Chow Chow: Loyal to Owner, Standoffish with Strangers

Not seen in the West until the 19th century, dogs of this type have been known in China for around 2,000 years. Original uses included guarding and hunting

Chow Chows

Although not seen in the West until the 19th century, dogs of this type have been known in China for around 2,000 years. The breed’s original uses included guarding and hunting, and it may possibly have been a source of meat and fur. No other dog looks quite like this breed, with its stocky build, scowling face, and unique blue-black tongue. The Chow Chow is very independent and may have a stubborn streak, so needs firm training and early socializing. There are two varieties: rough-coated with an immensely thick, standout coat; and smooth-coated with short, dense hair.

Table of Contents




Spitz-Type Dogs

A team of huskies pulling a sled over icy wastelands epitomizes the type of dog known as a Spitz. In fact, this group has diverse uses, including herding, hunting, and guarding; many smaller types are kept solely as pets. Descent from wolves is apparent in most Spitz dogs: the shape of the head, the typical wolf coloring, and an alert expression.

Breed History

In China about 150 BC, art depicts a Spitz type dog such as this, but it is likely the breed developed earlier in time.

History records the presence of these types of dogs during the Tartar invasion of China about 1000 BC. Perhaps the Siberian Husky and Tibetan Mastiff were the breed progenitors or were offshoots from this breed.

The name chow chow is a generic shipping term for “such and such” in the cargo hold, also chow may derive from chou, Chinese for edible. Whatever the real meaning, the dogs were given this nickname. They were first brought to England in the year 1880. The AKC admitted the breed in 1903.

Physical Characteristics

Height at Withers

17-20” (43-51 cm)


45-70 lb (20-32 kg)


The double coat is present in two varieties: a short smooth coat and a longer rough coat that stands out. The latter is much more common.

Short-coated dogs have a distinct undercoat and the outer coat is dense, hard, and smooth in texture and no feathers or ruff are evident.

Colors are solid to solid with shading. Colors accepted include red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream. Whites are very rare.


11-12 years

Points of Conformation

The Chow has an arctic type with a square strong broad build and compact conformation. The blue tongue and compressed scowling face characterize the breed.

The bone is also heavy, muscling moderate and the haircoat is profuse. The head is broad and flat, and the muzzle is blocky. He possesses a high head carriage, and the oblique almond-shaped eyes are deep and wide set with dark brown color.

They have tight darkly pigmented palpebral margins.

Ears are pricked, small and the leather is moderate in thickness, with slightly rounded tips. On the face, one sees a moderate stop, brows well developed, and the large black nose has well opened nostrils.

A slate nose may be present in blue coat colored hows. Lip margins, and all oral cavity membranes are black and the tongue is blue-black. The neck is full, well muscled and arched, the topline is straight and level, and ribs are well sprung.

Limbs are straight, dewclaws may be removed, and feet are compact and sit on well-knuckled toes. A broad pelvis is evident. The tail is well feathered. The long rough coated dogs possess a well-developed ruff, especially in males (sometimes referred to as lion-like).

The tapered tail is set high and carried over the back and covered with a profusion of hair. The normal gait is stilted due to the conformation of the rear limbs (straight through both tarsus and stifle).


They need daily grooming to maintain a good coat. These are high shedding dogs.

Breed Behaviours and Traits