousand Chow type dogs in the 7th century AD which he used as hunting dogs.



In more recent times, Chow Chows have become popular pets with movie stars during the "roaring twenties" and today they remain high on the list of preferred companion dogs with people the world over including here in the UK.


Appearance


Height at the withers: Males 43 - 51 cm, Females 43 - 51 cm



Average weight: Males 25 - 32 kg, Females 20 - 27 kg



The Chow is a large dog that boasts some unique physical traits, one of which is the fact they have blackish/blue tongues and the other being they have very thick, dense coats. They have large heads that does not have a very noticeable stop, their muzzle is moderately long and their nose is wide and large being black in colour with the exception of dogs that boast near white or cream coats where their noses are much lighter. Chows with a fawn or blue coat should have black noses, but self-coloured is allowed as a breed standard.



Their eyes are oval in shape and dark, but dogs with blue or fawn coats have eyes that match their colouring. A Chow Chow's ears are small, slightly rounded at the tips and very thick. Dogs carry them upright and they are set wide apart on their head, tilting forward over their eyes. The way a Chow's ears stand up on a dog's head gives them the appearance of always scowling which is another unique physical trait that makes these dogs stand out in a crowd.



They have strong mouths with a perfect scissor bite where their upper teeth neatly overlap their lower ones. They have bluish/black tongues and in fawn or blue coated dogs, their gums tend to be various lighter shades with cream and white dogs having the lightest coloured gums of them all. Chows have very strong necks which they hold slightly arched giving them their proud and aloof look.



Their shoulders are well developed, muscular and sloping with dogs boasting straight front legs with lots of bone. Chows are deep chested dogs that have a well sprung ribcage, powerful loins and a strong, level back. Their hindquarters are powerful with well-muscled first and second thighs. They have very cat-like feet being small and round with dogs standing well up on their toes. A Chow's tail is set high which dogs carry them well over their backs.



When it comes to their coat, Chow Chows can either have smooth or rough coats. Rough-coated dogs have thick, dense straight hair that stands well off from their body. Their outer coat is coarse, but their undercoat is woolly and much softer. Dogs have much thicker hair around their necks which forms a lion-like mane and they boast breeches on the back of their thighs which adds to their overall appeal and impressive good looks.



Smooth-coated dogs have a shorter double coat with dense, straight hair that stands upright and which is very plush to the touch. Chows come in a variety of colours which includes the following:




  • Black

  • Blue

  • Cream

  • Fawn

  • Self-red

  • Shaded red

  • White


Temperament


Chows are very intelligent dogs, but they can be strong-willed when the mood takes them too. Their training and socialisation has to start early for them to become well-rounded, obedient characters. They are known to have a stubborn streak and if allowed, they will show a more dominant side to their character which is something to be avoided at all costs. They need to be given the right sort of direction from a young age and then throughout their lives so they understand their place in the pack and who is alpha dog in a household.



With this said, Chows form very strong bonds with one person although they are always affectionate and friendly towards everyone in a household. They are not a good choice for first time owners because they need to handled and trained correctly by someone who is familiar with this type of strong-willed, intelligent dog. They are not a good choice for people who cannot give their dogs the time they need to be well-rounded characters. Because they form such a strong bond with one owner, the Chow Chow can suffer from separation anxiety which can be a real problem for people who spend all day out at work leaving their dogs on their own for long periods of time.



Chows are instinctively suspicious of strangers and people they don't know, they also tend to be very protective of their family and their property which means they are very quick to let an owner know when strangers are about. They are however, very good around children as long as they have grown up with them, making Chows a good choice for families who are familiar with this type of intelligent dog and who know how to handle them.



It's in a Chow's nature to chase anything that moves which means great care has to be taken when walking a dog through the countryside or park where livestock may be around. The one thing Chows are not keen on chasing is anything an owner throws for them which is something these dogs are not interesting in doing whatsoever.


Intelligence / Trainability


The Chow is an intelligent dog, but they do have a stubborn streak in them which means without the right sort of handling and training, these dogs can be hard to train. However, in the right hands and given the right sort of direction, the Chow is relatively easy when it comes to teaching them the rules and how to behave. The thing to bear in mind, is that Chows need to know why they are doing something and will not do anything they think is not necessary.



Because the breed is known to be extremely clean, Chows are easy to housetrain, but again without the right sort of handling and enough early socialisation, these dogs can become unmanageable which is why they are not the best choice for first time owners.


Children and Other Pets


The Chow is known to be good around children although they do tend to become very protective of them. With this said, they are large dogs and therefore any interaction between the kids and a dog should always be well supervised by an adult to make sure things stay calm and no children get knocked over albeit accidentally. The other thing to bear in mind is that Chows can be a little snappy if they feel threatened or provoked which can happen when children get too boisterous around them.



Care needs to be taken when a Chow meets any dogs they don't already know and the same can be said of any pets in a household. Although they are rarely the ones to start a fight, a Chow will think nothing of defending themselves if they feel threatened by another dog in any way.


Health


The average life expectancy of a Chow Chow is between 9 to 15 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.



Like many other pedigree dogs, they are known to suffer from certain hereditary conditions which are worth knowing about if you are hoping to share your home with one of these large and lovely looking dogs. The health issues that seem to affect the breed the most include the following:




  • Entropion

  • Eczema/hot

  • Bloat

  • Cruciate ligament

  • Breathing issues

  • Hip Dysplasia – DNA test available

  • Heatstroke


Caring for a Chow Chow


As with any other breed, Chows need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.


Grooming


Chows enjoy being groomed because they like the one-to-one attention they are given when they are being pampered and brushed. It's important for puppies to be groomed from a young age paying particular attention to touching their feet and their ears. This makes it that much easier to check them later when these dogs are larger and that much heavier to handle.



It's also important to regularly check a Chow's chest because when they get excited, some of them tend to dribble and this can cause problems with the skin becoming sore and inflamed if not regularly cleaned and wiped dry. Ideally, Chows need to be groomed at least once a week and then daily when they shed more hair which like other dogs, tends to be during the Spring and then again in the Autumn.



One thing to bear in mind is that Chows should never be placed in a "drying box" that professional groomers use to dry dogs off after they’ve been given a bath. The reason being that these dogs can quickly overheat and they run the risk of doing just this when they are put in a drier. When dogs overheat, they can collapse and in a worst case scenario it could prove fatal.


Exercise


Chows are not known to be high energy dogs, but they do need to be given the right amount of daily exercise which includes a lot of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy dogs. They need around 40 to 60 minutes exercise every day and they enjoy being out and about in the great outdoors although Chows really like being able to wander around a back garden too. With this said, the fencing in a garden needs to be very secure or you may find a Chow will find their way out and go off exploring which could land them into all sorts of trouble.



Because of their heavy coats, Chows can overheat very quickly in hot weather. It’s important for them to be kept inside during the hotter summer months and to only take them for a walk first thing in the morning and then once the sun has gone down in the evening when the temperature tends to be a lot cooler.



With this said, young puppies should not be given too much exercise because their joints and bones are still growing and too much pressure on them could result in a dog developing joint problems later on in their lives.


Feeding


If you get a Chow puppy from a breeder, they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine, feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet, but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do, it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.



Young Chows when they reach 6 months old can quite safely be put on two meals a day, but before this they need to be fed between 3 to 4 times a day and ideally when they are three months old, they should already be on just three meals a day.



Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters, but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature dog twice a day, once in the morning and then again in the evening, making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. Obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.



Because Chows are deep chested dogs, they are prone to suffer from bloat and as such they should never be fed just before they go out for a walk or when they have just come back from one.  They should also be fed twice a day rather than just once a day for the same reason.


Average Cost to keep/care for a Chow Chow


If you are looking to buy a Chow, you would need to pay anything from £800 to over £950 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old Chow Chow in northern England would be £35.39 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy, this would set you back £114.59 a month (quote as of April 2016). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium, they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age and whether or not they have been neutered or spayed.



When it comes to food costs, you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry, to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £60 a month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Chow and this includes their initial vaccinations, their annual boosters, the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.



As a rough guide, the average cost to keep and care for a Chow Chow would be between £100 to £180 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree puppy.


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