A little About Chow Chows and Shedding
You probably recognise the Chow as the dog with the blue tongue, and that’s exactly what a Chow Chow has. The blue colour is not only on the tongue but also the lips and even inside the mouth.
The Chow is a very distinctive dog which is also known for the extremely thick fur coat it sports. He’s a distinguished dog who can be very aloof at times.
The Chow is always suspicious of strangers and he is not a cuddly type of dog. If you want a dog to cuddle, then you need to look at another breed.
So, what makes the Chow a great pet? They are fiercely loyal to their owners. They are also great companions and will make a lifelong friend for the right owner.
The Chow is sturdily built and has an almost square profile. The ears are erect with rounded tips and the skull broad and triangular shaped.
The eyes are normally deep set and the back legs appear very straight which makes it look as if they are walking in a rather stilted way.
A very recognisable feature of the Chow is the curled tail. The fur on the tail, as well as all over the body, is very dense.
The breed has a double coat which can be either smooth or rough. The fur is thicker in the neck area and it is the thick fur which gives the impression of a ruff or collar.
The coat colours can vary, and you will find a selection ranging from red, black, blue, cinnamon, fawn and cream or in fact any mixture of these colours.
Not every colour is recognised for the breed standard. Multicoloured coats are not recognised as breed standard.
The breed standard for the nose is black, and blue or grey noses are not accepted for contests. The blue tongue gene is dominant as any mix breed that has a Chow in the parentage will have blue tongue.
Back in the 1920’s Chows were the dog choice for the wealthy.
So popular were they that even the President at the time, Calvin Coolidge had two Chows as family pets. Timmy was a red Chow and Blackberry a black Chow.
Another famous Chow owner was Sigmund Freud. His daughter Anna used to breed Chows. Recently you may have seen Martha Stewart and her Chow on her tv show.
The AKC ranks the Chow in popularity as number 64 out of 155 breeds. The AKC registers over 10,000 Chows each year.
Short History of the Chow Chow
Originally the Chow came from Northern China where it was known as the ‘puffy lion dog.’ It has also been recognised as predating the more modern breeds of the 19th century.
It has even been suggested that the Chow has been around in China for over 2,000 years and in Arctic Asia for over 3,000 years. They were noted as being in Mongolia and Siberia as well as China.
Chows were used in China to pull sleds. In fact, Marco Polo commented about this. He added that the breed was also bred for human consumption (not something a dog lover wants to hear!).
Early pictures of Chows appear on pottery and in paintings which date the existence of the breed back to 206BC in the Han Dynasty.
The fur was made into trimming for coats while often the flesh was thought to be a delicacy.
In the late 18th century British merchants took some Chows back to the UK, and because miscellaneous items, including the dogs, were called ‘chow chow’ the name stuck, and they have been called Chows ever since.
After Queen Victoria took an interest in the breed the club was formed in 1895. The AKC recognised the breed in 1903 and the first Chow to be registered was called Yen How.
What is a Chow Chows Coat Like?
The Chow Chow has a double coat. This is a coat that comprises two layers of fur. This is not a unique thing as over 40 breeds also sport a double coat.
The undercoat of the Chow is made up of short hair, of a wool like appearance.
The reason for the undercoat is to keep the dog warm through the winter months. They can live in extremely brutal conditions because of the protection from the undercoat.
The top coat is made of longer hairs, and it is this outer layer that is known as the ‘guard hairs.’ The top layer protects and guards the dog from any hazardous elements.
It is easy to tell that the undercoat is dense because dogs with dense undercoats look as if they are fluffed up. The Chow is probably the most fluffed up breed you will find!
You will notice that the hair around the neck is thicker and looks like a mane. The tail is also very thick.
A variation of the regular Chow, namely the smooth coated Chow how has a dense and hard outer coat with no ruff or mane at the neck.
The coat will come in five different colours. These are red, black, blue, cinnamon and cream. You will find the colours solid or with light shadings.
The reds can range from light to deep mahogany, while the cinnamon can be anywhere between light fawn to dark cinnamon.
Be aware that there are some unscrupulous sellers who may try to convince you that a pup is ‘rare’ because of the amazing colour of the coat.
They may be described as lilac, silver or even champagne. In fact, these are just fancy names for the regular colours of the Chow coat.
A reputable breeder will never try to charge you for a fancy coloured coat.
So, you will find that the Chow breed has two types of coat, one rough and the other smooth. Both coats will shed a great deal.
Both coats also shed more at the same time, namely in Spring. The rough coat sheds marginally less than the smooth coat, although this also varies depending on the climate and housing conditions.
The smooth coat feels more like a Golden Retriever while the rough coat feels a bit like cotton.
If anything, the rough haired Chow sheds worse than the smooth haired dog, although both will leave huge dust bunnies in your house.
Do Chow Chows Shed?
The answer to this question is a great, big ‘yes.’ Chows shed badly.
They are classed as seasonal shedders so you may notice less shedding at various times of the year, although they will still shed between the shedding times.
Do not be under the impression that this breed only sheds lightly because it sheds prolifically.
There are certain things that make the Chow Chow shed worse and these are nutrition, climate and grooming routines.
If you are allergic to dog dander and dislike excessive amounts of hair on your furniture and in your house, then this may not be the best choice of dog breed for you.
When do Chow Chows Shed the Most?
Normally the Chow will start to shed the winter coat in the early days of Spring.
You can look forward to hair dropping off from March until the end of June. They will start again to shed the summer coat in September and slow down by November.
The good side to all this shedding is that the coat of the Chow does not have barbs at the ends so vacuuming up the hair is easy.
It does not get caught and hooked up on furniture and can simply be brushed off chairs.
If you have a Chow which is kept indoors you may see slight variations on this routine because of interior lighting and artificial heating. In the summer the air conditioner also affects the shedding pattern.
Very occasionally you will have a Chow that seems to shed consistently the whole year round.
In Autumn the Chow will shed the lighter coat to allow the winter coat to grow and this is the time of year when you can expect your Chow to shed the most.
The reason the Chow sheds so profusely is because they have a double coat. Double coat means double the amount of shed hair.
If you are prone to seasonal allergies, you should bear in mind that at some time of the year you may be having an allergenic reaction to the shed fur because there is so much dander in the air.
You may need to take precautions if you are allergic to dander.
How to Combat Chow Chows Shedding?
It is essential that your pooch is groomed well during the shedding seasons of Spring and Autumn.
If your dog is not groomed regularly you will find a pooch with mats and tangles which inevitably will need to be shaved off.
Mats and tangles become extremely uncomfortable and even painful for any dog, so they need to be kept under control with regular grooming.
Make sure that you use the correct brush, so you do not harm the skin, and then groom your pooch at least four times a week.
This will chance in the shedding season where you will need to groom the dog daily to keep shedding reasonably under control.
A monthly bath during the shedding season will ensure that there are no ticks and fleas nesting in all that fur. In the off-shedding seasons, you can bath every three months.
If your Chow is more active than what is normal, then you may want to bath him once a month.
The reason is because in this fluffy coat you will find debris of all sorts, some of which can lead to tangles and matting.
Equipment Help to Combat Chow Chow Shedding
One of the essential brushes for your grooming basket is the Furminator De-shedding brush.
This brush can reach right to the base of the hair so that all the lose hairs are removed. In fact, this brush is practically made for the Chow fur.
You’ll also need a stainless-steel comb with medium to coarse teeth and a medium brush for doing the legs. You should prepare a spray bottle of diluted conditioner to spray on the coat before you start.
Never be tempted to start your grooming session with dry hair.
If you brush a dry coat the hair will simply break, so you should mist down the fur before you start. Make sure that you brush right down to the skin so that you get all the tangles out.
If your Chow likes rolling in sand, you may want to bath him every month. Make sure that you use only shampoo which is suitable for dogs.
Don’t use your own shampoo as it will dry out the skin. Additionally, using a human shampoo may cause irritation on the skin because your dog’s skin has different requirements to your own hair.
Are Chow Chows Considered to be Hypoallergenic?
No, they are not. In fact, they are quite the opposite to any remotely hypoallergenic dog.
The truth is that no dogs are truly hypoallergenic, they all shed to some degree.
If you are an allergy sufferer, and is affected by pet dander, then this breed may not be the best type for you.
Do some Chow Chows Shed More Than Others?
Of the two types of Chow fur – the rough and the smooth – you will find that the rough haired Chow sheds more than the smooth-haired Chow although they both shed an awful amount, particularly in the shedding season.
Chows are in the top 5 for the heaviest shedders of all dog breeds.
Health Reasons for Increased Shedding in Chow Chows
There are some reasons why your pooch sheds more than you would expect. These reasons are easily rectified although you should talk to your vet if your pooch sheds more than is normal for them.
Your Chow needs a high-quality food. For this you will need to be prepared to pay a little more and even investigate a Holistic type of food.
The food must not contain any fillers or preservatives. High quality food will mean your pooch eats less and will be less prone to food allergies.
It will also be properly balanced, and you will know that your dog is getting the best ingredients they can. This will improve the condition of the skin and the coat.
It is a good idea to give your Chow extra supplements such as fish oil and Omega 3. You will notice an improvement in the fur after you start giving these to your dog.
Good, regular brushing means that you keep all the hair on the brush instead of finding it scattered all over your house.
At least three times a week, and then daily in the shedding season, you should brush your dog thoroughly.
If you are using the correct brushes, you will see a difference after you have brushed them.
Medical Reasons for Extra Shedding
The average Chow can – and most likely will – suffer from any of the following which may also affect their shedding:
Allergies that can affect your Chow Chow’s coat include food allergies, medication, pests such as mites and fleas, and a reaction to things such as shampoo or household cleaners.
Your Chow can be allergic to one single ingredient in his kibble for it to have an adverse reaction and make him shed more, so make sure that you research the best kibble for the dog and do not settle for anything less.
Anything in the environment can be a cause of extra shedding. If you clean the dog bed with a cleaner which reacts with your pooch you will find that there is more shedding.
New products such as shampoos and conditioners are often the cause of extra shedding. If you have found a product that suits your pooch, then it is best to stick with it.
Bites from fleas and mites can cause your Chow to shed more than normal so make sure that you keep on top of the flea and tick treatment.
If your dog develops an imbalance in the Thyroid you may see extra shedding as the hair will become hard and brittle and simply snap off. This is a common ailment in Chows and can easily be treated.
Over and under production of oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone can cause your Chow to shed more than normal.
Pregnancy and lactation
If you have a dog who is pregnant or feeding her pups, then you can expect her to mount or shed more than she normally would do.
It is normal for a female dog to lose some hair at this time although if it seems excessive then you may want to visit the vet.
Big changes to the dog’s life will show up as shedding. Even though the Chow may seem a big, strong dog, there are some things that will upset them.
They like a routine and do not like it upset. Family conflict will affect them as will a death in the family.
If you move to a new house, you can expect an adverse reaction form your pooch. This will normally settle down when the conflict is over.
If you notice that your Chow is shedding more than usual, then take a closer look at the skin.
Dogs of all breeds are susceptible to issues such as mange, mites, ringworm and dermatitis.
If you move the hair aside, you should be able to see the irritation on the skin and may notice that it is red and sore with patchy hair around the area. This means that it is time for a visit to the vet.
When to be Concerned About Chow Chow Shedding
There is a difference between shedding and fur loss. Shedding can be expected at certain times of the year and you will see the fur come off at an even amount over the entire body.
Fur loss will show as patchy areas and sparse sections where the skin may be affected.
If your pooch is suffering from a hypothyroid issue you may see symmetrical hair loss although it will be only in certain parts of the body.
Cushing’s Disease will show as spotty or patchy hair loss, as will any illness which is related to the adrenal glands.
What Does ‘Unusual’ Hair Loss Look Like?
This is one of the clearest indicators that your dog has a health problem and you should waste no time in getting him to the vet to have a check-up.
Look out for:
- Dry and brittle fur
- Fur falls out unevenly
- Fur breaks easily
- There are clumps of missing hair
- You see bald patches
- The skin is red and sensitive
- Your pooch reacts like it is hurting him when you touch the affected area.
Final Thoughts: Do Chow Chows Shed?
There re several things that can cause your Chow Chow to shed more than you feel is normal for him. Bad food choices will ultimately lead to an ill dog who starts to shed excessively.
Just as humans, the Chow needs proper minerals and vitamins in order to stay healthy and have a good coat. Bad nutrition is one of the main causes for a Chow to shed more than normal.
You will also notice if your Chow is not eating right as the dog will be lethargic and possibly have a change in behaviour because they are not feeling well.
Most of the reasons for excess shedding can be treated if caught early enough, and many of them are common sense signs that something is wrong with your pooch.
If you can work around the issue of shedding, and still want a Chow Chow, you will find that you have a loyal friend for many years as they are simply one of the most devoted dogs you can find!