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Is a Chow Chow Right for You?


Chow Chows (often shortened to simply “Chow”) are hardy dogs that originate from cold and snowy northern China.  The breed’s name in Mandarin means “puffy-lion dog,” which refers to the lion-like mane of thick fur that encircles the dog’s head.  Chows are one of few ancient dog breeds in existence, with ancestors dating back 2,000 – 3,000 years; but is a Chow Chow right for you?

Chow Chows are friendly and caring towards their owners, but can also be fiercely protective.  For this reason, many apartment complexes ban Chows, as do certain renter’s or home owner’s insurance policies.  Like most Spitz breeds, the Chow Chow can be considered cat-like, sometimes preferring to keep to itself or only a handful of trusted family members.  Chow Chows can also be extremely stubborn.

Size, Coloring, and Upkeep
A full grown Chow Chow ranges in weight from 55 – 70 lbs for males, and 45 – 60 lbs for females.  This breed is heavily built and is relatively short for its weight, standing only 17 – 20 inches tall at the shoulder.  The most widely-recognized physical trait of the Chow is its distinctive black tongue.  Otherwise, its thick double coated fur is dense and may be either smooth or rough.  Regular grooming is required in order to keep the Chow from becoming matted.  Chows shed heavily during spring and fall, but require daily brushing in order to keep the coat manageable.  The breed has five distinct colorings which are black, blue, cinnamon, cream, and red.

Other Pets?
Chows have strong hunting instincts and therefore are not recommended as companions for small dogs or cats.  In general, Chow Chows do not get along well with other animals unless properly socialized throughout their lifetime.

Small children who make quick, erratic movements do not mix well with Chows, due to their strong prey drive.  A Chow is likely to chase a child, and indeed 25% of Chow owners (according to the American Kennel Club) do not recommend Chows around children.

Chows require training; however, they can be very stubborn when it comes to taking direction, particularly from strangers.  A Chow Chow should begin its obedience training as early as possible, before reaching the adolescent rebellion stage.

The original Chow likely did not eat a lot of meat-based protein in China; however, modern dog foods contain a high ratio of animal protein.  When Chows have too much meat, they can develop gastrointestinal and skin issues.  Look for a dog food that is formulated specifically for the Chow’s special needs.

Chow Chows do not have any special exercise requirements, but like all dogs they do need to be exercised for a minimum of 30 minutes daily.

Chows are a generally healthy breed, with an average lifespan of 12 – 13 years.  Common health problems include eye disorders such as entropian, juvenile cataracts, and glaucoma.  They have a higher-than-average risk of developing autoimmune disorders, as well as lymphoma and gastric cancer.  However, with proper diet, exercise, and annual care, Chows can live up to 15 years.


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Anna Weber

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