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"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
-- Roger Caras

AKC Breeder of Merit

FlamingStar Chow Chows

Quality Smooths and Roughs

Loved, owned and cared for by
Cathy Clapp
AKC Silver Breeder of Merit

Hodgenville, Kentucky
(270) 307-9228

As with so many of those of us in the realm of the dog show world, my first chow was acquired as a pet. In fact it was the winter of my senior year in college when I bought my first one. I had become quite enamored with the breed thanks to one of the professors I worked for. He had a black chow bitch that he would bring with him to the school between semesters. I was fascinated with her regal appearance, black tongue and independence, though he never had to put her on a lead. I also must admit that after growing up with English Setters and a Brittany that were my father’s gun dogs, I also wanted a breed that he couldn’t take hunting and make his dog in a single day. After some fairly serious research not just on chows but also on a handful of other breeds I was interested in, I concluded that the Chow Chow was the breed for me.

My second chow came the following summer. It was thanks to him that I started attending my first “fun” matches. He’d often be the only chow there and would win. I would ask the judge if they really thought he was worth showing and they’d always tell me something to the effect of “I know people with chows and he is.” I took him to my very first real dog show not long after and took one look at the other chows there and knew he was NOT show quality. However, by then I was hooked. With the idea in mind of getting some experience in the ring while I tried to acquire a real show quality chow, I continued to show him and met others who were serious and had nice dogs. It was thanks to one of those that I was able to get a good red bitch. 

While I was still “practicing” with that first male I signed up for obedience class since that was the only type of training that was available where I lived. So, it turned out that my first titled dog was not a champion, but an AKC Companion Dog (CD). He may not have been show quality, but he was quite happy to do obedience and obtained his CD in 4 shows.  

Perhaps because I grew up with bird dogs that were expected to perform in the field, soundness has always been of great importance to me. In my very limited breeding program I have strived to produce chows that had type, balance, and good structure. As anyone who has had this goal can tell you, it’s much easier said than done. However I do believe that type is equally important with structure. Something I heard someone say at a seminar once upon a time really stuck with me:

You can go to the animal shelter and find sound moving dogs any day
of the week;
however, you can’t necessarily tell what breed they are.  

Good structure is essential for good movement and quality of life over the long term, but type is critical in determining the breed. 

This is particularly important to me since I became interested in the smooth coat chow many years ago when I started having problems with my hands going numb while grooming. I knew I had to do something different if I wanted to keep the breed I loved so much. I found my solution with the short coat of the smooth. While not a wash and wear dog by any stretch of the imagination, it is not as difficult to go through their coat and get them ready. Here again the importance of type and soundness together becomes evident. There is no creative grooming with the smooth – what you see is what you get. Plus, I firmly believe that a smooth should just look like a chow with a short coat – there should be no doubt in your mind as to what breed the dog is.

I enjoy showing in both conformation and obedience. While obedience with a chow will humble you more than prove what a great trainer you are, it does demonstrate that chows are intelligent and can follow commands – when they want to. The ones that I have titled actually seemed to enjoy it (though it was for the treats and toys rather than the actual exercises).  It is entirely different than conformation in that while you can be competitive if you really want to, it is up to the handler as to how serious you wish to be – do you want the bare minimum to get a title or do you want to place in the class? The great thing about obedience is that you aren’t dependent on defeating other dogs to earn a title. Instead you demonstrate to the judges that your dog will perform to a certain standard a minimum of three times. And that’s not as easy as it sounds, either.

Conformation, on the other hand, is all about presentation and performance and winning. I am a competitive person and have to admit I enjoy walking into the ring with a dog I’m proud of. While the Chow Chow Standard is not as vague as it was when I first started, it is still quite subjective to interpretation. It is the knowledge that every judge is different that keeps me going back. Just because you lose one day doesn’t mean you will the next because it is a new day, a new show, and a new judge. If you present a quality animal in good condition there will be those judges who will appreciate it, even if the judge the day before did not.

 While my breed has always been chows I regularly exhibited other breeds for several years, including French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, Mastiffs, Bull Mastiffs and even a Boxer. Those “wash-n-wear” dogs were kind of nice, but I missed the preparation you go through to get a chow ready to go to the ring. And even though with my smooths it doesn’t take as long, I still go through all of the same steps I do with the roughs. It doesn’t matter if it is single points or a major – I always believe a dog should look its best when it walks through the gate of the ring.

After more than thirty years in the breed I still haven’t found that perfect chow, and somehow I don’t think I ever will. It’s that constant striving for the attempt at perfection and the betterment of the breed that keeps me going. There are always set-backs to be overcome, and at one point I actually just started over with new blood-lines which led me to where my dogs are today. They aren’t perfect, but with each generation they have improved. I do not limit myself to smooths only or to any particular color in my breeding program. To get the qualities I’m looking for I will breed to the best dog I can, whether it be smooth or rough or any of the five acceptable colors. And who knows – maybe one day there will be that elusive perfect chow.

 But enough about me.  Please continue perusing through the site  to see the dogs I currently have as well as some I've owned or co-owned and showed. For the limited number of dogs I have owned at any one time, I am proud of the consistancy of quality that I have had.


copyright 2018
This page was last updated 29 July 2018