Chow Chows

12 October 2022 - 4 min read
Golden Chow Chow sitting

Vital stats

  • Breed type: Working
  • Size: 40 - 55 cm
  • Weight: 18 - 32 kg
  • Lifespan: 12 - 15 years


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  • Intelligence

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  • Trainability

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  • Exercise needs

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  • Good with kids

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  • Levels of shedding

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  • Good for new owners

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  • Overall health of breed

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Chow chows: a brief history

With its teddy-bear like features and distinctive blue and black tongue, the Chow Chow is instantly recognisable.

Fiercely loyal and protective towards their owners, they have a long and ancient history dating back over 2,000 years to Northern China.

Chow Chows are categorised as a utility breed, which includes a variety of dogs who were originally bred for specific working roles.

In China they were used to protect properties and monasteries, as well as hunting and herding. One Chinese emperor was said to have kept 2,500 pairs of Chows as hunting dogs.

The Chow Chow first reached Europe in the 1700s and by the end of the 19th Century had started to grow in popularity.

In 1865 London Zoo started showcasing several Chow Chows to the public as wild dogs. During this year, Queen Victoria was gifted some Chow Chows. These gift dogs were kept in a cage in Windsor.

Chow Chow

Chow Chow temperament and characteristics

Despite their cuddly appearance, the Chow Chow is not a lovey-dovey affectionate type of dog.

They have a reputation for being aloof and stubborn. They’re not the most social of breeds when it comes to interacting with people and other animals. But they are highly devoted and protective of their families and tend to form a particular close bond with one individual over others.

For them to be good family pets, they do need lots of early socialisation and good training and this includes exposure to children. Because of their temperament, they’re better suited to families with older children who can be taught how to behave appropriately around them.

They’re not the easiest of breeds to train. They have an independent and stubborn personality streak which inexperienced dog owners may find a challenge. They need lots of positive reinforcement and are unlikely to respond to being told off.

Their temperamental and aloof nature can sometimes mean they’re distrustful of strangers so taking them to the vets or the groomers for the first time might be an issue. They generally need more training and socialisation to feel comfortable around other dogs, animals, and people.

Their calm and quiet nature means they don’t demand as much affection and attention as some breeds but they shouldn’t be left alone for too long.

Like all dogs, they need to be exercised but they’re not an overly active breed. The amount of exercise needed is less than some breeds – one hour of exercise each day is more than enough. This makes them well suited to dog owners who prefer a less active lifestyle.

The Chow Chow might not be the right pet for everyone, but for the right family, they can make excellent companions.

Chow Chow types and colours

Chow Chows come in a variety of colours that include:

  • Red (light gold to deep red-brown)

  • Cinnamon (light tan to brown)

  • Black

  • Cream

  • Blue

Grooming a Chow Chow dog

In comparison to other breeds, grooming for Chows is far more high-maintenance.

They’re known for their dense double coat that can be either rough or smooth. The rough coat has a thick coarse outer coat, while the undercoat is woolly and softer. Chow Chows with smoother coats have shorter hair which is easier to maintain.

Depending on the coat, it will need brushing at least three to four times a week and some cases every day to stop it becoming tangled and matted. They also need to be bathed on a regular basis.

They’re a heavy shedding breed especially during spring and autumn, so owners should be prepared for lots of cleaning up around the home.

During hotter summer months, their heavy coats can lead to overheating if not provided with enough shade and water. When going out for walks, cooler mornings and evenings are highly recommended.

A person high fiving a dog

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A person high fiving a dog

Pet insurance for Chow Chows

In 2021, the average cost to insure a Chow Chow with us was £986.11. Our average dog insurance cost for all our breeds was £474.77, so Chow Chows cost well over double the average.

It’s partly because it's more expensive to insure large dog breeds like Chow Chows than smaller ones. Larger dogs can be prone to certain genetic conditions due to their size and weight and this increases insurance costs. It’s also more expensive treating medical conditions for large dog breeds and this affects the price.

Chow Chows are also quite rare, which can push up insurance costs. We only insured 346 of them in 2021 – but we covered more than 17,000 Labradors, for example.

You can reduce the price of insurance by choosing policies that offer multi-pet discounts. This can help people who want insurance for more than one pet.

You can also choose to pay a higher excess that reduces the cost of insurance but it does mean having to pay more yourself if you have to make a claim.

Chow Chow health conditions

Chow Chows are susceptible to Entropion. This affects the eyelids, causing a deformity. The eyelids get turned inwards which leads to the eyelashes continually rubbing on the surface of the eye. This causes discomfort, pain and irritation for those dogs affected.

In 2021 we paid out 85 claims for Entropion at an average cost of £914.36 each. It was the second most common pet insurance claim for Chow Chows. Most dogs that suffer from this condition need surgery to correct their eyelids.

Another condition that affects Chow Chows more frequently than some other breeds is elbow and hip dysplasia. Elbow dysplasia is the main cause of front leg or forelimb lameness. The condition occurs when one or both elbows develop abnormally while a puppy is still growing.

Lameness was the most common condition in Chow Chows and we also paid 21 elbow dysplasia claims for Chow Chows in 2021 at an average cost of £570.19. If surgery's needed, the cost is likely to be much higher.

Black Chow Chow

Frequently asked questions about Chow Chowss

Are Chow Chows dangerous?

Chow Chows can be wary of strangers and are protective of their owners and their home. It’s important to remember they are natural guard dogs.

They’re not a breed you should allow strangers to stroke or pet. They need to be respected otherwise they may become aggressive and bite.

Because of their aloof and stubborn temperament, good training and socialisation as puppies is important.

Why do Chow Chows have black tongues?

The Chow Chow’s tongue colouring sets it apart from almost every other dog breed. They are actually born with pink tongues that turn blue when they reach two months of age.

Depending on the dog, the tongue can appear in black, blue, purple or greyish. The reason behind the colouring is due to the high level of pigment cells in the tongue. The cells are similar to the type of cells that determine the colour of human skin.

How many puppies do Chow Chows have?

The average size of a Chow Chow litter ranges from four to six puppies.