It's considered a compliment when a cat is described as "dog-like." The opposite holds true for canines displaying feline traits, but certain aspects of the chow chow's personality are more akin to cats. These include independence and lack of a great desire to please their human, but also exceptional cleanliness. That doesn't mean the chow chow can't make a fine pet for the right person, but prospective owners should take behavioral traits into consideration.
Not a Teddy Bear
In his native China, the chow served as a working, herding, hunting and guard dog. Today, the modern chow primarily retains that latter instinct. He's a smart dog and very territorial. Although he looks like a cuddly character, that appearance is deceiving. Innately dignified, he's known for his "regal" quality. If you share your life with a chow, don't expect a lot of cuddling. He's not a frivolous dog.
The Importance of Socialization
All canines require healthy amounts of socialization in puppyhood, but it's especially important for the chow. He's not the friendliest dog by nature -- the breed has a reputation for aggression, although that doesn't have to end up as a self-fulfilling prophecy. Expose your chow to different situations and people, praising him for good behavior and gently correcting him if he misbehaves. Chows don't respond to harsh correction. That invites aggressive tendencies. A chow can make a good family dog in the right situation, although he's generally not suitable for very young children. For older kids who understand the correct approach in dealing with dogs, he makes a fine friend.
Chows are natural watchdogs. You'll always know if someone's approaching your home with a chow in residence. While chows effectively sound the alarm, they aren't good with strangers. That category includes anyone who isn't a family member. The Chow Chow Club of America advises that a family member should introduce the dog to any new person, and that a chow is "usually amenable" to touching by this individual if "approached properly."
Chows aren't the most active of breeds -- another cat-like quality. That makes them good choices for city and apartment living. While they're contented canine couch potatos, that doesn't mean you can't participate in certain doggy sports with your chow. The CCCA website states that some chows have competed successfully in obedience, with a few earning advanced titles. However, if you're looking for a long-distance hiking or jogging partner or truly athletic companion, this is probably not the breed for you.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.