chow chow on show

Chow Chow

A Complete Breed Guide for The Chow Chow

LAST UPDATED 4 APRIL 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Emilee Lay BVSc BSc (Vet) Hons

With their distinct lion like appearance, fabulous mane, regal stance and overall presence, it is no wonder that Chow Chows turn heads when they are out and about. To own a Chow Chow is an experience like no other, their loyalty, sassiness and stubbornness are second to none and those who they trust and love have a companion for life! Read on to learn more about this amazing breed! 

 

Contents:

Facts About the Chow Chow

History

Personality

Best Toys for Chow Chows

Best Food for Chow Chows

Health Concerns

Related Breeds

Further reading

Facts About the Chow Chow

chow chow yawning
Breed size: Place of origin: Intelligence:
Medium China High
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Non Sporting Low 20-35kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
13 - 12 years Low to Moderate Up to 20cm
Drool factor: Coat type: Colours:
Low Long straight double coat Red, Cream, Black, Blue and Fawn. Red Chows can come in various shades with lighter colouring along their legs, chest or bib
Shedding factor: Easy of training: Overall grooming needs:
High Hard Very high

How big does Chow Chow get?

The Chow Chow averages 20-35kg and stands up to 50cm high at the shoulder.

How much does a Chow Chow cost?

Chow Chow pups in Australia may cost anywhere from $4,000 - $7,000. As a purebred dog, it's important to find a registered breeder and do your due diligence in finding out their practices and beliefs when it comes to temperament, breeding, and health testing. 

Are Chow Chows good pets?

Chow Chow’s are quite fastidious dogs and are naturally inclined to be house-trained, well-behaved, and clean. Given their aloofness and wariness towards strangers, as well as fierce protectiveness, socialization is an extremely important part of owning a Chow Chow. Training and proper socialization from a young age and even as adults are important to keeping a well-behaved Chow Chow.

Whilst not the most low-maintenance of breeds, Chow Chows make excellent companions and family dogs when their needs are met.

How long do Chow Chows live?

Like most medium breed dogs, Chow Chows can live up to 12-15 years although they are prone to a number of health problems due to their heavy heads, almond shaped eyes and stilted gait. As long as you ensure your Chow Chow has a complete and balanced diet, appropriate exercise, does not become overweight or develop dental disease, you can expect to have your companion to live a long, healthy life.

Do Chow Chows shed?

Chow Chows shed twice a year like most dogs, however, their dense luxurious coats need frequent grooming with a good quality slicker brush, pin brush and metal comb. Extra attention should be paid to keeping their faces (especially around their eyes) clean.

How much exercise do Chow Chows need?

Chow Chow do not require a lot of exercise and a short walk or play session of around 20 minutes per day is sufficient. Care must be taken during hot weather as Chow Chows are prone to overheating due to their short faces and long coats. Walking early in the morning or at night is recommended.

Do Chow Chows bark much?

Chow Chows make fantastic guard dog, being very alert, so they may bark if anything unusual happens. They tend to bark with purpose, as a warning or a means of communication. If your Chow Chow is barking excessively, providing appropriate training and distractions will help to curb this unwanted behaviour.

How do I choose a Chow Chow breeder?

When looking for a Chow Chow, your options are to:

a) Research a reputable and registered breeder by checking your local list of ANKC registered breeders or online databases vetted by third party companies. 

b) Buy from an or online marketplace or pet store (NOT recommended!)

c) Adopt from a rescue (this is recommended for those experienced in owning Chow Chows).

Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions first. Good breeders socialize their animals, house them humanely, allow you to inspect their premises, and selectively breed healthy traits and good temperaments. These breeders will be well informed about the common health issues of the breed and should be transparent about their practices when it comes to minimizing these problems. Read our Guide to Finding a Good Breeder for more tips.

Chow Chow History

chow chow running

The Chow Chow is considered to possibly be one of the oldest dog breeds in the world, with some of their earliest documented origins reaching as far back as the Han Dynasty ( c.206 b.c.). Originally bred as a general-purpose working dogs they had many roles including herding, hunting, pulling, and guarding. There are some theories to suggest they were also potentially a food source! However, they were also the lordly companions to many nobility, such as Emperor Ling of the T’ang Dynasty who bred chows

It is believed the breed name comes from the 18th century, during which time unusual-looking dogs acquired by British traders from China, were named “Chow Chow”, a slang term for miscellaneous items at the time on board a ship.

These days Chow Chows can be found all over the world, and in fact have been owned by many famous people such as Queen Victoria, Martha Stewart, Elvis Presley, Sigmund Fried and even Janet Jackson. These regal dogs are also special due to their deep blue/black tongue, a trait shared with one other ancient breed, the Shar-Pei. Chow Chow puppies are actually born with pink tongues, and as they grow their tongue becomes a gorgeous deep blue!

The Chow Chow Personality

chow chow on the grass

Chow Chow’s are highly intelligent and loyal but notoriously aloof! Despite their fluffy appearance, they are not always the most social or outgoing of dogs and can be quite stand-offish towards strangers. These dogs have very cat-like personalities but they are fiercely independent and stubborn. However, a Chow Chow’s loyalty is second to none, they bond strongly with their family and once their respect is earned, it is often earned for life. They are strong-willed and likewise, need an equally stubborn owner with whom they can follow.  

Socialisation takes on a whole new meaning when it comes to owning a Chow Chow. They should be exposed early on in their lives to a variety of novel situations and routines so that they can be a well rounded dog. This needs to continue well into their teen and adult years. Being highly intelligent, they can be very willful when it comes to doing what they want, when they want, bribery or no bribery. Establishing core commands and consistently training 

Best Toys and Accessories for Chow Chows

Grooming is a big part of owning a Chow Chow. Training and exposing your Chow Chow from a young age to be brushed and handled for grooming will set you up for success in the long term. It's also important to implement good dental hygiene habits now! Being able to open your dog's mouth and brushing it will not only keep their teeth clean but can translate to helping restrain your Chow Chow whilst at the vet when their mouth needs examining. 

As mentioned before, Chow Chows need quite a bit of training from a young age, and this needs to continue to be reinforced throughout their lives. Invest in a clicker trainer and training pouch to make your training nice and smooth. As Chow Chows are very strong, they can be prone to pulling, so having a good no pull harness or training them from a young age to walk "politely" on a leash is a must! Read more on "How to Stop Your Dog Pulling on the Lead".

Due to their heavy heads and dense coats, Chow Chows are at risk of heat stress, so a cooling bed is a must in Summer.

Curved Firm Slicker Brush

Get your Chow Chow puppy off to a good start and encourage positive handling and dental hygiene from a young age.

Arm and Hammer Complete Care Puppy Dental Kit

This all in one dental kit is perfect for getting your Chow Chow started on the right track.

AFP Chill Out Mat

It may not be a silk cushion in a marble kennel, but the special springy noodle-like filling in this bed helps to encourage airflow to keep your Chow Chow cool and comfortable.

Procare Whistle Clicker Treat Dispenser

This is the perfect ALL IN ONE clicker and treat dispenser. When it comes to training Chow Chows - consistency, timing and stubborness is key! 

Chow Chow Diet and Nutrition

chow chow on the grass

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Chow Chow Puppies

Some points to note about Chow Chow puppy ownership include:

What to feed a Chow Chow Puppy

chow chow puppies

Chow Chow puppies need to eat a premium, medium to large breed diet that is nutritionally formulated to meet AAFCO Guidelines until they are around 12-14 months of age. You may consider a Rotation Diet to provide exposure to different proteins and reduce the risk of food sensitivities.

Raw diets for Chow Chows puppies? Raw diets are not suitable or safe for puppies due to the risk of bacterial contamination upsetting their tummies, and an unbalanced diet can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Read more about Raw Diets: The Risks and Benefits.

When should you transition a Chow Chow from puppy to adult food?

As a general guide, Chow Chows can usually be transitioned from a 'puppy' food to an 'adult' food at around 12 months of age. This does, however, vary depending on your dog's body condition score - if your pup is underweight, they may require puppy food for a little longer. Likewise, if they're starting to show a bit of 'pudge', it may be time for a lower-in-calories 'Adult' diet. As Chow Chows can grow to be over 25kg, these dog's will need to be on a Large Breed specific puppy diet until at least 14 months of age. 

Best Food for Chow Chow Puppies

Best food for Adult Chow Chows

chow chows in a line

Chow Chow adults are prone to a number of health conditions including skin sensitivities, hip and elbow dysplasia, so the following diets have been recommended to help support healthy skin and joints.

Hill's Adult Healthy Mobility Dry Dog Food

This diet contains glucosamine and chondroitin, the building blocks of healthy joints and cartilage, as well as l-carnitine to maintain lean muscle mass and calcium for healthy bones. With a clinically proven antioxidant blend containing vitamins C and E, this formula will also help to support your dogs immune system.

Royal Canin Dermacomfort

This premium quality dry dog food is a reduced allergen formula to minimise the risk of triggering any existing food allergies. It is also fortified with nutrients to support and nourish the natural barrier function of the skin including omega 3 and 6 fatty acids such as GLA, EPA and DHA.

Hill's Beef and Barley Entree

This tasty canned chicken entree has a ground meat consistency that your dog will love. Hill?s Science Diet Adult Chicken & Barley Entree is formulated with precisely balanced nutrition to help maintain your adult dog at an ideal body weight. It is made using high quality lean proteins to help maintain and build healthy muscles, and contains high quality ingredients for easy digestion.

Open Farm Salmon Rustic Stew Wet Dog Food

This Rustic Stew provides your dog with a premium, complete and balanced diet. This tasty wet food is made with ethically sourced, wild caught salmon to provide the moisture and nutrition your pup needs. .

Chow Chow Health Issues

chow chow on a hill

Chow Chows are unfortunately prone to a wide variety of diseases and this can make them one of the more expensive breeds to insure.

Eye Problems

Chow Chows are very susceptible to entropion as well as other eye issues such as dry eye, glaucoma and persistent pupillary membranes. It is important to ensure that if you notice any abnormalities in their eyes, take them straight to your vet for a check up. These issues can been as early as when they are puppies, or worsen as they get older with age. 

Bloat

GDV or Gastric Dilation and Volvulus can commonly be seen in dogs with deep and narrow chests such as Chow Chows. This is a life-threatening condition in which the stomach twists on its axis and cuts off blood supply to itself. Dogs who appear to be retching, restless, painful in the abdomen or appear to be lying in a downward dog pose (as seen in Yoga) may be bloated. This is an emergency, take your dog to a vet immediately. 

To find out more, take a read through our article GDV and Bloat in Dogs - What is it? 

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia 

Hip dysplasia refers to a condition where the conformation (physical structure) of the hip joint is abnormal. A healthy hip joint operates as a smooth 'ball and socket' type joint, whereas hips affected by dysplasia typically have a flattening of the 'socket' component of the joint, resulting in a shallow joint where the 'ball' or head of the femur is not held securely. This leads to instability of the joint which may cause pain in the young dog (juvenile hip dysplasia) and ultimately causes development of osteoarthritis.

Elbow dysplasia affects the elbow joint, which is an articulation of three bones, the humerus, radius and ulna. The correct alignment of the joint requires each bone to grow at the correct rate otherwise displasia can occur. While there are a few different locations in the joint where dysplasia can occur, each with different potential underlying causes, the end result is the same. Dogs with elbow dysplasia typically display signs of lameness in one or both front limbs at around 4 to 10 months of age, with arthritis appearing and worsening with age.

Management of hip and elbow dysplasia is best achieved early before significant osteoarthritis develops. Depending on the type and severity of dysplasia present and the age of the dog, there are some surgical procedures that aim to correct the abnormal conformation of the joint to reduce the development of arthritis in later life. In severe cases of hip dysplasia, particularly in older dogs or those with significant arthritis, a total hip replacement may be necessary.

Skin Sensitivities 

Due to their thick and heavy coats, Chow Chows can be prone to skin sensitivities. Not completely drying them off after bath or swim can result in hot spots forming. Environmental allergies will need to be mananged throughout your dog's lifetime, whether that's through medication or a special diet.

 

Best Supplements for Chow Chows 

chow chow in a garden

Natural Animal Solutions Skin Pack

Digestavite Plus is a mega-complex supplement with 48 essential minerals, vitamins, pre-biotics, and antioxidants. Omega Oil is a veterinary recommended product to help with skin conditions in particular, which comes in liquid form in a handy pump bottle. High Potency Vitamin C powder supports the immune system and helps speed up healing time.

Paw Blackmore Veterinary Fish Oil

Fish oil can be used as adjunctive nutritional management for joint health, inflammatory disorders including atopy, cardiovascular health, and renal conditions. Omega 3 fats are considered good fats and are only found in oily fish such as herring, sardines, mackerel and salmon..

Paw Osteoadvanced Chews

PAW Blackmores OsteoAdvanced is designed to support and help dogs who may need additional aid to avoid or ease arthritic or joint inflammation. Formulated with Green lipped mussel, Curcumin, and Boswellia, this chew offers anti-inflammatory properties that can ease arthritic symptoms. The ingredients of glucosamine and chondroitin has been shown to support healthy joint cartilage.

Related Breeds

Shar Pei

sharpei puppy

This unmistakeable, wrinkled skin breed is one of the most ancient dog breeds still in existence. The name, Shar Pei, means "sand skin" in reference to their short harsh haircoat. The Shar Pei breed rose from being exceedingly rare in the 1970's to extremely popular all over the world in a couple of decades. This rise to fame was due to media focus on the breed - who could forget Rolly from the Purex toilet paper ads!

Tibetian Mastiff 

Lhasa apso dog

The Tibetian Mastiff is another guardian dog originating from Tibet. With a lion like appearance, these imposing dogs are devoted family members and like Chow Chows are aloof, imposing and sometimes intimidating towards strangers. 

ChongQing

Source: The Smart Canine.

This breed had a similar function to the Shar Pei and was used for many centuries as a hunting and guard dog on farms. They also have a blue black tongue and short sparse hair. Their ears and tails taper to distinct points and are often hairless - this is where there nickname "Bamboo Tail" arose.

 

Further reading

dog paws on book

How to Groom a Dog

Eye Discharge in Dogs and Cats

Prevention vs Treatment: arthritis, skin care, anxiety, dental, weight loss, and more

The importance of socialisation

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