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How to Judge the Chow Chow Dog Breed

Chow chow photograph -How to Judge the Chow Chow Dog Breed


We all agree that when judging any breed, the officiating judge must evaluate each exhibit according to the standard for the breed and country in which he is judging.  The Chow Chow breed standard is one of the lengthiest and most detailed of standards but still leaves ample opportunity for the judge’s interpretation. At AKC shows, the Chow Chow breed must be examined on a ramp.

Chow Chow breed
Rough Coat AKC Champion dog

An experienced Chow Chow judge will understand the negative impact that a poorly structured front, incorrect gait or lack of breed-specific qualities, such as pigmentation, has to a breeding program and will thus appreciate and award the chows which exhibit desirable traits.

This judge will approach each class with the hope of finding the exhibit which will offer the most positive overall influence to the breed.

They will prioritize attributes based on that attribute’s importance to the soundness and type of our breed and will keep in mind the origin of the breed and the requirement to “always remember the working origin of the breed. ”

Chow Chow breed
Rough Coat Female

Experience as a breeder will help the judge to appreciate the importance of good structure, balance and temperament. It will also help the judge to realize that a larger ear or curl in the tail is not as debilitating to the breed as the lack of proper gait, labored breathing or entropion.

Judging a class of Chows can be as exacting as grading a litter, without the benefit of a pedigree to reference.

Chow Chow dogs can be rough or smooth coated and must be red, black, blue, or cinnamon in color.

Chow Chow breed
Black Chow Chow dog
Chow Chow breed
Red Chow Chow dog

A judge should always approach the chow within the range of the dog’s vision.

Due to the scowling expression and deep set eye, the chow has limited peripheral vision and if approached from the side or from the rear, may be startled by an unexpected hand. After completing examination of the head, the judge should continue their hands-on examination in an uninterrupted flow, moving from front to side to rear.

One of the key factors in evaluation is the balance and proportion of the exhibit.  This may be referred to as the “make and shape” of the dog. The Chow standards all require that our Chows be square and are quite explicit about the correct proportions for the breed.


Chow Chow breed

Chow Chow breed


The judge must carefully examine the head of the Chow Chow to determine if there are any disqualifications. The AKC standard defines the breed disqualifications (which are all on the head):

Chow Chow Disqualifications (AKC standard)
  • Drop ear or ears. A drop ear is one which breaks at any point from its base to its tip or which is not carried stiffly erect but lies parallel to the top of the skull.
  • Nose spotted or distinctly other color than black, except in blue Chows which may have solid blue or slate noses and cream Chows which may have a range of nose colors. (effective July 29, 2020)
  • The top surface or edges of the tongue red or pink or with one or more spots of red or pink.


The standard documents the qualities which determine “chow type”.  The stilted gait, the square profile, dark blue-black pigmentation of the tongue, and the distinct scowl.

Further examination must be performed to evaluate the front assembly structure, the body and rear structures and proper coat texture.  Gait is also indicative of proper or improper structure. The chow chow’s stilted gain can only be evaluated from the side.

Chow Chow breed

Chow Chow breed
Rough coat UK Champion male


Quote from the AKC Chow Chow Breed Standard: General Appearance – Characteristics:

General Appearance – Characteristics – An ancient breed of northern Chinese origin, this all-purpose dog of China was used for hunting, herding, pulling and protection of the home.  While primarily a companion today, his working origin must always be remembered when assessing true Chow type.

A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone.

The body is compact, short coupled, broad and deep, the tail set high and carried closely 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 shorter, 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 outweigh his ability to be active, alert and agile.  Clothed in a smooth or an offstanding rough double coat, the Chow is a masterpiece of beauty, dignity and naturalness.  Essential to true Chow type are his unique blue-black tongue, scowling expression and stilted gait.”


A powerful, sturdy, squarely built, upstanding dog of Arctic type, medium in size with strong muscular development and heavy bone.



About the author

Linda Love Banghart and her husband Bob have been actively involved with loving, breeding and showing Chow chows since the mid 1970s and are both AKC licensed judges. They were honored to receive the 2018 AKC Non-Sporting Breeder of the Year Award. Love is an AKC specialist judge and has judged the US Chow Chow Club National Specialty three times, as well as specialties in Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Italy.

Chow Chow breed
Robert & Linda Love Banghart


The Chow Chow Judges Education materials are available on the Chow Chow Club, Inc website:

Judges Education materials are helpful in visualizing the standard. They include a Powerpoint presentation, a very informative video explaining the unique stilted gait and webinar discussions of the Chow Chow Breed Standard.



Chow Chow Puppies

Looking for a Chow Chow puppy? Contact the Chow Chow Club, or check out their Breeders Refferals Directory to see if you can find a suitable Chow Chow breeder near you.

Breed Rescue

Want to help rescue and re-home a Chow Chow? Get in touch with Chow Chow Club, to check if there is a Chow Chow dog that needs your help.

Chow Chow Breed Magazine

Showsight Magazine is the only publication to offer dedicated Digital Breed Magazines for ALL recognized AKC Breeds.

If you want to read and learn more about the powerful Chow Chow dog breed, make sure to check out our Chow Chow Breed Magazine.


Chow Chow Breed Magazine - Showsight