The Chow-Chow dog is probably one of the most popular dog breeds from China. In northern China they are referred to as “Songshi-Quan”, which means “puffy-lion dog”. Although they are known for their beautiful and puffy coat, their most distinctive feature is the color of their tongue, which is blue.
In this AnimalWised breed file we are going to go through their origin, physical appearance, care, training and more. If you're thinking of adopting a Chow-Chow or you have one already but want to know more about this bread, keep reading.
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The history of the Chow-Chow breed began approximately 2,000 or 3,000 years ago. Although there are no studies that truly demonstrate such longevity, we can confirm that it is one of the oldest dog breeds according to a recent study. Their Chinese name“Songshi-Quan” means “puffy-lion dog”. This name is probably due to their physical characteristics. In fact, an ancient Chinese legend mentions a powerful war animal, described as a lion with a black tongue. These details of morphology make us believe they referred to today's Chow-Chow dog breed.
The evolution of the breed is unknown. However, it's suspected that after their origin in Artic China, the Chow-Chow migrated to Siberia, Mongolia and finally back to northern China. Others suspect they originated from northern China 2,000 years ago.
The history of the Chow-Chow dog represents them as excellent watchdogs for sacred temples and some homes. They are also mentioned in other jobs, such as hunting or herding. Some sources even assure they were used as food and their skin were used to make coats for humans. A writing by Marco Polo also reveal them as sledge dogs. Without a doubt, this is a very versatile breed.
During the first years of the 19th century, the Chow-Chow breed began to appear in other countries, such as England, where it did not particularly stand out. In fact, it was exhibited at the London Zoo in the 1820s as "China's wild dog". While the specimens continued to travel around the world, Queen Victoria decided to acquire one and it was then that the breed became enormously popular in the United Kingdom.
The breed was officially exposed in the year 1890 and was admitted to the AKC (American Kennel Club) in 1903. Nowadays, Chow-Chow dogs are not only well-known but a popular breed selected by many families to adopt into their homes.
The Chow-Chow is a medium-sized dog that resembles a small lion. This is due to their puffy coat that forms a kind of mane around their face. Their head is broad and their skull is flattened. The naso-frontal depression is not pronounced. Their nose is black in almost all dogs but can be lighter in ligt-colored dogs. Their bluish-black tongue is characteristic of this breed. Their eyes are dark, oval and medium-sized. Their ears are small, thick, erect and slightly rounded at the ends.
The Chow-Chow's body is compact with short legs. Their chest is broad and deep. Their tail is set high. The Chow-Chow dog's coat is made up of long or short hair. In long-haired dogs, the outer layer is abundant, dense, rough, straight and not excessively long, while the inner fleece is soft. In short-haired dogs the outer layer is short, dense, straight and fluffy. The color of the dog is unique. It can be black, red, blue, fawn, cream or white, with different shades.
The standard characteristics of the Chow-Chow dog indicate a height at the withers in males between 18,8 - 22 inches, while the females are between 18,1 - 20 inches. The approximate weight in males is around 55 - 70,5 lbs and that of females in 44 - 55 lbs. To learn more about the characteristics of “purebred” Chow-Chow dogs, you can compare the official standard of the dog association of your choice
Generally, the character of the Chow-Chow breed is calm, reserved and independent. In fact, they prefer to take small surveillance walks within their territory instead of jogs or runs. This is probably what made them such great guard dogs in the past. In addition to being calm, Chow-Chow dogs stand out for being especially loyal and faithful to their human companion.
Chow-Chow dogs are usually reserved with strangers and tend to be over protective of their territory and their companion. This is why it's best to socialize them from a young age and never reinforce their protective or possessive behavior as it can rapidly turn into aggressiveness. With that being said, Chow-Chow dogs are usually very good with children, especially if they were together since childhood. The dog may even have the tendency to monitor and protect the child as it is in their nature. Nevertheless, make sure your child does not accidentally hurt the Chow-Chow dog by playing, as the dog will not know they are playing and may react defending themselves.
When it comes to caring for your Chow-Chow dog, the most tricky part will be caring for their coat, especially for the long-haired Chow-Chow dogs. Make sure to brush their coat each day, as well as go to a canine hairdresser on a regular basis to trim your dog's ends and give them a bath. This will also help you prevent the appearance of parasites or other skin problems that may be common in Chow-Chow dogs.
Baths are also encouraged to avoid accumulated dirt. The frequency of these baths can be once in 1 - 3 months. Excessive bathing can damage their coat and cause a decrease in their defences. This is why it's recommended to brush them frequently and bathe them once in a while. Don't forget that the shampoo you use for your Chow-Chow dog must be for dogs, do not wash them with human shampoo.
For exercise, Chow-Chow dogs are not very demanding. They enjoy calm walks with their companion. Ideally, you should take them out on a walk 3 or 4 times a day for about 20min each walk. These walks allow them to sniff, socialize with other dogs and carry out a relaxed activity that will help him stay healthy and happy. If you're a little more adventurous and wish to take them out to walk on mountians or swim in the ocean, as long as it's a moderate effort, your Chow-Chow will happily enjoy these activities. However, make sure not to ask too much of them in hot temperatures as their thick coat is meant to help them endure cold temperatures.
These dogs can live in houses, but can also adapt to an apartment as long as they get enough exercise. When it comes to their diet, opt for a natural canine diet that they can thrive on. Learn more on our article on the best diet for dogs.
The optimal age for adopting a Chow-Chow dog is between 8 and 12 weeks of life. This is because the first weeks of their life should be spent with their mother and siblings to help them socialize and learn about canine behavior. From then on, after recieving their first vaccines, the little Chow-Chow puppy will begin to go on walks and socialize with other dogs, people and discover new environments. This process of socialization will help him become a balanced tempered adult dog.
Next, you can begin to train your puppy basic commands and to urinate only outside. Remember to always train your dog through positive reinforcement. This way, you will create a positive and strong bond with your dog. When properly socialized and trained, Chow-Chow dogs make great and calm dog companions.
As with many other dog breeds, there are some health issues Chow-Chow dogs are prone to having. As a dog-companion, it's very important for you to be informed so you can recognise certain symptoms. These health problems include:
- Progressive retinal atrophy
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Wobbler syndrome
- Sebaceous adenitis
- Ulcerative dermatosis
It is important to remember that Chow-Chow dogs are prone to suffer from autoimmune diseases, as well as skin cancer. For all these reasons, don't forget to visit the vet every 6 or 12 months, follow the vaccination schedule and periodic deworming. With good care and preventive medicine, the life expectancy of Chow-Chow dogs is between 9 and 15 years.