The possibilities and impossibilities while training and working with
Chow - Chows
In this article I would like to describe the possibilities and impossibilities while training and
working with these animals. I use the term animals on purpose for in the 35 years that I have
worked with this breed, I have learned to understand one thing: there are cats and there are dogs,
and somewhere in between is the Chow-Chow. Although the Chow is and looks like a dog its
character has many similarities with that of a cat. Perhaps the Chow found its origin in a small
bear from central China, who knows?
Anyway for someone who is a connoisseur of the breed the cat like characteristics are quite
recognizable .If a proud owner of a young puppy calls a dog trainer or dog club the standard
answer to the request for a puppy training is usually that the dog cannot be trained. Fortunately
this is not true at all! However training a Chow-Chow requires a totally different attitude and
approach as the trainer would use on 'normal' dogs. Chow-Chow owners should realize that this
breed will never follow the commands 'heel' and 'down', which are the requirements for normal
By now I can honestly say that I have found my way in training Chow-Chows. Nevertheless I
must admit it took me some time. First of all I could well use my observational skills. A second
thing is that the owner should realize that this proud Asian dog is not very easily impressed. So
after a false start ( I still treated them as 'normal ‘dogs) I learned more and more about my dogs
and managed to make them very obedient. Still I occasionally fall into the trap of requiring them
to heel where as I know that this is a command you should not give to a Chow-Chow.
So what is it you can teach a Chow-chow
The answer is simple: Much, but be consistent! As with any dog you start early teaching them all
sorts of day things such as sitting before you feed them, before crossing a street, when cleaning
teeth, or when checking ears. Teach them gently and patiently (which is easier said than done)
while rewarding them generously. Reward the puppy with an exaggeratedly friendly voice. Never
ever get angry with the Chow. The result will be the reverse from what you wanted to achieve in
the first place. Also never show the Chow that you are actually in a hurry or that you are in a bad
mood. The result of this human behaviour will immediately have a reaction on the Chow.
Instantly they will be difficult to handle, will not listen, and they will be super slow.
Since the Chow-Chow by nature is a very curious dog, you have to arouse the curiosity. A good
way of doing this is to start loud and then lowering your voice to a very soft level. Also you have
to make something exiting and show the Chow that you also enjoy it. One of our first smooth
Chow-Chows reacted very positively towards the use of different tone levels and certain gestures
and managed to pass her obedience training with flying colours.
Furthermore it is also very important to have good eye-contact with the Chow. Once a Chow-
Chow has done an exercise as it should have been done, do not expect the Chow to do it again.
The Chow also does not want to practice at home, that is what you do at dog training, not at
home. Should the dog trainer be so unwise to use a Chow-Chow to show an exercise then you
should not be surprised if your Chow will not move an inch. Moreover forget the commands
'here' but use 'stay’. This way you will not lose face when you have to keep shouting to a not
responding dog. The Chow will not lose face since he does not have to come to you and it shows
mutual respect. This bit of advice is definitely one of the strongest and best pieces of advice we
can give you.
A Chow will never do something without a reason. Everything, even playing, is a serious matter.
Therefore the Chow wants to see the use of a particular assignment, and if they do
not.............well forget it.Okay only if the master politely requests the Chow refuse to do is lie on
its back without a profound reason, especially not when vigilance is needed for the Chow is quad
dog after all. The Chow will never walk or lie down on wet grass. Although this is below its
dignity but would not hesitate to jump in a ditch or even the sea.
Walking quietly on a lead is a difficult task for a Chow. They always want to be at least one
metre in front of you. Their curiosity always wins it from the halty and years of training. Should
you wish to use a bicycle to exercise the Chow (only after the age of 13 months!!) you must
leave it up to the Chow whether it likes it or not. Whenever wild animals are in the vicinity a
Chow really goes wild. The Chows splendid nose and or sharp eyes spot the game and when they
are loose it will dart off and will only return to where it left you if either the game is caught or
nothing could be found after many attempts.
It is advisable to use their ability to hunt. I found out that they easily follow a drag trail and after
some training they can follow a 500 metres trail that was laid 24 hours earlier. A Chow can spot,
with nose and eyes, a hare or rabbit in open field or in the dunes, a squirrel or deer in a forest or
on the heath. You can detect that the Chow is on to some game by the way they very actively
twist their ears, lower their tails ( less visible). Then they are ready to go after the game and kill
the prey. They instinctively teach their owner to pay attention to the environment. For the
tremendous force with which they drag their leash and you with it is no pleasure at all.
Retrieving comes as a second nature to the Chow. Unfortunately the Chow is not used for this
purpose and the fun the Chow has in retrieving is soon lost. However the moment the Chow
brings you a cat or rabbit it has just caught and drops it on your feet is always a shock Some
Chow-Chows love to swim and even retrieve sticks that were thrown into the water. In fact it
was a favourite past time of one of our smooth Chows.
Should you wish to receive more information please do not hesitate to contact us!