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 Tartars 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 Tang 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 or tail.
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 be shown.
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 endurance.
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 "socialization":
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 youngsters.
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.
11. 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.
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 -- out crossing, 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 process. 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.
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!