The Chow Chow can have one of two different types of coat; either rough or smooth. The most common coat is the long-haired or rough, which has an outer coat containing long, straight, coarse guard hairs which do not mat or tangle as easily as the soft, thick undercoat. The smooth coated Chow Chow has a short, hard, dense "smooth" outer coat and a definite undercoat. The rough and smooth are two distinct varieties of Chow and although there are many rough coated Chows with fairly short coats these should not be confused with the actual unique, smooth coat. Most importantly, the Chow is unique in it's blue-black tongue and stilted gait.
The smooth coated Chow is judged by the same standard as the rough coated Chow except that references to the quantity and distribution of the outer coat are not applicable to the smooth coated Chow, which has a hard, dense, smooth outer coat with a definite under coat. There should be no obvious ruff or feathering on the legs or tail.
There are five colors in the Chow: red (light golden to deep mahogany), black, blue, cinnamon (light fawn to deep cinnamon) and cream. The predominant colors of the Chow are red -- or black. The reds may be light or dark, solid throughout or shaded on the tail and breechings. Less common, the so-called "dilute" colors of cinnamon or fawn (a dilution of red) or blue (a dilution of black) do exist. Occasionally a cream will appear, but usually this specimen has a pink or flesh-colored nose so that it cannot be shown according to the Chow Chow Club's Breed Standard. Since the cinnamons and blues are somewhat less common than the predominant colors of red or black -- an erroneous idea has spread that the cream, cinnamon, and blue Chows are more difficult to breed and therefore, more valuable. The dilutes are not actually rare, and the dilute color has absolutely nothing to do with a dog's value. The Chow's worth depends not on his color, but rather on his beauty and excellence in regard to how closely he approximates the Chow Chow Club's Breed Standard as recognized by the American Kennel Club. The pigment in the dilutes is seldom as blue-black in color as in the red or black Chow. In the dilutes the pigment may tend to lighten or fade with age. Often the creamy, pearl-gray color of some cinnamon puppies will disappear along with the puppy coat, and the adult color will sometimes not be as attractive as what was seen in the puppy. Although blue may sound exotic and be a quite handsome light blue color in the puppy coat, such color may turn out to be a rather dirty, gray-blue-black when the adult coat comes in. Finally, what should be stressed is that the color per se of any Chow does not make him any more or less valuable.
The Chow is a medium-size dog generally weighing from forty-five to seventy pounds. The height ranges from seventeen to twenty inches at the withers. Although the Breed Standard does not give any suggested weight, an average-size Chow bitch would generally range from 45 to 55 pounds. An average-size Chow male would generally range from 55 to 70 pounds. No matter what the size or weight, the Chow should be balanced, in that the height of the Chow at the withers should form a square with the length of the Chow's body; for instance, if the Chow is eighteen inches high from the withers to the ground, he should be eighteen inches long in body.
Perhaps, the most unique feature of the Chow is the blue-black color of the tongue and tissues of the mouth, a characteristic that the Chow shares with only a few other mammals. So important is this feature that a Chow with a pink tongue or a tongue spotted with pink is disqualified under the Breed Standard and cannot be shown.
The Chow's heavy head and muzzle is surrounded by an off-standing ruff. Sometimes the words "lion-headed" or "lion-like" are used to describe the Chow's head. His eyes are almond shaped and deep set giving him the inscrutable, mysterious look of an Oriental - quiet and thoughtful.
The scowl is unique, being one of the most typical characteristics of the Chow, along with his blue-black tongue and stilted gait. Although difficult to describe, the scowl relates to the Chow's frowning expression. Excessive loose skin is not desirable. Wrinkles on the muzzle do not contribute to the expression and are not required. The shadings make the scowl much more noticeable in the reds than in the other colors. The scowl sometimes erroneously suggests to some that the Chow is mean or temperamental; of course, outward appearances have little to do with any breed's temperament or personality.
The tail of the Chow lies on the back and is a most decorative part of the Chow contributing to his beauty and handsome appearance. Thick at its root, tapering off to the tip, the tail should be high set.
The Chow has only a slight bend of stifle and is straight in hocks rather than angulated. Therefore, his unusual rear gait appears choppy and stilted. His steps are short and quick. He does not put his hind legs very far forward nor very far backward as most breeds do. Having a short and lilting step, owing to the hock and stifle joints having so little angulation, the Chow moves his hind legs somewhat like stilts. In spite of this unusual gait, the Chow can move rapidly and should have a lot of endurance.