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  • Temperament: Dignified, Bright, Serious-Minded
  • AKC Breed Popularity: Ranks 74 of 194
  • Height: 17-20 inches
  • Weight: 45-70 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 8-12 years
  • Group: Non-Sporting Group

    The AKC has grouped all of the breeds that it registers into seven categories, or groups, roughly based on function and heritage. Breeds are grouped together because they share traits of form and function or a common heritage.

Chow Chow standing facing left, head turned forward
Chow Chow head facing left
Chow Chow sitting facing forward
Chow Chow coat detail
Chow chow outdoors

Find a Puppy: Chow Chow

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GENERAL APPEARANCE

A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried closely to the back, the whole supported by four straight, strong, sound legs. Viewed from the side, the hind legs have little apparent angulation and the hock joint and metatarsals are directly beneath the hip joint. It is this structure which produces the characteristic shorter, stilted gait unique to the breed. The large head with broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle is proudly carried and accentuated by a ruff. Elegance and substance must be combined into a well balanced whole, never so massive as to outweigh his ability to be active, alert and agile. Clothed in a smooth or an offstanding rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness. Essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.

HEAD

Proudly carried, large in proportion to the size of the dog but never so exaggerated as to make the dog seem top-heavy or to result in a low carriage. Expression essentially scowling, dignified, lordly, discerning, sober and snobbish, one of independence. The scowl is achieved by a marked brow with a padded button of skin just above the inner, upper corner of each eye; by sufficient play of skin to form frowning brows and a distinct furrow between the eyes beginning at the base of the muzzle and extending up the forehead; by the correct eye shape and placement and by the correct ear shape, carriage and placement. Excessive loose skin is not desirable. Wrinkles on the muzzle do not contribute to expression and are not required.

BODY

Neck strong, full, well muscled, nicely arched and of sufficient length to carry the head proudly above the topline when standing at attention. Topline straight, strong and level from the withers to the root of the tail. Body short, compact, close coupled, strongly muscled, broad, deep and well let down in the flank. The body, back, coupling and croup must all be short to give the required square build. Chest broad, deep and muscular, never narrow or slab-sided. The ribs close together and well sprung, not barrel. The spring of the front ribs is somewhat narrowed at their lower ends to permit the shoulder and upper arm to fit smoothly against the chest wall. The floor of the chest is broad and deep extending down to the tips of the elbows. The point of sternum slightly in front of the shoulder points.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders strong, well muscled, the tips of the shoulder blades moderately close together; the spine of the shoulder forms an angle approximately 55 degrees with the horizontal and forms an angle with the upper arm approximately 110 degrees. Length of upper arm never less than length of shoulder blade. Elbow joints set well back alongside the chest wall, elbows turning neither in nor out. Forelegs perfectly straight from elbow to foot with heavy bone which must be in proportion to the rest of the dog. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad chest. Pasterns short and upright. Wrists shall not knuckle over. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet round, compact, catlike, standing well upon the thick toe pads.

COAT

There are two types of coat; rough and smooth. Both are double coated. Rough – In the rough coat, the outer coat is abundant, dense, straight and offstanding, rather coarse in texture; the undercoat soft, thick and wooly. Puppy coat soft, thick and wooly overall. The coat forms a profuse ruff around the head and neck, framing the head. The coat and ruff generally longer in dogs than in bitches. Tail well feathered. The coat length varies markedly on different Chows and thickness, texture and condition should be given greater emphasis than length. Obvious trimming or shaping is undesirable. Trimming of the whiskers, feet and metatarsals optional. Smooth – 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 undercoat. There should be no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs or tail.

HINDQUARTERS

The rear assembly broad, powerful, and well muscled in the hips and thighs, heavy in bone with rear and front bone approximately equal. Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight, parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad pelvis. Stifle Joint shows little angulation, is well knit and stable, points straight forward and the bones of the joint should be clean and sharp. Hock Joint well let down and appears almost straight. The hock joint must be strong, well knit and firm, never bowing or breaking forward or to either side. The hock joint and metatarsals lie in a straight line below the hip joint.

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About the Chow Chow

Chows are powerful, compactly built dogs standing as high as 20 inches at the shoulder. Their distinctive traits include a lion’s-mane ruff around the head and shoulders; a blue-black tongue; deep-set almond eyes that add to a scowling, snobbish expression; and a stiff-legged gait. Chows can have rough or smooth coats of red, black, blue, cinnamon, or cream.

Owners say Chows are the cleanest of dogs: They housebreak easily, have little doggy odor, and are known to be as fastidious as cats. Well-socialized Chows are never fierce or intractable, but always refined and dignified. They are aloof with strangers and eternally loyal to loved ones. Serene and adaptable, with no special exercise needs, Chows happily take to city life.

National Breed Clubs and Rescue

Want to connect with other people who love the same breed as much as you do? We have plenty of opportunities to get involved in your local community, thanks to AKC Breed Clubs located in every state, and more than 450 AKC Rescue Network groups across the country.
Chow chow outdoors

Find a Puppy: Chow Chow

AKC Marketplace | PuppyFinder

AKC Marketplace is the only site to exclusively list 100% AKC puppies from AKC-Registered litters and the breeders who have cared for and raised these puppies are required to follow rules and regulations established by the AKC.
Find Chow Chow Puppies

Care

NUTRITION

There are many excellent-quality commercial dry and wet dog foods available. Many owners choose to feed a low-grain diet. Regularly check the Chow’s skin for any irritation or other signs of allergy, even if you have not changed the commercial diet, as dog food companies frequently change the formulas. Be aware that dog treats can also create allergy and digestive issues. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.

GROOMING

Both the rough- and smooth-coated Chows have a profuse double coat and require regular grooming. Thorough brushing at least twice per week and a monthly bath can keep the dog’s skin and coat healthy. Be sure to immediately remedy any parasite issues, such as fleas or ticks. Include eye and ear care with each grooming, and trim nails regularly. Puppy coat and the coat around the head can become badly matted if not groomed regularly. Care must be taken to remove all mats and brush or comb through the undercoat. It is preferable to use a cool air dryer to thoroughly dry the Chow after a bath.

Grooming Frequency

Occasional Bath/Brush
Specialty/Professional
2-3 Times a Week Brushing

Shedding

Infrequent
Frequent
Seasonal

EXERCISE

The Chow Chow is an active and alert dog with moderate exercise needs. The Chow requires daily walks and moderate play with toys, with minimal rough play or high-impact exercise. Avoid exercise during hot periods of the day, as the breed does not tolerate high heat or humidity well. A moderate-paced walk four or more times a day will help to keep Chow and owner happy and healthy, and doing activities together enhances the human-canine bond.

Energy Level

Couch Potato
Needs Lots of Activity
Regular Exercise

TRAINING

Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Chow grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion. Patience and positive, consistent reinforcement are the keys to successful training. The Chow Chow is a very intelligent dog but can be stubborn. Harsh training methods are to be avoided in order to develop a trusting relationship. Patience, praise, and regular practice are the best tools to use with your Chow.

Trainability

May be Stubborn
Eager to Please
May be Stubborn

Temperament/Demeanor

Aloof/Wary
Outgoing
Reserved with Strangers

HEALTH

Health issues for the Chow Chow may include eyelid entropion, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, allergies, and thyroid function. These issues may be minimized by health screening, responsible breeding, and regular health care and can be diagnosed and managed with veterinary care. Extensive and detailed information on the breed’s health can be found on the website of the Chow Chow Club, Inc.

Recommended Health Tests from the National Breed Club:

  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • Elbow Evaluation
  • Thyroid Evaluation
  • Patella Evaluation

Read the Official Breed Club Health Statement.

Chow Chow
Chow Chow
Chow Chow
Chow Chow
Chow Chow
Chow Chow

History

The Chow Chow, among the world’s most singular and possibly oldest breeds, is depicted in artifacts of China’s Han Dynasty (c. 206 b.c.), but evidence suggests Chows go back much further and are progenitors of other spitz-type breeds—from the burly Norwegian Elkhound to the dainty Pomeranian.

Chows have played many roles during their long history. At times, they were the lordly companions to Chinese nobles. An emperor of the Tang Dynasty, circa eighth century, was said to have owned a kennel facility that housed some 5,000 Chows and a permanent staff of twice that number. But over the centuries they also earned their keep as guarders, haulers, and hunters. Their ancestors were even a food source in the distant past of their densely populated, protein-starved homeland. An ancient breed nickname is the Edible Dog, and a theory behind the origin of the name Chow maintains that it derives from the Cantonese word for “edible.”

A more popular explanation of the breed name concerns 18th-century trading ships of the British Empire. At that time, the pidgin-English expression “chow chow” described the small, miscellaneous items within a ship’s cargo that weren’t itemized. “Chow chow” was simply another way of saying “etcetera,” and the odd-looking dogs British traders acquired in China were included on the ship’s manifest under the catchall “chow chow.”

In the 1820s Chow Chows were exhibited at the London Zoo as the “Wild Dogs of China,” but they didn’t really catch on in the West until Queen Victoria, an inveterate dog lover, acquired one later in the century. Chows were first exhibited in America in the 1890s and were admitted to the AKC in 1903.

Did You Know?

A bas-relief was discovered recently that dates back to the Han Dynasty (150-200 BC) which definitely places the Chow as a hunting dog in that period in China.
Martha Stewart owns a number of Chows and often featured them on her morning show.
In modern times, the Chow has become a fashionable pet and guard dog, but evidence abounds as to the Chow's usefulness as a sporting dog in ancient China.

The Breed Standard

GENERAL APPEARANCE

A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried closely to the back, the whole supported by four straight, strong, sound legs. Viewed from the side, the hind legs have little apparent angulation and the hock joint and metatarsals are directly beneath the hip joint. It is this structure which produces the characteristic shorter, stilted gait unique to the breed. The large head with broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle is proudly carried and accentuated by a ruff. Elegance and substance must be combined into a well balanced whole, never so massive as to outweigh his ability to be active, alert and agile. Clothed in a smooth or an offstanding rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness. Essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.

HEAD

Proudly carried, large in proportion to the size of the dog but never so exaggerated as to make the dog seem top-heavy or to result in a low carriage. Expression essentially scowling, dignified, lordly, discerning, sober and snobbish, one of independence. The scowl is achieved by a marked brow with a padded button of skin just above the inner, upper corner of each eye; by sufficient play of skin to form frowning brows and a distinct furrow between the eyes beginning at the base of the muzzle and extending up the forehead; by the correct eye shape and placement and by the correct ear shape, carriage and placement. Excessive loose skin is not desirable. Wrinkles on the muzzle do not contribute to expression and are not required.

BODY

Neck strong, full, well muscled, nicely arched and of sufficient length to carry the head proudly above the topline when standing at attention. Topline straight, strong and level from the withers to the root of the tail. Body short, compact, close coupled, strongly muscled, broad, deep and well let down in the flank. The body, back, coupling and croup must all be short to give the required square build. Chest broad, deep and muscular, never narrow or slab-sided. The ribs close together and well sprung, not barrel. The spring of the front ribs is somewhat narrowed at their lower ends to permit the shoulder and upper arm to fit smoothly against the chest wall. The floor of the chest is broad and deep extending down to the tips of the elbows. The point of sternum slightly in front of the shoulder points.

FOREQUARTERS

Shoulders strong, well muscled, the tips of the shoulder blades moderately close together; the spine of the shoulder forms an angle approximately 55 degrees with the horizontal and forms an angle with the upper arm approximately 110 degrees. Length of upper arm never less than length of shoulder blade. Elbow joints set well back alongside the chest wall, elbows turning neither in nor out. Forelegs perfectly straight from elbow to foot with heavy bone which must be in proportion to the rest of the dog. Viewed from the front, the forelegs are parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad chest. Pasterns short and upright. Wrists shall not knuckle over. The dewclaws may be removed. Feet round, compact, catlike, standing well upon the thick toe pads.

COAT

There are two types of coat; rough and smooth. Both are double coated. Rough – In the rough coat, the outer coat is abundant, dense, straight and offstanding, rather coarse in texture; the undercoat soft, thick and wooly. Puppy coat soft, thick and wooly overall. The coat forms a profuse ruff around the head and neck, framing the head. The coat and ruff generally longer in dogs than in bitches. Tail well feathered. The coat length varies markedly on different Chows and thickness, texture and condition should be given greater emphasis than length. Obvious trimming or shaping is undesirable. Trimming of the whiskers, feet and metatarsals optional. Smooth – 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 undercoat. There should be no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs or tail.

HINDQUARTERS

The rear assembly broad, powerful, and well muscled in the hips and thighs, heavy in bone with rear and front bone approximately equal. Viewed from the rear, the legs are straight, parallel and widely spaced commensurate with the broad pelvis. Stifle Joint shows little angulation, is well knit and stable, points straight forward and the bones of the joint should be clean and sharp. Hock Joint well let down and appears almost straight. The hock joint must be strong, well knit and firm, never bowing or breaking forward or to either side. The hock joint and metatarsals lie in a straight line below the hip joint.

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Colors & Markings

Colors

Description Standard Colors Registration Code
Black Check Mark For Standard Color 007
Blue Check Mark For Standard Color 037
Cinnamon Check Mark For Standard Color 074
Cream Check Mark For Standard Color 076
Red Check Mark For Standard Color 140

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