Their appearance is often referred to as that of a lion or a bear, and it’s hard to beat the cute cuddliness of a chow chow puppy or the regal looks of an adult. However, a chow chow is more than just a handsome face. When it comes to guarding your home, he has the heart of a lion -- or a bear.
Chow chows originated in China. Their likeness is found in Chinese pottery and sculptures dating back to approximately 200 B.C. Genetically their exact heritage is uncertain. The most common theory is they're the byproduct of cross-breeding Samoyeds and Tibetan mastiffs. They were bred as guard dogs and for hunting. They were also used as food, and their dense fur provided clothing. They're named after the cargo holds of Chinese merchant ships known as chow chows, and they became popular in England during the 1800s when Queen Victoria took an interest in them.
Cute, But Not Always Cuddly
Chows are extremely loyal and often bond to one member of a household. They’re also extremely protective and make excellent guard dogs. If they're raised with children or other pets, they’re typically tolerant of them. If not, then an owner should be cautious if another animal or child approaches. Although they have the teddy bear appearance a person wants to hug, chows are picky about their affection. They have very independent personalities, and they require an owner with a strong and consistent approach when it comes to training and socialization.
Exceptions to the Rule
Careless breeding has caused temperament issues in certain lines of chow chows, giving them an aggressive reputation. Although chows will fiercely defend territory or loved ones, they can also be loving and gentle members of a household as well as an excellent companion. Typically, they’re not overly energetic or destructive, and they often do well in apartments. As with any dog, they require regular exercise, early training and positive attention. If you're considering a chow, make sure he comes from a reputable breeder who exposed the puppies to early sights, sounds and people.
Although famous for their black tongues, chows have several other distinguishing characteristics that can become a medical issue. Their straight back legs make them prone to hip or knee problems as they age. Their eyes are small and deep-set, and Entropion -- a turning inward of the eyelid -- is common with this breed. This causes the lashes to rub against the cornea, often causing ulcerations. A chow’s thick fur can also be problematic, especially during high shedding seasons. If the undercoat is not brushed regularly, it will become matted.
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