Shih Tzu Grooming Tips

Shih Tzu Grooming Tips     by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 07-06-2021

If you love the Shih Tzu dog, you no doubt have come head to head with the task of grooming one.  For most of us, a standing appointment with a professional groomer is scheduled every six to eight weeks and we let that pro do all the heaving lifting.  Still, there are things we must manage on a daily or weekly basis to keep our Shih Tzu dogs looking and smelling their best.  

Let's face it, some Shih Tzu dogs are naturals at grooming.  They may even run and get their brush if you let them.  Most however, will tolerate it up to an extent.  Some hide when you bring out the grooming tools.  I've put together some tips that have helped me in the past, especially with some of those more reluctant dogs who would prefer to do just about anything but get groomed.

Shih Tzu Grooming Tips

A large supply of grooming tools is shown on a grooming table10 Shih Tzu Grooming Tips

Perhaps your Shih Tzu’s Summer Coat is growing out, and you’re wondering whether to let it grow long for the winter or get it clipped. 

Maybe you are thinking it might be nice to save some money and do some or all of the grooming at home. 

I frequently get asked about grooming , so I’ve put together a list of my top ten Shih Tzu grooming tips to help you get started.

Grooming a Six-Week-Old Shih Tzu Puppy

Here's a video we made about grooming a six-week-old.  It is one in the series of Puppy Development Videos.  Go to YouTube to see the other videos in this series (Miracle Shih Tzu YouTube Channel)

Janice's Top Ten Shih Tzu Grooming Tips

1. Use a Conditioning Spray Before Brushing

When brushing your Shih Tzu, whether he/she has a long coat or short, always mist the hair thoroughly with a conditioning spray before touching it with a brush.  You can purchase an excellent styling mist or make your own.  To make your own, add about ½ ounce of conditioner in a spray bottle and fill with warm water.  Shake vigorously to mix the conditioner and water. Here are a couple of my favorites.  (I use the one in the middle the most.)

2. Shih Tzu Grooming Tip Two:  Brush Bottom to Top

A gold and white Shih Tzu dog named Poppy is being brushed.Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Brushing Daily not only gets dogs accustomed to being groomed, but also assures that mats won't form.

Your Shih Tzu has a double coat, meaning that there is a straighter top coat and an under coat that is soft and fine.  It is usually the undercoat that gets matted so brushing will remove those tangles if done properly. 

Many people will take a brush and start brushing to top layer gently but never reach the undercoat.  This is actually very easy to do especially on dogs that have very thick coats.  The pins of a pin brush must be long enough to reach through the topcoat and down into the under coat.  But it is much easier if you just start by brushing the undercoat.

When brushing your dog, start from the bottom and go up.  By this, I mean that the top coat should be brushed last.  Hold the top hair back as you first brush the undercoat.  If you start at the paws and move up, by the time you get to the head, the dog is usually relaxed.  The other benefit of doing it this way is that you can be sure you have brushed through all the layers of the hair and have removed any tangles that may have formed.

Read more about Brushing a Shih Tzu 

3. Using a Metal Comb

Shih Tzu dog is being combed.Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Using a metal comb after brushing removes all the last of the tangles and mats.

Use a metal comb (also called a greyhound comb) after brushing to remove any remaining tangles or mats.  If the comb does not remove the tangles, you may need to consider a detangling comb, go back to brushing.  There are ways to remove mats without tears (yours) and growls (theirs).  But assuming that the coat is free of most large mats, a metal comb can give you peace of mind.  

Just as with brushing, the metal comb should be able to glide easily through both the top coat and the under coat.  There are different types of combs and if you only own one comb, you will want to purchase one that has two different sets of teeth.  One side of the comb will be the fine-toothed end and the other side, the medium toothed.  When combing their hair after brushing, use the medium-toothed end to check for mats.

Learn more about Metal Combs for Shih Tzu Dogs.

4. Shih Tzu Grooming Tips Four:  Best Brushes for Shih Tzu Dogs

Use a pin brush with longer pins to get through very thick coats.  As I mentioned above, when brushing, you will want to get down through the layers of the hair without putting too much pressure on the brush.  Most pin brushes today are more gentle on the coat and skin than previously, but if you press too hard, you can scratch the skin.  There are a wide assortment of brushes on the market these days, but the best ones are those that are going to last for awhile.

You can also use a slicker brush but do be careful as they can irritate the skin if you are too rough.  A good slicker brush can make the coat come alive.  It smooths the hair and makes it look fuller.  

Use a slicker brush against the grain of the hair on a puppy and you will achieve a very thick ball of fluff. Do the same on their legs to bring out the fullness of hair growing on their legs.

I've tried dozens of brushes over the years, but this is by far, my favorite brush or learn more about Shih Tzu brushes here.

5. Grinding Verses Clipping Nails

Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Helda, my bulldog much prefers the Dremel to a Nail Clipper

Even if you use a professional groomer, chances are you may need to give your Shih Tzu a pedicure between grooms.  Some Tzus don't mind at all and will tolerate a nail clipper as long as you don't clip into the blood vessel running through the nail.  Use a scissor type nail clipper rather than a guillotine to get a more accurate cut.  Even cat clippers work well with this breed.  Puppy nails are small enough to be clipped with a human toenail clipper.

If you hate to clip nails or your dog hates you to do so, consider a grinder.  If you don’t want to buy a pet nail grinder, use a regular Dremel tool with a sanding ring.  It actually works better than the pet nail grinders you can purchase but should not be used on a puppy.  Many Dremels have very fast speeds and you can get their hair caught up in the tool in a second.  You a low setting and be sure to pull all the hair away from the nails before using.

There are quite a few models of pet nail grinders on the market today, many of them that are so much more quiet than a regular Dremel.  In my experience, it is often the noise of the motor that is more stressful to the dog than the actually process.

Learn how to clip your dog's nails.

Learn how to use a Dremel Tool to grind nails.

puppy and toenail clipperShih Tzu Grooming Tips: Use a Human toenail clipper for puppies

6. Shih Tzu Grooming Tips Six: Your Daily Brushing Routine

I've already discussed brushing, but one tip I did want to mention and that is of daily brushing.  If you have time to brush your Shih Tzu daily, you’ll save time in the long run.  Mats and tangles are time consuming to remove so you can eliminate this step entirely by a quick brush at the end of the day.  I will often brush while I watch the news or other television show.  Dogs love to be by your side or on your lap anyway, so why not "kill two birds with the same stone."

7. Eye Care

Another often overlooked daily task is that of eye care.  The Shih Tzu's eyes are one of the most prominent feature on their faces and also one that draws people to the breed.  With those beautiful large eyes, the chance for injury is significant. 

The hair around the eyes can also become quite moist with tears.  When this happens on light colored dogs, you end up with red tear stains.  One way to check for injuries, remove tears and other debris and reduce the chances of eye staining is to provide daily eye care.  It normally takes about a minute or less and pays dividends in the long run.

Use a cotton ball, makeup remover pad or soft washcloth.  Moisten it with warm water and gently wipe over and below the eyes.  This warm water will soften any dried tears or mucus that have accumulated over night. Dry with a soft cloth or tissue.  If there is still hardened tears, you can gently massage the area under the eyes to break up the clumps and either remove them with your fingers or a cotton ball.  If there are still clumps after this routine, try a small metal comb or even an old tooth brush and gently comb or brush out the hair under the eyes.

You can also use a good eye wash or face wash instead, especially if your Shih Tzu has more than his share of tear production or if your dog is suffering from dry eye.  This step may help reduce some of the staining.  

8. Teach Your Dog to Stand, Sit or Lie for Grooming

Dog Grooming Tips: Teach Your Dog to Stand, Sit or Lie Down for grooming

Teach your dog to stand, sit, or lie on a flat surface for grooming.  Many of us will brush our dogs while they rest on our laps and we watch television.  That is fine, but some procedures are difficult to do when the dog is on our lap. 

Get them used to a table or counter top as soon as you can.  No worries if you missed this opportunity.  You can start today.  Place a nonskid surface on the table to keep them from slipping.

How to Teach Your Puppy to Tolerate Grooming

9.  Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Ear Cleaning Tips

Learn to clean your dog’s ears at home. While this is normally part of the professional dog groomers routine, with a little practice, you can learn to do this at home.  Most dogs need their ears cleaned, if nothing more than wiping out excessive ear wax.  

Hair continues to grow inside the ear canal making that area a fertile grown for infections to brew.  Your professional dog groomer will remove that hair during a normal grooming visit, but you can help keep the inside of the ears clean a dry during a quick clean about once per week.

How to Clean Dog Nails

10. Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Ten, Last but not least, Help for Those That Hate the Bath

Shih Tzu Grooming Tips: Ideas for the Reluctant Puppy or Adult Dog

I have had a few dogs over the years that hated taking a bath.  They would show their displeasure by trying to jump out of the top in anyway they could, wiggling, squirming, or downright leaping the second I release my grip on them.  If you have one of these guys and would prefer not to tranquilize them, I have a couple of tips for you.

  1. Have all the supplies ready and the water temperature right before getting the dog.  (Shampoo, Conditioner, Treats, Towels, or whatever you need for the bath.  Once the dog goes in the tub, complete the bath before allowing them to get out.  Keep one hand on them at all times. Enlist the help of a friend if you need an extra pair of hands.

  2. Some dogs can be persuaded to stand in a tub and tolerate the water and shampoo if you give them something to do to distract them.  If your dog likes peanut butter, cream cheese or other soft easy cheese that comes in a can, you can squirt or smear some on the side of the tub right at their nose level. Let them sniff and lick the treat as you bathe them as quickly as you can.  Rinse, squeeze dry and wrap them in a big towel.  Add a little of that special treat to your fingers and allow them to lick it off as they towel dry.

  3. Collars, Harnesses and Leashes can help you keep your dog in the tub while bathing.  You'll most likely need to have one hand on the leash and the other busy bathing, but it's much easier than trying to hold a slippery dog while you bathe.

  4. For smaller dogs, you may be able to get away with holding the front two paws with one hand while using the other hand to bathe.  This only works up to about 10 pounds.

  5. For really squirmy dogs, I do not give them a bath but rather a shower.  It's great to fill the sink or a tub with an inch or two of soapy water.  This helps get the feet and paw pads really clean.  For wiggly dogs, though, all that extra water does is to drench me, so shower it is.
  6. This last tip is for all dogs:  Brush out coat before you bathe the dog if at all possible.  

How to Bathe a Puppy

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.