Bathe a Shih Tzu

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 06-14-2022

So it's time to bathe a Shih Tzu and you're wondering if one method works better than others.  Maybe you have that calm Tzu that loves bath time.  You know the one that patiently stands in the tub while you drench him in water and suds, never shakes, never squirms, never jumps or climbs out of the tub. 

If this is your Tzu, then you are probably wondering why anyone would need an article teaching them how to bathe a Shih Tzu. 

But for the rest of us, the task can conjure up images in our minds ranging from mild anxiety to down right dread at the thought having to bathe our Tzu. If you fall into this category, relax, there is hope.  Even the most stubborn Shih Tzu can be bathed successfully while you hold onto your sanity.

I have personally had all kinds of Shih Tzu dogs, from the most docile that tolerated everything to the one that I needed a raincoat just to spray on a little water. I have learned that when you bathe a Shih Tzu who does not like baths, your goal should be to bond and create a calm environment.  If he gets clean, well, so much the better. With a patient approach, he might not be squeaky clean, but the next bath will be easier.

Bathe a Shih Tzu

Supplies Needed to Bathe a Shih Tzu

You won't need any special expensive equipment when you bathe a Shih Tzu, but you will need:

  • Sink (or tub)
  • Shampoo and Conditioners (cups or glasses if you need to dilute the shampoo)
  • Rubber mat or towel to line the sink
  • Towels
  • Blow Dryer
  • Cotton balls for ears
  • Treats

Procedure:  Bathe a Shih Tzu

  1. Brush coat out assuring that all mats and tangles have been removed

  2. Place a small cotton wad in each ear

  3. Line sink with a rubber mat or thick towel

  4. Adjust water temperature (Goldilocks Principle:  Not too hot, not too cold, just right)

  5. Place dog in the sink holding onto him at all times

  6. Soak him with water from faucet or cup filled with fresh warm water

  7. Lather with a good shampoo.  Face, body, legs, tail, etc.

  8. Rinse with warm water

  9. Apply a conditioner.  Wait a minute and rinse clean

  10. Blot dry with towels

  11. Blow Dry with a warm/cool dryer

  12. Praise and Treat

Sounds easy doesn't it?  But what if you have a Tzu who hates to have a bath, be brushed, or groomed.  What if he squirms, tries to bolt, or gets down right aggressive with your attempts to bathe him.  What can you do?

My Shih Tzu Bolts/Squirms/Tries to Jump or otherwise remove himself from you and the water source. How am I supposed to bathe a Shih Tzu like this?

Some Shih Tzu dogs just hate being groomed.  They are normally happy pets, but become stressed the second they know that you are contemplating a grooming session. 

Here are a few suggestions.  Not all will work on your Tzu, but they are worth a try.

  • Do not remove his collar or harness.  Use it as a way to control him in the tub.  Place one hand on his collar and the other on shampoo.

  • Never let go of your dog in the tub.  The best way to hold the dog is by grabbing the dog from the side under his chest and gripping his front two paws.  If you can do this with one hand, you will have the other to shampoo, rinse and condition.

  • Most dogs will relax if you massage the shampoo into their hair on their back, chest, tail, neck, ears,  and any other place on their body that they particularly enjoy being patted. 

  • Get help from a friend/significant other.  Have the person stand by your side with a treat as you bathe the dog.  When the dog is calm, have your friend give the treat.

  • Play calming music while you bathe a Shih Tzu dog.

  • Use Bach's Rescue Remedy just prior to attempting the bath.  Use a Shampoo infused with a lavender scent to calm your dog (alternately, burn a lavender scented  candle or use a room diffuser with a lavender scent.  Lavender is calming to dogs.

  • Experiment with water temperatures.  Some dogs prefer warmer waters.  If your dog relaxes slightly with warmer water temperature, take the hint and bathe him in a warmer bath. Use a shampoo with a calming scent such as lavender or eucalyptus.

  • Use a tranquilizer prescribed by your vet as a last resort.

My Shih Tzu Tries To Bite me When I Give Him A Bath

If you have a Shih Tzu who becomes aggressive during bath time, first we must determine what is causing his anxiety.  If he is normally a happy dog but hates to be groomed, it is likely that he has had a bad experience in his past.  He has since associated being groomed with pain or worse and refuses to cooperate.

  1. You will need to move slowly around a fearful dog.  Do not do anything likely to provoke him.  The bath is likely to take longer than the average.

  2. If he will take treats, use these as a reward for good behavior, even if it is only a brief period of time that he is cooperating.

  3. Use the methods outlined above to provide a calming environment.

  4. Use relaxing massage when applying shampoo if he will tolerate.

  5. Use cupfuls of water instead of streaming water from the facet.  

  6. Use a dry shampoo applied to the hair and then brushed out in lieu of a bathe

Product Recommendations
for When You Bathe a Shih Tzu

People are always asking me what to purchase and if I have any recommendations for specific grooming tools.  I thought I'd take this opportunity to answer those questions. 

The products I list below can be purchased from Amazon and I either currently use them or have used them in the past.  Most are adequate for my needs, but please remember that each Shih Tzu is different, and what works for some may not work for you. 

If you do purchase from this site, Miracle Shih Tzu gets a very small commission that helps cover the costs of keeping this website up and running.  Your business is most appreciated.

Supplies for Bath Time

Shampoos and Conditioners

Shampoos and Conditions are really a MUST HAVE item for your Shih Tzu Grooming Supplies Kit.  These dogs will not look good for very long without a regular bath. 

There is so many different products today to bathe a Shih Tzu, it can be confusing.  If the dog does not have any immediate problems such as fleas or dry itchy skin, the choice of products is really a matter of personal preference.

  • There are color enhancing shampoos, whitening for light colored dogs and darkening for dark haired dogs. 
  • There is hypoallergenic shampoos for dogs with allergies and sensitive skin. 
  • There are flea and tick shampoos that will kill fleas and ticks and repel them for a certain period of time in the future. 
  • Other shampoos are formulated to deal with other external parasites such as mites.
  • There are shampoos with build in conditioners and those especially designed for puppies. 
  • Medicated shampoos cover a wide range of skin conditions such as seborhea, and anti-itch shampoos reduce scratching. 
  • Puppy Shampoos are mild and work well around the face and eyes.
  • Deodorizing Shampoos which are great if your dog encounters a skunk.
  • Deshedding Shampoos are usually not used on Shih Tzu Dogs.
  • Neutralizing Shampoos for the stinkiest Shih Tzu

Then, there is your everyday all purpose shampoo that comes in a wide assortment of fragrances and ingredients such as aloe vera, shampoo, tea tree oil and many more.

Shih Tzu dogs should be bathed with a good dog shampoo followed by a conditioning rinse for best hair results. 

Everyone has their favorite shampoo and conditioning products.  These are the ones I regularly use on my own dogs and on the puppies in my care.

My favorite for puppies.  I love the scent.

I use this on most of the dogs, again, because I love the scent.

My favorite for all my dogs that have any white hair.

My favorite for black dogs

My favorite for dogs that have specific skin irritations:  Check with your vet to find out if this is a good choice.

These are shampoos that I have used from time to time and can recommend.

Spray Conditioners

Most people agree that spraying the coat with a fine mist conditioner prior to brushing is a must. Dry hair tends to break. So the rule of thumb is, never brush a dry coat.

The conditioner also aids in removing tangles. They are usually slightly scented making your dog smell nice after her brushing.

Blow Dryer

Shih Tzu hair doesn’t look great if you let it dry naturally so I keep a hair dryer handy in my Shih Tzu's Grooming Toolbox.  If you want that smooth straight look or even just a fluffier appearance you will need to blow dry after you bathe your Shih Tzu. Always use a low or cool setting as these dogs can get burned easily.

Additional Supplies to Use When You Bathe a Shih Tzu

There is really no end to the number of products you can purchase to groom your dog.  Here are a few more things that are helpful for completing many of the grooming tasks presented on this site.  Read over them and decide what's most important to you.

Rubber Mat

A small bath mat placed inside the sink will give your Shih Tzu more security.  Most sinks are slippery and if your dog begins to slide around, he is not going to like the experience.  You can purchase an inexpensive rubber mat used for bath tubs and cut it to size or line the sink with a thick towel.

Cotton Balls

These come in handy for many small jobs such as cleaning around the eyes and ears and for stuffing in the ears when you bathe a Shih Tzu. If your dog is prone to ear infections, a small wad of cotton in each ear will protect them from being sprayed with water.

Cotton Tipped Applicators

Cotton Tipped Applicators or Q-tips for carefully cleaning ears.

Wash Cloths, Wipes, Towels, Tissue

Wash cloths or wipes for washing the face, cleaning foot pads and removing debris from around the eyes.  You will also need towels for drying, but don't rub the hair--just squeeze out all the excess water before you blow dry.

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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.