Shih Tzu First Haircuts:  Choosing Between the Puppy and the Elegant Show Coat Look

Shih Tzu First Hair Cut       By Janice Jones     |Published 07-22-2021

Every first-time Shih Tzu Puppy Owner must decide whether they will employ a professional groomer or go the DIY route. Even those that decide they want their Shih Tzu to remain in full coat must be prepared for some grooming.   Most pet people opt for professional grooming, and there are definite advantages and disadvantages to going this route.  Still, the benefits typically outweigh any inconveniences.

Benefits of Professional Grooming

  • Your dog will always look nice
  • There is no need for you to stockpile expensive grooming equipment
  • Many people don't have the time to devote to grooming
  • No need to learn how to groom
  • Your groomer may spot health problems that you have overlooked

Disadvantages (Advantages of Doing it Yourself)

  • It may be cost-effective to do it yourself
  • If your dog gets car sick, the trip to the groomer may be uncomfortable for both of you
  • The groomer's hours may not work with your schedule
  • You can groom your dog whenever you like, even at 1 AM in the morning.

How Did That Cute Little Shih Tzu Puppy End up With Long Shaggy Hair?

Three-day-old Shih Tzu PuppyThree-day-old Shih Tzu Puppy

When a Shih Tzu puppy is born, they are more or less considered a short-haired breed with little need for clipping or trimming of excessive hair, or even brushing for that matter.  

As the puppy grows, so does the mane, and by the time the puppy is ready to go to their forever home, they may have at least an inch's worth of hair.  You will recognize the distinctive hair growing out in all directions on their face, the "chrysanthemum" look.  Those hairs never stop growing.

Still, this lovely coat is well within the realm of acceptability. It will remain that way until the puppy reaches 4 or 5 months of age.

During these early months, grooming is minimal.  Their hair is relatively tangle-free and short enough that a brush or comb can quickly go through those beautiful locks with little or no effort.  

But slowly, as the Shih Tzu puppy grows, their hair too begins to grow. Before you know it, your sweet little puppy has hair growing in so many directions that it is difficult to see those beautiful dark brown (or green) eyes.  

In fact, hair is all that one can see when trying to peer into those soulful eyes. Usually, that is when the average Shih Tzu puppy owner decides it's time to locate a groomer that will do something to allow those eyes to see the light of day.

But for some, the Shih Tzu breed represents the ultimate in long-hair beauty.  For those who want to maintain those long locks, finding a groomer is not critical.  These people will work tirelessly to maintain that beautiful coat, brushing and combing and tying up a top knot to assure that their puppy will never meet with a professional groomer. This is a daily, if not twice daily, chore. No clipping should be done on the face if one wants to maintain that "show-dog" look.  Once clipped, it will be nearly impossible to grow out to look the same.

But for the rest of us,  owning a Shih Tzu or other long-breed dog means a trip to the local groomer on a 4 to 8-week schedule. 

A Shih Tzu's First Hair Cut

Six-month-old puppy before his first haircut.This is Beau before his first haircut.
Six-month-old puppy after his first haircut.This is Beau after his first haircut

Many Shih Tzu puppy buyers decide that their first hair cut needs to correspond with the growth of the top knot, beard, and overgrown mustache. When hair has grown so long as to cover the eyes, it's time for a clip. But, what should you expect when your puppy meets his first professional groomer.

For some of us, it can be anxiety-provoking, especially for new Shih Tzu puppy owners.  Should I trust this groomer?  Will the groomer know anything about the Shih Tzu breed?  How will my sweet little boy or girl respond to this professional groomer?  Will the groomer hurt my baby?

It is difficult to know what to expect when we drop off our tiny puppy for the first time.  But relax; groomers love dogs just as much as we do, and they would not be where they are today if they did not.  Good groomers are professionals.  I have never met a groomer who did not know all breeds, including the Shih Tzu. 

What to Expect With Your Puppy's First Groom?

Most Shih Tzu owners expect certain things from groomers.  Some groomers suggest that you bring in your puppy for a first visit to get him accustomed to the shop.  This first visit might include a bath, nail clip, sanitary clip, and paw pad hair removal.  Others will provide a full-service clip.   If this is your first experience, consider that most dogs will receive the following as part of the service/fee.

Most other services, such as de-matting and teeth cleaning, are extra.  

What Should You as a Puppy Owner Expect:

  • Gentle handling
  • Hygienic methods used to assure a clean puppy and a sanitary environment
  • Clear communication with your groomer
  • Costs and Fees that align with the locale.  In some locations, you will spend much more than in other areas.

Many puppy owners never consider how they may improve the situation between their groomers and themselves.  

It's true. We expect a lot from the dog groomers who care for our pets, but is it possible to make their relationship with our pets more amiable?  

If you had a chance to talk to your dog groomer, what would you ask?   We decided to intercede and see what dog groomers would love you to know and what they would like to know from you.

How Can I prepare my puppy for his first grooming experience? 

A Shih Tzu first hair cut need not be stressful.  Training your puppy for grooming is similar whether you do it yourself or employ a professional groomer.  

Get to know your puppy. 

Many Shih Tzu dogs hate to have their feet and legs touched.  Some are sensitive around their ears.  Many inexperienced puppies resist the need to be restrained when the groomer is clipping facial hair.   

Please know that all puppies, like young children, have a hard time sitting or standing still.  Their attention span is short.  There are far more exciting things on their agenda, and taking the time to be groomed just impedes their perceived daily schedule. As dogs grow, most will calm down, and grooming will not be such a big deal.

According to Lisa Sindelar, a professional groomer at Boston Heights Veterinary Hospital, there are some excellent ways you can help your puppy feel comfortable at the groomers.  

  • Start early to play with or massage the puppy's feet and paw pads.
  • Get into the habit of brushing and combing the puppy about 3 times a week.
  • Introduce nail clippers early on.  (A simple human toenail clipper will work fine on a young puppy's nails for the first few months.)
  • Give your puppy some practice baths.  Puppies do seem to get dirtier than older dogs, so you would want to do this in any event.
  • Most groomers who work with Shih Tzu dogs need to hold onto something when clipping or scissoring around the eyes and face.  This is a sensitive area for some, so a good grip on the mustache or beard will keep the puppy from moving or jerking his head.  You can prepare your puppy by gently playfully grabbing the beard or mustache.  Keep the game light and fun and provide a treat.
  • Do you have a place (table, desk, countertop) where the puppy can stand to be brushed?  All groomers use tables.  If you groom your puppy while he snuggles on your lap, the height of the table may cause some anxiety.  Train your puppy to stand on a table or other surface.

Last Words

Some puppies take to grooming better than others. I'm not sure whether there is a genetic component. Still, I do see similarities in sensitivity between parents, grandparents, and offspring.  Even for skittish puppies, if they have had positive experiences, grooming will become tolerable if not a fun experience.

Get to know your dog groomer.  She is one more professional that will help you through the years to care for your pet.  Be honest with her.  Give her fair warning if there is a quirk about your dog that she should know.  For example, I have a dog that refuses to stand up. 

One dog utters a low guttural warning when unhappy, and still another one is known to leap off tall tables.  Put yourself in her shoes.  But, at the same time,  know that your groomer has experience with many different dogs and breeds, so your dog's quirks may not be as unusual as you might think.

Pin for Future Reference

A Shih Tzu puppy showing off his first haircut.Shih Tzu First Hair Cut

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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.