Shih Tzus were nicknamed “the little lion” by the Chinese royalty that adored the breed, and the breed is known for its long, lustrous hair. In fact, Shih Tzu’s long hair will grow to be floor-length if it is not clipped. To make matters even more complicated, the Shih Tzu is a breed of dog with a double coat. If Shih Tzu’s parents aren’t meticulous in brushing the dog’s coat, it can become tangled and/or matted to the point that the entire coat may have to be shaved off.
The double coat means that pet parents must be willing to groom the Shih properly. In addition to brushing and regular baths, however, the Shih Tzu is going to need the other grooming every dog requires—nail trimming, tooth brushing, and facial cleaning (you’ll probably have this more with the Shih than with other breeds).
Some Shih Tzu parents will choose to simply take their fur baby to a professional groomer for these necessities in care. However, the good news is that you CAN successfully groom your Shih at home, even down to bathing, blow-drying, and clipping the Shih Tzu’s coat. Let’s take a look at how you can groom your Shih Tzu at home.
1. Bathing your Shih Tzu
Your Shih Tzu will need a full bath every three to eight weeks. You can decide on the frequency of bathing depending upon your dog’s needs. Some Shih Tzus are more “lapdogs” who never get out and play and get dirty. However, you may have a more rambunctious pup that seems to be dirty every time you turn around. If you notice your Shih’s coat seeming dry or the skin of your pup looking dry, you may want to go with it every six weeks for bath time.
Another factor in determining how often to wash your Shih Tzu is the length of his coat. Shih Tzus with longer hair will need more frequent bathing as they tend to get debris in the long coat (especially food). A Shih Tzu with a clipped coat won’t need bathing nearly as often as a Shih with a longer coat. Make sure to clean your pup well including the paws, legs, face, tail, etc.
2. Let’s talk about shampoo and conditioner.
The shampoo and conditioner you choose for your Shih Tzu is highly important. If your dog has longer fur, you’re going to want to invest in conditioner as well as shampoo. The rules for choosing a exactly what product are basically the same, however.
So many well-meaning pet parents choose shampoos that are loaded with chemicals and other ingredients that are harmful to our dogs. We do this unwittingly, and many times the manufacturers are at fault. This is because they put misleading statements on the label and we pet parents just take it for granted that these are products that are safe for our pets.
What pet parents must understand is that many of the products made for animals on the market are not required to undergo the strenuous inspection that products intended for human use are. The FDA loosely oversees the manufacture of pet products, but, even then, manufacturers can use wording that isn’t exactly truthful .
For instance, a pet shampoo can say that it is derived from natural ingredients but still be packed full of chemicals. Many times, manufacturers will start with coconut oil, for instance, but utilize a process that ends up being a chemical compound in the product.
Another thing to consider when purchasing a pet shampoo: many times, you go to a pet store looking for doggy shampoo and find brightly colored products with heavy fragrances. If you’ll think about it, those pretty bottles and strong scents are manufactured in there for the pet parent—not for Fido. In fact, a bright pink or dark purple shampoo with a strong scent is marketed to you, not Fido. (Remember, Fido doesn’t see colors the way you do, plus the strong scent will probably be offensive to your dog.)
So, how can you know you’re choosing a healthy shampoo for Fido rather than one that is loaded with chemicals? First, turn that bottle over and look at the ingredients. Here are some ingredients to avoid:
- Methylparaben (or ANY paraben)
- Propylene glycol
- sodium Laureth sulfate (as well as any other sulfate)
- mineral oil
- MEA/Cocomide DEA
- isopropyl alcohol
- cocamidopropyl betaine
After you read the ingredients list, you’ll need to open the bottle. We’ve already talked about avoiding brightly colored shampoos and conditioners, but what color should the shampoo be, if any? A truly all-natural shampoo is going to be a dull yellowish color. Sometimes, this yellow will be almost clear. The fragrance of the shampoo should be very light if there’s any scent at all. Finally, without pouring the shampoo out in the store, try to measure the consistency of the product. A truly all-natural shampoo will be thin, almost like water. All these qualities will prove that the shampoo you’re choosing is one that is truly beneficial to your dog’s health.
The same goes for the conditioner you choose. Look for one that is not brightly colored, with a very light scent. You WILL need a conditioner for bathing your Shih Tzu, so be sure to choose one that is truly all-natural.
It’s also important to note that you must always rinse all the shampoo and conditioner from your Shih Tzu each time you bathe him. Any residue of product left on the Shih Tzu after a bath could end up irritating his skin.
3. Start by washing your Shih Tzu’s face.
As a pet parent you should know how to wash a dog’s face properly. You’ll find that you should always wash your Shih’s face with a damp bath cloth and no product. Unless your Shih has gotten into something that water won’t wash away, it is best to clean your pup’s face with lukewarm water and a clean bath cloth, and nothing else.
It’s too easy to get soap and water into your pup’s eyes or nose or ears, and this can result in irritation to these sensitive areas of the dog’s face as well as some nasty infections in the ear.
It’s key to wash away any dirt on Fido’s face. Keep in mind you may need to wash the Shih Tzu’s mouth after every feeding, especially if you keep his facial hair long. You’ll also want to be gentle in wiping around his eyes and chin. Always wash behind the ears with the product.
You’ll want to use a damp cloth (again, no product, just water) to wipe the inside of Fido’s ears. One may be tempted to use Q-tips to clean the ears, but these can actually push dirt and debris deeper into the ears.
4. Everyday grooming
Grooming a Shih Tzu means brushing its coat daily. You’ll need both a wide-bristle brush as well as a fine-tooth comb to brush the Shih’s coat.
It is important that you never allow your Shih to develop tangles or matting. If you’ve ever tried to brush a tangle out of your own hair, you will be able to understand just a portion of the pain that your dog feels when a well-meaning pet parent tries to brush out a tangle or matted dog hair.
When a Shih Tzu has tangling and matting in his coat, the problem doesn’t just look bad, but it truly hurts the Shih Tzu. These tangles and mats can actually cause health problems for the Shih, including hot spots and parasitic infections. If your Shih Tzu develops tangles and mats, the dog may also develop damaged skin as a result.
You’ll need to brush every area of your Shih Tzu if you leave her hair long. However, if you keep the Shih Tzu clipped, then you can scale back brushing to every three days.
5. Trimming nails
If you have never trimmed your dog’s nails nor has Fido had his nails trimmed very much, you’ll need to work up to this. Make sure that get him accustomed to hearing the sounds of nail clippers and that you get him used to you handling his feet. Some dogs simply don’t like having anyone touch or hold their feet, and they will jerk away. Work on this before you begin clipping your dog’s nails.
Some pet parents will choose to use a dog nail grinder instead of clippers. If you go this route, be sure to get your dog used to the noise of the grinder.
The most important thing is to make sure you don’t cut into the dog’s “quick,” which is a blob of blood vessels in the nail bed. If your dog has white nails, it is easy to spot this area in the nail—it will be darker than the exterior of the nail. However, for dogs with black nails, it is a little difficult to determine exactly where the quick is. You’ll have to clip each side of the nail, making very small cuts to the nail until you begin to see a darker spot in the middle of the nail. This is the beginning of the “quick,” and you should never clip past this area.
Choose the best dog nail grinders as they have guards to avoid getting to the dog’s “quick.”
6. Brushing the teeth
It is important to brush your dog’s teeth at least twice a week. You’ll need to use a toothbrush and toothpaste that is specifically made for dogs as well. Because the Shih Tzu is a breed that is more prone to gum disease and plaque, it is important to establish and maintain a good dog teeth cleaning routine.
Some experts also advise that a Shih Tzu better benefits from eating soft food rather than dry dog food.
7. Cleaning the ears
Use a damp bath cloth to wipe out Shih’s ears. You’ll want to do this each time you bathe the dog, but, if your dog goes outdoors a good bit, you may want to do this more.
8. Trimming your Shih’s coat
This is the area where most pet parents are a little reticent to groom their pup. Clipping your Shih’s coat in the same length all over is often the most practical way to trim dog hair. However, some Shih parents will want to allow the coat to grow long.
If you do keep the Shih’s coat long, be sure to dry it with a blow dryer, brushing her hair in the direction that it grows.
You will want to keep facial hair trimmed a little more frequently than the rest of his hair. Be sure the hair around the eyes, nose, and mouth is even shorter than other facial hair. Some pet parents will leave hair around the eyes longer, but put the hair up in a “ponytail.”
1. How can I groom my Shih Tzu at home?
Be sure to brush the Shih’s hair daily, especially if it is longer. If shorter, brush every three days. You can bathe, clip, and carry out other grooming duties for the Shih Tzu at home. Brush her teeth twice a week. Keep her ears wiped out frequently. You may want to use a dog nail grinder to keep her nails trimmed.
2. How do you groom a Shih Tzu with clippers?
Use a guard to keep from shearing off all the Shih’s hair. Run the clipper over the Shih in the direction that the hair grows, and be sure not to clip too close to the skin.
3. How do you cut a Shih Tzu’s hair?
You can cut the Shih Tzu’s hair with scissors just as you would any other dog’s. You can use scissors to cut the dog’s facial hair while using a clipper to keep the rest of the hair short.
4. How do you cut a Shih Tzu’s face?
Be sure to keep the Shih Tzu’s facial hair cut shorter than other areas. Keep the areas around the eyes, nose, and mouth cut shorter than other areas. Some pet parents will take the hair around the eyes and put it in a ponytail.