In previous years I have given tips on grooming your Chow. Since bathing forms a very important part of maintaining your Chow's condition and is vital to achieving the finish to coat necessary to "stand out in a crowd" in the show ring. I thought it perhaps pertinent to offer a few tips to ease this sometimes awkward task.
The three basic steps are (1) Groom (thoroughly). (2) Bath, (3) Groom (finishing touch).
(1) The Chow's coat must be thoroughly groomed through and every knot/tangle removed. If this is not done prior to bathing each knot/tangle will end up at least twice the size and any dirt trapped within them will simply be released back into the coat when groomed later, thus totally undermining your efforts. (2) Make sure all items needed are to hand prior to commencing. These will include towels, shampoo and maybe conditioner or insecticidal treatment. Some people also like to place a rubber mat in the bath to prevent slipping. I find it helpful to use a nylon lead tied to a handle or tap whilst carrying out this operation to prevent the Chow jumping back out of the bath. So far as to which shampoo is concerned, as with humans this is very much a personal choice issue. However, for ease of application and economy I always dilute with warm water into an old washing up liquid squeezy bottle thus enabling event amounts of shampoo to be applied exactly where required.
Using a shower spray, adjust the water to run at fairly high pressure but only have it at lukewarm temperature. Since most Chows hate water around their head I always start by soaking the coat from the back end first. Whilst jetting the water into the coat with one hand squeeze coat with the other to ensure the coat is thoroughly soaked down to the skin. Gradually work forwards not forgetting the undercarriage and inside legs etc., until reaching the head where the utmost care must be taken to prevent water entering the ears. I normally hold the ear channel closed whilst soaking around this area. If you find this difficult, insert cotton wool plugs prior to commencing to minimize risk of water entering the ears. Encourage the Chow to keep is muzzle pointed in a downward direction as water up the nostrils is also very unpopular.
Having soaked the Chow thoroughly start applying the shampoo from the highest point, i.e. behind the ears. Having ensured the whole body/legs etc., have been lathered up you then come to the head last. As with soaking his is a fairly delicate operation and care should be taken to avoid getting soap into ears and eyes. Do this area fairly quickly and be ready to rinse immediately. Rinse with lukewarm water starting with the head/face area - jet in water and squeeze out the shampoo with the other hand until clear water is running out of the coat. Gradually work down each part of the Chow's body from the higher parts first - ensuring all shampoo is removed. Methodically squeeze-dry the coat from top to bottom picking up each foot in turn as large amounts of water collect here. If you need to use a conditioner or insecticidal treatment this would be done next following the manufacturers guide.
Having squeezed the excess water from the coat, then lift the Chow out of the bath on to a towel previously placed on the floor. Place another large towel over the dog and either run or carry him outside to allow a good shake. Stand Clear!! Next towel the dog as dry as possible - do this methodically part by part. If the outside temperature is suitable, at this stage I allow the Chow to dry naturally somewhere he cannot roll and mess himself up again. From time to time I 'lift' the coat all over with my fingers particularly the culottes (featherings). If the outside temperature is too cold I keep the dog inside in a warm room and repeat the same procedure. I seldom use a hair dryer as I found in my experience that whilst the first bath produced excellent results repeated electric drying resulted in my Chows not holding their coats as long as when dried naturally. If a drier is the only solution then great care must be taken not to have the nozzle too close and the coat must be methodically lifted with a brush to allow the hot air to circulate through the coat. Once dry I then re-groom to required standard as previously described.
If full bath (Shower spray) is not possible a reasonable result can be achieved by the "car wash" method, i.e. tie the dog up outside and with a bucket of soapy suds and a sponge repeat similar to as above, remembering to rinse thoroughly of course. In my opinion there is no substitute to bathing a Chow properly and lazy exhibitors can easily be spotted.
Written by Mr Rodney Oldham