Chow Chow

Breed At A Glance


Loyal and extremely protective

Life Expectancy
10-15 years

Average Height
18-22 inches

Average Weight
45-70 lbs

Coat Color
Solid red, black, blue, cinnamon, cream, tan, gray, and (rarely) white (with a blue/black tongue)

Coat Length/Texture
Two varieties: Smooth coat and rough coat

Shedding Propensity
Seasonally heavy

General Temperament

The Chow Chow is a loyal and exceptionally protective breed, often forming a special bond to one particular member of a household. They make exceptional house pets: they are very quiet, naturally well-behaved, do not dig or bark unnecessarily and aren’t destructive. They are also one of the easiest breeds to housebreak. Their personalities are almost cat-like: aloof, reserved with affection, independent, dignified and stubborn. Unfortunately, due to irresponsible breeding practices brought on by sudden popularity surges, the Chow has some significant temperament issues. They tend to be domineering and can have a tough time living in a home with other pets, unless raised with them at an early age. Although their soft fur makes them appear cuddly, they don’t always enjoy being caressed by children or strangers, and are naturally distrustful of most visitors. The Chow will be a disappointment for someone looking for an affectionate lap dog.

Successful training requires intensity and consistency with a Chow Chow. They tend to be bossy and proud, and must be taught at an early age as to who the master is or they will take over. They require firmness, fairness, and consistency, and do not respond to harshness or a heavy-handed approach and will become aggressive if treated in a disrespectful manner.

Chow Chows can be lazy, but exercise is nonetheless important, just as it is with all breeds, so they need to be taken for a daily walk. Dogs who do not get daily walks are more likely to become obese or display a wide array of behavior problems.

Breed History

The Chow Chow (also known simply as “Chow”) is one of the most ancient dog breeds, orginating as a hunting, guard and draft dog in northern China thousands of years ago. In fact, the Chow’s structure is very similar to that of the oldest known fossilized dog remains, dated to several million years ago. The Mongrels of China bred this breed as a hunter and guard, but also for it’s meat and fur.

The importation of Chows into England began around 1880, and they started to become popular when Queen Victoria took an interest in the breed. The breed was exhibited for the first time in the United States in 1890, and the American Kennel Club officially recognized the Chow Chow in 1903. The breed enjoy two periods of immense popularity in American, once in the 1930’s and again in the 1980’s, leading to some questionable breeding patterns.

Body Structure and Composition

The Chow Chow has several very distinguishing physical characteristics. The most obvious is the fluffy and profuse double-coat in a solid color (cream, red, black, blue or grey), which comes in a smooth or rough variety. It is one of the only breeds, other than the Shar-Pei, that has a solid blue-black tongue. It’s hind legs are almost straight and the hock joints and toes are directly under the hips, giving the Chow a stilted gait. The ears are small and rounded and the eyes deep-set, and there is a huge ruff behind the head, which gives it a lion-like mane. The Chow Chow is a powerful, sturdy, squarely built spitz-type breed, medium-sized with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, and the tail set high and carried curled up close to the back.

Medical Information

The Chow Chow is the breed most notably affected by Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, a condition where the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket. This affliction causes arthritic-like symptoms and can cause lameness. Patellar Luxation (slipping knee caps) and thyroid problems can also affect the Chow. Eye conditions, primarily Entropion (eyelids folding inward) and Ectropion (the lower eyelids turning outward), are also prevalent in this breed. The risk of these disorders increase with irresponsible breeding practices, so it is vitally important to acquire a Chow from a reputable breeder.

The Chow Chow can also suffer from various skin ailments, and require daily brushing to help prevent matting and dispose of their shedding undercoat. Chows are not well-suited for unusually warm climates, and can easily suffer from heat exhaustion. They also have a very low tolerance for anesthesia.

Anecdotal Information

Although there are generalizations that this breed is aloof, unaffectionate and sometimes difficult to obedience train, there can be wide variations in temperament from one Chow to another. There are stories of Chows who enjoy learning new tricks from their masters and can learn quickly. Some Chows get along easily with other pets, while some try to dominate. So, it appears that it all depends on whether your Chow simply wants to learn and be a part of a family. As stated above, it is imperative to research the origins of your chosen Chow puppy, and to avoid puppy-mills and pet-shop dogs that are bred simply for profit.

Sigmund Freud owned a Chow Chow named Jo-Fi, who often sat in on therapy sessions and assisted in calming patients.

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