The Chow 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.
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.
Chow 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.
Although the Chow Chow is usually docile and well-mannered, he can also be strong-willed and protective. The breed is independent, bossy, and serious in nature. They are persistent to the point of being obstinate. They are loyal to their family, and they are often a one-person dog. They can be aggressive towards strangers they do not like, and they may act reserved in the company of people. They require an owner that is dominant- one who can administer firm and fair training. With proper training and socialization from an early age, the vast majority of Chow Chows grow up quite well. They are intelligent and are capable of learning, but they have to understand the purpose and reason for a command in order to do it. Consistency plays a key role in determining the temperament of this breed. While much success has been achieved, breeders are still working very hard to breed a Chow Chow with a loving, family-oriented temperament.
The Chow Chow’s long, thick coat needs regular brushing. They are heavy shedders during season, and extra care should be given to this breed’s coat during this time. The Chow Chow should be shampooed only as necessary.
We had three chows when I was a child and they are definitely not family dogs (my dad had them before he met my mum). They were all bonded to my dad but didn't really show any interest in the rest of us, and were aloof with anyone else. They didn't get on well with other dogs (always walked on a lead), and we always kept them away from other children - they weren't aggressive, but they certainly weren't happy with interaction with other children. They didn't play and they preferred to be alone than with any company. They are fantastic guard dogs though! They successfully stopped a burglary by barking so loudly they woke the whole street up.
I don't know if we were just lucky but I know my dad took his time to select a fab breeder (over 30 years ago now) and fortunately our 3 never had any major health issues. They lived to 12, 15 and 10 years respectively.
I love chows dearly, but I'd personally never get one myself now (said with a cocker spaniel sat next to me!)
Slightly different experience from everyone else's, my IL's have one they got it for their DD's when they were about 9 years old.
I've met the chow chow and he's like a large teddy bear, he wouldn't hurt a fly, and loves having his back scratched, comes and leans on you and then howls when you stop. He is very loud and badly when anyone approaches the house but then runs away when you go up to him (he's a big coward, the cats chase him around the house).
He is very stubborn and wilful and FIL's wife needs to use an electric collar when she takes him for a walk otherwise he ends up walking her, but she's tiny, DP can walk him no problem, he refuses to listen to FIL tho.
He's adorable and I've never felt scared of him.
A bit worried now I've read everyones posts here tho as I'll be taking our baby down to them when she arrives. Hope it doesn't upset the dog.
I've had prolonged exposure to one purebred Chow and one Border Collie/Chow cross.
The BC cross looked and acted like a Chow through and through--"mean", not affectionate, standoffish, stubborn, but very close with her owner. She was not a dog I felt comfortable petting or really spending any time with.
The purebred Chow is active in Barn Hunt and is working towards an obedience title. He is "not motivated by anything" and is hard to train because of it. He loves his owner very much, and enjoys the company of other dogs. He is relatively friendly with strangers; not eager to say hello, but not threatening. I only ever see him when he is excited to be at Barn Hunt, so he is alert and somewhat engaged. His owner says that he acts the way he acts because she has been working very hard with getting him used to meeting new people and being with other dogs and being excited to "work" (ie do barnhunt and obedience). She's had Chows for 21 years and said he is the first to be fairly sociable and somewhat trainable, and is an exception, not the norm. She says they are a rather aloof breed, but are loving pets. Our Barn Hunt instructor has said that he is the only Chow that wouldn't send her running when he barks! "If any other Chow barked at me, it's over. I'm getting out of there."
I think if you make a huge effort to socialize the dog, and seek a dog from a reputable breeder that matches you to the right dog, you will reduce the chances of getting a human or dog aggressive Chow. However, if you are looking for a dog that will seek out the attention of strangers and is interested in doing what you want the dog to do, you're probably looking at the wrong breed.
My neighbors had a ChowChow for many years. She wasn't affectionate or interested in anything besides her owners. She was however very well socialized so I was able to pet her and occasionally our Scottie mix and her would play when my dad and her owner were talking.
I've worked with a few in the grooming salon, and temperament-wise they've all been very similar. Standoffish to anyone who is not their owner. It's not a bad trait, but they are not dogs you'll likely be able to take to PetSmart and let people pet and dawn on them like you could with a Labrador.
If you are seriously interested I'd talk to some breeders! Mention what you've researched and ask their opinions.
My aunt has a Chow mix. He looks like a pure Chow, only smaller. He also has a wonderful personality. He's very friendly. She's had purebred Chows in the past and says that he is very unChowlike. She had trouble with one purebred in particular that bit a child. It was very mean.
I've only had experience with a friends Chow years ago so I don't take this one dog as an example of an entire breed. That being said... He was standoffish and had no interest in strangers. He growled the first time I attempted to pet him so that was the end of that.
I had a Chow/Pitt mix for 12.5 years. She was very headstrong and devious, but the friendliest dog you'll ever meet. Everyone else in the world thought she was the best dog ever. We thought she was an unholy terror, but man she had a personality!
I wouldn't recommend a Chow for a first time owner, however they can be absolutely wonderful pets for someone with experience. They are very much "one family" pets, meaning that they can be incredibly sweet and playful and friendly within the family, but disinterested in strangers. They are by no means "mean" in my opinion - they just have a certain personality that appeals to certain people, the same way that some people are drawn to obstinate Huskies or weirdo Basenjis.