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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

Do all the grooming yourself or hire a professional groomer.

  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?

While those questions might seem straightforward, it worth taking some time to think through what is involved.  There are pros and cons to both ways.  First, let's examine the professional grooming route.  What are the Advantages and Disadvantages?

Advantages of Having a Professional Groomer 

Most people opt for this route because it is just plain easier.  You set up an ongoing arrangement with a groomer about every 6 to 8 weeks.  All you need to do is arrive for the appointment.  The groomer will do all the rest.

Sure, you might need to do a little grooming at home such as brushing and combing.  A bath may be necessary between grooming appointments and depending on how fast your Shih Tzu's nails grow, you may need to clip or file down the nails.  You may also want to brush your dog's teeth or use a rinse to keep their breath smelling great.  

Your biggest responsibility is to keep your appointment, drop off and pick up the dog and pay your groomer.  

Easy, right?

Your groomer will do some or all of the following:

  • Bath

  • Clip or Scissor cut your dog's hair into an acceptable haircut.

  • Clip Nails

  • Clean ears

  • Remove mats

  • Blow dry, brush, comb

  • Trim hair from the paw pads

  • Check the anal glands

  • Spritz of cologne

  • Have your dog squeaky clean and ready for your pickup.

  • You may also request services such as flea and tick baths, medicated baths for skin problems, nail polish, or speciality haircuts.  Sometimes if the dog is very matted, the groomer will remove the mats for an extra fee.  Sometimes dental work may be included or offered for a higher fee.

  • Some salons even offer aromatherapy, facials, hot oil treatments, and massages.

  • Price will vary depending on what services you want.

Disadvantages of Professional Grooming

With all that professional groomers do, how could there be any disadvantages?  I did a quick survey of people I know that use professional groomers about every 6 weeks.  This is what I learned.

  • Cost.  Most owners do not mind the cost of the basic services but when they acquired their second, third, or more dogs, the cost became prohibited.  Many dogs do benefit from the extra services, but many people found that the extra pampering and added fees was just out of the question. AND, don't forget tips for the groomer.

  • Time.  Appointment times can be a problem, especially around the holidays.  Sometimes this means dropping off your dog early and picking up late.  This can be a good thing for people whose work schedules are long, but it may not be to the dog's liking.  Alternately, some owner's work schedules make it very difficult to make appointments.  Most employers are sympathetic to doctor visits, but draw the line when it comes to groomer visits.

  • Car rides.  To find the perfect (or at least acceptable) groomer, many people find they may spend 30 to 45 minutes in the car each way.  That can take a chunk of time out of their day.  Dogs that hate car rides or are prone to car sickness make the trek even harder.  The alternative is to find a mobile groomer that comes to you.

If you choose to go the way of the groomer, you will still need to brush and comb your dog, at least a couple times per week, every other day is even better and a once per day 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. If you have already decided to use a professional service, please feel free to skip the next section for the DIY  enthusiast.  

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The other option is to do all the grooming at home.  Here too, there are some advantages and disadvantages.

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:   

  • Cost.  Minimal after you purchase some basic supplies.

  • Bonding.  You may find you get closer to your pet.

  • Control.  No more disappointing haircuts.  You have complete control over how the dog looks.

  • Time. You decide when to groom so that there are no awkward moments asking an employer for time off.

  • Flexibility.  You don't need to do everything in one time frame.  This gives the dog (and you) a chance to rest.  You may also find that breaking up the grooming process in smaller chunks of time works better for you.

Do It Yourself Dog Grooming Plus Disadvantages

Where do you start? 

There are several preliminary steps to setting up your home grooming routine. These can also be considered disadvantages as there is a bit of work and expense involved on your part

  1. Knowledge.  Learning the basics takes a bit of time but it is very doable.  

  2. Supplies.  Basic supplies are a must, a budget will need to be established.  The good news is that once you have purchased your supplies and tools, the costs are minimal and that is where the real savings start.  Unless you own more than one breed, the good news is that all you will need to buy are those items necessary for grooming Shih Tzu dogs.

  3. Storage.  You will need to determine where and how you will store your tools and equipment, but don't worry, I will help you there too.

  4. Routine.  Any new task becomes much easier if you establish a grooming schedule that becomes routine.  Just like you may give your dog heartworm meds once per month or apply a spot-on flea treatment on a regular routine, groom tasks can be added to your calendar so that nothing is left to chance.

We will now discuss each of these topics, though not in the order given above.  Wherever possible, I will put as much information on this page, but since this is a lengthy topic, you will likely be asked to click or touch  a link to be taken to the appropriate page.

Grooming Tasks

    Just as a professional groomer goes through a list of grooming tasks on your dog, you will want to establish a plan. Here are the basic grooming tasks that the professional would do for you. If you have never done any of these chores, you will want to learn how they are done.  This is where the knowledge component comes in.  
  • 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 for Between Visits to Groomers

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. 

Not to confuse you, but I have broken down the set of supplies into two groups.  The first list is for people who already know that they will be making professional grooming appointments and just want to keep their Shih Tzu neat and tidy between visits.

The second set of supplies are for those brave do-it-yourselfers who plan to do it all, well, by themselves.

Short List of Supplies to Use Between Visits to the Groomer

  • Shampoo and Conditioner, towel, hair dryer
  • 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

For specific recommendations, please see my extensive list of supplies to help you choose the best tools for between-visit grooming.

Shih Tzu Grooming Supplies for DIY 

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.

Storage for Grooming Supplies

You will next need to determine how best to store your supplies.  Some people have the luxury of having a separate room or corner of a room to groom.  If this is the case, you can store your supplies in a nearby cabinet or create a unit that is convenient.  If a kitchen table or bathroom countertop is what you plan to use, you might benefit from a portable system that can be carried around.  

Grooming Supplies Storage Solutions

Grooming the Shih Tzu Routine

Here is a rough estimate of the tasks to do and the frequency of which to do them.  Don't be bound by this list as each dog is unique and you may need to adjust the frequency that you do each task.

Remember, this is an Estimate

Tasks and Routines


Brushing and or Combing  

Bathing/Blow Dry

Clip nails/grind or file

Brush Teeth

Clean eyes

Check ears/clean

Top Knot


Paw Pads

Sanitary Clip

Check Anal Glands


Daily to 3 times weekly

Every three weeks, (more or less)

Every 2 to 3 weeks (more or less)

Daily to Weekly

Daily to Every other day

Weekly (more or less)


6 - 8 Weeks

6-8 Weeks

6 -8 Weeks

6-8 weeks


This is the part where the fun comes in.  We've looked at supplies, tools, and equipment and purchased a few.  We have determined where we are going to set up our grooming salon and purchased, salvaged, or made adequate storage for all our new tools.  We've developed a routine based on our schedule and our Shih Tzu's needs.  Now it is time to get to work.

Next, I am going to lead you through the steps to accomplish each of these tasks and then some.  Are you ready to learn how to groom your Shih Tzu at home?

Let's do it.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  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

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  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.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  Casual Adult Top Knot

Many people love making a ponytail or top knot out of the hair that grows on the top of the head.  If you are one of them, it is not difficult.  All you really need are bands, a rat tail comb, a dog with hair on his head and perhaps a ready made or homemade bow.  

More about Shih Tzu Casual Adult Top Knots

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  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.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  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.

Cleaning shih Tzu Ears

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  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.

Grooming the 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:  Bathing

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.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  Removing 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.

Grooming the Shih Tzu: 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.

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  Haircuts/Hairstyles

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

Grooming the Shih Tzu:  Paw Pad Hair Removal

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.

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