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A Guide to the Chow Chow, the Fluffy Lion Dog
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A Guide to the Chow Chow, the Fluffy Lion Dog

Jack, Critter Culture Staff
Updated Sep 4, 2020

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From their regal attitudes to their distinctive mane, chow chows are one of the most fascinating dog breeds around. The chow chow is an ancient breed that is now a common companion for many households. Despite their popularity, these aloof hounds aren't for everyone. Known for a stubborn streak, they make loyal companions for people who appreciate their strong personalities.

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Chows at a glance

Chow-chow dog milanws / Getty Images

Chow chows are medium-sized dogs that can grow to a height of 17 to 22 inches at the shoulder, weighing from 45 to 75 pounds. They are proud-looking dogs with the attitude to match. In profile, the puffy pooch stands out thanks to its compact body and straight rear legs, which give the dog its trademark, stilted gait. The chow's most notable features are its blue-black tongue and dense coat. A chow's fur can be smooth and creased, or rough and abundant with a lion-like mane of hair in black, blue, cinnamon, cream, or red.

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Chow-Chows need consistent, hands-on training

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Despite its reputation for stubbornness, the chow chow is an intelligent breed and quite responsive to training. They are very easily housebroken with crate training, and only require a verbal correction to learn a command; negative reinforcement won't get you very far with these proud creatures. To earn a chow's trust, stick with consistent training and praise, and start early. Take heed, novice owners: establish yourself as the alpha in the household right away, as these dogs can otherwise become quite assertive. These strong-willed dogs need equally strong-willed owners.

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Your Chow-Chow will be fiercely loyal and protective of their family

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Chows bond deeply with their favorite humans and are very protective of them, earning the stocky dog a usually inaccurate reputation of being aggressive and dangerous. While they are not usually aggressive, your Chow chow should be socialized with strangers and other dogs when they're young so they become comfortable around others. A properly trained chow is not a threat to his family or strangers.

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The lion-dog's nutritional needs

Dog Chow-Chow laid down and drinking water. Marcelo-Kaneshira / Getty Images

The breed can be susceptible to food allergies, so opt for high-quality, low-grain dog foods, and limit table scraps. Monitor your pooch's weight, and decrease food portions if their waistline disappears. As long as their nutritional needs are met with a healthy lifestyle, you can enjoy your best friend's companionship for 12 to 15 years.

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Chows don't need much to be happy

Chow-chow dog on winter mountain Petrichuk / Getty Images

Despite their regal nature, chows are quite adaptable. This independent breed doesn't require constant attention, making them a possible match for apartment dwellers and owners who have to leave home every day. Just don't leave chows alone for too long, or else they could become cranky. Also, be mindful of the outside environment when considering your chow's comfort. While the breed thrives in the cold, they are prone to heatstroke. Make sure your companion can find a cool spot to hide in during the summer months.

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6

Make friends with your local groomer

Canine hairdresser in a beauty clinic with Chow Chow fotoedu / Getty Images

A chow chow wouldn't be a chow chow without its signature dense double coat. Whether their fur is smooth or rough, your canine requires brushing two or three times per week to maintain hair and skin health. Chows also shed seasonally twice a year, making it unnecessary to shave its fur during the hot summer. In fact, removing the dog's coat could strip it of its natural protection. Consult your local groomer for tips or product recommendations to keep your pup looking fresh.

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Moderate workouts only, please

white chowchow Nermin Tanyaş / Getty Images

Chows aren't particularly active, but they need to exercise every day to maintain their overall health and manage their weight. While they aren't the best dogs for jogging, they enjoy low-impact workouts and bonding with their owners through activities. Walk or play with your pooch for at least 30 minutes a day, making sure not to go outside during the hottest part of the afternoon in warmer seasons. Without exercise, chows can become cranky or lethargic.

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A dog breed for cat people

Chow chow dog Ivan Marjanovic / Getty Images

Chows don't like being fussed over, nor are they enthusiastic cuddlers, so households with small children may not always be a perfect match. They're better suited for owners who prefer the chow's quiet companionship. The breed is noted for its feline tendencies, including an aloofness with strangers and its desire to stay clean. Chows are also homebodies and less prone to wandering away from home. They're happiest when they live indoors with their people, not outside or in a kennel.

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Chow health issues worth considering

Veterinary placing a few drops of eye drops dog Chow Chow fotoedu / Getty Images

Every breed of dog has health concerns, and chows are no exception. Canine hip dysplasia, a condition where the thigh bone doesn't fit completely into its socket, is a hereditary condition among the breed. Entropion is another condition in which the eyelids grow inward, irritating the eyes, and possibly causing blindness. Responsible breeding can ensure these conditions aren't passed on to future litters. Make sure your puppy is from a legitimate breeder who can provide certification papers.

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Chow's were once an ancient emperor's best friend

chow lying on the street on the background chinese characters katoosha / Getty Images

The chow chow is one of the oldest dog breeds. Originally from Northern China, the chow can trace its roots back more than 2,000 years to the Han Dynasty. The "Songshi Quan," which translates to "Puffy-Lion Dog," was a loyal companion to Chinese nobles, quietly wandering Imperial palaces like a king. Over the centuries, the breed earned its keep by guarding, hunting, and pulling sleds.

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