Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Grooming Your Chow Chow

One of the most endearing traits of a Chow Chow is his great leonine mane and coat. While it is true that your pet won’t require elaborate and extensive coat trimming, but he’s sure to need a few hours of brushing, bathing and cutting of his nails just in order to look his best always.

When to start grooming him: Begin his grooming sessions as soon as you take him home and don’t worry that he’s just six weeks old or six months. It’s never too early to put him on a grooming regimen, so don’t feel sorry for him.
Besides this breed thinks no end of itself, so pride themselves on their cleanliness and their need to be well groomed and looking magnificent. By grooming your Chow Chow, you would really be pandering to his vanity, besides also helping him to maintain his majestic look and attitude. Lastly, it will help forge a closer and better link between you.

What equipment will you need? To do a good job, you need the right equipment to do a good job in the shortest amount of time and for the best effect. These tools are easily available at your nearest pet store or can also be ordered from catalogs. But remember that all good things in life don’t come cheap, so you have to pay for quality.

If you use a sturdy grooming table it will give you 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.

You will need:
A bath tub for a pet
A Greyhound-style medium or coarse steel comb
A fine-toothed comb with a handle
A well-balanced grooming shears, about 7" long. Maintain it well so that it remains sharp and has a good balance
A slicker brush and a pin brush
A nail clipper and a product called "Quik Stop"
A spray-on coat dressing and a conditioning shampoo. Use shampoos meant exclusively for pets, don’t cut corners by using yours as dogs need a shampoo with a different pH balance
A blow dryer—you could use either the handheld variety or the hi-powered ones.

Bathing: With your tools in hand, you can begin the grooming procedure. Bathe your dog monthly or oftener, if you like. If you choose to give him a bath once a week, don’t worry about his coat drying out because if you use good shampoos, this won’t happen. Usually, Chow Chows are bathed once a week.

Before you bathe him, check for any large mats in his hear or dead hair that he is shedding. Remove these, wet his coat thoroughly and apply shampoo, taking care not to let the liquid enter his eyes. Rub hard to work up a good lather, and add water if you so require.

Remember, the soap or shampoo has to go all the way down to his skin, traveling all the way through the thick maze of his coat. Rinse well, and lather again. Now, use a washcloth to wipe his face, once again taking care to keep the soap or shampoo out of his eyes and ears.

Rinse once more for the last time. This is a very critical wash for him as no shampoo should remain in his coat or this will irritate his skin and cause "hot spots". The rule of thumb is to rinse till the water runs clear, and follow it up with yet another rinse, just to be sure. While he is still in the tub, wipe him dry, ensuring that no water has remained in his ears.

Now, blow-dry his coat by laying him down on one side on a table. Initially, you may need the help of a member of your family or friend, but keep him down and make him obey you, no matter how much he may want to get up and run about the house. Once you work your way, he will find it so comfortable that he will fall off to sleep while you dry his coat.

Begin with the coat of hair on his stomach and legs, and go all the way to his spine, blowing his coat with one hand and brushing it down with the other with a pin brush. Dry the part between his rear legs and around his private parts.

Brushing is very important now as when you do this, you should be able to see the skin as you go along, no matter how thickly-coated he is. If you can’t achieve this, the hair closest to his skin will pack down, collect dirt and moisture and cause skin problems.

Part his coat in small sections, and brush within these sections as this makes reaching the skin easier. Use a slicker brush or pin brush, and then comb his coat to ensure that all his dead hair has been removed. Now, turn him over and repeat the above process on his other side. When you dry his ruff and bib, let him stand up or sit, if he likes.

Being long-coated, you will need to brush his hair a few times each week. To hasten shedding and prevent hairy tumbleweeds from finding their way into your house, comb out his dead hair often enough.

You can certainly do most of the grooming yourself, with a little bit of help from family. All you need are a good brush just right to suit the texture of his coat, nail-clippers and a fine-toothed comb to run through his silky hair and weed out fleas.
To get your dog into the groove of grooming, you need to first teach him to accept all the attention he gets. Begin when he is still a pup by letting you touch him all over his body, to stand and lay on his side as you command him to. He must grow used to your touch, the use of a soft brush and a coarse washcloth.
But if he can’t lie still, place a mat on the kitchen table and set him up on it and work with him there. All you need is patience and time to draw your shy dog out and make him confident.

If his coat is tangled, work gently weaving your hands and brush through the tangles and trying hard not to irritate his skin. Comb out the tangle by working your way inwards, but if it is badly tangled or matted, do it little by little, praising him as you go along whenever you hit a rough patch.

Alternatively, you could shave his matted areas, but do it carefully so that he doesn’t get nicked and the skin inflamed. But ff you can’t go through it yourself or can’t bear to cause him pain, hand him over to a professional groomer to do the needful.

Your Chow Chow may shed hair continuously, particularly in the household heat of a dry winter. But double-coated dogs are known to shed a lot of hair twice a year, with undercoat shedding beginning on his haunches and going up to the rest of the coat. His hair may look dull even before the new hair begins to grow back. It may take a month or more for the entire coat to shed completely.

Begin with your pup: Good grooming habits begin in puppyhood with teaching him to sit, stand or lie down to have their bodies examined and their hair combed.

Grooming equipment for your pup: For your pup, you need a basic home grooming kit comprising a soft wire slicker brush, a fine and coarse toothed comb, a Universal brush and mat comb for tangles, and an oil-based conditioner. The mat comb must have long teeth to loosen the hairs.

On a daily basis: Check your dog for cuts, sores, fleas, rashes, bumps, ticks or hitchhikers in her coat or dirty ears. If he has fleas, use a fine-toothed comb to draw them out and drop them into a mug of soapy water. If ticks are way under a pile of coat hair, pick them up with tweezers or your fingers and drop them in a vial of alcohol.

To do this, pick up the tick by its body, roll it back and forth and then pull firmly. Use pincers or tweezers to also remove any grass awns, seed casings or thorny twigs.

Checking his skin: You need to ensure that your pet has a healthy skin—something that begins with a nutritious diet. If he likes the food you give him, is energetic and happy, he’s healthy but he wouldn’t be in the pink of health if his energy levels were low, his coat dull or itchy and suffers from any medical problem including thyroid.

For a glowing and healthy skin, you need to be sure he doesn’t suffer from any skin problems. Skin problems can be due to flea allergies, so a daily check for fleas is necessary, particularly during the flea season. His skin can break out in a rash due to contact allergies too when irritated skin leads to him scratching the area, which in turn can lay the skin open to staphylococcus infections.

For this, your vet will prescribe antibiotics, though expensive. Skin irritations and infections need only a night to erupt so use a fine-toothed comb to check for fleas and ticks.

Ears: Check his ears periodically for fungus; if he has drooping ears since these are more prone to fungus and bacterial infections. Cleaning agents prescribed by the vet can dry them out.
Infected ears can be very uncomfortable to the dog, and may cause a hematoma by breaking a blood vessel if he shakes his head vigorously to ease his discomfort. If he sits still, the hematoma may go on its own, or it may need to be surgically removed.

Feet: Cut your dog’s toenails every fortnight as long toenails can make walking difficult. Cut them after giving him a bath. If he is reluctant to get his nails cut, he may be nipped and this may deter him from getting them cut a second time. So, early in life, you need to teach him to stand or sit still and offer his paw.
Now, clip off a tiny bit of each nail for a couple of days consecutively, or allow a groomer to do the job. If he gets nipped, the quick contained in his nails has a nerve and blood supply. So, if by mistake you cut him there, it not only hurts him, but causes a lot of bleeding. Cut the flow with flour or cornstarch.

See that there’s nothing stuck between the pads such as seeds from grass, pebbles, chemicals on lawns that can burn him, and fungus that can irritate him, and result in hot spots and infection.

Trim the hair between the toes and pads short as also around the outside of his feet. If you let this hair and the nails grow, they can cause the foot to spread and become flat, picking up dirt and making him slip on smooth ground.

In order to encourage nail cutting, give your Chow Chow treats and praise him for his cooperation.

Shedding: Your Chow Chow’s hair growth is as cyclical as anything else. You will see that he sheds his coat twice a year and loses his guard hairs once a year. The whole process of shedding, however, can take place between three weeks to two months. To accelerate the process, give him a warm bath and groom him twice a day.

The process of shedding is controlled by hormonal changes linked to the length of the day and is influenced by his food levels and health. Your pet may also lose hair after surgery and X-rays under anesthesia. Chows shed seasonally, certainly not daily. A couple of times a year they shed their coats.

Grooming him in the summer: Don’t make the mistake of shaving his coat in the summer, only to make him brave the heat better. Perhaps you don’t know that the Chow Chow's thick coat is specially designed to protect him from heat and cold. Its undercoat helps to insulate the skin. So, if you did shave him, it won’t make him feel cooler, and certainly will cause skin problems and sunburn. Instead, groom him now by getting rid of unwanted and dead coat hair. But if his coat isn’t particularly thick in the summer, don’t blow dry it after a bath as this is a lengthy procedure and comes with the risk of retaining moisture and causing hot spots in humid weather.

Curing hot spots: Cropping up overnight, these can grow from a tiny spot to a huge, oozing and red sore. He will try to relieve the pain by biting himself there, only worsening it in the process. Though its cause is yet unknown, it may be due to unrinsed soap or shampoo, flea infestations, wounds, allergies and hormone disorders.

To relieve the itching, apply skin medication such as Panalog and Gentocin ointment and Variton cream. Over the counter drugs are also available for this condition or the vet may advise injections of anti-inflammatory steroids to reduce his sensitivity to allergens. This is common in every Chow Chow’s life, so treat it as natural.

You should see a home-grooming session as an incentive to a relationship with your pet. Dogs inherently groom each other to depict and reinforce pack behavior and show subordination, and you can take advantage of this by spending a few minutes a day to check for fleas, brush his coat and talk and praise him as you go along. This will increase the bond with him and he will look smart and healthy too.

Choosing a groomer: If you’re sure you neither have the time nor the inclination to groom your Chow Chow, hand him over to a trained groomer. For this, you need to select him with as much care as you chose your pet. After all, you must be pleased with his hair styling and treatment of your dog.
Besides, many vets also have grooming centers at their clinics, so you could choose to take your pet there. But if he doesn’t have a center, he may recommend you to a good one. Alternatively, you could ask for references from friends who are dg owners, boarding kennels that don't have a grooming service, pet supply stores, shelters and purebred breeders.

Armed with these recommendations, phone around to ask about the prevailing rates and each groomers rates and other add-on services. Usually, a good groomer will not tranquilize your dog before getting down to work on him. But if your dog has a particular problem or if he is a senior dog with a medical problem, he may need special handling.

Before zeroing in on a groomer, visit his center and ask him as many questions as you can think of until you are satisfied. Look around his place to see if it is well-lit, that he and his assistants handle dogs gently and with special consideration where it is necessary, and that the shampoos and flea and tick products are of good quality.

Your responsibility: In order to get the most out of every visit to the groomer, here’s what you can do:

Teach your Chow Chow to stand when you command him to and to allow the groomer to do his job without putting up a resistance. Put him through obedience classes for this, which, in any case, is part of the Canine Good Citizen test.
Comb his coat regularly to prevent tangles and mats or let the groomer do it.
Give him crate training so that he learns to sit quietly until his coat is dried and wait for you to return.
Warn the groomer of any bad habits your pet may have that may interfere with his smooth functioning. If your pet hates her nails to be cut and bites if you try it or if he subject to seizures or is arthritic, let your groomer know in advance.

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