Grooming Your Pet Chow Chow
The Chow Chow's great lionlike coat is one of the breed's most appealing characteristics. Chows don't require extensive trimming but do need a few hours of brushing, bathing and nailcutting to maintain their magnificent appearance. Grooming should begin as soon as you bring your Chow home whether he's 6 weeks or 6 months old. Chows are inherently clean and have very high opinions of themselves. They like to look good! Regular grooming helps to maintain their lordly appearance and attitude along with building a better relationship between the two of you.
Start with the right tools
Let's start with the right equipment. Quality tools are important, help you get the job done right in the shortest amount of time and last longest. You can find some of these tools at your local pet supply store and others can be ordered from the catalog houses that are listed at the end of the article. Good tools aren't cheap and you get what you pay for.
- a sturdy grooming table. You'll have better control of the dog on a table and it'll save your back. You can also build a table using inexpensive materials found at the hardware store.
- a "Greyhound-style" medium/coarse steel comb.
- a small fine-toothed comb with a handle.
- a well-balanced 7" grooming shears. Take good care of it to maintain its edge and balance.
- a "Universal" slicker brush and a "Safari" pin brush.
- a nail clipper and a product called "Quik Stop".
- a spray-on coat dressing and a conditioning shampoo. Brands like Ring 5, Bio-Groom, Tomlyn, etc. are excellent products. Don't use shampoo meant for humans. Dogs require a different pH balance.
- a blowdryer. The handheld kind is okay but if you can afford it, specially designed high powered dryers designed for dogs will save you much time and do a better job without drying out the coat.
Now that you have your tools and your dog handy, we can start. Bathing should be done monthly and can be done oftener if you prefer. Bathing as often as once a week will not dry out the coat if you're using good products and doing the job properly. Most show Chows are bathed weekly.
Before the bath, remove any large mats or dead hair that might be shedding out. Wet the coat thoroughly and apply shampoo being careful to keep soap out of his eyes. Rub vigorously to work up a lather, adding more water as needed. The soap has to get all the way to the skin. Rinse well, then lather once more. Use a washcloth to clean his face, being careful not to get the soap in his eyes and ears.
Now it's time for the final rinse. This is the most important part of the bath.Absolutely no shampoo should be left behind or it will irritate his skin and cause "hot spots". An old rule of thumb is to rinse till the water runs clear, then rinse again. Towel dry the dog while still in the tub, making sure to get the water out of his ears.
Now you're ready to blow dry. Lay your Chow on his side on the table. This may take two people at first but insist and make him obey you. Drying and grooming is much easier with the Chow on his side and after awhile, he'll be so comfortable, he may even fall asleep while you work!
Start with the belly hair and legs, working your way to the spine, blowing the coat while brushing down to the skin with the pin brush. Take care to dry the areas between his rear legs and around his private parts. Brushing to the skin is critical - you must be able to see the skin as you brush even on the most heavily-coated Chow! Otherwise, the hair closest to the skin will pack down, retain dirt and moisture and cause serious skin problems. If you brush the coat in small sections, reaching the skin is easier. Use the slicker and/or pin brush, following up with the comb to make sure all dead and shedding hair has been removed. Turn him over and repeat the process on the other side. Then he can stand or sit up so you can dry his ruff and bib.
Paws & Toenails
Clipping toenails should be done on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. Long toenails damage feet and are uncomfortable to walk on. Nails are easiest to cut after bathing when they're softest. You may want to ask your vet or your dog's breeder to show you how the first time. If you accidentally cut a nail too short and it bleeds, apply a pinch of "Quik Stop" to the cut end. No dog enjoys having his nails cut and you must be firm about it. Give treats and praise for being cooperative. With practice, he'll behave better and you'll become quicker and more efficient.
Chows have the most compact, cat-like foot in all dogdom. To keep them that way, keep the nails short and trim the hair underneath the foot between the toes and pads as well as around the outside of the foot. Too much hair and long nails can cause the foot to spread and become flat along with picking up dirt and causing the Chow to slip on smooth surfaces.
Your Chow should be brushed weekly between baths. Lay the Chow on his side, mist the coat with coat dressing and brush thoroughly to the skin. Coat dressing prevents hair breakage, static and generally makes grooming easier. Use the slicker brush on the shorter hair and the pin brush on the longer coat. Follow with the medium/coarse comb. The fine-toothed comb is used on legs, feet and face and is good for removing shedding and dead hair. Remember, always brush to the skin!
When finished, use the shears to trim off any long, wispy hair that sticks out beyond the Chow "silhouette". Trim a small area around the anus for cleanliness. You can also trim the Chow's hocks and pasterns (ankles) for neatness.
Ear cleaning should also be done weekly using a product designed for that purpose. It's a good idea to have your veterinarian or groomer show you how. Your veterinarian can also show you how to brush your dog's teeth and prevent future dental diseases.
Special Summertime Tips
Many people feel sorry for their Chows in the summer and wonder if they should shave them. The Chow's thick coat is designed to protect him from heat as well as cold. The undercoat helps insulate the skin. Shaving your Chow may not help him feel cooler and in some cases, may contribute to skin problems as well as sunburn.
The best way to keep your Chow comfortable in hot weather is to keep him well-groomed! Dirty, dead and shedding hair packs down next to the skin, trapping dirt, heat and moisture. Circulating air isn't able to reach the skin. Regular grooming and bathing helps avoid these problems.
If your Chow's coat isn't especially thick in the summer, you may be able to skip the blowdrying process after the bath. Chows with heavy undercoats and puppies still in puppy coat need to be blowdried because the coat will take forever to dry on its own and retains moisture, often causing hot spots, especially in humid weather.
Treating Hot Spots
"Hot Spots" are probably the most common and frustrating temporary health problems in Chow Chows. They can appear overnight, growing from a tiny spot into a huge, hot, angry, oozing sore. Chows are their own worst enemies when it comes to hot spots. The sores hurt and itch and the Chow tries to relieve the pain by chewing at himself which only makes the hot spot worse!
What exactly causes hot spots isn't known for sure but many things contribute to them. Soap left in the coat after the bath is a leading culprit along with flea infestations, wounds, allergies and hormone disorders. If your Chow breaks out shortly after a bath, you can suspect you didn't rinse him well enough. Another bath with a more thorough rinsing will be necessary. A Chow that's allergic to fleas will fly into a coat-chewing frenzy over just one flea bite. Minor skin irritations and insect bites are high on the hot spot list, too. Chows are funny creatures - they ignore big hurts to the point of not letting you know when they don't feel well but they are easily upset by small hurts like insect bites.
Allergies usually appear after puppyhood and are more prevalent in the summer months. Hormone disorders like thyroid deficiency also usually appear after puppyhood. These are year-round conditions.
The key to controlling and clearing up a hot spot is to relieve the itching and restraining the Chow from chewing on himself. Medication applied to the skin is very helpful. There are several ointments you can get by presciption from your veterinarian such as Panalog and Gentocin ointment and Variton cream. Variton cream has a bad taste to it and discourages chewing. Over the counter medications are also available at pet supply stores. In severe cases, the veterinarian may choose to give an injection of anti-inflammatory steroids to reduce the irritation and the dog's sensitivity to allergens.
Most Chows get at least a couple hot spots at some point in their lives. If your Chow is having chronic problems with hot spots, hair loss or other skin troubles, you should suspect a deeper cause such as allergies or homone disorders. See your veterinarian for an examination and treatment.
Photo & Illustration credits:
1) T.G. DeGruy, Baton Rouge, Louisiana
2) Eric Johnsen, Franklin, Wisconsin
3) Kip Kopatch, Greene, Rhode Island
all photos & illustrations copyrighted by their authors, all rights reserved.
This article was adapted from the original written by Kathy Beliew and is published by The Chow Chow Club, Inc.'s Welfare Committee. Reproduction of this copyrighted material, photographs, or illustrations for other than personal home use is prohibited. Contact Vicki for reprint permission.
Teaching Good Manners For Grooming & At The Vet's Office
Does your Chow hate to be groomed? Does he turn into a demon at the vet's?
This file will help you train him to behave like the canine gentleman you want him to be.