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Norwich Bulletin - 10/17/2004

The Teddy Bear Chow

The Chow Chow has been in existence for over 2.000 years, making it one of the world's oldest breeds of dogs. History says they were used in China as war dogs during the 11th century, BC. They were also used to hunt tigers and bears and were prized for their hunting prowess!

They were ferocious guard dogs bred to protect their humans and/or the flocks, on junks and sampans or caravans, the Chow has a distinct personality that is not for everyone. While some find this breed of dog an absolute joy, others find the Chow a challenge they are unable to manage.

It is not uncommon to see adult Chows with temperaments that are sometimes difficult to manage. A Chow puppy may appear to be a lovable little teddy bear, easy going and very accepting of everyone it meets. However, that same puppy at eight months old, may begin to exhibit a less than desirable adult personality.

Food or toy aggression, irritable aggression, or territorial problems may arise if the pup has not been properly trained and socialized while it was younger. Unwanted guarding behavior can also appear and it has to be recognized that these behaviors were deliberately bred to produce a hunting and guarding dog for thousands of years and are an intricate part of the Chow's personality.

The Chow is a powerful, sturdy, Arctic type of dog, medium in size with heavy boning and very strong. The Chow is well balanced and elegant and a perfect size, neither too large or too small. The tail is carried closely to the back, his rough double coat requires grooming and has the distinct characteristic of having a blue/black tongue.

The Chow is accepted in five colors, red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream. They are a handsome dog that makes you step back and admire the whole picture. They also tend to get a bad rap because too many people purchase this breed without first understanding the nature of the beast, and tend to fail in the training department.

For instance, puppy kindergarten is an absolute must if you are going to own a Chow. Continued training (positive reinforcement only) is definitely recommended. It is essential understand that your dog has a naturally dominant personality and needs to become part of a team without any negative issues. That takes a good trainer, a good owner and a good dog!

Socialization is extremely important with any dog, but especially with a breed like the Chow. By the time your puppy is three to four months old, it should have met dozens of strangers from all walks of life, including children, people in uniform, babies, elderly people and people of different heights, weights and ethnic origin. Take your puppy to parks, baseball games, or walks through the City.

Make the interactions fun with treats and toys and praise. The Chow has a reputation for being a "one person dog" but you want your pet to be accepting to others, human and animals. Socialization with cats, farm animals, etc. is also suggested when the dog is still a pup.

It is important to find a good breeder who is established and well known and is willing to stand being her dogs' health, both physical and mental. Any pup who has a parent that shows signs of aggression may inherit these traits. And if you end up taking a pup despite its background, if the pup does develop aggressive signs, it is a red flag that must be addressed with an experienced trainer or the breeder sooner rather than later!

There are also some genetically inherited physical problems associated with Chows. This breed is prone to hip dysplasia, which can in itself cause irritable, aggressive behavior and Chows typically have very poor peripheral vision and can be easily startled. The Chow can also have entropion, which is a condition in which the skin surrounding the eye curls in, causing the hair and lashes to rub on the cornea, hence causing ulcers and early blindness. This condition, unlike hip dyplasia, can be easily corrected with surgery.

While a Chow has a strong will and personality, it is also a devoted and dignified companion. People who accept the responsibility of the owning a Chow, are as devoted to their dog as the dog is to them. They have a keen intelligence, are reserved and are delightful pets for the right family.

To be fair to yourself and the breed, you need to know you can devote the time and patience needed to help the dog become the best that it can be. You can check with the American Kennel Club for breeder referrals and Chow rescue facilities. I strongly recommend that only experienced Chow owners or someone willing to really learn about the breed, go through the rescue organization.

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