Dog Breeds 101 – Chow Chow

Dog Breeds 101 - Chow Chow - WP
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Although it is unknown when the Chow Chow, also known as the “bear dog”, was first developed, we do know they have been around for at least 2,000 years. One Chinese legend speaks of them as having been large war dogs that looked like lions and had black tongues. It is written that a Chinese ruler owned 5,000 of them for hunting, 1,300 years ago. Also, Marco Polo arrived in China in the 1200s and recorded accounts of the Chinese using Chow Chows as sled dogs. It is believed that the English in fact gave this dog their name in the 1700s because “Chow”, meaning food, was one of the few Cantonese words they understood. [1]

The Chow Chow is easily identified by its black and blue tongue. This dog, unlike most, has straight hind legs causing the dog to walk in a stilted manner. It is believed that this trait helps the Chow Chow to move more easily and quickly through heavy snow. [2] Its dense and furry coat may either be smooth or rough. The most common colors of the Chow Chow include cinnamon, blue, red and black. Some may also be found in white, gray and tan colors.

These dogs can be very loyal and devoted to their owners, but are reserved toward strangers. In fact, they can be extremely protective of their owners and property. They tend to form close bonds with only one or two members of the family. Chows may be affectionate to other household pets, but are likely to be aggressive toward animals they do not know.

Many people compare the personality of the Chow Chow to that of a cat. More often than not, Chow Chows are dignified, stubborn, independent, aloof, and intelligent. In fact, as they continue to age, the breed becomes more attached to its owners and increasingly stubborn.

Regular brushing and grooming is important in keeping this dog healthy. They are considered to be seasonal shedders and will require extra grooming during these times. When a caretaker brushes the Chow Chow, they should see their skin as the brush moves through the fur. If they do not, it means the undercoat is packed down and may cause skin problems. [3]

Provided that they get good daily exercise, this dog can thrive in an apartment. They can live inside or outside, but potential owners must remember that this dog does not do well in warm climates.

It is not uncommon for this breed to become so lazy and stubborn that they will refuse to go on a walk. If this happens, the owner must find a way to convince their Chow to go outside or seek professional help. A healthy Chow Chow can live anywhere from 9 to 15 years.


[1] Charlotte Wilcox, The Chow Chow (Capstone, 1999), p.13-15.

[2] James Atkinson, Chow-Chows (Barron’s Educational Series, 1988), p.34.

[3] Jose K. Nichols, Chow Chow Dogs For Pets: The New Pet Owner’s Complete Handbook On Chow Chow Diet, Chow Chow Health, How To Train Chow Chow, Puppy Chow Chows, How To Buy A Chow Chow And All The Important Chow Chow Facts You Need To Care For Your Chow Chow Pet (KMSPublishing, 2013).

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