History of the Chow-Chow Breed
The exact origin of the chow-chow is not known. Some feel that because of its characteristics, this breed descended from Spitz breeds. Others claim that it was derived from a combination of Spitz and eastern Mastiff-type dogs. At any rate, the chow-chow has been recognized in China for many, many years. It is interesting to note that the chow chow's bone structure is similar to that of the oldest fossilized dog remains which date back several million years. It is believed that this dog originally served as a temple guard dog, and it is also said that this breed was used for hunting, particularly for nobility. After the decline of imperial hunts, the chow-chow also declined in number and in quality. But a few specimens of this pure breed were discovered in the homes of the wealthy and in monasteries. There are stories that the chow-chow was used for food and fur in Mongolia and Manchuria. The breed was named chow-chow in the late 1700s, when the dogs were brought to England from China. It is said that the name came from a word that meant Oriental knickknack. Apparently the dogs were described as such in the ship's cargo log. It wasn't until the late 1800s that more of the breed was brought to England and then imported into America. Queen Victoria is credited with garnering attention for the chow-chow. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1903, but the dog didn't gain great popularity in the United States until the 1980s.
Size and Appearance of the Chow-Chow Breed
A powerfully built, square and sturdy dog, the chow-chow has heavy bones and strong muscles. The front legs are very straight, while the hindquarters are powerful and well-muscled. The round, cat-like feet are compact and have thick pads on the toes. The head, while large, is carried proudly, and the expression of this dog is one of dignity, sobriety, and independence. The dark brown eyes are wide set and almond-shaped. The ears are small and triangular, rounded at the end, and carried erect. The broad, square muzzle features a large nose with well-opened nostrils, strong teeth that meet in a scissors bite, and a black tongue. The strong neck is muscular, and it arches smoothly into the shoulders. The body of this breed is compact and short, but strongly muscled.
The tail is set high. The gait is described as sound and agile, quick and powerful.
The chow-chow comes in both smooth and rough coat types, and both types feature double coats. The smooth coat has a hard, dense, and smooth outer coat with an obvious undercoat. This type does not have a ruff around the neck or feathering on the tail or legs. The rough coat features an abundant outer coat of dense, straight hair that is coarse to the touch, and an undercoat of soft, thick, and wooly hair. The rough coat features a ruff of fur around the head and neck and a well feathered tail. The chow-chow comes in five show-standard colors including: black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon), cream, and red (light golden to deep mahogany).
Described by some as lordly, the chow-chow is an intelligent dog that is not overly demonstrative. It is independent and can be somewhat stubborn. However, it is a devoted dog that is protective and devoted to its family despite its reserved nature. It is generally suspicious of strangers, and it has been known to be aggressive with other dogs. If socialized with children and other pets at an early age, the chow-chow will generally get along as an adult. Firm and consistent training from an early age is essential. While intelligent, the chow-chow is sometimes a challenge to obedience train due to its stubbornness. This breed has been known to guard its things, such as food, bones, toys, and areas of the house. Some do not like to walk on leashes. While not as affectionate as other breeds, the chow-chow can make a loyal family pet with the right training.
Chow-Chow Recommended Maintenance
The coat of the smooth chow-chow is easy to care for, only requiring a brushing about once a week. The rough coat needs more time and attention, however. It should be brushed at least every other day, more often during times of heavy shedding to prevent matting of the dense undercoat. Dry shampoo should be used when necessary. Regular, moderate outdoor exercise is recommended, but this breed does not do well in hot, humid weather. The chow-chow will be fine in an apartment as long as it receives daily exercise and attention. A home with at least a small, fenced-in yard is ideal. This breed can be lazy, so in order to keep the dog in optimal health, it should be walked daily.
Life span: 8 - 12 years
Major concerns: CHD, entropion
Minor concerns: elbow dysplasia, cataract, distichiasis, PPM, gastric torsion, stenotic nares, patellar luxation, elongated palate
Occasionally seen: renal cortical hypoplasia
Suggested tests: hip, elbow, eye