Do Chow Chows Shed? Analysis of a Double-Coated Dog
One of the pressing questions you will probably have when considering a new Chow Chow is how much shedding you should expect.
Do Chows Chows shed much?
It is fair to ask because many long-haired dog breeds do not shed as much as anticipated.
Chow Chows belong to a family of double-coated dogs that is among the highest canine shedders. Not only does a Chow shed heavy amounts all year, but it also has seasonal periods of extreme shedding. The result is not very hypoallergenic.
However, you get a dog with a plush stuffed toy appearance and a soft pleasing feel under your fingers.
The Chow’s coat serves multiple purposes and requires specific care to minimize its impact from shedding.
What are the physical characteristics of the Chow Chow?
The Chow is a medium-sized dog in the Spitz family. It shares characteristics with the other members of the family such as relatively small triangular ears, a dense dual coat, and a curled tail carried over the back. You would see more of a wedge shape to the large head if it was not snub-nosed.
Chows are unusual in that they have straight hind legs and a blue-black tongue, lips, and mouth. Chow Chows are 17 to 20 inches tall at the top of the withers and weigh between 40 and 70 pounds. Thus, they do not seem to shed as much as larger dogs like the Great Pyrenees.
Long-Haired Chow Chow
More properly referred to as the rough-coated Chow Chow, the long-haired typed has medium-long fur. The outer coat is comprised of straight hair that stands off slightly from the body, contributing to the dog’s poofy or fluffy look.
Chows have a prominent ruff around the neck that frames the face, giving them their famed lion appearance.
They also have “pantaloons” on the upper backs of the hind legs and feathers almost the full length of the front limbs. Some dogs also have feathers on the lower hind legs.
Adding further to the Chow’s fluffiness is a particularly dense woolly undercoat which is softer than the slightly coarse outer guard hairs.
Short-Haired Chow Chow
The smooth-coated Chow Chow has shorter fur that lies flatter than the rough-coated variety.
Although a smooth-coated Chow has the hint of a ruff framing its face, it is nowhere near as prominent as what you see on the long-haired type.
Smooth-coated Chow Chows also do not have feathers or pantaloons. However, they have an extremely dense woolly undercoat, and they shed in similar patterns to their rough-coated counterparts.
How is a Chow Chow’s coat type unique?
Whether you have a rough-coated or smooth-coated Chow, she has a specialized dual coat. The coat is designed to insulate dogs from the coldest temperatures in winter.
It also traps air currents effectively to protect the dog from moderate heat in the summer. Several dog breeds have this type of coat.
- German Shepherd
- Great Pyrenees
Other breeds have a dual coat of continuously growing hair that does not shed like the Chow Chow. It is also distinct from dogs with a single coat of hair like the Maltese. Double-coated-haired dogs have locks that grow to the ground unless you clip them.
- Lhasa Apso
- Shih Tzu
Because of the nature of its coat and how much it sheds, the Chow Chow is not a great hypoallergenic choice.
Do Chow Chows shed?
When a dog has a coat like a Chow Chow, the question is not whether it sheds but how much. A Chow sheds medium-long to long guard hairs as well as loose hairs from the undercoat continuously. Throughout most of the year, the Chow is a heavy shedder.
In the spring and fall, your Chow will turn into an extreme shedding dog. For a couple of weeks shortly before summer, Chows shed copious amounts of their undercoat so they can replace it with a thinner layer of fur.
The process repeats itself in the weeks before winter, the not quite so dense underfur shed and replaced with thick woolly hair.
During both shedding events, you will notice the fur coming out in multiple tufts. If you brush your dog, you can fill a 30-gallon garbage bag or more with hair daily.
Why do Chow Chows shed?
Chows shed because the nature of their coats is to turn over hairs often to provide the most protection against the elements.
Northern breeds have a dense pelt whereby the outer stiff guard hairs repel moisture from snow and ice and the inner wool protects against the wind. Chows may be shed secondary to a variety of challenges.
- Coat neglect – loose hairs continue to accumulate causing damage and more profuse shedding and increased dry flaky skin cells
- Allergies – an allergic dog may scratch, increasing hair breakage and shedding and dander
- Skin conditions – increase skin and hair turnover
- Sunburn – increased hair loss
- Poor nutrition – unhealthy skin and hair is more commonly lost
- Stress – stress causes increased hair loss; make sure to socialize your dog to eliminate that as a source of stress
- Parasites – fleas will cause scratching, breakage, and hair loss; mange can cause direct hair loss
- Hormonal imbalances – hypothyroidism, pregnancy, Cushing’s disease
How can you help to shed in Chows?
While there is no way you can prevent your Chow Chow from shedding, there are steps you can take to minimize its effects on you and your home.
Why is shaving your dog a bad idea?
Owners are often tempted to shave their Chow Chow to alleviate suffering due to allergies or to decrease shedding.
Shaving a dual-coated dog that has fur rather than continuously growing hair can be detrimental for several reasons.
- Renders the coat ineffective against both cold and warm weather – as a brachycephalic (short-nosed) breed, Chow Chows suffer in the heat as it is
- Leaves your pet vulnerable to sunburn; the less undercoat you leave, the more susceptible your Chow is to UV rays
- Shaving large areas can cause clipper burn, especially if clipping extremely short; clipper burns can lead to hot spots and skin infections
- Hair may never grow back the same – the outer coat becomes permanently damaged and may fail to return in some areas, leading to patchiness in the coat
Clipping your Chow’s coat is not effective for allergy sufferers because shaving tends to increase rather than decrease dander.
Body clipping your dog likewise will not decrease shedding. Your Chow will shed shorter hairs and still change out his undercoat in the spring and autumn.
If you completely remove your Chow’s undercoat, you can temporarily decrease seasonal shedding, but the cost to your dog’s skin is not worth the risk. Lion and Teddy bear cuts on Chows are common to ease the burden of coat management.
Brushing is the most effective means to minimize the effects of shedding
The most effective way to decrease the effects of your dog’s shedding is to brush her regularly. Brushing your pet has a few benefits besides improving circulation to your dog’s skin.
- Distributes natural oils through the coat
- Removes a lot of loose furs before it ends up in the carpet or on the furniture
- Facilitates shedding of the undercoat and enables you to control where that excess hair goes
- Prevents matting and the entrapment of dirt, loose hairs, and dander
You should brush your Chow Chow at least three times weekly. You can reap even more benefits by brushing your dog every day.
To effectively brush your Chow, you need at least two and maybe three different types of brushes or combs.
A slicker brush is an excellent basic brush for long-haired dogs. It can reach through a double layer of fur to remove debris, dead skin, and loose hairs near the skin.
The slicker brush is also a great detangling tool. If you brush every other day, you should not have any issues with tangles except possibly in the ruff and behind the ears.
Push the hair backward in the direction of your dog’s head to expose the skin. This gives you a starting point for your slicker brush.
Make sure to grip the hair carefully below any tangles so you do not pull on your dog’s skin and hurt her. If there are no mats, use the same technique to ensure you get all the debris that is trapped in the undercoat.
Some Chow owners prefer a pin brush to a slicker brush. Pin brushes are often better for dogs with shorter fur such as the smooth-coated Chow Chow.
Its wire bristles can detangle like a slicker brush and remove hair and dander. Its bristles are often rubber-coated, and you can take advantage of that to massage your pet’s skin.
Pin brushes also provide a nice finish to your dog’s outer coat because it does not create much static. Keep in mind that pin brushes may not penetrate both layers of a dog with longer fur. They come as standard brushes or grooming mitts.
Not the same as a de-shedding tool, you can use a metal comb to remove mild tangles near the skin. It will also rid the coat of large debris particles such as leaves or clumps of dirt.
Metal combs are also good for creating a polished look, removing loose hairs that lie on the surface of your dog’s fur. When using a finishing comb, dampen the hair with a fine mist of water or condition specifically for dogs.
A rake is more specific than a metal comb for underfur tangles. However, its best use is on the pantaloons of the rough-coated Chow Chow because it tends to thin the coat. You may not want your dog to lose too much hair on her body or from her mane.
Detanglers can come in the form of a comb with specialized serrated teeth or scissors with a built-in comb.
If you brush your Chow daily, you should not need a detangler very often. Use a detangler sparingly if at all because it will remove a lot of the coat that you may want to preserve.
Specialized brushes like the Defurminator are specifically for the undercoat. They work remarkably when your Chow blows her underfur during seasonal shedding. De-shedders work similarly to rakes but are designed to only remove loose tufts of the undercoat.
Baths can support brushing to alleviate shedding concerns
Bathing a dog excessively will dry out his skin and possibly increase shedding as well as dander.
However, bathing your Chow Chow once every four to six weeks can help keep loose hairs and flyaways under even more control between brushings.
It is important to use canine shampoos and avoid decisions centered around cheap products. If you have access to a blow dryer, you remove more loose hairs.
Drying the fur completely is also important to avoid damaging and breaking the hair shafts as you brush. You can also leave the baths to a professional groomer.
Supplements and de-shedding products help decrease hair loss
Improving the health of the skin and fur through supplements and conditioners will increase the suppleness of the hair and decrease brittleness, breakage, and loss.
- Omega-3 fatty acid supplements – can use these in topical conditioners or oral supplements
- De-shedding shampoos, conditioners, and leave-in topical treatments – a combination of oils and moisturizers help keep the coat clear of loose hairs and prevents the build-up of dander
- Supplement thyroid hormones if warranted Hypothyroidism in dogs is a common condition that has a dramatic effect on the skin and fur, creating dull coats and sluggish hair follicles.
This is not a Chow but an Akita x Golden Retriever mix. His fur is very similar to a Chow and best illustrates what happens when a dual-coated breed blows its coat.
Blow drying your dog is effective for removing dead fur from a shedding undercoat but will not substitute for brushing.
Always brush your dog before a bath and wait until she is almost dry before you use a brush afterward.
You can see down to the skin as this person moves the blow dryer. This is the spot you are seeking when you want to start your brushing.