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THE CHOW CHOW

     
     
     
           
  A Breed Apart  
  Character  
  Appearance  
  The Smooth Chow  
  The Chow Chow in South Africa  
  Grooming  
  Training  
  Attitude & Prejudice  
           
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A BREED APART

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The Chow Chow is a breed entirely of its own, evolved through many thousands of years and locked away in an impenetrable part of Asia. The Chow Chow does not share the same common ancestors as the domestic dog and according to very ancient chronicles was in possession of all its distinctive characteristics some 4000 years ago. It has changed little since, as can be seen from the pottery figures of the Han Period (150 BCC).

Brought into China by the non-Chinese Barbarian tribes of the North around the eleventh century BC, the Tartar dog was found “worthy of the use of man” and highly valued for hunting, herding and guarding/protection. Only a few decades ago the Chow was still being bred by Buddhist priests in isolated mountainous country, where it was considered sacred.

Yes, the Chow has a fascinating history and is one of the most captivating of breeds. Once having owned a Chow – or should I maybe say, having been owned by a Chow – one becomes totally hooked and realises what a special animal he is.

Keen intelligence, an independent spirit and innate dignity give the Chow an aura of aloofness. It is his nature to be reserved and discerning with strangers. There is still a great deal of prejudice and mistrust directed at the Chow Chow and it is up to us breeders and owners to prove that he has changed over the years. We breed our Chows very carefully and they are no longer vicious. It is the duty of every Chow owner to socialise the puppy from an early age and present them in the best possible light. We must stand together and show our Chows at Shows to prove what wonderful, social animals they really are. Of course, any dog will back away or be mistrusting of someone approaching him fearfully or uncertainly. The Chow is a very sensitive dog indeed.

           
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CHARACTER

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The Chow’s most characteristic traits are his blue/black tongue and gums, and short, stilted gait. He is an exceptionally clean, dignified animal totally loyal to his master and a wonderful companion to his human family, especially the children. He very seldom barks and can be kept in the suburbs with no fuss from neighbours. He does not require a huge garden and will thrive on love and attention and has been called the perfect gentleman. He can look after himself with a minimum of fuss and will not leap onto people or make a nuisance of himself. One of the most wonderful things about the Chow is that he is virtually house-trained from birth, even while in the whelping box. He takes great pride in himself and is a pleasure living in the house.

 
           
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APPEARANCE

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A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium size with strong muscular development and heavy bone. The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried close to the back, the whole supported by four straight, strong, sound legs.

Viewed from the side, the hind legs have little apparent angulation and the hock joint and metatarsals are directly beneath the hip joint. It is this structure which produces the characteristic short, stilted gait unique to the breed.

The large head with broad, flat skull and short, broad and deep muzzle is proudly carried and accentuated by a ruff. Elegance and substance must be combined into a well balanced whole, never so massive as to out-weigh his ability to be active, alert and agile. Clothed in a smooth or an off-standing rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness, unique in his blue/black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.

           
  COLOUR  
 

Clear coated, solid or solid with lighter shadings in the ruff, tail and featherings. There are five colours in the Chow: red (light golden to deep mahogany), black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon), and cream.

 
           
  DISQUALIFICATIONS IN THE SHOW RING (and usually for breeding)  
 

Nose spotted or distinctly other colour than black, except in blue Chows which may have solid blue or slate noses.

The top surface or edges of the tongue red or pink or with one or some spots of red or pink.

Drop ear or ears. A drop ear is one which breaks at any point from its base to its tip or which is not stiffly erect but lies parallel to the top of the skull.

 
           
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THE SMOOTH CHOW

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The smooth Chow Chow is judged by the same standard as the rough variety with the exception of coat length. The Smooth has the same woolly undercoat, harsh texture and dense outer coat as the rough variety, but the Smooth’s outer coat is short and sleek. There is no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs and tail.

Those having owned a Smooth say he is a distinct variety of the breed with the sweetest temperament and disposition. They are very intelligent, determined, loving and easily spoilt.

If grooming of the rough variety puts you off but you still love the breed, you might think of opting for a smooth. And, after all, some believe that the Smooths are the original Chow Chow of China.

           
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THE CHOW CHOW IN SOUTH AFRICA

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The first Chow in South Africa was “Golden Boy”, won in a raffle by Mr Barney Rogoff in 1942. “Golden Boy” sired “Bogum Chang of Ningpo” who later became the world record holder of all breeds, insofar as the amount of first prizes he won.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Mr Rogoff and people such as Mrs Schoeman, the Nobles, Miss Hammer-Brown, Mr Summerton and later the Rorkes, Prof. Booysen and Mr GP van Niekerk for putting the Chows on the map.

Some really outstanding imports both from England and the United States were brought into the country to become the corner-stone upon which our Chows were built.

We have some really outstanding Chows at the moment and it is indeed a pleasure for us all to see the breed growing in popularity. Those in the show ring are the fruits of many years of hard work and speak well for the future of our wonderful breed.

   
   
           
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GROOMING

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Many would-be Chow owners are put off by the amount of work they believe grooming the Chow Chow entails. If you dislike working with hair, the Chow Chow is not for you. However, despite what it may look like, grooming the Chow is not as much hard work as it seems.

I find that a ten minute brushing session a day with a one hour session a week is more than adequate to keep your Chow shining and in his best health. Unless a show dog, he does not require regular bathing and the brushing routine will keep him looking at his best. The Chow does shed his coat when changing from puppy to adult coat and then once a year, but this does not present much of a problem, if the coat is brushed regularly to facilitate quick growth of the new coat.

The Chow does not require special food but we do add oils for their coat and skin. He is not an expensive dog to own and care for and as mentioned above, his coat is harsh and off-standing and requires only a few minutes grooming and brushing ever second day.

If for some reason, bathing your Chow is not possible, I have found the following method to be very effective. Spray your Chow’s coat thoroughly with distilled water or rainwater, work a generous amount of baby powder into the coat to dry it and then brush out carefully. You will be surprised just how beautifully shining his coat will turn out.

As I have mentioned before, the Chow is a very proud canine and is not happy when he is not looking his best. Much like a cat, he will lick himself clean, where possible. You will notice the Chow does not have the usual “doggy smell” at all, but rather a sweet smell and one that is much associated with a bear. His paws, too, are round and cat-like, making him rather special. We feel, it is this smell that often puts other dogs off the Chow. However, if you do wish to keep another breed of dog as well, it is best to let them grow up together. As a rule though, the Chow gets along better with his own kind.

           
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TRAINING THE CHOW CHOW

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Training the Chow is certainly a challenge. There are two areas that are different form other breeds. First, is just plain physical strength, backed up by a thick coat and a natural high resistance to correction. Second is a strong drive for top dog status. Do not confuse a nice disposition to be equal with dominance drives. A dog can be very sweet and very dominant all at the same time.

The training process varies because the typical push-pull method generally will not work with this breed. Many of the softer breeds will be extremely tolerant. Not only will they let you train them by jerking their bodies to the ground when you say down, but will actually lick your face after you are through abuse training them. Not so with the Chow, and good for him. This breed is not such a forgiving animal. This method not only teaches him to fight you, but to ignore you as well. And he is just the dog to make us eat a little humble pie in the process.

While training in a positive attitude is a crucial part of training with any breed, working with the Chow and his unforgiving nature makes it imperative. Attitude begets attention. Attention must be conditioned into the dog as all training is done by making it a part of training. If you first involve the dog and become something worth paying attention to, the first step of workout is accomplished. Training must be game like. For obedience training, patience and confidence are the key words. It is your job to get the dog into the proper frame of mind. To say, “he won’t”, is to say you’re not doing your job. Because you have taught him to enjoy training, he will be quick to learn success is fun, failure is not.

           
  OBEDIENCE CHOWS IN THE USA  
 

There are many Obedience Chows in the United States who have successfully completed all courses, and I believe this is an exiting and challenging area for us to explore here too. The Chow is highly intelligent and with the correct attitude of both handler and dog, he can accomplish everything other obedience breeds are capable of.

 
           
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ATTITUDE & REINFORCEMENT OF PREJUDICE

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Fear, hatred, and misunderstanding and amazement are the feelings that greet the owner of the Chow Chow. This happens regardless of the environment. In the street, in the breed competition, in the obedience ring, at the vet. “Is he okay?”, “Does it bite?”, “I’ve been bitten by a Chow before …”, “He can’t be trusted”.

What does all this mean? It is a story of bigotry and prejudice directed towards our lovely, innocent Chow Chows, strengthened by misunderstanding and attitude. By not addressing rumours and vicious gossip about our breed, we will be strengthening these myths and assist in sustaining the already negative feelings towards the Chow Chow – beautiful but not to be touched, trusted or trained.

We all know that any breed of dog can be provoked to bite or react when least expected, but there is usually a reason. Any dog aroached incorrectly might surprise one. I have seen at least two top Show Dogs and Best in Show winners react in exactly the manner expected of the Chow. Any dog, if handled fearfully or unkindly, might hang it’s tail in confusion.

We have found the Chow to be totally loving with its immediate family and especially children. They are not known to bite, though they are discerning but tolerant with strangers. The carefully bred Chows of today are really loving and kind. However, some Chows share it with a pleasured few and some share it with all.

           
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Written by Cheryl-Ann Hurley.

This article was first published in the magazine: "Heads & Tails", January 1990.
An addendum appeared in "Heads & Tails" in March 1990.

 
           
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