The Chow Chow is a distinctive and very cute looking dog breed that many people often liken to a teddy bear – but like bears, Chow Chows might look cute, but they can be fierce!
This is a dog breed whose looks appeal to many different types of owners, not all of whom are the right fit for what is undeniably a complex dog breed that needs a well-informed owner who understands their core traits and how to look after and manage them properly.
If you are wondering if the Chow Chow is the right choice of dog for you, there’s a lot to think about and you need to take your time over making a final decision. Lots of research is involved too and there’s no way to shortcut that – but this article will get you started by telling you ten things you need to know about the Chow Chow, before you buy one. Read on to learn more.
The Chow Chow is one of the oldest dog breeds still around today that retains a high degree of similarity to historical dogs of the breed as far back as we’ve got records, and they’re generally considered to be a basal breed as a result. A basal breed is one that is genetically considered to be an originator or very early form of the species, and the Chow Chow is one of just 16 dog breeds considered to fall into this group.
Chow Chows are unmistakable in terms of their looks, and the first thing that stands out about them is their coats, which are long, hugely dense and thick, more so than more or less any other dog breed or type. They also have an even denser ruffle of fur around the neck that forms a type of mane, and they’re sometimes referred to as lion dogs as a result.
Chow Chows are also brachycephalic, which means having an abnormally shortened muzzle and soft palate, giving them a flat faced appearance. Additionally, they have very petite ears and notably, their tongues and lips are black or blueish in colour!
The thick, cuddly Chow Chow coats are a large part of their appeal and make the dogs look like teddy bears, but such coats are incredibly high maintenance as a result – in fact, more high maintenance than more or less any other dog breed.
They need to be thoroughly brushed and groomed every day to avoid knots and matting, and their coats tend to pick up leaves and dirt easily too.
They’re also very heavy shedders, both year-round and during their even heavier seasonal coat loss twice yearly in spring and autumn.
As a result of their hugely thick coats and brachycephalic faces, Chow Chows often find very hot weather a challenge, and they don’t tend to cope well with high temperatures.
Chow Chow owners need to take pains to ensure that their dogs don’t overexert themselves in hot weather, and to give them continual access to shade and water, and monitor them carefully on hot days.
The Chow Chow is objectively one of the lowest intelligence dogs, and on the benchmark for canine intelligence ranking (The Coren scale) the Chow Chow falls in 135th position out of a total number of 138 different dog breeds, placing them almost at the very bottom.
This means that the breed can usually only learn a couple of training commands, teaching them takes a long time, and their reliability in terms of responding to commands is apt to be patchy.
The Chow Chow is one of the lower energy dog breeds, and they are neither hugely energetic when taken for walks nor generally in need of very long walks each day. They tend to prefer strolling rather than running around, and just a couple of half hour daily walks are generally perfectly sufficient to keep Chow Chows happy.
Chow Chows can make for good watchdogs, but they can also be prone to dominance and will soon become pushy, poorly mannered and even in some cases snappy or aggressive if they’re not provided with clear leadership. They need crystal clear rules and boundaries with no grey areas, and their handlers need to be able to command the dog’s respect so that the dog places their trust in the handler as the pack leader and looks to them for direction.
Chow Chows tend to be highly loyal and very sweet with their main caregiver or one or two favourite people, and they’re highly affectionate with them as a rule. However, the breed also tends to be deeply suspicious and distrustful of strangers, and they can be overprotective of their owners when faced with new people.
They need proper supervision and management as a result of this and are rarely considered to be a good choice for families with children, particularly young ones. Whilst Chows can live with older children they have developed a mutual respect with, they might be intolerant of other children that come to visit, and need continual supervision as a result.
The Chow Chow’s average lifespan is around 9-12 years, and the breed’s health is somewhat complex with more than its fair share of hereditary health problems found within the modern breed’s gene pool.
Any prospective Chow Chow owner should research the breed’s health in depth, and ask the breeder of any pup they might be considering buying about the health tests they perform on their own parent stock.
If you’re looking for a fairly sedentary and very loyal dog breed that is by no means a toy dog and you’re prepared to dedicate a reasonable amount of time each day to caring for their coat, the Chow Chow might be the right choice of pet for you.
However, they’re a complex breed that has some contradictions – they need a smart and experienced owner who is adept at managing and leading a confident and often dominant breed, but unlike most such breeds, the Chow isn’t overly smart themselves, and are limited in terms of what they are capable of learning.
For the right type of owner, the Chow Chow’s loyalty and distinctive good looks can be very rewarding, but without appropriate management or with inconsistency in their training and management, they’re apt to become dominant and difficult.
If you are considering choosing a Chow Chow as a pet, this is certainly not a breed to pick on a whim, and you should meet and talk to lots of experienced Chow Chow owners and get to know as many dogs of the breed as you can too before you make a final decision.