Chow Chow Breed Information Guide: Quirks, Pictures, Personality & Facts

Reviewed by Savannah Lyons

June 14, 2019

Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.  

Intro / Overview

(All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities!)

It looks like a lion, but acts like a cat. The Chow Chow is a unique breed that stands alone. From the dark tongue and small ears to the thick neck fur and straight hind legs, every element of this breed is distinct and unmistakable.

The Chow Chow has tons of personality. They’re known to be fiercely loyal to their owners and aloof or defensive towards others. The ancient breed has a lot of special traits that set them apart from other dogs. Let’s break down all that we know about these fluff balls to find out if they’re the right breed for you!

Also Known As…

Chow. Chowdren. Bear dog (Xiang Gou). Puffy-Lion Dog (Songshi-Quan). “What the heck am I lookin’ at here? A lion? A bear? Or some kinda dog?” “Why not all three?”


These ancient dogs are statuesque and a proud looking breed. Well, their ancestors have survived a lot and Chow Chows deserve to hold their heads high. Chows are listed as one of the oldest breeds in the world and are believed to have originated in Mongolia and Northern China – where the thick coat helps combat arctic temperatures. .

The earliest nod to the Chow Chow breed shows a dog resembling them depicted in paintings from the Han Dynasty (206 BC to 22 AD). The Chows was originally very popular as hunting dogs. One Chinese emperor was said to have kept 2,500 pairs of these dogs and had a huge team employed as their keepers. The Chow Chows were used as guard dogs, as well – which was easy for them due to their protective nature.

The dark spot of the Chow history is that they were also popular for their thick fur, which was used for coats and clothes, and for meat in a protein deficient land. The breed was labeled the “Edible Dog”. Despite the use of the breed for anything other than work or companionship, the Chow Chow breed continued to grow and eventually expand around the world.

In the 18th century British Merchants had a great deal of cargo in their ships. A bear-like dog was among the cargo and grouped in with random items on the inventory list under the label of miscellaneous. “Chow chow” is the term British traders used for those miscellaneous items, and the term became the name of the breed.


Although Chow Chows look like a fluffy mix between a bear and a lion, they’re classified as a medium sized breed. Adult males will stand from 19–22 inches tall. The adult female will grow to be from 18–20 inches tall.

Weight Range

Adult male Chows can grow to be 55–71lbs and the adult females can be 44–60 lbs.


The Chows are very unique from their appearance to their temperament. You may want to hug and snuggle with your adorable pup, but Chow Chows aren’t very affectionate. This breed is known to be more like felines in when it comes to their personality. They independent, stubborn, exclusive to their human, and are big time loungers. These dogs are very chill and would prefer to sit on the couch across from their owners rather than go for a hike.

This breed of dog may try to position itself to be the “pack leader” in your home. As the human, you’ll have to make sure you’re firmly in control of your Chow. Chow Chows tend to be reserved or aloof in the company of new people and possibly defensive or reactive with unfamiliar dogs and bigger animals.

Intelligence / Trainability

The Chow Chow is a very intelligent dog. They have the ability to learn tricks and commands, just like other dogs, but training may take a bit more time and effort with this stubborn breed.

Best Training Techniques For Chow Chows

  • Socialize and train Chows at a very young age, and throughout their lives, to avoid aggression.
  • Earn the Chows respect and form a trusting bond. This connection will help your Chow see you seriously as the alpha of the pack.
  • Verbal commands, correcting, and praise will go far with your pup.
  • Treats are great in moderation (it’s easy for Chows to gain weight).
  • Consistency is key. Set aside some time everyday to train your Chow.

Ideal Environment

A Chow is a great medium sized dog that’s able to live comfortably in a family home and in an apartment. With the dense double coat, colder environments would be best. In warmer locations the Chow would need to be inside with air condition to avoid overheating.

Easily housebroken, Chows should always live inside with their family. They would thrive in a home with a tall fenced-in yard for regular exercise or in an apartment near a dog park.

The Chow Chow’s history of aggression may make them a bit more expensive to keep than other breeds. Chow owners, depending on your insurance company, can experience a raise in their homeowner’s insurance rates. These dogs are labeled as a high-risk breed and are one of the “most dangerous dogs” to own. Again, with proper training and early socializing Chows can be well behaved and friendly.

Good With Families And Kids?

Chows are known to primarily bond with one individual and they are fiercely loyal to their beloved human. Another well-documented trait is their reactivity.

If your Chow Chow is trained and socialized from a very young age, aggression shouldn’t be a problem for families with teens. The Chow is an independent dog and not the most playful. Adult supervision is always recommended when a young child is playing with any breed of dog. Chows may react to an uncomfortable touch from toddlers. This breed would be best for families with older children who can proper respect the dog’s space and needs.

Average Lifespan

The average life span of a Chow Chow is anywhere from 11 to 14 years old.


The lovable and statuesque Chow has its fair share of health concerns. The common issues associated with this breed can be managed with routine care, a keen eye for any changes in the state of your dog, and recommendations from you vet. These are the most commonly known health issues for the Chow.

  • Eyelid Entropion.
  • Glaucoma.
  • Hip and Elbow Dysplaysia.
  • Allergies.
  • Elongated Palate.


Not very high on the energy scale, the Chow Chow breed is moderately active. The stout pups would make poor hiking or jogging companions, high impact games and activities should be avoided.

A decent walk around the block or time at the dog park each day would be enough for your Chow. Create a routine for your pup, otherwise they’ll become lethargic and gain weight – which could cause health issues for your dog. High temperatures outside can overheat a Chow. Try to engage your pup inside the home on hot summer days to get them moving and keep their moderate energy levels stable.

Friendly With…(Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)

Chow Chows are often more comfortable in a one dog home, especially if the dog is of the same sex. Chows have also been known to act out in the company of other Chows. This behavior notes back to wanting to be the Alpha and their possessive and protective nature. Socializing Chow Chows from an early age can help them handle group canine settings much better.

Chows thoroughly enjoy people, mainly and specifically their family members. Not really a fan of strangers, these dogs can be indifferent or defensive towards new people. The best way to avoid reactivity in Chows when around strangers is to socialize them with humans from get-go. Also, since they form a bond of respect and trust with their handlers, the owners should first introduce the Chow Chow to individuals before letting strangers approach or touch the dog. Once introduced by the handler, the Chow Chow is more likely to have a better experience with new people.

The ancient breed was used to pull carts, guard possessions, and hunt. When around smaller pets their hunting nature may kick in, which often makes them incompatible with many other house pets. Such animals (cats, rabbits, or gerbils) are not recommended to live in the same home as a Chow Chow.

Coat & Grooming

Chows can have two coat types, rough and smooth. Both the rough- and smooth-coated Chows have a dense double coat that needs routine care. This breed like to be clean and, unlike most dogs, don’t acquire the “dog smell”. If your Chow Chow starts to carry a smell, you’ll need to commit more time to grooming your pup.

The more commonly identified Chow Chow coat is the rough coat. It’s thick and mats easily. The second layer of hair, underneath, is a soft, thick, woolly undercoat. The mane is made of thicker hair surrounding the neck and head. Every inch of the Chow Chow needs to be detailed when grooming, even the tail’s thick feathery thick hair.

The second type of coat, the smooth coat, on Chow Chows is coarse and dense. A Chow Chow with a smooth outer coat doesn’t appear as large as the rough coated Chows. They still look like teddy bears, but with shorter hair. The smooth coated Chows are easier to groom due to the difference in hair. There will be less tangles and matting than the rough coated Chows.

Both types of Chows coats comes in five colors: black, blue, red, cream, and cinnamon . These colors can vary from light to dark, they can also be solid or solid with lighter shadings.

Make grooming a weekly routine. Brushing out the coat at least twice a week will keep your pup looking good. A Chow Chow owner will need a
medium-coarse brush to get through the main portion of the body, and a slick brush for smaller sections. It’s also a good idea to keep a pin brush on hand for rough coated Chow owners, it will help care for the long and dense hair.

Chow Chows shed quite a bit throughout the year. They’re also shed considerably more in the Spring and Fall. During these seasons the Chow will require a bit more attention in the grooming department.

Depending on the time spent outside, a Chow should be bathed once a month. If you’re using a hair dryer to make sure your pup is dry down to the skin, be sure to use the cool air setting.

Toys Chow Chow Would Like Best

Chow Chows aren’t the most energetic breed in the canine world, but they have their moments. Toys are a great way to get your pup up and moving. Mental and physical stimulation keeps your dog from destructive behavior and playing creates an opportunity for bonding time between dog and owner.

This particular breed is very smart. They can also be very stubborn. Items, such as Tug Toys and Fetch Toys, will get your Chow playing for a while. However, Chow Chows can quickly lose interest and may need something more engaging. Check out a rundown of the Best Puzzle Toys for Dogs Who Get Bored Easily.

Recommended Diet Or Supplements

Chow Chow are well-known for their history of hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cause arthritis, eye issues, and knee problems.

If your Chow is having problems with movement or joint pain, you may want to consider supplements for their diet. As always, it’s best to consult with your veterinarian first.

Glucosamine Supplement For Hip & Joints

This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your fluffy Chow with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)

Full-Spectrum Hemp Oil

Full Spectrum Hemp Oil

BARK’s Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with joint issues, pain relief, and ease aggression in dogs during stressful situations. ($17.99-22.99.)

Recommended Products

Chow Chows are proud pups who deserve to relax in peace with proper support. Supplements will help them internally. Here is another great recommendation to allow them to unwind in total comfort.

Orthopedic Ultra Plush Memory Foam Bed

This ultra plush orthopedic dog bed is great for supporting your pup’s stout body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your favorite Chow. ($27.99-64.99.)

Notable Rescues To Find The Chow Chow Of Your Dreams:

Notable Instagram Chow Chows

Get your frequent dose of adorable bear-like chows on your Instagram feed. Check out these totally loveable Chow Chows!





***Looking for a gift to blow your Chow Chow’s mind? Spoil them with BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <– This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! 🙂

Featured image via Izzy_the_Chow/Instagram

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Reviewed by Savannah Lyons

June 14, 2019