Chow Chow

Recommended for: Singles, small families
Maintenance Level: Medium
Lifespan: 9-12 years
Loyal, protective
Health Risk:
This breed has a higher than average probability of developing health issues during its lifetime, hence the cost to insure is above average.
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Breed Overview

The Chow Chow is a medium-sized, sturdy dog with small pointed ears and a very thick coat of long fur. Believed to have originated from Mongolia or Siberia, the Chow Chow is reckoned to be the domesticated breed with the closest DNA link to wolves.

The ancient Chinese bred the Chow Chow as a multi-purpose work dog to fulfil the roles of hunting, herding, companion and war dog. Chow Chows were also used to pull sleds and even bred and farmed for human consumption. It was thought that a Chinese emperor once owned over 5,000 Chow Chows for the purposes of war.

Although originally bred as working dogs, Chow Chows are not especially aggressive or energetic. They are quite happy to be kept to smaller dwellings such as apartments or townhouses but require a walk at least daily.

The breed are quite good with children and are very loyal to their owners, but have developed a reputation for being over protective of territory, possessions and specific family members. Personality will vary between individual animals, but many Chow Chows show suspicion and sometimes aggression towards strangers.

Chow Chows come in a variety of colours, including black, blue, red faun and white coats. They have a distinctive curly tail that stands up and aligns with their backs. Another characteristic hallmark of the breed is the blue coloured lips and black tongue.

Chow Chows are very popular show dogs and the American Kennel Club registers some 10,000 examples each year. Many have compared the temperament of the Chow Chow to cats. They are very independent dogs, don’t need a lot of human contact, and are quite happy to lounge around in a small and comfortable space.

A Chow Chow grows to about 43 to 50 cm and should weigh between 25 to 32 kgs. A healthy Chow Chow will generally live to between 9 and 12 years of age.

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Personality and Temperament

Chow Chows are very loyal dogs and are quite standoffish with strangers. They were often used as guard dogs in ancient China and have a tendency to be over-possessive when it comes to territory, food or family members.

Their temperament and personality has been likened to that of a cat; they don’t require much human interaction like many other dogs and they don’t have an excess of energy. They are well-suited to small homes, apartments and units but do require a good routine with at least one daily walk.

Interaction with other dogs in public or pets around the house can often be problematic with a confident and boisterous Chow Chow. Their protective nature can cause aggression towards other dogs and humans on the street and Chow Chows rarely cohabitate well with other pets in the home.

While the Chow Chow is generally fine with children, they have a reputation for being possessive of one or two family members. This can be a problem for larger families with a number of children and hence the Chow Chow’s reputation for being a one-owner pet.

Because of their hunting instinct, it’s important to keep Chow chows away from smaller pets. When taking them for walks in public or socialising them, it’s best to keep them on a leash and closely supervised.

While the Chow Chow is a very loyal and sometimes over-protective dog, it’s advisable to socialise them from a young age and as often as possible to get them more used to strangers and other dogs.

Common Chow Chow Diseases & Conditions

Symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

  • Hip dysplasia, like in many breeds of dog, does tend to occur in the Cow Chows as well. This is when the hip doesn’t form properly, leading to possible lameness over time.
  • Entropion. This condition causes the eyelashes to be faced inwards on the eye causing them to rub against the eye’s surface and cause irritation. While the initial concerns surrounding Entropion is irritation and discomfort, if not treated quickly, serious scarring can occur affecting the eyesight of your dog.
  • Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases that cause the optic nerve damage, causing black spots in the eye and causing vision to decrease over time. It’s difficult to determine whether your Chow Chow is affected with glaucoma until the later stages where the condition is more severe. Symptoms are not easily visible or noticeable for the owner. If the eye is affected with glaucoma, it may be red, swollen, sore, or become particularly cloudy in appearance. See your vet if you suspect your Chow Chow may require treatment.

Not all conditions are covered by Pet Insurance. For details of Bow Wow Meow Pet Insurance cover, refer to the Product Disclosure Statement.

Pet Talk

Jam packed with news, tips and advice on how to provide the best possible care for your Bow Wow or Meow!

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    The Chow Chow is thought to be one of the oldest of ancient domesticated dog breeds. Originating in the steppe regions of Siberia or Mongolia, recent DNA testing has determined that the Chow Chow has a very close relationship to the grey wolf.

    It’s thought that the breed stretches back some 2,000 years, but many believe that the Chow Chow’s history goes back even further. There is a Chinese legend that mentions black-tongued war dogs that came from central Asia that looked like vicious lions. It is also thought that a number of Chow Chows travelled with the Mongolian armies as they invaded ancient China.

    The Chow Chow may not look like the hunting breeds westerners are used to, but they were put to work extensively and to great effect in ancient China. They were used to hunt pheasant and francolin and were praised for their stamina and speed. The black-tongued variety of the Chow Chow was also farmed for human consumption. Once the animal was butchered and the meat taken for food, the thick coat was used to produce clothing for the bitter Chinese winters.

    Chow Chows first arrived in England in the 1880s and the breed quickly made an impression on Queen Victoria. A Chow Chow was shown at the London Zoo shortly after its arrival in Britain and the spectators were taken bythe sight of this unique wild-looking dog from the far reaches of the orient. The breed first entered the United States in 1890.

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    Chow Chow Facts!

    • If the Chow Chow’s face looks familiar, it’s because that many have seen a similarity between the appearance of the breed and the classic teddy bear.
    • There is a legend that teddy bears are modelled after Queen Victoria’s Chow Chow. The story goes that she had a dress maker produce a doll in its image after being told that as the Queen of England, she couldn’t be seen associating with a dog in public.
    • When the Chow Chow first arrived in England it was put on show at the London Zoo. There it had a plaque labelling it the ‘Wild Dog of China’.
    • Chow Chows are notoriously difficult to train. Some owners believe that they are beyond training. They were used for centuries as herders and hunting dogs, however, so a strong-willed master is a must if a Chow is ever going to behave.
    • The influential psychologist Sigmund Freud famously owned a Chow Chow. After he died, his daughter Anna collected a few more Chows to the pack.

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