Chow (the dog) myths?

There were two “facts” about the breed popular among us when I was younger.
One was that they were bred in China for food, hence the slang term for food.
Another was that as chows became popular in the west as pets, Chinese breeders began feeding the export dogs, just before they shipped out, a piece of sprung bamboo that was sharpened and tied closed with a piece of sinew or something similar. The idea was that the tie would be digested, allowing the bamboo to open and kill the dog in transit. They didn’t want, it was said, for outsiders to breed the dogs themselves.
I have my own opinions about both of these, but no facts.

Proud owner of a chow chow checking in. The proper name of the breed is chow chow, not just chow.

Anyway, the English word chow (as in food) comes from the pidgen Chinese word for food (more specifically a type of relish) which was chowchow. This was shortened to chow and then later expanded to mean stuff or good from China. So a chow chow dog was a Chinese dog.

When China was ruled by emperors, that particular breed could only be owned by royalty. They mainly used them as guard dogs, not for food. After the revolution, the people were against all things royal and killed virtually all of the chow chow dogs. Some of them may have been barbequed at that point but that wasn’t the main reason they were killed.

I have read that all of the chow chows that now exist are from a very small population of dogs that were given to a British couple as a gift from the Emporers (or perhaps smuggled) before the revolution.

As for the bamboo thing, this is the first I have heard of it.

Ok, one more question - are they dangerous dogs? I’ve heard from many people they are grouchy and snarling and biting…hard to believe with such a cute face.

Black tongue
Will bite even a long-term owner/master

They can be dangerous if they don’t get a lot of socialization early on. Chow chows are independant, and are usually suspicious of people outside their household. They look like teddy bears, so a lot of people think they’ll be sweet and cuddly, which generally isn’t true.

I get that question a lot and sometimes when I am walking my dog people give us a wide berth.

The breed does have an aloof personality and then tend to be one person or one family dogs. This can manifest in a couple of ways. A poorly bred/socialized chow chow can be aggressive towards strangers. A well bred one will ignore or be a little distrustful of strangers at first. My dog wouldn’t hurt a fly but won’t let you pet her until she’s met you a couple of times.

Chows have a reputation for extreme territoriality. Coupled with the fact that they are fairly powerful animals, it would usually be very unwise to intrude into the yard of a strange chow chow. Like a number of powerful and very assertive breeds ( rottweilers, staffordshire bull terriers, etc. ) they can make fine pets, but generally they do have to well socialized and carefully trained.

  • Tamerlane

I have a chow mix. She is cuddly and sweet. However, one day I was walking her and a black guy asked me for a cigarette. I buy the cheap kind and being friendly said sure. He came up to me and immediately started growling. She has never done this before. I told her to sit which she reluctantly did, but still kept growling. Freaked him out, and I still have no idea why she reacted the way she did. I love her, though.

We got an orphaned black chow when I was young. He was a pure black one named Black Bart and a beautiful dog. He tended to fight viciously with our other German Shepherd crosses although that wasn’t much of a problem because they could generally kick his ass. It caused a problem when my cousin came over, the dogs got into a fight, and he tried to break it up. Black Bart to a large area out of his inner thigh which resulted in many stitches. My parents made us send Black Bart to another home but I counter-offered that my cousin should be sent to another home. Didn’t work.

After thinking about the issue as an adult, I have to conclude that Chows aren’t especially bright and they are aggressive so they probably aren’t good family dogs. I have an equally beautiful related breed, a Samoyed, and they are great with people and kids.

BTW, it isn’t unheard of for Chinese people to eat chows especially the puppies. I have read documentation about it and although it is pretty rare, it does happen. I am sure that does not relate the the American term chow though.

When I worked for a vet, chows were one of the breeds of dog that were automatically muzzled as soon as they came in the door. Chows do not “telegraph” their intentions; they can be standing there with ears forward and tail wagging, then take a chunk out of you.

I’m not automatically afraid of pit bulls, but I am afraid of chows.

Ah. That’s a pity, since they seem so lovely.

Shag, you have a Samoyed? My first dog was a Samoyed. Dumb as a rock, but so adorably cute.

I’d forgotten about the “chow chow” thing. :slight_smile:
Anyway, I’ve been googling, or trying to, the bamboo device. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a picture of one. It’s a piece of bamboo cut into a “Y” shape with the arms curved outward and sharpened. These points were then brought together and tied with a piece of gut, or something similar, which could be digested to release the sharp points. Of course, such a picture proves nothing.
Problem with googling is that I have no idea what to call the thing.
If the device does exist, it would be more likely used against people that dogs, especially given hajario’s post (above).

Can I just make a tiny correction?

Chinese people *in China
Shag’s right, but AKAIK they don’t do it here. It would be well-nigh impossible anyway. All it would take it one person to find out, and the reverence we have for dogs here will take over.

(Not that I have a problem with that! I was also raised in the States so of course I am horrified by the thought of eating dogs…I just think we should realize our hypocrisy in putting dogs on a pedestal, and not, say, cows!)

I have a chow-lab mix. She acts more like a chow than a lab. She is extremely territorial and aloof of strangers, but very loving of her family. A neighbor of mine calls it the “curse of the chow” that all they want is to be left alone by strangers, but they look like teddy bears.

She in not aggressive, but it’s true she doesn’t telegraph the way other dogs do. She can also be kind of a diva. If someone in the house ticks her off (accidently step on her tail or something) she holds a grudge all damn day. She’s not really playful and she rarely gets worked up, she has a calmness about her, even as a puppy.

But man is she loyal. One time we were walking in DC and an aggressive rotweiler with no owner in sight approach us growling . She got between me and that dog and I couldn’t budge her, not one inch.

The subject of dangerous dog breeds inevitably brings a nature vs. nurture dustup. On the nurture side, folks will say that if puppy Vlad is raised and trained in a loving way, he’ll be good with children and gentle as a lamb. Some breeds are purchased as guard dogs or, God forbid, fighting dogs. Those owners don’t train them to be gentle or obedient; they want mean dogs. When somebody wants a scary, fierce dog, they don’t buy beagles or cocker spaniels. They go for the stereotype, so a few breeds are favorites for mean-dog owners.

The nature side of the debate says that some breeds were intentionally bred to be ruthless, snarling hellhounds. This may be historically true for some breeds, but there is plenty of conflicting material here. If you ask an insurance actuary, you’ll find that a few breeds generate the most claims (pit bulls, chow chows, rottweilers, dobermans, etc.) Yet, it’s not hard to find examples of any of those breeds that are gentle, docile, and obedient.

There are also a couple of breeds that were originally bred for ferocity in sporting matches that are now friendly, peaceful companions; these are the bull terrier and the English bulldog.

The bottom line, financially, is that if your dog bites somebody and he’s one of the “dangerous” breeds, you are more likely to lose big in court. It’s irrational, but it’s true. If you, nevertheless, still get a chow chow or rottweiler, you might think about bumping up your liability insurance.

My Chow mix does this, also. She’s always licks and love. Give her a bath, she won’t look at you all day. Chows are like women.

How many positive experiences did she get with black people when she was a young puppy? Lots of times people believe their dogs must have been abused because it reacts badly to seeing certain kinds of people, but the dog is really just fearful, or aggressive because it never encountered that particular kind of person during the key 2-4 month socialization window. That’s why it’s so important to let a puppy meet lots of different kinds of people, and expose it to lots of different positive situations. At least that’s what they told us in puppy kindergarten.

You are right. She never encountered a black in that fashion before. What can I do about it now?

My chow mix will get aggressive with people who look strange to her. My wife has a really obese friend and it just freaks her out, we also had an electrician at the house who was really tall wiht dreadlocks and a big beard and she goes nuts when he’s around.

Also, she has bad night vision, she’s always barking at trash cans and fire hydrants, does anyone else notice this about their chow?

Maybe because she’s a mix, I wouldn’t say she’s not smart. She’s really intuitive and extremely obedient.

More anectdotal information, but I too worked for a vet for about six years. Was bit twice during that time, with scars on my hands to prove it. Both times by chows. They can be quite nasty dogs, and it is truly the only breed of dog that I’m automatically wary of.

I’m sure there are friendly ones somewhere, but I never saw one. Maybe they’re all right with their own family.