Chow Chows are an unusual dog breed but they are still popular with a large number of dog lovers. They have a distinct physical appearance and a temperament that is very different from most other dog types. The breed has been around for nearly 2,000 years. Although the origin is not known, it is believed that they were created from a cross of Roman mastiff and Spitz type dog breeds. They were originally bred to help with work by pulling sleds, herding livestock, hunting, and as guards. Today, Chows are still used to guard and protect families, residences and businesses, but they are also valued as pets. It takes a special person to be successful with this dog, and if you’re one of them, you’ll smile at these 20 things only Chow owners would understand.
1. They are like cats
Chow owners will vouch for the fact that these dogs sometimes act more like cats than canines. They are independent and don’t really like being fussed over. If you’re looking for a dog that wants to sit on your lap and cuddle, then you should consider a different breed because you won’t usually get a consistent stream of affection from your Chow. They cuddle when they feel like it, not necessarily when you want to. Don’t let your feelings get hurt over this. It’s simply in the nature of this breed. These dogs are also aloof and somewhat reserved when it comes to giving affection. They carry themselves with dignity, and know that they’re something special. Does this remind you of a cat yet?
2. Chows are foot dogs, but not in the traditional sense
While these dogs don’t like a lot of cuddling or being fussed over, they do like sitting on your feet. This is one of the peculiar behaviors that Chow owners will recognize immediately and agree with. This is one of the ways that a Chow shows that he cares about his special person, and it is also a way of having physical contact. This is a great perk in the winter because the dog will keep your feet warm. They’ve even been known to give foot baths with their tongues, so out of courtesy, keep your feet clean.
3. Strangers should beware
Chows are not necessarily vicious dogs, but they are by nature suspicious of strangers. They are also very territorial. They have been bred for work as guard dogs and these traits have carried on for centuries, so they are naturally inclined to be vigilant and protect their families and property from the threat of strangers and would-be intruders. They will put on a fierce front if the owner is not present when a stranger comes around.
4. You need to show your Chow who’s boss
Chows need to be properly trained and socialized from the time that they’re puppies. This is the only stage in their lives when they are easy to work with. This dog needs to understand that you are the alpha. If he learns this at an early age you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble later. During the adolescent stage a chow will test their owners because of their strong independent nature. This is the reason why it is important to establish dominance during puppyhood. This is not a type of dog that should be spoiled or pampered because they tend to push the limits.
5. High intelligence but hard to train
Chows are known for being very smart dogs, but this should not be confused with making them an easy breed to train. In fact, it is just the opposite. Chows really don’t have much of a desire to please their masters. Sure, they’ll love you, care about you, and want to protect you, but when it comes to making you happy you’re on your own. Since they are not inclined to care if their behaviors please you or not training is more difficult and traditional methods may not work. Maintain dominance and demand obedience for the best results.
6. Your Chow requires gentle but firm handling
Because of the unique temperament and nature of this dog, firm handling without violent punishment is the only way to go. This breed does not tolerate physical punishment. Hitting or beating a Chow will either end with the dog becoming mean, and possibly vicious, or it will break his spirit. This independent thinker will do what feels right to him at the time, and it’s vital that he is not shown violence, because if this is what he learns, it is how he will respond when he’s upset. Bear in mind that a Chow doesn’t care if he pleases you, so keeping the upper hand is a requirement.
7. Chows resemble a canine-lion mix
Chows have a unique appearance that have a few lion-like features. The body shape is similar, but it is the mane-like fur that is the most striking feature. For clarity, they are in no-way related to cats, but they do have some physical and temperamental traits in common. Chows are for people who like having a special dog breed, because they are set apart from most other canine types. But yeah, the lion thing is pretty cool.
8. You will never be able to read a Chow
This is another peculiarity of the breed that makes them so different. While it is easy to tell if a Golden Retriever or Cocker Spaniel is happy to see you, a Chow usually doesn’t register much emotion. Most of them remain extremely aloof in attitude unless they feel threatened or challenged. Their faces are covered with wrinkly fur that closes in on a set of small and deeply set eyes. This makes it hard to read their expressions. They truly are indifferent to those around them, unless you’re a family member that is close to the dog. Grand gestures, such as those seen with the friendlier breeds, are few and far in between. Chows are not attention seekers and this is the reason their behaviors are not typical.
9. Chows can and do show love to their owners
This breed tends to choose one special person to bestow their affections upon. While they generally remain indifferent to house guests or other visitors, they know who their family members are. You won’t always get a lot of attention from a Chow, but he’ll make sure that you know he loves you. Once he learns that you are the alpha, he’ll tolerate your mastery above anyone else in the family. It’s a mixed bag with Chows and while they will be obedient to their one special person, some individual dogs may not respond as well to other family members.
10. Respect is a big thing with Chows
Chows are regal and dignified animals and this is how they carry themselves. To gain the respect of a Chow, you must earn it. This means maintaining an alpha status and not backing down. Chows who are properly socialized know that they are dignified and they demand the respect of those around them. That is when they’re taking the time to care. It’s important to treat this dog with firmness, yet, also with love and affection, to the degree that they will tolerate. You generally only get back what you’re willing to give with these guys. If the dog doesn’t have a high level of respect for you, then the situation between the two of you probably isn’t going to work out, so establish it from the start, and keep it going. If you’re diligent, the results will be a good two-way relationship with the dog.
11. Chows are not for inexperienced dog owners
A Chow is not the type of breed that anyone should choose for a first dog. In fact, even if you’ve owned other dogs, it’s important to be educated about this vastly different breed before attempting to raise one. Trust us when we tell you that this dog is much different than any other you may be familiar with. Chows are sweet and easy to work with as puppies, but as they mature, things can get dicey. Prospective chow owners should learn everything that there is to know about them before bringing one into their homes. Being prepared will help you to have greater success with training and socializing. The rules that apply to training other dog breeds will not be enough with a chow.
12. You will need to stay a step ahead of your Chow
Successful Chow owners are the ones that know how to stay one step ahead of their beloved pets. It is because of the dog’s high intelligence and strong will that owners are faced with these challenges. Training takes effort, time, patience and consistency. The younger the dog, the easier the process. There is nothing wrong with consulting a professional dog trainer if things start to get out of hand.
13. Don’t trifle with your Chow
While you might be able to get away with a little teasing with a smaller breed now and then, Chow’s don’t tolerate this as well. When they are puppies, chows look like little bears and they are cute. Puppies like to play and they learn by taking objects into their mouths. Teasing them and allowing them to play rough or to bite is never a good idea. You can play with your Chow puppy as a part of the socialization process, and you really do need to do this, but let them know from day one that biting is not tolerated. As a Chow matures, they won’t tolerate being trifled with very well. Playing with your Chow is an essential, but teasing him is a definite no.
14. Betray him once and he’ll never forget
Some dogs are so loyal that they’ll take a load of nonsense from their owners and still come back for more. Unlike other breeds, Chows are not attention seekers. They’re smart and they usually know what’s going on. They are usually indifferent to the things that people are doing unless it affects them directly. They will attach to one special person and will have certain expectations just as you do from them. If you betray a chow through any type of mistreatment, it will remember and you will damage the relationship that you’ve built with your pet. This includes neglect as well as abuse. A Chow may not be an attention seeker most of the time, but it still needs love, affection and attention. After all, they have feelings too, they just don’t always show them.
15. The best Chow owners are strong willed
Because Chow Chows are so strong willed and independent, they require an owner that is even more strong willed. Don’t be fooled by this chameleon breed. As puppies, they are generally by nature, well behaved dogs. They’re not destructive or disobedient, and this is a good thing because it gives you a window of time for properly training them. As they advance into adolescence, is where the problems begin. An untrained Chow at this age can be nothing short of a living nightmare. All dogs go through this stage, and if you’ve already gained the love and respect of your Chow pup you should have no worries. If there are behavioral problems prior to adolescence, you may be in trouble later. It takes a strong will on the part of the owner to stay on top of a mischievous young chow, so people who are softies are generally not the best at commanding respect. This is a serious consideration that needs to be made in advance of becoming a chow owner.
16. Chows have earned their reputation
Throughout the decades, chow dogs have been labeled as a vicious breed. We’d like to say that this is not the case, but the truth of the matter is, an untrained or abused Chow can easily become mean and dangerous and it has happened multiple times with this breed. Any dog is capable of biting and there is no exception to this rule, but a Chow can be socialized to lessen the chance of becoming a vicious dog. Another truth about the breed is that the more responsible breeders refuse to use breeding stock that is known to be aggressive or excessively shy. Requesting information on a new dog’s parentage is important. It can give insight into the quality of the bloodlines. There is always a danger of being bitten by any dog, but a Chow who comes from good breeding stock and who is properly trained and socialized has the capability of becoming a family pet that is reasonably safe to have around adults and children who are living in the home. Supervision with children and chows is always recommended though.
17. Chows tongues change color
Chows have a tongue that changes in color as they mature. The puppies are born with pink tongues. As they get older, the color gradually begins to darken over time. A Chow that is fit for show quality will have a tongue color that is a blue black by the time they reach the age of eight weeks old. Not all of them change completely in color, and when the tongue only partially darkens, the dog is disqualified from entering the show ring. The black tongues are just one of the many physical attributes of this dog breed that makes them so unique and special.
18. Your Chow needs to see the doctor regularly
This is because as a breed, Chows are prone to a variety of different health issues. The two most common problems are hip dysplasia and entropion. It’s a good idea when looking for a Chow puppy to find a breeder who routinely has the pups X-rayed and certified to be free from hip dysplasia prior to purchase. You can ask for a warranty from the breeder that guarantees the dog will be free of the potentially crippling disease for a period of two years, just to be safe. Some breeders are willing to do this and it’s worth asking. It has been estimated that up to fifty percent of all chows have hip dysplasia and it is an issue that will need attention and treatment to lessen pain and stiffness. The other condition is entropion, which is an inward turning of the eyelids instead of outwards. It can cause irritation, and if left untreated, blindness. Regular checkups to the vet can help spot these conditions early if they develop.
19. Chows need company
Just because Chow Chows are independent and aloof, doesn’t mean that they like to be alone. In an ideal world, your Chow will have another Chow as a companion. If you work outside of the home, your dog will do fine if he spends time outside, but too much time away from people can result in anti-social behaviors. When you get home, bring him inside of the house with you so he can spend quality time with his special person. He does need to be around you and family members on a consistent basis. Keeping him tied up or confined alone for long periods of time is inhumane and he won’t respond well to this type of treatment. Chows generally don’t get along very well with cats or small dogs, unless they are socialized with them at an early age. They don’t have a pack mentality, and they don’t usually get along very well with bigger dogs of the same sex, but they do need company. It’s best to have a consistent pal from the time that they are puppies, and lots of time with familiar people.
20. They need regular grooming
You’ll want to get into the habit of regular grooming from the time that your Chow is a puppy. The coat is very soft and dense, so it will tangle and mat easily if it isn’t brushed on a regular basis. You can ease up a little as your Chow matures because the adult coat is much easier to care for, but plan on spending at least an hour or two a week, getting out all the rough spots. Your dog will look better and feel better. They generally shed their coats once or twice a year, so plan on filling a few trash bags during this time. It’s best to do the grooming yourself because Chows don’t usually enjoy going to a professional groomer. They prefer having their favorite person do the job.