Insofar as general grooming is concerned there are numerous schools of thought as to the best type of brush to use on a Chow coat. Having tried most over the years, my preference is for a slicker (bent pin) type brush - of those on the market the most suitable are the type where the pins are spaced fairly well apart, the silver backed version tends to feel softer to human touch but this is simply because the pins are closer together. I always try to buy my next brush well in advance and break it in on one of the unshown/older dogs since new brushes can be rather too efficient at removing hair when of course the accent should be on keeping it on the Chow as long as possible! The other basic implement is the comb and as mentioned previously this should be of the wide toothed variety. The most popular in the breed has always been the Spratts 74 since the teeth are around 5mm apart and remove minimal amounts of coat during use.
The true Chow coat is described as straight and stand-off, to enhance the desired effect grooming with the slicker brush should start at the head. Whilst holding the coat flat with one hand use the brush to lift the coat away from the skin and in a forward direction gradually sliding the hand back over the coat as each layer is completed. Great care should be taken not to scratch the skin with the pins as this will cause much discomfort and is quite often the start of the cursed scratch/chew cycle that becomes a habit difficult to break. A similar operation should be carried out over the whole of the Chow with almost everything being brushed forwards, of course when you come to the pants this will be groomed in layers to each side but still basically towards the head. The comb will generally only be used for more cosmetic 'finishing' to shape and enhance particular areas/features, however, you may find that if your Chow has a more difficult coat it could become necessary to comb behind the ears and the lower sections of both front and rear legs.
It was mentioned earlier that a young puppy should be groomed daily, this is simply to get them used to it as an enjoyable procedure. As he/she starts to grow up a couple of times weekly will suffice with perhaps intermediate topping & tailing if the weather conditions demand. Once the harsh adult coat comes through I definitely would not advocate thorough brushing anymore than once a week as you will find that you are doing more harm than good.
Chows generally are quite fastidious and do not need constant bathing - once or twice a year for a house pet is sufficient. For a show dog, in order to present your Chow in sparkling form, bathing will have to be undertaken as and when required. Most people tend to bathe 2 or 3 days before a show so that the coat has chance to settle and regain its harsh texture. It is most important that the Chow is thoroughly groomed prior to bathing or any small tangles will become knots or worse still matts and as you try to groom later on all the dirt trapped within the knots is released back into the coat thus undoing all your best efforts. I do not intend to go into bathing in any great detail here except to say thorough rinsing is a must. I personally allow my dogs to have a good shake once out of the bath, give a brisk rub down with a towel and then leave to dry naturally. In summer they can be outside but in winter of course a warm room is required. The only attention I give during this drying period is to re-towel occasionally and perhaps hourly lift the coat with my fingers in the direction I wish it to lay.
During one period in my Chow career I had plenty of grooming parlour facilities and used the electric dryers with relish, of course they looked great first time around but sadly did not hold their coats anywhere near as long as by my previously tried and tested methods. Once fully dry the coat can quite easily be brushed through and your Chow should be looking like a potential winner!
Written by Mr Rodney Oldham
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