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Grooming the Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu Grooming

Love the breed, but wonder what’s involved in grooming the Shih Tzu? 

Anyone new to the breed might look at the pictures of Shih Tzu Show Dogs and fall in love with that long, luxurious coat, neatly presented with an amazing top knot skillfully adorning the head and wrapped in lavish bow.

As the graceful Shih Tzu waltzes in front of the judge you might be wondering how much time and effort goes into grooming the Shih Tzu.

Well, if you want a show dog, the short answer is plenty of time is devoted to the sport.  If you want a pet and companion, you can get away with considerably less time and effort.

Like any dog, Shih Tzu dogs require grooming and luckily you have much say in how much time to devote.  It all depends on your answers to these two questions: 

Questions to Ask Yourself

  1. Will you be grooming the Shih Tzu yourself or take your dog to the groomers once every 2 months?

  2. Will you keep your Tzu in a long coat style or settle for a short clip?

Advantages of Grooming the Shih Tzu Yourself

While the long flowing coat of an adult Shih Tzu is the hallmark of the breed, it is not practical for the average owner.  Keeping the Shih Tzu in show coat condition requires a tremendous amount of time and effort and some activity restriction for the dog.  Most people opt for keeping their Shih Tzu’s coat clipped short which makes it easier to groom for the owner and more comfortable for the dog.

You can save money by grooming the Shih Tzu dog yourself and it is not as hard as you might expect.  There are other advantages to grooming at home:   

  • Save money and time transporting your dog back and forth to the groomer
  • Bond with your pet
  • Complete control over how he will look

If you choose to go the way of the groomer, you will still need to brush and comb your dog, at least several times per week, every other day is even better and a once over every evening is ideal. Bathing between grooming sessions is usually required and can be accomplished in a sink, shower, or bathtub.

Too frequent bathing can dry out the coat, but most people want their dog smelling fresh and clean, so a bath schedule of one to three weeks is recommended.

On the other hand, if grooming the Shih tzu is something you want to do at home, you will want to establish a grooming routine.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  The Routine

  • Brushing and Combing the Coat
  • Bathing and Drying
  • Remove matted hair as needed
  • Clipping the nails
  • Checking and Cleaning the Ears
  • Removing hair from the foot pads
  • Checking and cleaning the eyes
  • Brushing the Teeth
  • Expressing the anal glands periodically
  • Sanitary Clips
  • Clipping, Scissoring, or Shaving the coat
  • Have a problem with tear stains;  Add this to your to do list.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  Supplies

At the very minimum, we recommend you purchase a few good supplies even if you plan to take your dog to the groomers every 6 to 8 weeks. 

These supplies and tools will be used by you in-between grooming sessions to keep your Shih Tzu in tip-top shape.

  • Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Pin Brush and Steel Comb
  • Nail Clippers & file
  • Small blunt scissors for that stray hair
  • Conditioning spray or de-tangle Spray to use before combing and/or brushing
  • Ear/Eye cleaner

Shih Tzu Grooming Supplies

If you are planning to do most or all of the grooming at home, check out our page on grooming supplies for our recommendations. 

So, before you go to your local pet store, check out our recommendations.  You will likely save money by purchasing online (and help us keep this website up and running for a long time to come.)

Read more about Grooming Supplies to Purchase.

Brushing and Combing

Brushing and combing your Shih Tzu is the number one grooming task that you will do.  Adult Shih Tzu dogs have a double coat of very thick hair that can mat easily if not cared for properly. 

Daily brushing and combing will prevent most mats from forming, but if daily grooming is not possible, de-matting might be necessary. 

Read more about Brushing and Combing

Puppy Top Knot

A daily topknot is not difficult to do and can add charm to your Shih Tzu's appearance. Please check  out our page on brushing and combing a Shih Tzu.

If you want to grown your puppy's hair out, you will eventually need to pull it up and away from his eyes.  Here is a short tutorial on doing a puppy topknot.

Read more about Puppy Topknots.

Nail Clipping

Puppies' little nails grow quickly and will need to be clipped as often as every other week. For adult dogs, trim the nails about every three weeks. 

You will know it's time when you start hearing those click, click, clicks on the floor.  Most veterinarians and groomers will perform this for you, but if you are grooming the Shih Tzu yourself, you will want to learn how to clip those nails yourself.Here's how to clip a dog's nails.

Read more about Trimming the Nails.

Ear Care

Hair grows inside of the dogs ears from the day they are born and removing these hairs is a must to prevent infections and keep the dog more comfortable. 

In addition to removing the hair, a good cleaning periodically with an ear cleaner and cotton ball will help keep your Tzu's ears clean and infection free. 

Most dogs do not like this procedure, but there are ways to clean your Shih Tzu's ears without too many tears.

Read more about Shih Tzu Ear Care.

Eye Care

Caring for your Shih Tzu's eyes is also very important and should be part of your grooming routine.  The large eyes of the Shih Tzu make this dog breed more susceptible to certain eye issues. A daily check and cleaning will alert you to any changes or problems with the eyes. 

Even if you have a dark colored Shih Tzu, you need to remove the debris that accumulates under the eyes.  For light colored and white dogs, tear stains are a problem. 

Read more about Shih Tzu Eye Care.

Shih Tzu Dental Health

Brushing your dog's teeth

Brushing your dog's teeth is not just for cosmetic reasons.  We want our dog to have fresh breath with every puppy kiss we get, but we also want to maintain overall good health and prevent problems.

Learning how to care for your dog's teeth is an important part of general care as well as grooming. Please check out our resources for adult canine teeth or if you have a puppy, you will want to click on our puppy dental health page. 

Read more about how to Brush a Puppy's Teeth.

Adult Shih Tzu Teeth


Grooming the Shih Tzu means you will be giving your dog a bath or two.  Bathing is necessary for the well groomed dog and especially important if your dog goes outdoors.  During bath time, you can check for skin problems, external parasites, and express the anal glands. 

A good dog shampoo and conditioner is a must and most Shih Tzu dogs benefit from a blow dry with a hand held hair dryer. 

For more information check out our page on bathing that includes a video tutorial on giving a puppy bath.

Read more about Bathing a Dog.

Mats and Tangles

No one likes to think about mats, but they happen to the best of us.  The most common place where you might find a tangle or mat are behind the ears, on the chest around the arm pit, near the groin, the chin and sometimes around the face. 

Removing these tangles and mats can often result in a struggle between you and your dog. 

So, before they form, read our article on how to remove hair mats without any tears—yours or your dogs.

Read more about Removing Tangles and Mats.

Anal Glands/Anal Sacs

This is probably the least favorite of all the "grooming" tasks you will do, but it is important to check the glands periodically and express them if necessary. 

This procedure is done during normal visits to the groomers, but if you take over these tasks, you will want to know how to do this.  It is not difficult, but be prepared for the odor these little glands give off.  Nasty!  Check out our page on anal glands for a quick how-to guide.

Read more about Expressing the Anal Glands.

Haircuts for the Shih Tzu

There are several very cute styles you can use on your shih tzu, but you will need to purchase a professional grade dog clipper with several different size blades and snap on combs. 

You can scissor your Tzu, if you prefer not to purchase a clipper kit, but you will need an assortment of scissors.  Speaking of scissors, you will still need to purchase a couple pairs including a straight and curved pair, as well as a blunt tip for removing hair around the eyes. Grooming the Shih Tzu at home is fun, but will take a little practice.

Read More

Trimming Hair From Foot Pads

If you are a D.I.Y. groomer, trimming Shih Tzu paw pads is one task that you should not forget to do.   On all long haired dogs, the hair continues to grow between the pads on the paw, a condition that can create problems for the dog and you. 

Removing the hair prevents these problems.  The method described in this article can be used for any dog that needs their hair trimmed from between the pads. 

Read more about Trimming Shih Tzu Paw Pads.

Tear Stains on Your White Tzu

If you have a black, brindle or chocolate colored Shih Tzu, you'll likely never encounter tear stains.  But if you have a light haired dog, those unsightly stains are sure to spoil that cute Shih Tzu appearance.  There is hope, so read more about what you can do to get rid of doggie tear stains. Find out what causes them and what you can do to remove and prevent new stains from developing.

Read about Tear Stains.

Grooming the Shih Tzu Puppy

Puppy Grooming

Until puppies have had lots of positive grooming experiences, they tend to be a little squirmy in the bath and on the grooming table.  Your puppy will have had several baths and several introductions to the grooming table before she/he goes home with you. 

We recommend that you continue socializing your pup to bathing and grooming. 

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