I AM THE CHOW CHOW
BY THE CHOW CHOW CLUB, INC.
The Chow Chow, often simply called the Chow, is one of the
oldest breeds. His exact history is lost in the China of antiquity. Some historians record
that the Tarters invaded China a thousand years before Christ and brought back to the West
some middle-sized dogs that looked like "lions" with blue-black tongues. The
Chow as it is known today is easily recognizable in pottery and sculptures of the Chinese
Han Dynasty (206 B.C. to 22 A.D.); other artifacts indicate that he was even a much older
breed and that he may have come originally from the Arctic Circle, migrating to Mongolia,
Siberia and China. Some scholars claim that the Chow was the original ancestor of the
Samoyed, the Norwegian Elkhound, the Pomeranian and the Keeshond. In more recent times,
that is, in the T'ang Dynasty (7th Century A.D.), it is reported that one Chinese emperor
kept something like 2,500 of these "Chow Dogs" as hunting and sporting animals
to accompany his ten thousand hunters! Admired by emperors as well as by Western royalty,
used by Chinese peasants for food and clothing,. and adopted as a "favorite" of
the movie star set in Hollywood in the 1920's, the Chow Chow has had a dramatic history.
The Chow Chow can have one of two different types of coat;
either rough or smooth. The most common coat is the long-haired or rough, which has an
outer coat containing long, straight, coarse guard hairs which do not mat or tangle as
easily as the soft, thick undercoat. The smooth coated Chow Chow has a short, hard, dense
"smooth" outer coat and a definite undercoat. The rough and smooth are two
distinct varieties of Chow and although there are many rough coated Chows with fairly
short coats these should not be confused with the actual unique, smooth coat. Most
importantly, the Chow is unique in it's blue-black tongue and stilted gait.
There are five colors in the Chow: red (light golden to
deep mahogany), black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon) and cream. The
predominant colors of the Chow are red -- or black. The reds may be light or dark, solid
throughout or shaded on the tail and breechings. Less common, the so-called
"dilute" colors of cinnamon or fawn (a dilution of red) or blue (a dilution of
black) do exist. Occasionally a cream will appear, but usually this specimen has a pink or
flesh-colored nose so that it cannot be shown according to the Chow Chow Club's Breed
Standard. Since the cinnamons and blues are somewhat less common than the predominant
colors of red or black -- an erroneous idea has spread that the cream, cinnamon, and blue
Chows are more difficult to breed and therefore, more valuable. The dilutes are not
actually rare, and the dilute color has absolutely nothing to do with a dog's value. The
Chow's worth depends not on his color, but rather on his beauty and excellence in regard
to how closely he approximates the Chow Chow Club's Breed Standard as recognized by the
American Kennel Club. The pigment in the dilutes is seldom as blue-black in color as in
the red or black Chow. In the dilutes the pigment may tend to lighten or fade with age.
Often the creamy, pearl-gray color of some cinnamon puppies will disappear along with the
puppy coat, and the adult color will sometimes not be as attractive as what was seen in
the puppy. Although blue may sound exotic and be a quite handsome light blue color in the
puppy coat, such color may turn out to be a rather dirty, gray-blue-black when the adult
coat comes in. Finally, what should be stressed is that the color per se of any Chow does
not make him any more or less valuable.
The smooth coated Chow is judged by the same standard as
the rough coated Chow except that references to the quantity and distribution of the outer
coat are not applicable to the smooth coated Chow, which has a hard, dense, smooth outer
coat with a definite under coat. There should be no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs
The Chow is a medium-size dog generally weighing from
forty-five to seventy pounds. The height ranges from seventeen to twenty inches at the
withers. Although the Breed Standard does not give any suggested weight, an average-size
Chow bitch would generally range from 45 to 55 pounds. An average-size Chow male would
generally range from 55 to 70 pounds. No matter what the size or weight, the Chow should
be balanced, in that the height of the Chow at the withers should form a square with the
length of the Chow's body; for instance, if the Chow is eighteen inches high from the
withers to the ground, he should be eighteen inches long in body.
Perhaps, the most unique feature of the Chow is the
blue-black color of the tongue and tissues of the mouth, a characteristic that the Chow
shares with only a few other mammals. So important is this feature that a Chow with a pink
tongue or a tongue spotted with pink is disqualified under the Breed Standard and cannot
The Chow's heavy head and muzzle is surrounded by an
off-standing ruff. Sometimes the words "lion-headed" or "lion-like"
are used to describe the Chow's head. His eyes are almond shaped and deep set giving him
the inscrutable, mysterious look of an Oriental - quiet and thoughtful.
The scowl is unique, being one of the most typical
characteristics of the Chow, along with his blue-black tongue and stilted gait. Although
difficult to describe, the scowl relates to the Chow's frowning expression. Excessive
loose skin is not desirable. Wrinkles on the muzzle do not contribute to the expression
and are not required. The shadings make the scowl much more noticeable in the reds than in
the other colors. The scowl sometimes erroneously suggests to some that the Chow is mean
or temperamental; of course, outward appearances have little to do with any breed's
temperament or personality.
The tail of the Chow lies on the back and is a most
decorative part of the Chow contributing to his beauty and handsome appearance. Thick at
its root, tapering off to the tip, the tail should be high set.
The Chow has only a slight bend of stifle and is straight
in hocks rather than angulated. Therefore, his unusual rear gait appears choppy and
stilted. His steps are short and quick. He does not put his hind legs very far forward nor
very far backward as most breeds do. Having a short and lilting step, owing to the hock
and stifle joints having so little angulation, the Chow moves his hind legs somewhat like
stilts. In spite of this unusual gait, the Chow can move rapidly and should have a lot of
The Chow Chow is a highly intelligent dog and values his
independence. He can be hugged and played with. He can even be corrected - often by a tone
of voice, but he should never be allowed to dominate the household. He is usually amenable
to being touched by strangers if he is introduced by one of his owners and approached
properly. Quiet, refined, he should not be teased or treated as a lap dog. His dignity and
aloofness must never be confused with a fierce or intractable temperament. He minds his
own business and does not generally initiate trouble. Bad-tempered Chows are not
representative of the breed, but are usually the result of indiscriminate breeding and a
woeful lack of "socialization". The Chow's appearance and personality suggest
the nobility of a lion, the drollness of a panda, the appeal of a teddybear, the grace and
independence of a cat, and the loyalty and devotion of the dog. The Chow has a little of
all these qualities in his appearance and in his behavior. It is, however, his particular
intelligence and devotion, his independence and dignity which make him unique.
Because some Chows are independent and because some Chows
may wish to attach themselves to one person or to one immediate family, the Chow should be
"socialized" so that he is completely amenable to being handled by strangers.
Socialization is the process by which the Chow puppy is taught to meet and like human
beings, other dogs, different environments from his own home, and other foreign
situations, with steadiness, calm, and even affability. Here are some rules for
1. Pick up the Chow puppy as often as possible from the
time he is only a few days old. Be careful not to drop the puppy as you cup your hand
around him and nestle him against your chest to protect him from failing.
2. Once you have picked up the puppy, pet him and talk
to him quietly. At first, the puppy may cry or whine, but as he becomes accustomed to your
hands and voice, he will grow to like the experience.
3. Continue to pick up and hold the puppy close to you. Once his eyes are open, he
will adjust visually to the feeling of being held. Put him on a steady table, such as a
card table or grooming table so he will grow accustomed to being groomed on a table.
4. When a stranger comes by to visit, pick up the puppy
and hand the puppy to the visitor. The puppy should start to enjoy being held by anyone,
not just by you or your immediate family.
5. If you know any children, ask them to visit you. Teach them how to hold the puppy
properly and then allow them to hold the puppy while sitting on the floor or in the yard.
Of course, you will be present at all times when your puppy is being exposed to
6. Encourage your puppy to be openly friendly by romping with him, picking him up
many times a day and hugging him whenever you can.
7. Accustom your puppy to various noises such as the TV, stereo, and radio. Expose
him to as many sounds as you can without ever frightening him.
8. By the time your puppy is eight-weeks old, and if he
has had his first vaccination, start taking him in the car with you. Whenever you meet
anyone, let the stranger pet the puppy and hold him if the person wishes to.
9. Although a Chow puppy may be very friendly and well adjusted at home, even to
strangers, he may feel threatened when you take him to the super market parking lot, to
the park, or to any new environment. Take him often to places he has not been before so
that he readily adjusts to a new environment. When the puppy drops his tail, that is a
sure sign that he feels uncomfortable or apprehensive. A happy, well-socialized puppy has
his tail up!
10. Introduce your puppy to as many strangers as possible; ask the stranger to squat
down to the puppy's level. Have the stranger, once he has squatted on the ground or
floor, reach under the puppy's chin first and pet and fondle his neck; do not allow the
stranger to bring his hand down swiftly on the dog's head as many puppies seem to be
"head shy". After petting the puppy's neck and chin, then the stranger may pet
him on the top of the head.
12. Take your Chow puppy to a puppy match when he is
about twelve weeks old, after his vaccinations are completed so that he can accept the
experience of seeing all the other puppies and adult dogs as well as many people. He
should show complete confidence in himself and act happy even though this match is a new
experience. If he shys away from people and other puppies and puts his tall down
repeatedly, do not scold him but reassure him. If he has been table trained" at home,
you might then put him on a grooming table to receive the pettings and hellos of the
strangers at the match. Sometimes a table can be helpful in this situation. Be sure that
everyone pets the puppy under the chin first -- not on the head, particularly if the puppy
should show any signs of being head shy or apprehensive about meeting strangers. Do not
become discouraged. Keep working with your puppy and he eventually will come around. If
you have socialized him since he was a tiny puppy as suggested briefly here, your puppy
should be happy to meet strangers, content to go to a new environment and should not feel
threatened by seeing other puppies or older dogs.
To sum up this most important socialization process, it must
be said that any Chow that is properly socialized is a happier Chow and is better balanced
psychologically than he might have, been without all your work. When your young Chow is
friendly with strangers and never puts his tail down, you have a right to be very proud of
your accomplishments. In short, any Chow should be amenable to being handled by strangers
without any threat of unpleasantness. Because you have been wise in your insistence on his
socialization, and on your own willingness to train your puppy, you will have made him a
happier Chow and yourself a happier owner.
It is often said by Chow owners who have had years of
experience with Chows, as well as with other breeds, that the Chow is perhaps the cleanest
dog of all. Most puppies are easily housebroken by the time they are eight weeks. The Chow
has very little body odor if he is brushed often, and he does not seem to be readily
accessible to every passing bug, vermin, or virus. He is a good eater, and he does not
require a great deal of exercise so that he may live happily in an apartment.
Most Chows are intelligent so they may be lead broken and
trained easily although at first they may be stubborn. Some Chows are especially willful
and most are sensitive enough so that correction can come from the tone of your voice and
not from physical means. Some Chows have been trained in obedience work and quite a few
have earned the C.D. (Companion Dog) title, a few less the C.D.X. (Companion Dog
Excellent), and only one or two have earned the U.D. (Utility Dog) degree. One Chow has
won a tracking degree. Chows can be used as hunting companions, splendid show dogs and
wonderful pets for the family. Their versatility proves their value as an all-round dog.
Like any other canine, the Chow can become a playmate for tots and youngsters provided
that they do not mistreat him and provided the Chow has been raised with young children.
Many years of experience have taught the Chow breeder that "socialization" is
the only way to bring up any Chow. The socialized Chow is a more stable, contented dog
than if he had been left on his own. A Chow which is not socialized and trained is a
constant concern to his owner. When the owner has socialized and trained his Chow
properly, both are happier.
Generally, Chows are "poor risks" when anesthesia
is involved, and Chows should be treated by the veterinarian as he would treat a Bulldog
or any extremely short-muzzled dog. If your Chow tears more than you feel is normal, he
may have "entropion," a turning-in of the eyelashes. If your Chow tears
excessively, consult your veterinarian for advice.
Another problem with the Chow is that he is subject to heat prostration if left in
a hot, closed-in area or in the sun. He is particularly bothered by extremely high
humidity, especially if the temperature climbs above eighty degrees. Never, Never leave
any dog in the car in hot weather. Symptoms of the beginning of heat prostration are
constant panting followed by heavy rasping breathing. Should your Chow have such a problem
with the heat, fast treatment is a must. If you are at home and have access to water and
ice, wet him down with cold water, wrap him in towels soaked in cold water, and put
several ice bags on him. Call the veterinarian immediately! In these moments your Chow may
be close to death, and you must act with the greatest dispatch. When he is suffering from
heat prostration, in addition to the above-mentioned remedies, he needs cool shade, quiet
and rest and no extra anxiety. If you are traveling when this problem arises, try to find
a gas station or any place so you can wet down your Chow.
Most experienced Chow breeders suggest that if you must travel with your Chow in
extremely hot weather, your car should be air-conditioned. Do not take an unnecessary risk
by subjecting your Chow to heat and humidity even if you should miss a dog show or a trip
or any activity in which your Chow may feel the heat and humidity. When the weather is hot
and humid, your Chow should be at home in a cool, quiet room, or in a cool yard or kennel
with plenty of cool water. An air-conditioned house, kennel, and car are the best
prevention for heat attacks.
The Chow needs to be brushed at least twice weekly or more
if possible. Grooming is essential to keep the long, thick coat in peak, clean condition.
Chows have a dense undercoat that supports the coarser outer coat and gives it its fluffy
appearance. Many aduIt Chows have a ruff almost like that of a lion that must be handled
with care because it can be stripped away by too much grooming. The puppy undercoat,
however should be brushed out when it starts to loosen so that the adult coat may come in
properly. Always brush out the dead coat and be careful that the remaining coat does not
mat. Both a rake brush and a pin brush (both kinds are available at any pet show and even
at most supermarkets) are needed to keep the coat in good, clean condition. The rake is
useful in the removal of the fluffy undercoat and the pin brush to groom the longer,
off-standing guard hairs which are of coarser quality. Nails should be trimmed regularly
to a comfortable length.
Chows should be kept in a fenced-in area or inside the
house in a room where they have a good deal of freedom. Chows should not be put on a chain
for they resent the feeling of being "trapped". Let your Chow have as much
freedom as you have to offer within the limits of his safety and welfare.
HOW TO BREED YOUR CHOW
If you are a newcomer to Chows and if you bought your Chow
from a pet shop rather than from an established breeder, your Chow may not be of
sufficient quality to breed. In order to educate yourself about breeding your Chow, you
should study the Chow Standard, attend as many AKC dog shows as possible where Chows are
being shown. Discuss Chows with the breeders and exhibitors who are at the show. Read
educational articles concerning Chows published in the official publication of the Chow
Chow Club, Inc., and in other all breed magazines. Study your own Chow's strengths and
weaknesses and evaluate them in regard to the Standard. Ask lots of questions of Chowists
more experienced and informed than you.
If there is a local Chow club in your area, join it and participate in its
activities, particularly those activities devoted to education. Furthermore, you should
buy a good book on breeding dogs. Study something about genetics and about the three
methods of breeding used by Chow breeders -- outcrossing, inbreeding, and line breeding.
Study your Chow's pedigree and those of other Chows belonging to well known established
Chow lines in this country. Here again, ask questions and discuss the answers. In short,
educate yourself as much as possible on the subject of Chows. In breeding quality Chows,
like showing them, caring for them, grooming them, and judging them, the process of
studying. listening, asking questions, and sharing opinions with others is a continuous
In short, a complete novice should not breed his Chow for there are already plenty
of Chows available that lack quality -- there is only a market for the well-bred Chow --
and the well-bred Chow does not come about by accident. He is the result, usually, of
years of hard work, study, and accumulated knowledge. Very often the novice breeder
produces just "quantity" and what is needed are "quality" Chows which
are difficult to produce. It is rare that a novice breeder who has a nondescript Chow
bitch will ever produce any truly outstanding, quality Chow Chows.
HOW TO BUY A PUPPY
Although you may only want to buy a Chow for a pet, you
will want to purchase the best specimen you can get. Chow puppies which are purchased from
pet stores, from newspaper ads, and from flea markets are rarely good stock. Truly good
Chows are in great demand and are not easy to come by, particularly not at a small price.
A prospective puppy buyer should ask the seller for a pedigree. If the seller
cannot produce the pedigree for the puppy, in all likelihood the puppy in question does
not represent much quality. The buyer should likewise ask to see the AKC litter
registration slip or the equivalent information in writing, that is, the puppy's sire and
dam with their AKC registration numbers, etc. The buyer should look at the puppy's
pedigree to ascertain if there are any AKC champions among the puppy's ancestors. While
champions in a pedigree are not a guarantee of quality, it is more likely that a puppy
with a champion parent or several champion grandparents is a better specimen of the breed
than a puppy with no champions or only a few in the fourth or fifth generations.
A reliable breeder should question the prospective buyer as to how the Chow puppy
will be raised, housed, fed and cared for. The puppy should not have excessively
"watery" eyes which discharge onto the puppy's muzzle; the puppy should not have
any signs of diarrhea or skin problems; the puppy should be clean and healthy looking,
full of life, and above all, alert and interested in people, not shy and retiring or
"spooky". The prospective buyer should ask the seller for a written guarantee of
the puppy's good health for forty-eight hours, for the AKC registration slip, and a
pedigree. The puppy should be taken immediately after purchase to a veterinarian for a
checkup at which time the veterinarian should ask for a stool sample of the puppy.
The prospective buyer might keep in mind as a good rule of thumb that a reputable
Chow breeder will be most cooperative with the buyer in regard to the myriad questions
that the buyer will have in regard to his puppy. If the prospective buyer is met with
hostility or an unwillingness on the part of the seller to answer questions or contribute
to the education of the buyer in regard to the Chow breed, the buyer might do well to look
elsewhere for his Chow puppy.
Looking at the Splendid Oriental Chow Chow, one sees an
arrestingly beautiful animal. What catches the eye is his perfect balance, the compact
body and the proud, lion-like head. His striking personality and character, his
aristocratic bearing, his dignified manners and his lordly scowl make him unlike any other
dog. Friendly, yet some how reserved, he asks only to be loved and socialized by his
family and friends. He is indeed an Oriental "gentleman," the lord of the
canines, the Emperor of Dogs. And he is unique!
-- Approved and adopted by the Officers and the Board of
the Chow Chow Club, Inc., March 21, 1980; Revised October, 1986.
© The Chow Chow Club, Inc.