Is my chow aggressive?

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Is my chow aggressive?

Post by nguyenqdt » Fri Dec 12, 2014 12:16 am

A small incident happened today and I'm a little confused by it. Before I say what happened, I should give a bit of premises on it. It's a little long so feel free to skip down* but I feel like if you know the history of my dog, it will help with your judgement. When I was 17, we had to let go of our two rottweilers as they were too clever and would escape our fence yards and wreak havoc on our neighbor's property. They would climb over the fence by sticking their paws in the holes and pulling themselves up. My dad tried to stop it by adding an extension to the fence and bending it inwards but they would dig and after that he put chicken wire at the base of the fence and they eventually learned how to pick the latch on the fence door. They are probably a lot happier now. Anywho, I went to the animal shelter a little while afterwards and as I walked in, all the dogs would jump onto the doors of their kennels and bark except for one black chow that laid in the corner with her kennel mate (a pitbull) and observed me. I had never even heard about chow chows. I should have done my research but I was intrigued by her and I asked the man who worked there. I'll never forget exactly what he told me. He said, "if you want a dog that will love and listen to you, she's the one." So I broke my piggy bank and traded in all my coins so I could get the $65 I needed to adopt her. Her name was Bear on the paperwork so I kept it. I brought her home and my parents were a little reluctant in keeping her since having those two rottweilers costed us a lot of money. As I said, I knew nothing about chow chows. I knew nothing about their behaviors or their temperament. All I knew is that something in her eyes drew me to her.

When I brought her home the first thing she did when she saw my cat was get into the "play position". He wasn't very interested in it and scratched her nose as warning. I had her for about six months before I had to go to college but I came back to visit every weekend. She was an outside dog but we would let her in occasionally and she was on guard mode when she was in the house. If we let someone in she wouldn't mind but once my sister texted her friend to go ahead inside the house and her friend came in without knocking and Bear gave off warning barks.

During the time I was away, my dad started to raise chickens. My mom was afraid that she would hurt the chickens but in the end, Bear became a successful flock guardian. We did lose two chickens in the process of the introduction but to be honest we actually never saw her attack a chicken so to this day we'll never know what happened to those chickens. She began to be very overly protective of them. Whenever she saw our neighbor's terrier sniffing around the shared fence, she would immediately start barking. My dad actually had to move her to the other side of the yard so she would stop barking. Every once in a while when I looked out of the window I would see her playing with the chickens. Sometimes they would get annoyed and start to chase her but she thinks they're playing with her haha.

Fast forward a couple of years and I had transferred to a different state college and was living in an apartment. My dad had gotten extremely sick and had to leave the country for treatment, leaving his beloved flock in the care of my grandfather. After school had ended for me, I immediately went back and I was very disappointed to see the state Bear was in. Her fur had become matted, she smelled horribly, and she was covered in fleas. At that point, I made the decision to move her to my apartment. My grandfather would feed her but he didn't really "take care" of her and I don't blame him as he is very old and has no idea how to care for a dog. I took her to the vet to make sure she was in good health and I got her groomed so she could be the beautiful chow that she is. The transition was actually easier than I expected. I knew that for her to become a full time indoor dog, I would have to crate train and house train her. She was crate trained in a day and during house training, she had one accident. Within a week she retired from being a flock guardian and became a house pet. After I took Bear away, my dad came back and actually asked me if I could bring her back. A fox came and killed his entire flock of chickens when I took Bear away. I declined and my dad decided to adopt another dog to become a flock guardian.

My roommate also decided to bring her dog, an elderly Shihtzu named Louie. When they met, they weren't buddies but after a week they kind of became best friends. It's odd because in personality they are very different. Bear hates being dirty and Louie wouldn't care if he stepped in his own poop. She's very introverted and doesn't like meeting too many people or dogs at once while he is extremely sociable. She's very careful and he's well...not. I had an art critique and I laid all my drawings on the floor of our living room and Bear was careful not to step on any of them. She just sat in one spot and waited for me to be done. Louie saw my drawings and walked all over them (don't worry, they weren't damaged). After living together, I saw that Bear had taken on some of Louie's traits. She now scratches herself standing up, she used to be a very quiet dog but now she expresses herself with different sounds, she's gotten more sociable, and she's also picked up Louie's habit of licking her hind foot and cleaning the inside of her ears with it. At the same time, I've noticed that Louie has become good friends with Bear. At night she sleeps in my room and Louie sleeps in my roommate's room. In the morning, I would take Bear out and I can hear Louie scratching on the bedroom door to be let out when he hears Bear walking down the stairs. When I crate her in the living room he would sleep next to her crate. When me and my roommate take them on walks, Louie would stop to sniff and wouldn't listen to my roommate calling for him to keep walking but when he looks up and sees that Bear is walking away, he happily follows her. Bear often likes to play with him but because he is elderly, he doesn't have the energy to play that often with her. They do occasionally chase each other around the house sometimes though and once she accidentally hit him in the face with her paw when she was trying to get him to play with her. He got mad and jumped up and bit her in the neck and she barked back at him and he ran off. Five minutes later, they were napping together. She doesn't mind sharing her food with him either but she gets possessive when it comes to peanut butter.

Bear is a very good Chow but she has gotten into three fight incidents. Once was when I took her to my uncle's house and his lhasa apso attacked her. She bit back and stopped when he walked away. Twice, she got attacked by my neighbor's loose standard poodle while I was walking her. In general, she avoids confrontation and if she's uncomfortable, she walks away. She is a little unusual as she loves meeting cats and also loves meeting pit bulls (probably because of her kennel mate). But they don't seem to like meeting her. So it's safe to say that I have fallen in love completely with the breed. And since I have gotten her, I've educated myself a whole lot more on the breed and I had no idea they were considered a bully breed.

*Anyways, the incident happened when my roommate, Louie, Bear, and I were in the same room, sitting on the floor in very close proximity to each other. She was feeling Louie's paws between his toes and proceeded to show me his webbed toes. He tried to get out of her grip but she held onto him and out of nowhere Bear let out an extremely loud snarl/slight bark towards my roommate. It surprised my roommate and she let go of Louie. For a moment I was very scared as I have never seen Bear do this before and I was afraid that she might attack Louie all of a sudden. After Louie escaped my roommate's grip, Bear followed Louie and I held my breath for a moment but all she did was sniff him for a few moments and then she went back to my roommate and allowed my roommate to pet her. I was wondering if Chows randomly show signs of aggression like this or maybe I am reading the situation wrong? Is it possible that Bear had thought that Louie was in pain when my roommate was holding onto his paw so that he won't escape and Bear was trying to defend him? To be honest, Bear does get jealous sometimes when she's not being given attention but she just nudges us when that happens. I know that dogs often defend their owners but do they defend each other?

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Re: Is my chow aggressive?

Post by Rory's Dad » Fri Dec 12, 2014 6:31 pm

Yep, that was a lot of background info, but to be honest it's actually pretty helpful when trying to determine where the behavior comes from.

Chows can be pretty complex and you almost have to assume the role of psychologist at times to figure out what they are thinking.

I think you are right though. Your chow has decided that she is a guardian. Go back to the chickens, etc. This is not unusual in the history of chows. They were bred for a variety of roles. Guardians, protectors, hunters, sled dogs, etc they have been known to do it all. They actually are reported to have fought alongside Ghengis Khan in battle.

Your current living arrangements would, to me, suggest that Bear views your roommate as an outsider, or at least not a family member. The separate sleeping areas appear exclusive, and Bear notices that. Based on her rescue experience, and the time with your grandfather, I would guess that she less than 100% trusting of anyone but you for her care. She recognizes you as her human, and will not likely defer to anyone else at this point.

Other dogs, she seems to consider her companions (rightly so), and kicks into guardian/protector mode when needed. Seems logical that she would attempt to defend Louie if she sensed a threat. The other incidents seem defensive and she did not escalate them to an unnecessary level. Good for her!

I don't see an issue here. To answer your question, yes they will defend each other. Against other dog "packs" or against humans they consider to be threats to their family, whether that be housemate dogs/chickens or you.

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Re: Is my chow aggressive?

Post by mayibat » Tue May 05, 2015 6:41 pm

I agree with the first responder to your question. your dog is protecting the other dog. I've had 4 chows in my adult life, all from puppy hood to seniors. They were all wonderful and unique. My last one Cheyenne lived 16 years with 3 cats and herded them on occasion. One of the cats (Baby) was a young feral that I rescued after he was hit by a car and subsequently had to have one of his back legs amputated. It took Baby about 3 months to stop hiding but after that Cheyenne was very protective of that cat, shared her bed with him, licked and groomed him and once in awhile if one of the other cats "bullied" or chased Baby, Cheyenne would get up from her resting position and trot over with a little growl to the bully cat. The bully cat had sense enough to go away, jump on the sofa, etc. Cheyenne would follow Baby and settle wherever Baby went after the skirmish. My husband said she thought she was a cat, even though she had another lifelong chow companion. She was a gentle soul, but did not like strangers in the house or yard, at least at their first visit. I crate trained all my chows over the years for the purpose of having visitors. One of the things you can do with your roommate (how I managed all of my chows acceptance of my friends) is to have him/her give treats every day. at first YOU do the sit/stay commands, but have the roommate give the treat. then move it up to the roommate give the sit stay commands then the treats. be patient if at first she's not interested. the obedience command is an important part of giving treats. This will establish some alpha hierarchy of the family, (your roommate at a higher level in the pack than the dog) Your dog will begin to recognize & respect your roommate as part of the family, and actually may do some tail wagging upon seeing them.

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