Everybody loves the Chow Chow! This large breed dog with ancient origins dating back to the Chinese Han Dynasty is now mostly found as a companion and show dog. But its beautiful leonine appearance belies a strong character, which may not be for everyone.

A Brief History

The Chow Chow is a very ancient dog breed, dating back to 2000 years ago in China. It was originally used as a guard dog by the Han Dynasty. Some even say it's the oldest dog breed in the world.  In its native China, the Chow Chow is called Songshi Quan, which means "puffy-lion dog". The Chow first came to England in the 18th century via traders and was popular as a show dog. The breed gained further popularity during Queen Victoria's reign when Her Majesty acquired a Chow Chow. The breed was first recognised by the Kennel Club in 1894. 

Physical Characteristics

The Chow Chow is a large, sturdy dog with a very impressive build. The Chow's beautiful coat of fur gives it the appearance of a lion.

Body: The body is massive and compact. The back is short, level, and strong with powerful loins. The forelegs should be perfectly straight.

Head: The head is broad and voluminous, with a flat skull.

Ears: The ears are small, thick, and slightly rounded at the tip. They are carried stiffly and set wide apart.

Eyes: The eyes are medium, oval, and dark in colour. In blue or fawn-coloured Chows, the eyes can match the colour of the coat.

Tail: The tail is carried over the back and set high.

Coat: There are two varieties of the Chow Chow: rough and smooth. The rough coat is profuse, dense, and straight, but not too long. It features a coarse outer coat and a soft woolly undercoat.  The smooth coat Chow has a short, dense, and straight double coat; upstanding, not flat.

Colour: The Chow Chow's coat is whole-coloured. Coloured patches or parti-coloured coats are not accepted. The breed standard accepts the following colours: fawn, red, blue, cream, black, white.

Chow Chow Temperament

The Chow Chow is a unique dog, renowned for its independent and discerning temperament. These dogs are generally reluctant to display affection. This does not mean, however, that they don't get attached to their owners, quite the opposite. The Chow is a protective and faithful dog, who shows great loyalty to its owners and will not hesitate to defend them. Chow Chows are also calm dogs who bark very little and handle solitude rather well. They appreciate peace and quiet and are thus quite suitable for apartment living.

Does the Chow Chow Get Along Well with Others?

The Chow Chow is special in many ways. However, the breed's distant nature means these dogs do not tolerate the presence of other dogs or animals (like cats or exotic pets), preferring to be alone. Male Chows especially are known to engage in fighting behaviour with other dogs. The Chow Chow can adapt to the presence of children but has little affinity for them and will not make a good playmate. Finally, Chows are very wary of strangers which makes them good watchdogs.

Is a Chow Chow the Right Dog for Me?

While great in many ways, the Chow Chow is not for everyone. We don't recommend getting a Chow as a first dog, due to the breed's somewhat stubborn disposition. This dog breed needs a firm (but never violent!) hand. The right master for a Chow Chow is naturally authoritative and calm. The Chow is quite independent and not always willing to do what it's told. Due to their rather unsociable nature, Chow Chows are not particularly suited to families with children, other dogs, or other pets.

Chow Chow Health Issues

Fortunately, the Chow Chow enjoys rather robust health. The average life expectancy of a Chow Chow is between 9 and 12 years. Like many large breed dogs, this is quite short when compared to the lifespans of small dogs. However, the breed is thankfully not particularly affected by genetic and hereditary diseases. The Chow Chow is subject to hip and elbow dysplasia, eye problems such as glaucoma or entropion, and skin problems. Due to its thick coat, the Chow Chow is also sensitive to heat. Avoid taking your Chow for vigorous exercise when temperatures rise. Chows also tend to gain weight quite easily, which can quickly lead to canine obesity. This is often exacerbated by the greedy nature of the breed.

Ideal Living Conditions of a Chow Chow

The Chow Chow can quite happily live in an apartment despite its imposing size. All dogs would love a garden to run and play in, but this is not essential for a dog like the Chow, nor is it ever a reason not to take your pooch out for a walk. The Chow Chow is not a very strong athlete but does still need to go out for a long walk of at least an hour and a half each day. This is not a dog who barks a lot so you are unlikely to disturb your neighbours unless your Chow feels bored or anxious.

Chow Chow Training

Training a Chow Chow is no mean feat, so training should begin as soon as you welcome your new puppy home. This dog breed would fit best with an owner who has good knowledge of the breed and a solid foundation in dog training. The Chow's stubborn temper can make training difficult, but not impossible. You will need to be firm, never violent, and, above all, extremely patient. Try not to get cross or frustrated with your Chow Chow. This dog also has a fairly dominant temperament. You must therefore display a natural air of authority to prevent your pooch from gaining the upper hand. The Chow Chow needs to understand its place in the family hierarchy. It's also very important to socialise your puppy properly because the Chow Chow has trouble getting along with other animals.


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Diet: What to Feed Your Chow Chow

It's important to pay special attention to your Chow's diet. Indeed, the health of any dog depends heavily on the contents of its bowl. Low-quality dog food will have a very negative effect on your pooch in the long run. If possible, try not to buy industrial dog food from big supermarket chains. These products, although priced attractively, unfortunately, offer little in the way of nutritional value. Instead, opt for dog food that may be a little more expensive, but is perfectly adapted to your Chow's nutritional needs. Learn to read product labels and check the composition carefully, avoiding dog food with added preservatives and other sweeteners. Look for dog food with at least 25% animal protein. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores and cannot subsist on vegetable protein only. You can also use a tailor-made dog food service, which allows you to create a diet specifically for your pooch!

If you want to control all the ingredients in your dog's bowl, why not make your dog's meals yourself? This is entirely possible thanks to homemade dog food and the BARF diet, which both consist of meals made from meat (cooked for homemade dog food; raw in the BARF diet) and vegetables that you prepare at home yourself. However, always seek advice from your vet before changing your dog's food or implementing this type of diet.

Chow Chow Care and Maintenance

  • Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters

  • Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food

  • Monthly budget: minimum £80 per month

Grooming a Chow Chow does require a certain amount of investment on your part. This is true for all dog breeds, but even more so for the Chow Chow, who has an especially thick and fabulous coat. This dense fur requires regular brushing to prevent it from tangling. To do so, you need to equip yourself with the right tools (brush, comb, shampoo). During moulting periods, in spring and autumn, your Chow Chow will need to be brushed every day. Don't forget, you can always take your furball to a professional dog groomer if the task seems daunting or your Chow has a very knotty coat. You should never shave a Chow Chow's fur! It offers protection from the cold, but also the heat. In addition to brushing and bathing, be sure to take care of your Chow Chow's eyes, teeth, ears, and nails. Your dog will also need annual vaccination boosters, deworming treatments, and antiparasitics against fleas and ticks.

Chow Chow Price

A Chow Chow puppy will cost you between £2000 and £5000 from a registered breeder. This price variation is quite large but can be explained by several factors. First of all, the nature of the puppy in question must be taken into account. Is the pup intended as solely a companion dog or will it be used for breeding or to participate in competitions or dog shows? Some breeders charge more for dogs that will be used as show dogs or breeding dogs. The price may also vary depending on the puppy's lineage. Pups who come from champion parents, for example, will go for a lot more. Finally, the cost of a puppy is also subject to the law of supply and demand. If there are fewer puppies available than potential adopters, breeders can afford to increase their prices. Adopting a purebred dog is always associated with a price, no matter the breed. But be careful with buying a puppy over the internet or from unregistered breeders. If you can't afford to buy a puppy from a good breeder, or you would prefer an older dog or to rescue a dog without a home, why not call your local dog shelter. It's not uncommon to find purebreds there, too!

Chow Chow Sleep

The Chow Chow can sleep happily outside, provided it has a suitable kennel available. A dog's kennel should always be perfectly adapted to its size. Your pooch won't be comfortable in a kennel that's a lot bigger or smaller than them. Opt for a wooden kennel, which provides the best insulation against both the cold and the heat. Plastic kennels are cheaper but nowhere near as sturdy or enduring. In the summer, consider letting your Chow inside during the day if it's very hot outside because these dogs do not tolerate heat waves very well. Chow Chow can also sleep in the house with you if you prefer, or if you live in an apartment. Find your dog a quiet corner, somewhere out of the way, and make it theirs. If you have children, teach them not to disturb your sleeping Chow Chow. We don't recommend letting your Chow sleep in your bedroom, as this can create an imbalance in the family hierarchy and promote the onset of separation anxiety.

Games and Physical Activities for the Chow Chow

Even though Chow Chows get tired quite quickly, they do enjoy games and exercise in moderation. Playing with your dog is an excellent way to strengthen your relationship and take the opportunity to improve their training or teach new commands. Make sure to buy enough toys to keep your Chow Chow occupied while you're out. Being greedy dogs, they particularly appreciate treat-based toys like the Kong, as well the classics (squeaky toys, puzzles, etc.). Invest in a ball and a frisbee to play outdoors with your Chow Chow. Don't hesitate to take your four-legged friend along for outdoor activities, such as tracking or hiking. The Chow will be happy to accompany you on these fun adventures.

Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Chow Chow

In the UK, there is no legal requirement to have pet insurance for your Chow Chow. However, as the dog's owner, you would be held responsible for any damage caused to a third party by an accident, be it material damage or bodily harm. The Chow Chow has a lively, energetic temperament and accidents do happen. This is where pet insurance comes in. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. Additionally, there are four main types of pet insurance available in the UK, which cover your pet in the event of accident or illness: Accident-Only, Time-Limited, Maximum Benefit, and Lifetime insurance.

Although the Chow Chow is a pretty robust dog breed, it is susceptible to various hereditary eye diseases. Getting your dog insured from an early age guarantees them the necessary care they need at every point throughout their life. Health insurance for your pooch works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses. Veterinary costs can be very high and are not standardised in the UK, which means they can vary substantially. Consequently, sometimes the cheapest solution for a sick dog is, unfortunately, euthanasia. So don't wait for your Chow Chow to get sick or old before taking out pet insurance. You may risk them not being properly taken care of. We always recommend getting your dog insured from an early age.

In any case, before deciding on a contract, take the time to shop around for quotes and assess the terms and conditions that best suit your circumstance. In terms of price, the average cost for pet insurance in the UK in 2020 was £436 per year. This works out to just over £36 per month. Certain criteria, such as your dog's age and breed, may cause prices to vary. Lifetime dog insurance is the most comprehensive and expensive type of cover. You can expect lifetime dog insurance to cost closer to £80 per month. However, you will have much greater peace of mind with this type of insurance.

Chow Chow Size and Weight

The Chow Chow is a large dog. There is a slight difference in height and weight between male and female Chows. Dogs measure between 48 and 56cm at the withers and weigh between 18 and 41kg. Bitches measure between 46 and 51cm at the withers and weigh between 16 and 39kg.

The Kennel Club classifies the Chow Chow in The Utility Breed Group, which consists of miscellaneous breeds of dog mainly of a non-sporting origin.