The Chow Chow is a fairly good-sized dog that is extremely memorable when first viewing it, appearing as a huge lion with a full mane. Considered a solid dog, it weighs about 45-pounds to 75-pounds, with a very unique walk due to the way it is built, referred to as "stilted," with the legs are almost vertical to the ground.
The head is wide with a distinguishing muzzle that gives it the unique "chow look" of alertness yet serious concentration. When the weather is warm, it is considered an inside dog due to its extreme coat and heat issues, but during the cooler times of the year can be both indoors or outdoors.
The extraordinary amount of hair and its blue-black tongue of the Chow Chow are its famous trademarks in an assortment of shades to choose from--black, tan, red, and sometimes in white. What many prospective Chow Chow buyers do not know is this breed can also come in a coat that is smoother, not full and "lionish."
With soft layers of hair in two different levels, this is a dog that is excellent for any type of extreme cold weather. Not born with their full double-coat, the puppies will eventually mature into it by a couple of months. Considered to be an "Arctic-type" dog, their woolen undercoats consist of both types of hair--a rough coat that is straight and off-standing, whereas the smooth coat is hard and smooth.
With a history in Northern China that goes back to hundreds of years, this breed was developed to withstand extreme drops in temperature--which is still present in todays breeds. Considered as one of the older breeds with long lines of ancestry, the name they were developed with was "Songshi Quan" which mean puffy lion dog.
With recent DNA testing, this breed has been found to be one of the first domesticated dogs to originate from the wolf-line. They are related also to the Shar Pei, the Akita, and the Spitz.
A dignified and independent animal, the Chow Chow had a tendency to refuse commands that make no sense to them. So a firm hand and consistency are required when having one as a pet, but when they become attached to their owner their breed is seldom replaced in that home.
Reserved and kingly appearing, they may appear almost cold-feeling and distant to their family or trainer, but over the years this dog has become more of a pet and companion than any other time.
Basically a robust animal with few health issues, the Chow Chow should have some routine testing done over the year--hip, elbow and eye areas--with an occasional case of renal cortical hypoplasia showing up every now and then.
But the manor ones that need to be worried about are hip dysplasia (CHD), heat conditions, and entropion as they occur more often than most with the most severity.
Minor concerns are elbow dysplasia, PPM, gastrictorsion, patellar luxation, and elongated palate. Presently, genetic problems are not serious, but as the breed becomes more and more popular, incorrect breeding practices will develop them.
The grooming of the Chow Chow can be damaging if not done correctly, with its first grooming process beginning as a young puppy. Brush daily or two times a week brushings when shedding is the most extensive grooming that is required, but periodic brushing maintains the knots and dead hair that accumulates.
Two heavy shedding periods occur with this breed, but shaving this dog is seriously discouraged. Their heavy coat is necessary as a sort of insulation from the heat and cold, and most owners who have shaved their dogs down have had them totally sunburn.
Using special shampoos, such as the pet dry one, is recommended, as the hair will become electrical after lots of bathing. The wet baths should be kept to a monthly minimum, or only when it is required.
As stocky and heavy as the Chow Chow is, exercise is essential to avoid CHD. Due to their reserved nature, this breed needs a certain amount of mental stimulation and being around new environments. Keeping them on a leash during exercise periods at the park or when walking is a good idea, due to the fact they have an independent streak.
Chow Chow owners seem to have two different personalities, depending on who they are with. This can range from dogs that prefer the insides and sleep on the couch, as compared to those who enjoy the endurance trials and competition shows. The type of exercise will depend on who they live with and what type of personality the dog has.
Considered an extremely clean dog, most Chow Chow puppy owners have the housebreaking training process completed by eight-weeks of age. But not all their training is this easy and accomplished.
This is the type of dog that training on all levels requires an early start, and a firm yet upper hand of the trainer/owner. This breed is superior and answers only to itself, which will take an unusual person to own one--nonetheless train one--but with a history of hundreds of years old, why not?
The type of training involved should be consistent and with firm commands, with no backing down or appearing weak. They need to understand "why" they are being told to do something; otherwise they simply will consider it a waste of time. Pleasing the master is not within the Chow Chow's essence, but more like vice-a-versa.