Is the Lion-Like Chow Chow as Aggressive as He Looks?

Last Updated on April 26, 2023

The Chow Chow, or Chow for short, is also known as a Puffy Lion Dog or Songshi Quan in China.

These striking dogs have a lion-like appearance, a coat like a fluffy teddy bear, the loyalty of a dog, and the stubborn independence of a cat. 

Chow Chow dog portrait

While Chow Chows are not for novice dog owners, this ancient breed has many loveable qualities. Discover everything about the Chow below.

Where did the Chow Chow originate? 

The Chow Chow is one of the first dog breeds, with a lineage that dates back possibly several million years. Some of the oldest dog fossils are very similar to that of the Chow.

Their origins as a working breed link back to Arctic Asia, Northern China, and Mongolia, where they likely moved with the nomadic tribes. 

It is thought that the Chow Chow is related to the Chinese Shar-Pei, who too has a black and blue month.

The Chow’s ancestry is also linked to the Spitz breeds, such as the Pomeranian, Samoyed, Keeshond, and Norwegian Elkhound.

Many Chinese Emperors were known to keep this dignified with breed with Chow Chow dogs appearing in pottery that has been linked to between 206BC and 22AD in the time of the Han Dynasty.

Used as a hunting dog to chase down wolves, pheasant, and sable, as well as herding, pulling carts and sleds, and guard dogs, these dogs were trendy in Imperial China.

Legend has it that one Emperor even had over 2,500 pairs of Chow Chows, unfortunately, though these dogs were also eaten as a delicacy, with their fluffy coats being used to make clothing. 

During the time of the Chow Chow’s reign in China, they were known by many names, including wolf-dog, black-tongue dog, bear dog, and Canton dog.

The name Chow Chow is said to have come from British Merchants who took these dogs with their cargo in the late 18th century. The term Chow Chow simply referring to random items stored onboard. 

At the London Zoo in the 1820s, Chows were exhibited as wild dogs of China. However, the Chow breed only became popular in the time of Queen Victoria, with the monarch showing a penchant for the breed.

The breed made its first appearance at a dog show in the United States when Takya took third place at the 1890 Westminster Kennel Club.

A Chow Chow breed club was formed in England in 1895, and by 1903 the American Kennel Club (AKC) had recognized the non-sporting group breed with the first registered pup named Yen How. 

During the 1920s, Chow Chows grew in fame, being popular companions of Sigmund Freud and American president Calvin Coolidge.

Martha Stewart is also known to have Chows, sometimes featuring them in her TV shows.

Chow Chow dog in a vintage chair

What Does a Chow Chow Look Like?

Chow Chows are known for their distinctive appearance. These stocky dogs have a large, flat head with a broad, deep muzzle and a flared, wide black nose.

Powerfully built with a massive bone structure, they feature a muscular, square body, deep chest, and virtually straight hind legs. Their legs give them a very stilted walk. 

Their healthy appearance with well-built hips and thighs reflects their long history working as herding, hunting, and guard dogs.

However, Chows Chows are best known for their deep-set almond-shaped eyes and scowling expression accentuated by a mane of fur, giving them a lion-like look

Want to know what a Chow Chow will look like as a puppy? Check out this video of some of the cutest Chow Chow puppies in the world:

Why do Chows have a blue tongue?

All Chow Chows will have a purple or blue-black tongue.

Dogs that look like a Chow but do not have a blue tongue are not purebred Chows or belong to one of the other similar spitz breeds such as an Akita or American Eskimo. 

That said, Chows Chows are not born with their distinctive blue tongues. Newborn Chows have pink tongues with the black coloring developing as they get to about 8 to 10 weeks old. 

Chinese legend says that Chows Chows got this colored tongue when they licked the color off the sky at the time of creation. 

Chow Chow in a rocky hill

How big is a Chow Chow?

A medium to large-sized breed of dog, fully grown Chows Chows weigh between 40 and 70 pounds (18 and 32 kg) and stand 17 to 20 inches (43 to 51 cm) tall at the shoulder.

Although a large breed, these dogs are well suited to a range of environments, including life in a condo or apartment, so long as their exercise requirements are fulfilled. 

Miniature Chow Chows also exist. Not a separate breed, teacup Chow Chows are simply smaller Chows. Breeders can achieve this by breeding runts or introducing the gene for dwarfism.

However, due to this, miniature Chow Chows can have a host of health issues.

Chow Chow dog walking in the grassland

The characteristic coat of the Chow Chow

Chow Chow dogs come in two different coat types, namely rough and smooth. Rough coat Chows Chows are the most common variant with the thick and abundant overcoat standing proud from the body.

These dogs have the characteristic mane around the head and neck where thicker hair forms a ruff. The tail is also fluffy and feathered. 

Smooth coat Chows have a dense, softer outer coat that doesn’t have the thicker areas of feathering. Both types of Chow will have a thick, wool-like undercoat.

Both rough and smooth Chows can come in five different coat colors. This being black, blue, cinnamon, red, and cream.

The dog will always be a solid color but may have lighter shading areas, particularly in the ruffed spots.

Also, red Chows can vary from pale gold to a deep brown, while cinnamon Chows can be fawn-colored or deep caramel. 

Chow Chow roaming at the park

Are Chow Chows a Good Family Dog?

Chow Chows have what many describe as a catlike personality. They are reserved, smart, independent, and aloof.

While they may look like a cuddly teddy bear, if you are looking for a dog that wants to cuddle, then the Chow Chow is not the best choice for you.

Chows do not like being hugged or made a fuss of and prefer to keep to themselves. 

While they accept children willingly, they do not take well to being poked and prodded and are thus best suited to families with older children that know how to look after dogs.

However, this quiet, attentive breed will be fiercely loyal to the right owner, usually choosing a particular favorite person amongst the family members.

This highly territorial and protective nature can make them good watchdogs and quite suspicious of strangers. However, don’t expect them to bark to alert you to intruders; the quiet Chow Chow is not very noisy.

Just don’t leave your Chow alone for an extended period as they can suffer from separation anxiety and resort to chewing things. 

Teen girl hugging Chow Chow dog

Are Chow Chows aggressive?

A well-trained and socialized Chow Chow will not be aggressive. They do not gravitate toward confrontation. However, they need firm and consistent training to become well-rounded pet.

If introduced to children and other pets as puppies, Chow Chows can fit into any family but sometimes tend to pick fights with dogs of the same sex.

That said, Chow Chows are not for novice owners.

An owner who can establish themselves as a dominant alpha member of the pack will end up with a polite patient companion, but passive owners may have an unruly, stubborn dog on their hands. 

Dogs who are not well-socialized or trained can bark a lot and tend to be hyperactive, and may even get aggressive around strangers.

The good thing, though, is that Chow Chows are easy to house train. Crate training is advised to keep your dog from developing destructive tendencies when you leave the house.

Young Chow Chow dog walking on the grass

How to Take Care of Your Chow Chow?

Chow Chows are easily adaptable dogs that will thrive in various environments, from small apartments to lavish palaces.

No matter where you live, your Chow will want to stay indoors with you and not be relegated to life outdoors. 

Their thick wooly undercoats are great for colder climates, providing insulation layers, but can mean these dogs do not do very well in extreme heat.

In sweltering conditions, be sure to keep your Chow indoors in a cooler environment. 

Long-haired Chow Chow dog lying on the floor

Do Chow Chows need a lot of exercises?

While Chows Chows are one breed of dogs that don’t need a lot of exercises, they should still be walked daily.

Their low energy levels mean one walk a day will do or a couple of 15-minute quick walks with some playtime thrown in. They are home-based dogs that are known prone to wander off and explore.

Due to their stiff gait, the Chow Chow should also not be used as a jogging companion. However, they have good endurance to endure longer walks if you can convince this lazy breed to get up from their nap.

Although they won’t bug you for a walk, be sure to do some exercise with your dog to prevent health or behavioral problems from setting in.

Couple walking with Chow Chow dogs

Do Chow Chow dogs shed a lot?

Chow Chows are known to shed a fair bit and are not a hypoallergenic breed. They will significantly shed heavily during the seasons’ changing, and during this time, their furry coat will require extra attention.

On average, Chows should be brushed two or three times a week with the rough coat Chow needing more regular brushing. 

Regular brushing will ensure that your dog doesn’t omit a foul odor.

A stainless steel cob with medium-coarse teeth can be used on most of the body, with a slicker brush on the legs and a medium pin brush on the coat’s ruff sections.

Spray your dog’s coat down with a conditioner before brushing to avoid breaking the hair. 

You should also brush your dog’s teeth twice a week and trim the nails once a month. Chow Chows are more susceptible to dental issues than other dog breeds.

Bathing is only necessary monthly unless your dog loves to roughhouse outside in the dirt. Be sure to get all the way down to the skin when brushing and bathing to prevent mats and tangles.

As Chow Chows shed regularly, it is not necessary to cut them or do any excessive trimming. That said, a variety of haircuts such as a panda, bear, or lion cut is popular with this breed.

Do be careful, though, never to shave your Chow. Shaving their double coat means that they can no longer regulate their temperature and be even more prone to overheating.

Chow Chow dog grooming

How much food should I feed my Chow Chow?

Chows should be fed between 2 and 2 and three-quarter cups of high-quality dry dog food every day. This food can be split up into two meals.

As a large, stocky breed, Chow Chows do well on a diet that is rich in calcium but low in protein. As obesity is a significant health concern with this breed, be sure not to overfeed them. 

Chow Chow Health Issues

Chow Chows have a life expectancy of between 12 and 15 years. Before purchasing a Chow Chow puppy, make sure to ask for health clearances from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals for hips and eyes. 

Because of their deep-set eyes, Chows have limited peripheral vision and are subject to various eye diseases, such as entropion, which causes eyelid abnormalities.

Other eye diseases can include glaucoma, persistent pupillary membranes, cataracts, and distichiasis.

This breed is also prone to developing hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, stomach cancer, and patellar luxation, with minor health problems during their life span, including hot spots and ear infections.

Because the Chow Chow is a brachycephalic breed, they also snore and can be subject to stenotic nares and developing an elongated palate.

Spaying or neutering your Chow Chow will not only prevent unwanted puppies but can also decrease the risk of certain diseases, such as cancers. 

Chow Chow in an eye treatment

How Much is a Chow Chow Puppy?

Purebred Chow Chow puppies can cost between $800 and $1200, with the average puppy coming in at $900.

Top breeders can charge up to $3000 for a puppy depending on the lineage of the parents. However, do be wary about any breeder trying to sell a Chow for more because they are a rare color.

Any breeder advertising lilac, chocolate, champagne, silver, or white-colored Chows should not be charging a premium as these are just fancy names for the standard Chow colors. 

Choosing a Chow Chow Breeder

When looking for a reputable Chow Chow breeder, look for someone who raises the puppies in their home.

Chow Chows are one breed that needs to be exposed to different people and animals from as young as possible to start the socialization period early.

The Chow Chow Club, Inc. has a list of reputable registered Chow Chow breeders.

A good breeder will be aware of this and will have already started the process of raising a family-friendly dog. 

Here are some Chow Chow breeders to get you started:

  • Heavenly Chows (Missouri)
  • The McGraw Chows (Adelanto, California)

Adopting a dog from a Chow Chow rescue

Adorable Chow Chow puppy
Source: @chowchowsphere / IG

Chow Chows are often found at rescue or adoption centers. People get them as adorable-looking puppies without explicit knowledge of this breed’s demands and what goes into owning an independent Chow.

Have a look at these Chow-specific adoption sites to find the perfect pet for your home:

  • Chow Chow Rescue NY (Central New York)
  • Houston Chow Chow Connection (Houston, Texas)
  • Chows in Need (Countrywide)

Popular Chow Chow Crossbreeds

Chow Chows are often mixed with other breeds which can water down some of this breed’s dominant characteristics. 

Chow Labrador Retriever mix (AKA Chabrador)

Chow Labrador Retriever mix dog looking afar
Source: @misty_welch_ / IG

The Chabrador, Chow Labrador mix, is loyal and independent but with the Labrador Retriever parent’s friendly nature.

The Labrador brings a calmer temperament to the Chow, making for a fuzzy friend that is also a good family companion.

Like the Chow, this mixed breed might not do too well with other pets unless introduced to them as a puppy.

As a large mix that can grow to around 70 pounds (32kg), the Chabrador will need plenty of exercise and playtime. 

Chow German Shepherd mix

Chow German Shepherd mix dog
Source: @dogs.dig / IG

The German Shepherd Chow mixes are super protective with a reserved personality and make for good guard dogs. However, they are typically friendlier towards strangers than a purebred Chow Chow.

They can, however, have a short, snappy side, particularly with small children.

Their long, thick coats need a good deal of grooming, while the German Shepherd’s high energy levels mean this crossbreed will need to be exercised every day.

A sturdy, muscular cross Chow Shepherds can weigh as much as 90 pounds (41 kg) and grow to 23 inches (58 cm) in height.

Chow Siberian Husky mix (AKA Chusky)

Chow Siberian Husky mix dog
Source: @lunathechowski / IG

Chuskys take on some of the curious, loving nature of the Husky breed and can make for devoted pets with proper socialization.

Highly intelligent and playful, as the puppy of two intense working dogs, the Chow Husky mix will need a good deal of physical and mental stimulation. 

Chusky dogs look like fluffy Huskies and shed heavily.

They can grow to around 65 pounds (29 kg) and should always be kept in colder conditions due to the thick heavy coat of both parent breeds, built for working life in cold climates.

Read more: 25+ Cutest Chow Chow Mixes

Who Should Get a Chow Chow Dog?

Chow Chow dog playing a soccer ball toy

A very independent and aloof breed, Chow Chows need a dominant pet owner that appreciates the more challenging traits of this breed and won’t let the dog become the master.

Chow Chow owners should be firm and consistent, providing this dog with the right training to develop a well-rounded personality.

Do you have a Chow Chow? Let us know what you love about this breed in the comments below.


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