With origins traceable to northern China thousands of years ago, the Chow Chow seems to have an ancestry going back to ancient general-purpose arctic working dogs. Depictions of chow-like dogs are found on pottery of the region 2,000 years ago, and old writings indicate similar dogs were used as sporting dogs by Chinese emperors 1,300 years ago. Primarily a companion dog today, the Chow Chow carries as a marker of its long history an extremely dense and heavy double coat that needs extensive grooming. With a ruff that bestows a lion-like appearance, Chow Chows can be clipped to exaggerate the look, while reducing the grooming they need.
The Lion Cut
The most popular cut for the Chow Chow is the lion cut, which exaggerates the breed's lion-like appearance. The cut is usually given by a professional groomer and involves shaving portions of the dog's fur. The body is shaved using electric clippers, leaving the fur around the face, head, part of the chest and on a small portion of the shoulders. The fur on the tip of the tail is left, as is the fur on the feet and ankles.
Why the Lion Cut
Lion cuts work well for owners who are unable to brush their Chow Chow dogs regularly to prevent matting and skin infections. The low-maintenance cuts also work for Chow Chows with extreme matting of the fur on the body. This cut usually is given just before the start of warm weather. In cooler weather, protect the clipped parts of your Chow Chow's body with sweaters and jackets.
Chow Chows are naturally fastidious, and they usually enjoy being groomed and brushed by their owners. Stay with your dog during the initial sessions of professional grooming to allow your Chow Chow to learn to trust the groomer. Dogs of this breed can be suspicious of new people and sometimes require coaxing to give their trust. Give your dog plenty of praise and treats to make the grooming session a positive experience.
After a lion cut is given, the fur around the Chow Chow's face still requires daily brushing to prevent or remove mats and tangles. As the coat grows in, brush it daily to prevent the new coat from tangling. The cut reduces the time you need to spend rinsing the fur when you bathe the dog. After bathing, use sunscreen on your Chow Chow's shaved areas to protect the exposed skin from the elements.
If your Chow Chow is a show dog, you may not alter the natural coat beyond a slight trimming to neaten the natural lines of the dog's fur. If you plan to show your Chow Chow but still wish to cut the dog's hair in a lion cut, do this several months prior to a competition in hopes that the fur will grow back in before the show date.
Shaving your Chow Chow's coat can cause changes in the texture of the fur when the hair grows back in.
In warmer climates, the dog's thick coat can actually serve as an insulator to keep the dog cool. When the fur is shaved away, your dog can overheat more easily.
This breed is prone to hot spots more than other breeds, and shaving may worsen this problem in some cases. If you notice any signs of irritation on your Chow Chow's skin, consult with a veterinarian about ways to provide your dog with relief, such as medicated creams and shampoos.