Interactiuni

How breeders and judges destroyed the unique Chow-Chow

with 41 comments

1. Introduction

In 2008 the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed (director: Jemima Harrison) [torrent it or watch online the full movie for free here; read the blog ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ here] blew up the entire dog world: in just 60 minutes it demonstrated how the breeders were destroying most of the breeds, by breeding dogs with excessive physiological features while paying no attention to behavioral issues and – which is even more outrageous – to health problems. Over the last hundred years, the breeds underwent dramatic physical and temperamental changes and these changes were detrimental to almost every breed. As a consequence,  it is not only that champion dogs who win lots of titles in dog shows (especially Crufts) are not capable anymore to do the job they were originally designed to do (hunting, tracing, protection, etc.); but also these champions are full of health problems and, by being extensively bred (or maybe better said: inbred), they pass on these problems to their offspring.  This results not only in owners’ spending huge amounts of money on vet fees, but also in breeds falling apart. To make things worse, the officialdom (breeders, judges, the Kennel Club) are simply denying what is happening, in spite of protests from dog owners, dog press representatives and veterinarian and animal welfare organizations.

The reaction to this movie was widespread and dramatic. The BBC, the RSPCA (the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), Dog Trust, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and Pedigree Petfoods (a major sponsor for the last 44 years) have since pulled out of Crufts (the biggest Kennel Club’s show) (source1; source2). The Kennel Club also took into account changing some breed standards and decided to establish health checks for Cruft entrants – but this was considered to be ‘too little too late’ (source). Finally, the Kennel Club issued a list of ‘high profile breeds’ (the concept being defined as ‘[a] breed from time to time designated by the General Committee as requiring particular monitoring by reason of visible conditions(s) which may cause health or welfare concerns’). The Chow Chow is on this list. How did we get here? This post is meant to answer this question and to warn that if nothing is done, we will lose this wonderful breed.

2. The original and the actual Chow: two different breeds?

Take a look at the two images below and try to guess which breed these dogs belong to. If you’re a dog lover, you may correctly say that the second photograph shows a typical chow-chow – but you may be puzzled regarding the first picture. It looks like a Spitz-type, so… could it be a Giant German Spitz, a Wolfspitz, a Keeshond, an Eurasier or maybe an ancestor of the Volpino Italiano? This time your answer is wrong. It’s a Chow-Chow as well – and again, a typical one. The only difference is one hundred years between the two: the first was shot in 1911; the second represents an actual Chow.

    

(source of the first picture; source of the second picture)

I’m already hearing you saying something like: ‘You must be joking’, or at least ‘You must be making a mistake’. So let’s try it again. Look at the couple of pictures below: don’t worry about guessing anymore, I can tell you that you’re looking at two typical Chows: the first is a champion and the image dates from 1910, while the second is a dog from our days.

    

(same sources of pictures as before)

It seems that the only common elements of the two very different types of Chow are the blue tongue, the straight back legs, the tail carried over back and forward-tilting ears. Everything else is different. So what happened?

3. A bit of recent history

In order to answer this question, we should take a look at this dog’s Western history. According to the American Kennel Club’s website, the Chow arrived in Europe around 1880 (other sources say 1780, as documented here), and the first speciality club was formed in the UK in 1895. The first exhibition of the breed in the USA took place in 1890. Since we know that this breed is an ancient one, and one of the few which were not designed by humans, we may confidently assume that the first Chows which landed on the European soil looked pretty much as their ancestors did two thousand years before (as the pottery figures from the Han dynasty around 200 BC show us – source). Fortunately, we have some pictures which document the way a typical Chow looked like when they arrived in the Western world.

The first standard of the breed was based on Chow VIII (first picture below), which was born in 1895. Another similar-looking dog was Blue Blood, born in 1893 (or, according to other sources, in 1892), who later became a Champion. In both pictures we can see the general characteristics of the first Chows that stepped on the European soil: the sharp, fox-like muzzle; the clear and visible oriental eyes; the thin bones; fairly long legs; and the lighter constitution of their bodies, compared to actual Chows.

    

[first picture above: Chow VIII (born 1895; photo from 1903; source); second picture above:  Champion Blue Blood (born 1893; source)]

However, in less than sixty years the breed underwent dramatic changes, so much so that it is hard to recognize in the picture below, depicting Chapion Astom (born in 1951), the specific traits of his ‘colonial’ ancestors; Astom had shorter legs, shorter neck, thicker bones, broader and thicker muzzle which did not resemble that of a fox anymore, wrinkled skin, smaller oriental eyes lost in the compressed face and coat in abundance.

Champion Astom (born 1951; source)

Unfortunately the development of the breed since Astom did not bring any improvement, quite the contrary. Looking to the present-day Chow-Chow, one could hardly guess that this is a Spitz breed. Indeed, from a fox-like appearance, as we can clearly see in the pictures taken at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, the Chow was transformed in a ‘lion-like’, or ‘bear-like’ creature. Very tellingly, this transformation is written in the actual breed standard (updated on October 2009), which is supposed to illustrate the ideal dog of this breed and which says that the Chow is ‘leonine in appearance’ and its muzzle must be ‘moderate in length, broad from eyes to end (not pointed at end like a fox)’ (see the standard on the Kennel Club’s webpage).

4. The Chow in great people’s time

Great personalities owed and even bred Chow-Chows, and thanks to them we have good testimonies about the physical and psychical characteristics of this breed. Sigmund Freud is known not only for making his favourite chow-chow, Jo-Fi, attend all of his therapy sessions (because he thought that ‘dogs had a special sense that allows them to judge a person’s character accurately’ – source) but also for his loyalty to his dogs. After his flight from Vienna because of fear of the Nazis he went to London and there his chow was quarantined for six months. Freud, whose health was declining, visited his chow as often as he could (source). Below you can watch two pictures with Freud’s chows, both of them being shot probably in the 1930s (Freud died in September 1939); you can also watch a short video of Freud in which his Chow appears as well here. As you can easily observe, these chows looked pretty much as the first ones that came in Europe.

    

Sigmund Freud and some of his Chows; source of the first picture; source of the second picture

Konrad Lorenz, the founder of modern ethology and the 1973 Nobel Prize winner was also a Chow-Chow lover and breeder. In 1949, ten years after Freud’s death and two years before Champion Astom’s birth he published a wonderful book titled Man Meets Dog. It may be that an image worth one thousand words, but sometimes a few words are more telling than an image as well. If the pictures with Freud and his dogs show us how the Chow-Chow looked like in the 1930s, then Lorenz’s paragraph from Man Meets Dog represent a grieved but accurate testimony of the decade when the breed started to change dramatically:

‘As I have already intimated, it would be quite possible for breeders to compromise in the choice of physical and mental properties, and this contention has been proved by the fact that various pure breeds of dog did retain their original good character traits until they fell a prey to fashion. Nevertheless dog shows in themselves involve certain dangers, since competition between pedigree dogs at shows must automatically lead to an exaggeration of all those points which characterize a breed. If one looks at old pictures which, in the case of English dog-breeds, can be found dating back to the middle ages, and compares them with pictures of present-day representatives of the same breeds, the latter look like evil caricatures of the original strain. In the Chow, which has only become really fashionable in the course of the last twenty years, this is particularly noticeable. In about 1920, Chows were still natural dogs, closely allied to the wild form, whose pointed muzzles, obliquely set Mongolian eyes and pricked ears pointing sharply upwards lent to their faces that fascinating expression which distinguishes Greenland sledge-dogs, Samoyeds and Huskies, in short all strongly wolf-blooded dogs. Modern breeding of the Chow has led to an exaggeration of those points which gives him the appearance of a plump bear: the muzzle is wide and short almost mastiff-like, the eyes have lost their slant in the compression of the whole face, and the ears have almost disappeared in the overgrown thickness of the coat. Mentally, too, these temperamental creatures, which still bore a trace of the wild beast of prey, have become stodgy teddy bears. But not my breed of Chows.’ (Konrad Lorenz, Man Meets Dog, Routledge: London and New York, 2005, pp. 86-87)

5. Health issues

Obviously, this transformation came together with an enormous amount of health problems. The old pictures depict a very active and alert dog, while present-day Chows are rather lazy – should I say ‘lethargic’? I have seen many Chows in shows that could barely move because of their short legs, abundant coat and breathing problems (in some cases, even their capacity of mating is affected). In a commentary to the breed standard Sheila Jakeman, a well-known British breeder and judge, acknowledged the problem and declared that ‘Any Chow should be able to walk the length and breadth of any show ring easily and so prove that it is active’ (see Sheila Jakeman, ‘The Standard; why a Chow is so special’, in Janneke Leunissen-Rooseboom, Anne Russell and Bas Bosch (eds.), The World of Chows in 2001 and 2002,BB Press, p. 18; link). This strikes me dearly: if all that is needed for being declared as ‘active’ is to be able to walk for only five minutes in the show ring without any apparent difficulty, then this is rather a death sentence than an effort to solve breed’s health issues.

Interestingly enough, the same author is calling for an ‘square short backed animal’ – but if we take into account the appearance of the original Chow (which is not necessarily square, as documented in both ancient pottery and old photos), this aim that most of the breeders, if not all, are striving to accomplish is rather a fashion requirement and not a step forward in improving the quality of the breed.

Breathing problems seem to be linked to the broader and thicker muzzle covered with wrinkled skin; and the latter, together with the trend toward ever more slanting eyes, also cause eye problems, especially entropion. True, the standard was changed in 1991 in order to push breeders to produce larger eyes, but any visit to a show ring will reveal that actually there is no fundamental change in practice. And even if the incidence of wrinkles has decreased in the last years, health problems did not disappear – only those… responsible for them seem to have changed: to quote again Sheila Jakeman, ‘Humid airless days can still cause a problem if owners [?! my italics] are careless’ (p. 20).

Frightening trends, as Jakeman herself acknowledges, include an ultra short rib from front to rear, which ‘means the protective cavity is being shortened and therefore… vital organs are at risk of being compressed’. Further, ligament problems are caused by the fact that puppies are ‘very heavy at a very young age’. And we can always fear arthritis, hip dysplasia and other bone diseases, major histocompatibility complex (MHC), and stomach cancer. Finally – and this is an issue too many Chow owners are confronted with, myself included – skin problems can be extremely annoying. The unexperienced prospective Chow owner is told by breeders, various books and internet sites that the Chow-Chow is one of the few breeds that do not have the specific ‘doggy smell’ – or, at the worst, that this breed is a ‘low-odour one’. This should be true, but the rather high incidence of skin problems (ranging from abundant dandruff to hot spots) often transform the non-stinky Chow in an awfully smelling creature.

Finally, the temperament of the Chow became in time quite disturbing. To be sure, aloofness is a celebrated trait of this breed – but exaggerated shyness is not its synonym. I have met very few Chows who are not frightened or even aggressive when a stranger in the park tries to pet them. Of course, the owner is often responsible for his or her dog’s lack of proper socialization; however, no person that really knows the Chow could honestly deny the fact that this is a problem the breed in general has.

6. A personal note and some disclaimers

I am neither a specialist in dogs or Chow-Chow, nor a member of the Chow community, worldwide or in my country. My theoretical and practical experience is rather limited and it is strictly related to the dogs I love, the shows I attended to and the books I read. In 2001 I bought my first Chow, Helga (pedigree name: Arizonai Almodozok Faviola), a black female, from a rather obscure Hungarian breeder (I didn’t know at that time anything about the world of breeders, dog shows or puppy mills). I guess it is only a matter of luck that, except for some excess of dandruff (which becomes more abundant and annoying at shedding times) she never had any health problem and is still a very active dog at the age of almost 11. However, although she won some good titles in dog shows from international judges, she is not a dog fit for the champion title if we take into account the actual standard.

   

1911-2011: The Chow-Chow is breaking apart – source of the first picture; source of the second picture.

On the other hand my second chow, a red female named Olga (pedigree name: Chaitan Legend Chow Charisma), purchased in 2002 from the self-titled ‘best Chow-Chow Kennel in Romania’ quickly became Romanian Junior Champion. However, soon afterwards (at a very young age, before turning two) she was diagnosed with chronic arthritis, skin problems, and pododermatitis (which gave her pains when walking on concrete and made her paws bleed in winter). Add to this serious breathing problems and difficulties in movement. My intention when I purchased her was to breed her and start a kennel – but after I discovered all her health problems I decided to spay her. I tried to explain the breeder that her parents should not be bred anymore, but the only answers I received were rather sarcastic. After this experience and after finding more and more information about the way dog breeds are ‘falling apart’, as one interviewee in ‘Pedigree Dogs Exposed’ said, I had decided not to take part in this and stopped showing. Olga died last year just before turning eight years old.

So because of my limited and subjective experience I do not claim that what I have written here is the absolute truth. I do not have monopoly over the truth, but I am personally convinced that if quick steps are not taken to save the breed, the Chow-Chow is doomed. I do not believe it is too late: I have seen once a non-pedigree Chow which to my astonishment still resembled the original ones – of course, it did not have any chance in the show ring. Maybe there are others: I would be glad, because this would be my only chance to have another Chow. I am in love with this breed – but I would never buy another dog born to Champion parents.

Finally, and most importantly, I dedicate this article to the memory of Olga. She taught me many things, and this article shows that she did not died in vain. Sleep well, my little one. The pain is gone now.

41 Răspunsuri

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  1. Sad, sad story… Is it possible that there are „natural” Chows anywhere in the world? (perhaps China?)

    Made me miss your sweet pups, poor Olga and that cute little bear, Helga… hope she’s doing alright.

    Stefan Ionescu

    Noiembrie 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

  2. Stefan, I have seen a ‘natural’ one in Iasi some years ago… Maybe there are others… Don’t know about China, the communist regime destroyed a lot of breeds by forbidding chinese citizens owing dogs…. But this shouldn’t be a problem, the breed can be saved in other ways, take a look here for example: http://pedigreedogsexposed.blogspot.com/2011/08/so-what-do-you-get-if.html
    Helga is surprisingly fine, she has never had any health problem, and she will be soon 11 :))) She kisses you!

    Andrei Stavilă

    Noiembrie 17, 2011 at 8:22 pm

  3. The movie is pretty good and so is the article. I myself being a little obsessed with buying a Newfoundland, found myself meeting Newfies which were not only agressive (a feature which wouldn’t naturally occur in this race), but also hyperactive (again, it’s a ”slow” breed).

    krossfire

    Decembrie 17, 2011 at 10:27 am

  4. Thanks. But please don’t buy a Newfoundland until you are not very well aware about all the medical problems the breed suffers from (unfortunately it is actually not a very healthy breed).

    Andrei Stavilă

    Decembrie 21, 2011 at 12:12 am

  5. George

    Decembrie 22, 2011 at 7:26 pm

  6. Cam asa ceva

    Andrei Stavilă

    Decembrie 23, 2011 at 9:39 am

  7. Multumesc, Andrei pentru ca mi-ai dat prilejul sa citesc un material foarte documentat de care aveam mare nevoie…

    monasimderomania

    Decembrie 28, 2011 at 12:00 pm

  8. @ monasimderomania
    Am observat cu uimire ca ati preluat postul meu despre modul in care crescatorii si arbitrii au distrus rasa chow-chow FARA SA MA INTREBATI DESPRE ACEST LUCRU. Ca atare, va ROG sa stergeti IMEDIAT de pe blogul dumneavoastra postul meu. Incalcati legea copy-right-ului. Ar fi fost de ajuns sa ma intrebati.
    Sper sa nu trebuiasca sa mergem mai departe de aici.

    Andrei Stavilă

    Decembrie 28, 2011 at 2:26 pm

  9. Buna ziua tuturor. Am vazut pe un forum postul tau (era de prin 2006) si m-a facut sa zambesc. Tocmai ce am venit de la veterinar cu Chowul meu si m-am gandit sa mai citesc cate ceva despre rasa. Placuta mi-a fost reactia cand am citit ce ai scris. Dupa cum am spus am un chow chow pe nume Lord, are 6 luni si dupa cum „il critica” lumea, nu ar fi un chow pur. E adevarat ca l-am luat de la un crescator si nu de la o canisa, ceea ce rezulta ca nu e din parinti campioni. As vrea totusi Andrei, sa-ti arat cateva poze cu el sa iti dai cu parerea. Daca vrei bineinteles, lasa-mi un comentariu aici si spune-mi cum sa ti le arat. Multumesc!

    lucipopescu

    Iunie 11, 2012 at 8:48 am

  10. Salut. La pagina de contact ai mailul meu: andruska10 [at] gmail [dot] com. Te rog sa imi trimiti pozele pe acel mail.
    Lasa-ma sa te corectez insa in privinta unui anumit punct: crescatorul este proprietarul unei canise recunoscute oficial de Federatia Chinologica Internationala. Un om simplu care are un ciine si il pune sa produca pui fara sa faca acest lucru in cadrul asociatiei chinologice nu este, propriu-zis, un crescator, ci un inmultitor de ciini. Cel putin asta e varianta oficiala (pe care eu unul nu o aprob in totalitate).
    M-as bucura sa vad fotografiile pe care ai sa mi le trimiti. Te rog insa sa intelegi ca dragostea ta fata de acest ciine trebuie sa fie aceeasi, indiferent ca e de ‘rasa pura’ (acest lucru poate fi demonstrat doar de pedigree, daca acest ciine are acte) sau nu. Sint bucuros sa vad fotografii, dar nu inteleg exact de ce ar conta parerea mea: un ciine pe care il iubesc ramine ciinele pe care il iubesc indiferent ca e ‘rasa pura’ sau nu. Pe de alta parte, atita timp cit nu exista pedigree-ul, oricit ar arata de bine ciinele tot nu poti sa stii daca e ‘rasa pura’ sau nu. Ce pot sa iti spun eu este cit de mult se apropie sau se indeparteaza un ciine de idealul-tip al rasei (altfel spus, ‘defectele’ care il indeparteaza de acest ideal-tip). Asta pot sa o fac, daca am citeva fotografii bune.

    Andrei Stavilă

    Iunie 11, 2012 at 9:07 am

  11. Ok Andrei. Iti trimit acum pozele. Eu il iubesc oricum, e al meu si e cel mai frumos, orice ar zice lumea

    lucipopescu

    Iunie 11, 2012 at 12:21 pm

  12. Ceea ce noi vedem ca fiind „cute” sunt de obicei caracteristici care subliniaza dependenta si pentru multe rase sunt sinonime genetic cu boli si degenerare. Suferinta cainilor si a stapanilor inseamna insa profit pentru industrie. Am avut doi caini, un ciobanesc german si un labrador, dar cand am descoperit ce se afla in spatele vitrinelor, am renuntat la idee.

    zamo

    Iunie 28, 2012 at 6:41 pm

  13. mda…. insa vezi, chow-ul nu este un produs, este o rasa speciala, din categoria celor antice (‘primitive’, in limbaj chinologic), ne-create de om… iata de ce tragedia e un pic mai mare…

    Andrei Stavilă

    Iunie 29, 2012 at 5:24 pm

  14. moi ,jai un chowchow primitive et sais une race de chiens mais jai vu le vrais flim en noir et blanc , et je peut vous que la fin du flim , cest deux chowchow de couleur fauve qui vis ,alors arreter de dire ca

    david

    Octombrie 10, 2012 at 10:16 am

  15. While it is true that humans have been involved, often to the detriment of the breed, I have to disagree with you in the main regarding changes to Chows over the last few millenia, nevermind centuries or decades.
    You have deliberately picked on some of the worst examples of the modern Chow and proceeded to argue that this is representative of the Chow today, which is not the case. I have seen plenty of Chows that still look like Chow VIII and fortunately very few that look like that overdone dog on the table.
    Any responsibile breeder will understand the standard and understand the history and breed for a dog, a Chow that is capable of doing what it was bred for. That they are not always successful is the same for breeding anything, including humans.
    Yes there are health issues, as with all living breathing animals. We are fortunate to live in a time where through the miracle of modern medicine we know more now about canine health than any other time in the history of dogs and mankind. The more we know, the more we learn about the causes of problems and again responsible breeders seek to ameliorate those problems. In the late 19th and early 20th century, the life expectancy for a Chow was 8-10 years; today it is 12-14 years – something has changed for the better.
    I regret you had such a bad experience, but what do you say to all those Chow owners who keep coming back for more?

    judith-ann robertson

    Octombrie 11, 2012 at 9:16 am

  16. Thank you for your comment! Le me now have a few answers:
    1) I still believe that regarding the Chow-Chow we have a bad story in the last century. I am not alone in this: Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel laureate in 1972 (medicine & physiology) – and also a chow breeder – is one example that comes to mind. In one of his books he is complaining about the way breeders ‘take care’ of the breed. The book is called ‘Man meets Dog’ (you can buy it from amazon)
    2) The English Bulldog is another example of a bad history – in the last 50 years! Watch a picture of a Bulldog 50 years ago and watch thousands of pictures with today’s champions. Is there no difference? :))
    3) The pictures I considered are pictures of Champion dogs. You say they are the worst Chows. And still, they are champions. Who are responsible for this, if not their breeders and judges?
    4) My dog that died at 8 was a Champion. How come such a dog (with obvious genetic diseases) would obtain this title? The answer, again: breeders and judges.
    5) You say: ‘ We are fortunate to live in a time where through the miracle of modern medicine we know more now about canine health than any other time in the history of dogs and mankind. The more we know, the more we learn about the causes of problems and again responsible breeders seek to ameliorate those problems’. Ok, and where’s the amelioration? Regarding what problems? Which medical problems we have solved for this breed?
    6) I think it is hard to really support the idea that a Chow lives longer today than 100 years before. First of all, you do not really have scientific reports about the average life of a Chow 100 years ago (specific to a country, a continent or the whole world). Second, even if it would be so, this is all about medicine, and it is about prolonging a life with medical problems, not about genetic improvement. And it is also about pure luck. My Helga is already 12 and has never had a medical problem in her life – although she is far from being able to become a champion.
    7) Finally, today I am also considering to ‘come back for more’. I simply love the chow. But this doesn’t mean that I am not aware about the risks – risks which are simply bigger than the risk with other breeds. Of course, I do believe that there are passionate persons that are doing everything they can to breed a healthy Chow (and if you are one of them, then I am happy and really congratulate you) – but they must do their job under a specific standard. Which is bad. I appreciate those persons and probably I would get my next chow from one of them. But the breed needs a change. (By the way, just watch the BBC’s Pedigree Dogs Exposed – you can still find it on youtube – do you really think they are not saying the truth????)

    Andrei Stavilă

    Octombrie 11, 2012 at 3:06 pm

  17. Hi Andrei,
    In response to your comments above –

    1) All dog breeds have „suffered” at the hands of humans in one way or another. FWIW I have Lorenz’s book and while I don’t disagree with the sentiment that it is up to breeders to take care of the breed / any breed, that does not mean by implication that there are no breeders seeking to do so. I also am of the opinion that his work to create/recreate the Eurasier was misguided – my opinion…

    2) I am aware of the changes in a number of breeds over the past century, British/English Bulldogs being but one. I also know a far number of British Bulldog breeders who have been working to better the breed. But what so many people in the general public seem to not understand is that it takes generations of a concerted breeding program to make a change for the better – it cannot and does not happen overnight.

    3) Yes, I do say that a number of the pictures you showed are not good examples of the breed. Just because someone (be they a breeder and/or a judge and/or the pet person) is influenced by fashion does not make it right (I would like to see serious harm come to all those people who breed „Tea Cup” puppies – they are damning those dogs to a lifetime of problems).

    You made reference to standards in your initial piece. If you go and read the first standard written circa 1903 and based on Chow VIII and compare it to the American Standard or the Australian or New Zealand standard, you will see that the differences are slight. Where there are bigger differences, where humans began to change the description to push particular agendas (be they good or bad), often without understanding the biomechanics behind the phenotypical representation, are in the current UK standard, the Canadian standards and others.
    Nevertheless, each breeder seeks (one would think) to breed a dog that matches the standard in the way they interpret the standard. If I read through Leyton’s description or Judy’s description and interpretations of the perfect Chow, I probably would not expect Chow VIII to match that written description. For example, the standard of their day called for a „cobby” body – in every definition of cobby, which means short coupled (or in human parlance, short waisted), Chow VIII is not cobby.

    Again, the standard then called for a large and massive head with broad, flat skull, well filled under the eyes with a moderate stop… and the muzzle was to be short in comparison to the length of the skull, broad from eyes to end of nose and of great depth… This does not indicate „foxy” in any manner of interpretation. But niether does it call for an over padded muzzle that would obscure vision. Nor would I personall interpret the head portion to indicate that a dog so over padded on the top of the skull as to cause a heavy wrinkling of the foreface and an obscuration of vision in that manner.

    Form follows function – the dog on the table in the picture you provided is not suited to a harsh life in the Mongolian/Northern China steppes. It is overdone. So while a dog may be a Champion (and realistically is it that difficult to title a dog in any country), it does not make it structurally a good example of its breed.
    Who is responsible – we all are. The breeders who don’t make the hard choice to say „that dog should be in a pet home and is unsuitable for any breeding program” and the judge who doesn’t have sufficient knowledge of the breed to non-award the dog and the public who pays money out of ignorance because they think that is the dog of their dreams.

    Education and accountantability are the keys to ensuring the health and well-being and future existence of the pure-bred dog world. The Pedigree Dogs Exposed was an emotive piece of yellow-journalism created by and supported by people who would like to see the entire pure-bred dog world, not just held accountable, but brought to an end. They are the same people who want to put an end to companion animals in toto. The actual harm that film has done far outweighs any positives. However, as with most media stories today, „if it does not bleed, it will not lead”. Had it been a rational and reasonable approach to the problems and issues of healthy breeding programs vs unhealthy breeding programs, the audience would have been miniscule in proportion.

    4) Again, I am said to learn that anyone’s dog dies at any age. I don’t know the history of your dog or what obvious genetic diseases she had. While I agree that the breeder is accountable, I would ask: What did you do to inform yourself about the health issues in the breed? Did you simply take this dog on at face value or did you ensure that the dog’s parents had been health tested? What did you know of the breeder’s approach to healthy breeding. Was this breeder with you every inch of the way as you began to learn and deal with the issues?

    Genetic problems may or may not be hereditay and may or may not be recessive. As I indicated, responsibile breeders seek to work to ameliorate those problems in a breeding program – this is by health testing and using only the healthiest animals they have, by making hard decisions to „pet out” an animal that should not ever be used in a breeding program due to the results of health tests. However, as with all things, not everything can be known. Some hereditary issues are the result of recessive genes and the DNA testing that is currently available can’t pinpoint many of these polygenetic recessive problems. So with something like hip dysplasia (polygenetic recessive), the breeder gets x-rays of their breeding stock and only breeds dogs that fall into the „ok for breeding” parameters. However, a puppy may be born that when tested at 2 years of age is diagnosed bad dysplasia… that is Mother Nature being mean; however, the breeder had tried to prevent it. And both the breeder and the owner of the dog have a responsibility to ensure that dog is not used in a breeding program.
    And so on with other hereditary issues.

    If there were problems with your dog, one rhetorical question could be why was the dog shown if the problems were known at the time. As for the judges who deem it worthy of a Championship title, I would suggest that a judge (good or bad) cannot be expected to do a full health assessment on a dog that is in front of them for only a minute or two – all they can do is assess what they see in front of them on the day.

    Judith-Ann

    Octombrie 12, 2012 at 3:06 am

  18. Continuation…

    5) I am strongly of the opinion that we are fortunate to live in a time where modern veterinary medicine continues to provide us with more and more information regarding canine health. As we learn about the causes of problems, breeders and veterinarians can come up with breeding plans to slowly reduce known issues. As new issues crop up that heretofore were undiagnosable, then again we work to reduce those issues.

    In the past, neither hip dysplasia or elbow dysplasia were understood. Sadly I still know „old-fashioned” breeders of many breeds who believe they can tell if there is something wrong with one of their dog’s hips or elbows simply by looking at them. These days, we know that the only way to be sure that a dog is clear of either form is dysplasia is to x-ray them. With x-rays and scorings systems, breeders can choose what stock is healthy for breeding and which should be placed in pet homes (and a responsible breeder would do so with full disclosure).

    While this has not yet eliminated dysplasia, based on what we do know and can know, the veterinary evidence indicates that fewer dogs are presenting with this problem. However, as I said above, because dysplasia is polygenetic recessive, it can and will pop up in a breeding program that has produced generations of clear dogs.

    6) Somewhere in my collection of Chow books, articles and history, I have the statistics from a Chow Club in Britain that documented some 20 years of Chows and their births, deaths together with their ages and causes of death in the late 19th/early 20th century. And it is worth keeping in mind that the largest population of Chows at the time was probably found in the UK.
    I have been trying to find it for someone else but appeared to have hidden it is a safe place (along with airline tickets to the US!). However, I can assure you that deaths from distemper and parvo and what reads to be pancreatitus and cancer all took the lives of dogs at early ages along with many other causes that included the dog being unable to rise, the dog’s temperament changing to one that was unpredictable and so on. I can remember reading a commentary that a healthy 8 year old Chow was testimony to the breeder or owner as this was a ripe old age.

    7) Finally, you indicate that you are considering coming back for more, with an awareness of the risks. That being the case, I can only strongly suggest that you do a lot of research – find a breeder that breeds for what today would be considered a more moderate Chow. Make sure they health test and have a few generations of health tested breeding stock. And pray to the Chow gods for a happy healthy puppy.

    Yes, there are breeders out there more in it for the money or the glory. However, saying that, I think they are the minority. For those of us who love this breed, we each have and share the responsibility for ensuring that breeders are held accountable, that judges are trained to judge the breed properly and that puppy buyers don’t do so simply because the puppy is cute. The last one is the most difficulty. Education and awareness are the key.

    Judith-Ann

    Octombrie 12, 2012 at 3:26 am

  19. Hi Judith-Ann,
    Your response convinced me that you are one of those persons not only well-informed and responsible, but also a reasonable person one can talk to. Rare qualities around here.
    Let me quickly response to your last rhetorical question: my dog was shown (at that time I was not aware of the range of bones, lung and heart problems) but she never had puppies (although the breeder assured me there is no problem in breeding her). And no, the breeder (again, it was a breeder and not a puppy mill owner) was not interested when the problems became visible. There are no mandatory health checks in Romania, Hungary and – as far as I know – Russia. These are the countries with Chows that I am directly aware of. But unfortunately even in the UK the Chow is, as you probably already know, on the short ‘red list’. Irrespective of what we believe about media programs, this is a simple truth (and I think you are wrong on one point: the film’s producer specifically stated that she is not against pure breeds). And I believe breeders and judges are the first ones responsible for this – in the last 100 years something could have been changed!
    I would really love to have a Chow from a concerned breeder as you are. But don’t think it is that easy to get to the other part of the globe🙂 However there are some European breeders that I am closely follow… maybe one day…

    Andrei Stavilă

    Octombrie 12, 2012 at 8:46 am

  20. Hi Andrei,

    I’m going to jump around a bit here in response to your last post…

    Regarding „Pedigree Dogs Exposed”, while the producer may or may not have a stated view towards purebred dogs, if one steps back and watches the film, it couldn’t have fed the PETA/animal liberationist agenda any better had they produced it. I suspect that the same cohort of people will have had a great deal to do, possibly at arm’s lenght, with the emotive approach to bad breeding practices. As I said before, this film has done irreparable harm to the pure breed dog world – the results have been complete reactive in a negative way; people have been threatened, organisations have been threatened and so on. There was no attempt to approach the whole issue in a proactive and educative way. That there are bad breeding practices happening is not to be ignored; how „we” – everyone involved in the pure breed dog world (breeders, exhibitors, owners and judges alike) – are accountable and how we deal with the issue has from a point of being open about what is best for the animals, what is expected and finding ways to educate and support good breeding practices.

    In say that, you say you want a Chow from a concerned/responsible/accountable breeder. Excellent news! I would say there are three things that you may want to consider, particularly if you have any ambitions for the show ring again and possibly even breeding (using good breeding practices, of course🙂 ).

    First, while you are in Eastern Europe, there are countries in Western Europe where mandatory health testing of breeding stock and good breeding practices exist. The two that come immediately to mind. for Chows, are Holland and Sweden (and I think that Denmark and Finland) also fall into that category. Neither of these countries is soooooo far away that you couldn’t do the research and find a breeder with whom you are comfortable. Work with that breeder to get the Chow that will do will in the show ring and, if you are looking at breeding in the future, is well placed to pass the health tests If you do breed, DO NOT breed with an animal that hasn’t been health tested itself…

    Second, start a movement in Eastern Europe for breeders to take responsibility for breeding happy, healthy animals to produce happy healthy animals. It has to start somewhere… When I first came to Australia nearly 25 years ago, there was only one kennel that health tested regularly. Now there are only about 3-4 breeders that do not. That is a big change and it came about through education and getting the word out to potential buyers to ask the right questions and not buy on impulse. Do the same thing – encourage and support those breeders who start to do the right thing, but don’t bad mouth those that don’t – simply don’t recommend them. You can say, „I am unable to recommend So-and-so because I am unaware of their health testing practices.” Stay positive, avoid the negative.

    Third, work with your local judges’ training coordinators to properly educate aspiring judges on the breed. I try to remind people that judges are human. They are and will be subjective, no matter how much they seek to be objective. However, even if they are highly subjective, if they are coming from a informed perspective, so much the better. Most judges are not veterinarians. To expect them to be able to do a full health assessment with 90-120 seconds on any breed is an unrealistic expectation, particularly those judges who don’t even put their hands on the dog (many an FCI judge has been observed not even touching the dogs they are judging). What is obvious is easy, what is not obvious cannot be assessed.

    If you wish, I am happy to send you by private email the information I have helped the Chow Club here put together for breeders and for aspiring judges, along with other documentation and resources I use. It might serve as a resource should you wish to become a champion of the breed in your part of the world.

    Cheers,
    Judith-Ann

    judith-ann robertson

    Octombrie 14, 2012 at 11:07 pm

  21. In mid-May next year, the World Dog Show is being held in Budapest. One of the better specialists in the breed is judging Chows at that show. And while you may not agree with what he thinks is an excellent Chow (based on his interpretation of the standard), he is consistent and extremely health conscious. Might be worth a watch.

    And please do excuse the multiple spelling errors in my post above…

    judith-ann robertson

    Octombrie 14, 2012 at 11:24 pm

  22. Your response to the lack of excellent breeding practices could be a bit like applying games theory to the practice breeding pure bred dogs, particularly Chows, in Eastern Europe. How would you go about finding a positive resolution to a human-induced disaster?😉

    judith-ann robertson

    Octombrie 15, 2012 at 4:57 am

  23. Hi, my name is Lester and I came across with this article. I found it fascinating. Im from Guatemala, and I own two chow chow´s, one is black and the other is a blue coat. Fortunately for us, the breed steel looks spitz. You can look at one that I had here https://fbcdn-sphotos-b-a.akamaihd.net/hphotos-ak-prn1/37214_438242867052_6284029_n.jpg

    Tell me what you think about her!

    lesterrm

    August 31, 2013 at 1:04 am

  24. Hi Lester, thank you so much for posting that picture! I’m sure judges and today’s breeders won’t even look at your dog, but if you ask me, if we take into account the form of the muzzle it definitely looks your dog has no breathing problem; the eyes may not be almond-shaped, but again it seems there is no entropion. Moreover, it seems to me in this picture probably the dog was in a car, and according to the look on her/his face she is a pretty active dog. Yes, I love it.

    Andrei Stavilă

    August 31, 2013 at 6:37 am

  25. I found your piece on the Chow after reading about Szekelyfold. I had a Chow when I was 2 to 3 years old. I loved San-cho! She had to leave (in 1938) when she nipped my playmate. Never have I been able to be interested in any other sort of dog. Thank you for this article and my sincere wishes for a return to the original breed.

    Gretchen

    Octombrie 27, 2013 at 11:52 pm

  26. Thank you, Gretchen!

    Andrei Stavilă

    Octombrie 28, 2013 at 7:38 am

  27. I am only forty, and I remember chows looking like those early pictures when I was a child. I never saw one of the modern puffy faced chow chows until I was a teen.

    M. Bllafe

    Noiembrie 28, 2013 at 9:56 pm

  28. I have a chow that looks just like the older traditional breed. She is now 13 and has cancer, but never had breathing problems. She did have chronic colitis and needed a special diet, but she has been the sweetest most wonderful companion (if not the most obedient.) Most people think she is part chow, but I got her from a breeder in an isolated desert location in California who just breed the dogs from old stock. She is much more personable than the average chow, and goes up to people to be petted, putting her head on their leg and waiting..

    wendy harris

    Ianuarie 12, 2015 at 9:57 am

  29. Thank you for your comment, Wendy! And all the best for your wonderful chow!

    Andrei Stavilă

    Ianuarie 12, 2015 at 10:22 am

  30. Thank you for this article Andrei! I was first introduced to Chow Chows in 1996 and have had the breed in my family ever since. Given their independent nature and fierce loyalty to an owner or family, we have dedicated ourselves to working with rescues. Given my experience with Chows, I’ve noticed the difference between the two photos you’ve presented with our Chows. Originally, I was told that there were differences between the USA version of the Chow versus the Chinese version, but after reading your article and checking the background, I realize that your article explains quite a bit.

    I currently have a young 2 – year old Red Chow named Hershey Bear. His genetic makeup resembles the older chow in the photos (100 years ago). I know both of his parents and his Father is also a Red Chow and his Mother is a White/Crème colored Chow. Both are purebreds but come from different lines as far back as I can trace. Well, Hershey is actually (at this age) very athletic, limber, fast, and loves to jump around. Now given the short stocky breed which appears to be the AKC breed standard, I’ve noticed that those Chows have always been somewhat stiff, not as flexible, definitely not as athletic, as the Chows that came 100 years ago. It’s nice to know that my Chow is actually closer genetically to the way Chows were actually bred a century ago. I’m not a big fan of the AKC breed standards as they appear to aesthetically manage the genetics of a breed rather than leave them as originally intended.

    Great article! I’m glad I found it and I’m going to share it with others I know!

    Ted

    Ted LaSalvia

    Ianuarie 24, 2015 at 8:08 pm

  31. Thank you for your words and support Ted! And kisses to Hershey – yeah, I know he won’t like it :)))))) But that’s why I like the Chow Chow! And congratulations for having such a wonderful chow, I would really love to have one from these lines!

    Andrei Stavilă

    Ianuarie 24, 2015 at 9:48 pm

  32. It is wonderful to read, there are people out there, who agree the original chow is nicer, healthier then the modern chow. I got 2 chow’s one ( Ai Ai ) looks similar then the chow 100 years ago and the other (Ting Ting ) is the modern chow. She got breathing problems, isn’t so agile then the one what looks like the original chow.
    The breeders here in New Zealand, only breed the modern chow’s, and I almost had argues with the breeder from Ting Ting. She only like the stocky , short nose chows.

    Elke Konig

    Februarie 6, 2015 at 12:07 pm

  33. Dear Elke, thank you for sharing your thoughts! And I am happy to see that so many people share my belief according to which the original chow is healthier and preferable for any dog-owner! I wish Ting Ting will be healthier! I keep my fingers crossed!

    Andrei Stavilă

    Februarie 6, 2015 at 5:49 pm

  34. Hello Andrei,
    Thank you for your reply. Is there anything we could do against those „Breeders”?

    Elke Konig

    Martie 7, 2015 at 2:59 am

  35. Hi again,
    I been reading all what the australian breeder Judith Ann wrote. Even if she’s a breeder I totaly disagree with her.
    Look at pictures what they have done to the German Shepherd, it is not a dog where can have as a companion, for walks etc. They are so week at the hind legs, the walking is wobbeling. What have those „great Breeders” to them. And all of the man made dogs now a days are not dogs anymore. what they used to be.
    Would Judith Ann say it is normal, the chow needs help during mating from humans? If you look at her chows, and pull with both hands the loose skinn on the forehead and cheeds then you can see this it not normal. Some breeders have to do operations , because the skinn is to loose . Do you buy a dog to need to operate them , so they can see better? And she can’t deny breeders dont do it. It is proven from breeders here in New Zealand. From Vets here in New Zealand.
    You can’t do a 2 hours walk with those chow’s , because they can’t breathe and need to rest. Is this a dog what the people like? Those people, who buy chows now, they don’t know what they (breeders)
    have done to a beautiful breed.

    Elke Konig

    Martie 7, 2015 at 3:49 am

  36. We have a two year old black chow chow whom we thought might be a mix. The person we got him from said he was pure chow chow but he did not look like it to me. He does not have the rounder, shorter snout or the mane around his head. His coat is more luxurious and longer like maybe a Newfoundland. His tongue is all black and our vet stated that he was a chow chow. We decided to do a wisdom panel through a blood test at his last vet visit. Well, we just got back his results and he is pure chow chow down to his great-grandparents on both sides. My son did some research and he found the information of the original chow chow. Our chow chow is a beautiful dog no matter purebred or mixed. He has all the characteristic traits of the original chow chow. We are blessed to have found him and have him as part of our family.

    A. Maldonado

    Octombrie 8, 2015 at 5:23 pm

  37. Congratulations for your choice! I am sure your Chow will be a healthy one! I am so glad for you! You are indeed blessed.

    Andrei Stavilă

    Octombrie 8, 2015 at 5:45 pm

  38. I am from Australia. I am new, have only had one litter but the more and more I research and talk to breeders that have been in it awhile I do not like where the breed has and still is going. The terms used in the standard are being very very stretched and in some cases I cant even see the match to the standard. I want to get back to chows of yester year to follow the standard without exaggeration. Look I have one dog in particular who is quite exaggerated for my liking, in the ring he doesn’t look so though. Like I said I’m new though so sifting through books and articles. I have been told by a few breeders it is impossible. And I know a couple who have given up totally because of what we have done…. That’s very sad in my opinion.
    The climate and culture of the chow in Australia was summed up for me rather sadly by a few judges (not friends of mine) a few weeks ago. (this is their opinion) you either breed to exaggeration for the wow factor, promote your dogs and handler relentlessly, and get out there to befriend everyone so your dogs are seen as normal here and you will win in the ring most of the time. Or you keep looking back to the standard and the dogs (chow VIII) were based on- yes interpretations or words can change over time, and breed to try and achieve this and try your hardest to maintain what is being lost for the breeds sake and your passion for trying to have dogs around like the standards were written on for the future of the breed you are passionate about. I just think its sad these dogs/style are almost/if not all totally extinct. An ancient breed maintained for god knows exactly how long and we make such drastic cosmetic changes in a short space of time. Lets some people try and bring back the older style chows, even of they wont be awarded in the ring, you go home knowing you are true and passionate to the breeds ancestry. Just my opinion but too much change for my taste after much research. Love the chow though

    michelle

    Octombrie 15, 2015 at 6:52 pm

  39. A. Maldonado pe octombrie 8, 2015 la 5:23 pm
    This is interesting to hear…. Have u got or could we try and hunt down a pedigree for the guy. Would love to see him if you don’t mind emailing me photos? Leochow@live.com.au
    And anyone else who thinks they have older style chows🙂
    Thanks

    michelle

    Octombrie 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm

  40. I do have a gorgeous red original style chow rescued from a no kill shelter at 13 months old, dna proved pure chow-chow. he has terrible hips, sebaceous adenitis, partial tear of ccl, after 3 years with us still very skittish. Love him to death.

    Rene' Bouchard

    Noiembrie 9, 2016 at 12:55 am

  41. @Rene Bouchard: Nobody says the original style chow may not have specific problems. But at the same time, nobody could claim it is not a healthier type than the actual one. Regarding your ‘DNA proved’ thing, let me just smile🙂

    Andrei Stavilă

    Noiembrie 16, 2016 at 9:54 am


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