Shih Tzu Grooming Guide: Step-by-Step Advice & Hair Styles
While it may seem difficult given that the adult Shih Tzu has a double coat, with a bit of practice and preparation, a basic Shih Tzu grooming routine can be done by the owner at home.
This guide aims to show you how you can establish a basic maintenance routine, as well as provide some advanced tips for owners looking to get more hands on with the grooming process.
- 1 Basic Maintenance - Home Grooming Routine
- 2 Trimming and Cutting Fur (Advanced)
- 3 Frequently Asked Questions
- 4 Shih Tzu Hair Styles
Basic Maintenance - Home Grooming Routine
Here is a basic routine for you as an owner to follow in between grooming sessions.
Things You Will Need
Brushes & Combs
You will need one of the following brushes depending on coat length:
Long coats: a bristle brush
Medium length to long coats: pin brush
You’ll also want to pick up a double-sided comb with wide teeth for the body and the narrower teeth for smaller areas such as the face or paws. In addition to a de-matting tool for any matted fur that won’t come out by hand.
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Getting your dog used to the brush
This could be done in the evening, ideally when your pup is relaxing and less active or fidgety. You might give her a little brush every now and then while sitting on the sofa together for example.
There’s no need to be excessive, all we want is to allow her to get used to the brush and the idea of being groomed by you. Soon she will learn to enjoy it.
- Before brushing it is highly recommended to first apply a quality leave-in spray or conditioner of some kind to protect from static electricity buildup and dryness which can lead to breakages.
- Once the coat is sufficiently moistened start from somewhere like the top of a leg and work your way down to the foot. Using your fingernail, a knitting needle or the end of a steel comb part a small section to work on first.
- Using your brush now, work outwards and in the same direction as the fur starting from the area nearest to the skin, do this several times until the brush moves freely through that section. Repeat this process on the rest of the body.
As you brush, be sure to feel for any slight knots, try and gently pull them apart with your fingers if you can. Matted hair will require a bit more effort to deal with so take note of any problem areas and move onto them after giving your dog a bath.
The bathing process for a Shih Tzu is pretty simple, here are a few guidelines to follow:
- Use lukewarm water
- Treat your dog to a decent shampoo!
- Ensure you work the shampoo into a rich lather and massage it in properly. This can be a nice relaxing time for your dog.
- Rinse out the shampoo suds thoroughly as you don’t want to leave any residue on the skin.
- Apply a leave-in conditioner and detangler
After she’s finished in the bath give her a rub down so she’s not dripping wet then go back to any matted fur and remove as necessary.
It’s important that you take appropriate action to remove knots and matted fur as they can lead to discomfort, skin inflammation and even infection in some cases.
As an owner, cleaning your Shih tzus ears regularly should be a priority given that ear infections can be common.
Checking the ears
If you notice your dog excessively shaking her head, scratching at her ears or trying to rub them on the floor or other surfaces there may be a problem.
Check for signs of infection such as any swelling, redness, little black specks or dots. Contact your vet if you notice any of these symptoms.
- Unpleasant odors
- Swelling or redness
- Dry or crusty skin
- Hair loss
- Ear discharge
Cleaning the ears
Using a cotton swab or ball dipped in ear cleaning solution, gently clean out any excess wax or dirt that you may find.
If there is a lot of overgrown hair blocking the opening of the ear canal carefully trim providing you feel confident in doing so.
Note: trimming the hair near the ear canal isn’t always easy for less experienced hands, if you are at all in doubt please ask a professional groomer.
Grooming the face
Use the narrow teeth comb and gently run it through the mustache area being aware of potential knots as you comb, you don’t want to tug on your dog’s face by accident!
If you do come across a relatively knotted area it’s best if you can hold the knot at its base between your fingers or whatever else you can to take the pressure as you comb the hair through. Repeat this process on the ears.
Trimming and Cutting Fur (Advanced)
If you’ve never shaved your Shih Tzu before using clippers it would be advisable to start with a longer blade such as a #6 or maybe a #7, at least until you get a feel for things.
When you get a bit more comfortable start using a shorter blade to get the desired fur length.
The ‘classic puppy’ is a good look for most Shih Tzu’s and is generally the safest style for first timers. Shave the body and legs to 3 to 5 cm and use a slightly shorter blade for the head.
See the video below for even more tips and information and how to complete a Shih Tzu grooming session in around 13 minutes.
Frequently Asked Questions
When should I start grooming my Shih Tzu?
As puppies, Shih Tzus, do not actually need to be groomed that much, some say a quick brush once every 3 days is fine. Additionally, it may be beneficial to allow your dog to become accustomed to the feel of the brush and the idea of grooming at an early age, around 8-9 months.
At the age of around 1 year, most Shih Tzu dogs will have grown a longer adult coat, at which time you will want to start doing more detailed and thorough grooming.
How often should a Shih Tzu be groomed?
As a full routine, maintenance should be done at least every 3 weeks. So that’s brushing, bath, untangling of knots, finally some cleaning and trimming.
Brushing on its own, however, is something you may want to do every day depending on the length of your dog’s coat.
Shih Tzu Hair Styles
Often considered a favorite amongst smaller dogs and their owners, the Puppy Cut is both easy to achieve and take care of. Characterized by a trim of the dog's hair to a length of one to two inches. Its simplicity makes it very attractive for many dog owners.
For maintenance, this cut does not require more than regular trimming and brushing and can be highly practical and adaptable to different occasions.
Teddy Bear Cut
In the same way as the Puppy Cut, a Teddy Bear Cut (also called a "Pet Clip") keeps a fur length of about one to two inches for the body with the difference being in how the head is shaped.
Teddy Bear Cuts generally have shorter hair around the face and ears which follows a round shape. This cut doesn’t need much maintenance at all and it can work very well with hot weather.
For a Top Knot (or "Practical Top Knot") the dog's hair is left a bit longer, usually up to a length which you or your groomer decide on, and the hair on the head is tied with a ribbon or fixed with a clip. In contrast with the styles described above, this one requires a bit more maintenance. You'll need to regularly brush and comb the fur as well as tidy the accessories as they get loose. Some groomers might decide to braid the hair as an additional touch.
Top Knot Show Cut
This variation of the Top Knot is done primarily for show dogs because is particularly time-consuming and requires regular maintenance. You'll have to brush your dog's coat several times per day for it to stay shiny and prevent mats from developing. The coat is kept at natural length all over the body.
Short Coat, Full Top
As the name suggests, this style is about cutting the dog's hair short on the body and legs but allowing it to stay long on the head, including the face and ears. You can decide to style the hair on the ears to create a fluffier look or brush it and leave it to hang naturally.
Short Coat, Ears Long
Similar to the Short Coat Full Top, the Short Coat Ears Long trims the hair on top of the head and the face as well, leaving only the ears to grow out. It does not require too much maintenance.
The Lion Cut, also referred to as "Stuffed Cut", seeks to recreate those cute and adorable features associated with lion cubs by leaving most of the facial hair untouched (of course trimming the parts that might block the dog's vision or breathing through the nose) in addition to shaving the tail, legs and body accordingly.
The tail is usually shaved while leaving some hair at the end in a tuft-like style with fur on the legs trimmed to one inch in length.
The Ponytail Look has to be one of the cutest! Hair is tied into ponytails and drawn on each side of the head with clips, small bands or bows. This style really suits Shih Tzus and is an ideal way of keeping hair from getting tangled or into your dog’s eyes.
Japanese / Asian Fusion Cut
In a Japanese or Asian fusion cut, a Shih Tzu's hair is left long around the ears or brushed and tied in bows. The fur on the body is trimmed short and the hair on the legs is kept long and brushed, creating a fluffy appearance.