The Chow Chow is a stocky dog with broad skull and small, rounded ears. The breed has a very dense coat that is either smooth or rough. The fur is particularly thick around the neck, giving the distinctive ruff or mane. The coat may be one of several colors including reddish-brown (described as "red"), black, blue, cinnamon, and cream.
Not all these color varieties are recognized as valid in all countries. Individuals with patchy or parti-colored coats are considered to be outside the breed standard. Chow Chows are unusual in having a blue-black tongue and very straight hind legs that result in a rather stilted gait.
While now commonly kept as a companion dog, the Chow Chow has a reputation for being a willful and independent breed that is sometimes difficult to train. They can be very aloof and wary of strangers. They often do not get along well with other dogs.