What to Know About Chow Chows

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on May 31, 2024
6 min read

Chow Chows are all-purpose dogs originating from China. They are compact, well-built dogs that come in black, cream, cinnamon, blue, or red colors. The Chow Chow has a characteristic lion’s mane around its head and shoulder. Another distinct feature is their blue-black tongue and almond eyes, which can give it a snobbish look.

Chow Chow Size and Shape

Chow Chows are well-built (muscular), medium-sized dogs. The males can grow 19 to 22 inches tall at the shoulder, while the females can grow 18 to 20 inches. 

They typically weigh between 45 and 70 pounds when full grown.

Chow Chow Lifespan

Chow Chows are generally healthy dogs. They can live, on average, between eight and twelve years.

Chow Chow Temperament

Chow Chows can be described as aloof (cool and a bit distant), composed, and independent. Their behavior is a lot like that of a cat. While they may seem like the cuddling type from their appearance, Chow Chows may not be as enthusiastic when it comes to hugging. 

Even so, this dog breed shows a lot of loyalty and devotion. A Chow is likely to choose one family member and follow them around wherever they go — just like cats.

Chow Chows are not very active in nature and do not need a lot of physical exercise. Because of this, the preferred exercise for a Chow is a simple walk instead of running or jogging. They are very territorial and may prefer to stay in the house most of the time.

This breed of dog does not easily trust new people or dogs. To prevent issues, make sure you engage in early training and socialization. Even following training, Chows don’t have the tendency to live in packs and will only trust individuals they’ve already met or respect.

On the plus side, Chow Chows don’t bark a lot or bite unless provoked. They have a relatively loud bark and a powerful bite that, combined with their territorial nature, make them a good choice for protecting property. 

If your Chow is aggressive and barks a lot, make sure you find out what the issue is. Also, consider taking your dog in for obedience training and socializing them as puppies.


Despite their enormous coat, Chow Chow owners often assert that it’s one of the cleanest dog breeds. Their coats can either be smooth or rough. Chow Chows are double-coated. That means you need to engage in regular grooming to maintain their enormous coats. Try brushing coats thoroughly at least twice every week, and give baths once a month. After giving your Chow Chow a bath, make sure you dry their coat, preferably using an air dryer.

Matting is common in puppies or in adults with unmaintained coats — especially in the fur around their heads. To prevent the coat from getting matted, regular grooming is essential. Brush or comb your Chow Chow’s undercoat properly to remove all the mats that may have formed. Also, remember to check the coat and skin for ticks or fleas and get rid of them. Other parasites that may pose a threat include heartworms, and owners are advised to administer heartworm medication year-round.

Chow Chow grooming should also include ear, eye, tooth, and nail care. Inspect your dog’s ears regularly and clean them if necessary. Always make sure that the nails don’t become overgrown. Trim your Chow Chow’s nails regularly, and brush their teeth daily.


Chow Chows often do well with high-quality commercial dog food (both wet and dry). Be careful about giving your Chow treats, though, as these can also cause issues with the digestive tract. Also, try to avoid feeding your dog cooked bones or other human food that contains a lot of fat content. Make sure you learn which human food is harmful to your dog before giving them any. 

If you suspect there’s an issue with your Chow’s diet or weight, consider talking to your vet.


Chow Chows don’t have special physical exercise needs. While they can be quite alert and active, this breed of dog only needs moderate exercise and playtime daily. Consider taking your Chow on simple, casual walks about four or more times a day. Try to avoid vigorous, high-impact playtime and exercise activities.

Chow Chows don’t do well in humid or high-temperature environments. Because of this, avoid taking them out to exercise during the hot hours of the day. Taking them with you while you are going about your business is enough to keep your Chow happy and healthy. 


Chow Chows don’t trust people easily and may be a bit difficult to train. However, early training and socialization can help with that. 

Training a Chow may require some patience, positivity, and consistency. Above all, new trainers should stay consistent in their method of training. This breed of dogs can be a bit stubborn, but they have high intelligence levels.

Meanwhile, make sure that you avoid harsh training methods. This will help in establishing trust between you and your dog. Make sure to include positive reinforcement in training and practice.

Common health issues that are most likely to affect your Chow Chow in their lifetime include:

To avoid these conditions, make sure you conduct regular healthcare visits, screening for illnesses, and responsible breeding. Examples of health screening and check-ups you can do to detect health issues in your Chow Chow include:

Consider calling your vet if your Chow Chow:

  • Shows an increase or decrease in appetite or drinking
  • Has red gums, bad breath, broken teeth, or tartar (calcified deposits on teeth and gums)
  • Starts getting hair loss and itchy skin (you may see them scratching, licking, or chewing)
  • Is lethargic, excessively sleepy, or mentally dull
  • Starts getting aggressive, fearful, or displays other sudden changes in behavior
  • Experiences weight loss or weight gain
  • Gets a dull, dry, or flaky coat and starts becoming sluggish
  • Produces greasy feces
  • Gets lumps of any size on their body

It might be an emergency if:

  • They have tender ears and produce discharge from the ears.
  • They start scratching or shaking their head excessively.
  • They are unwilling to get up, play, run, jump, or use the stairs.
  • They have stiff legs.
  • They dry heave or sport a painful and enlarged abdomen.
  • You notice they get tired fast and may even cough or collapse.
  • You see any eye itching, redness, or cloudiness.

Here are everyday care tips for Chow Chows you can use:

  • Always keep an eye on your Chow as you would a child. Make sure you pick up after yourself and close or block off rooms that you don’t want your dog to get access to avoid trouble and accidents.
  • While grooming your dog, try not to forget their ears. Check their ears weekly, even when they are puppies.
  • If you live in a city or apartment, always take your dog out for short walks and play sessions. Chows adapt well to apartment life.
  • Know your Chow’s heat stress signs and avoid exposing them to strong sun or warm weather.
  • Avoid over-exercising or playing rough games with your Chow.
  • Always feed your Chow age-appropriate, high-quality dog food.

Pros of having a Chow Chow:

  • They show a lot of confidence and self-reliance.
  • They have an even temper and will adapt to many different types of settings.
  • They don’t bark a lot.
  • Chows are very protective, making them very good guard dogs.
  • They don’t have special exercise requirements.

Cons of having a Chow Chow:

  • Their strong sense of independence. They can be quite headstrong.
  • They are not easily trainable.
  • If not well-bred, they may develop an unstable temperament and start getting aggressive, hyperactive, and have excessive barking.
  • Due to their territorial behavior, Chows can be aggressive or suspicious of strangers and other dogs.
  • Chows don't do well in hot and humid environments.
  • You may need to supervise them when they are with younger children.

The history of Chow Chows goes back 2000 years to the time of the Han Dynasty in China. During those days, it was used as a guard dog and also as a food source for people in China. They were fed on grain foods and were prepared as food while still young. Their skin was also used to make clothing.

The Chow Chow was taken to Europe by traders and was also kept in zoos. The breed started to become popular when Queen Victoria of England got one as a pet. Since then, many more people started to keep them as pets.