Chow Chow, puffy-lion dog

Chow Chow is a dog breeds that was first developed in Mongolia about 4,000 years ago and was later introduced into China, where it is referred to as Songshi Quan which literally means "puffy-lion dog".

The Chow is thought to be one of the oldest recognizable dog breeds, and recent DNA analysis confirms that it is one of the oldest breeds of dog. Research indicates it is one of the first primitive breeds to evolve from the wolf, and is thought to have originated in the arid steppes of northern China/Mongolia. A Chinese bas-relief from 150 BC shows a hunting dog similar in appearance to the Chow. Later, Chow Chows were bred as general-purpose working dogs for herding, hunting, pulling and guarding.

In the United States, the Chow Chow was a highly popular pet among the rich and famous during the Roaring Twenties. President Calvin Coolidge and his wife owned a black Chow named Timmy. Chow Chows were also popular in the 1930s and 1980s.

Chow Chow Appearance

The Chow is a sturdily built dog that is square in profile with broad skull and small, triangular, erect ears that are rounded at the tip. The breed has a very dense double coat that is either smooth or rough. The fur is particularly thick around the neck, giving the distinctive ruff or mane appearance. The coat may be one of five colors including red, black, blue, cinnamon/fawn, and cream.

Their eyes should be deep set and almond in shape. Chows are distinguished by their unusual blue-black/purple tongue and very straight hind legs, resulting in a rather stilted gait. The bluish color extends to the Chow's lips, which is the only dog breed with this distinctive bluish appearance in its lips and oral cavity (other dogs have black or a piebald pattern skin in their mouths). One other distinctive feature is their curly tail. It has thick hair and lays curled on its back. Their nose should be black (except the blue which can have a solid blue or slate colored nose). Any other tone is disqualification for showing in the United States under AKC breed standard. However, FCI countries do allow for a self-colored nose in the cream.

The blue-black/purple tongue gene appears to be dominant, as almost all mixed breed dogs that come from a Chow retain the tongue color. This is not to say, however, that every mixed breed dog with spots of purple on the tongue is descended from chows as purple spots on the tongue can be found on a multitude of pure breed dogs.

Chow Chow Temperament

The Chow Chow is most commonly kept as a pet. Its keen sense of proprietorship over its home, paired with a sometimes disconcertingly serious approach to strangers, can be off-putting to those unfamiliar with the breed. However, displays of timidity and aggression are uncharacteristic of well-bred and well-socialized specimens. The Chow is extremely loyal to its own family and will bond tightly to its master. The Chow typically shows affection only with those it has bonds to, so new visitors to the home should not press their physical attention upon the resident Chow as it will not immediately accept strangers in the same manner as it does members of its own pack. Inexperienced dog owners should beware of how Chow Chows encounter those it perceives as strangers; their notoriety is so established that many homeowner's insurance companies will not cover dogs from this breed. Males and females typically co-habitate with less tension than those of the same sex, but it is not unheard of for multiple chows of both sexes to live together peacefully in a home setting.

Chows are not a particularly active breed. Apartment life can suit them, if they are given enough opportunity for regularly-scheduled physical activity each day. The Chow Chow may appear to be independent and aloof for much of the day, keeping a comfortable distance from others while staying within earshot, or preferring to watch for strangers alone by the entrance. Owners still need to be prepared to take a Chow Chow for a brisk daily walk, even if they have a fenced yard, in order to meet the dog's needs for mental and physical stimulation. While the Chow exhibits low energy for most of the day, it will crave routine time to explore and play to maintain a happy and content disposition. They rank 76th in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs, being of the lowest degree of working/obedience intelligence. However, most Chow owners believe this is because the Chow has a different type of intelligence than that found in most dogs. Many Chows excel with positive reinforcement methods of training, particularly "Clicker Training", as the Chow is a natural problem solver and gets bored with endless, repetitive tasks. Unless the Chow is kept engaged, boredom sets in and the Chow will simply walk away or refuse to engage.

Chow Chow Health

The Chow Chow is the dog breed most affected by elbow dysplasia. It is also prone to hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (slipping knee caps), thyroid disease, pemphigus foliaceus and ocular disorders such as entropion and ectropion. The risk of such disorders increases exponentially when a Chow is purchased from backyard breeders, pet stores and unscrupulous kennels that do not test their breeding stock for such genetic disorders. Thus, a potential Chow buyer should ask to see all health clearances for the parents of a litter up front. In the United States, these would be clearances from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation and Orthopedic Foundation for Animals; other countries will have other health testing schemes, and contacting the national canine registry association will provide that information. Reputable kennels should provide the new owner with a written and signed health warranty as well. Although there is no way to accurately predict the lifespan of an animal, one should expect the healthy Chow to live between 10 to 15 years.

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