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Chow Chows: What's Good About 'Em, What's Bad About 'Em

Chow Chow temperament, personality, training, behavior, pros and cons, advice, and information, by Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Behavioral Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Chow Chow dog breed

This dignified, serious dog with the lion-like ruff and scowling expression is a true introvert. Chow Chows must be accustomed to people at an early age so that their territorial instincts are properly discriminatory.

The Chow is quiet and mannerly in the home, naturally clean and easy to housebreak. He makes an impressive companion if you're the kind of owner who can admire his independent character while still enforcing household rules so that he respects you. This can be a challenge, as this breed is dominant and obstinate – definitely not the choice for a first-time dog owner.

With his bulky build and his unnatural stilted gait, he is not built to be a jogging or biking companion. Daily walks will do. However, there are two coat varieties, and the Smooth-coated Chow is often more active than his Rough-coated brother. Could just be because the less-heavy coat is easier to run around in!

Though he usually minds his own business unless provoked, Chows can be aggressive with other dogs of the same sex. Some have strong hunting instincts and can be predatory with cats and tiny dogs.

Obedience training this breed is not easy. Chows cannot be forced to do anything – they will either "shut down" or retaliate if you jerk them around with a choke collar. Better to use a dog training method that earns your Chow's respect and emphasizes praise and occasional food rewards.

If you want a dog who...

  • Is medium-sized, very stocky and furry, resembling a small round bear
  • Stands firmly on the ground with a calm, confident, dignified stature
  • Makes a formidable watchdog
  • Is naturally clean and easy to housebreak
  • Is quiet and mannerly in the home
  • Needs only moderate exercise

A Chow Chow may be right for you.

If you don't want to deal with...

  • Excessive suspiciousness or outright aggression in some lines, or when not socialized properly
  • Aggression toward other animals
  • Strong-willed mind of his own and a tendency to retaliate if pushed too far, requiring an experienced, confident owner who can take charge without using force
  • Regular brushing and combing (Rough variety)
  • Heavy shedding (both varieties)
  • Serious health problems
  • Legal liabilities (public perception, future breed bans, insurance problems, increased chance of lawsuits)

A Chow Chow may not be right for you.

Keep in mind that the inheritance of temperament is less predictable than the inheritance of physical traits such as size or shedding. Temperament and behavior are also shaped by raising and training.

  • You can avoid some negative traits by choosing an ADULT dog from an animal shelter or rescue group. With an adult dog, you can easily see what you're getting, and plenty of adult Chows have already proven themselves not to have negative characteristics.
  • If you want a puppy, you can avoid some negative traits by choosing the right breeder and the right puppy. Unfortunately, you usually can't tell whether a puppy has inherited temperament or health problems until he grows up.
  • Finally, you can avoid some negative traits by training your Chow Chow to respect you and by following the 11-step care program in my book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy.

More traits and characteristics of the Chow Chow

If I was considering a Chow, I would be most concerned about...

  1. The complicated temperament. Far too many people acquire an adorable Chow puppy without understanding that the little round puff-ball will grow into an adult dog who acts nothing like the Golden Retrievers and Beagles they're used to living with.

    Chow Chows have a complex temperament and an independent mind of their own. Most individuals are willful and dominant (they want to be the boss) and will make you prove that you can make them do things. You must show them, through absolute consistency, that you mean what you say. Read more on Chow Chow Training.

    This is not a breed for a first-time dog owner nor for a home with young children.

  2. Potential antisocial behavior. When I worked in a grooming kennel, there was only one breed the owner would not accept for grooming. She had simply had too many bad experiences with them. Since I'm telling this story on the Chow Chow page, you can probably guess the breed.

    The problem is that many Chows distrust strangers and many Chows are resistant to being told what to do. Put those together and you can see that Chows might not like being hoisted onto a grooming table and told to stand still by someone they don't know.

    You need to do a great deal of socialization with this breed. Lots of exposure to friendly people. Lots of firmness on your part that your Chow Chow must act politely at all times. He doesn't have to like it, but he has to do it. Socialization is a great responsibility for Chow owners.

  3. Potential animal aggression. With their fighting and hunting background, many Chow Chows are dominant or aggressive toward other dogs, especially those of the same sex. Many Chows have strong instincts to chase and seize cats and other fleeing creatures.
  4. Heavy shedding. Chow Chows shed a LOT.... all over your clothing and furnishings.
  5. Grooming. Chows come in a Smooth coat (which isn't really "smooth" but short and thick) and the more common Rough coat (still thick, with longer hairs standing well off the body, plus feathering on the legs). The Smooth coat requires regular brushing to keep the shedding hairs under control. The Rough coat requires frequent brushing to control both the shedding and matting.
  6. Potential health problems. From hip disease to eye disease to allergies and skin conditions, Chow Chows have more than their share of health issues. Read more on Chow Chow Health.
  7. Potential legal liabilities. Chow Chows may be targeted for "banning" in certain areas, or refusal of homeowner insurance policies. And be aware that in this day and age, people are quick to sue if your dog does anything even remotely questionable.

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.

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