Shih Tzu Haircuts: 
Styling Options for All Shih Tzu Dogs

Shih Tzu Grooming StylesShih Tzu Haircuts

by Janice Jones     |Last Updated 07-30-2021

One of the nice things about owning a Shih Tzu is deciding how you want their hair to be groomed.

Unlike short-haired dogs who wear the same hairstyle year after year, the possibilities for Shih Tzu styles and cuts is limited only by the imagination and skill of the groomer.

If you love D.I.Y. projects, grooming your own Shih Tzu can be very rewarding. 

Before we look at individual Shih Tzu haircuts, we should point out that not every style will look the same for every dog. Some dogs have thick, thick, thick coats that grow fast, others not so much. 

Some have longer snouts, higher placed ears, shorter legs, rounder heads, and so forth. To get a feel for what works for you and looks great on your dog may take some experimentation.

Two Options -- Many Possibilities

  • Long, Show Coat look
  • Short Puppy Cut

Most owners of pet Shih Tzu dogs prefer to keep their dogs trimmed which means a trip to the groomers about every six to eight weeks. The other option, of course, is to keep the hair long and flowing.

Even if you never plan to show your dog, a long hairstyle might be perfect if your dog loves to be brushed and you enjoy grooming. 

If you decide to go the route of long hair, be forewarned:  The operation of keeping a show dog look takes considerable time, elbow grease and money, thus don’t require your favorite Shih Tzu to look like a Show Dog unless you plan on investing in the additional effort required to preserve the look. 

Most pet owners do not want this for their dogs.

Customizing Shih Tzu Haircuts:  Grooming Each Part of Your Shih Tzu's Body

There are so many options when deciding how you want your dog to look.  Think in terms of what you can do with each portion of your dog:  Face, Body, Head, Ears, and Legs. With all Shih Tzu haircuts, the tail is usually kept long.  If this is your puppy's first haircut, do be sure to prepare him in advance.

The Face: Full and Thick or Just Like a Chrysanthemum

The face is the first thing you notice when you look at your Shih Tzu so when examining Shih Tzu haircuts, think whiskers, beard and head first.  

Faces can be completely shaved free of hair giving the dog the appearance of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The whiskers and beard can be trimmed short or left long. 

Some prefer a completely rounded look so whiskers and beard are trimmed shorter. This look gives the classic chrysanthemum or puppy look that gave the breed its name.

A longer beard and whiskers will give the appearance of a longer head shape.

The Topknot:  To Top or Not

The topknot can be long and thick, pulled up with rubber bands, or all the hair on the head shaved short.

Alternately, the hair can be left at the same length as the body or the topknot trimmed to a shorter version that sticks up or teased out. The Show coat calls for one elaborate top knot, but who’s to say, your pet Tzu can’t have two pigtails!

The Body:  Short and Sassy or Long and Elegant

The body can be shaved short, left at about an inch long or not trimmed at all.

Lengths can vary depending on the season with a little more length in cooler months. Shih Tzu still do fine in the winter with trimmed locks as long as they can sport a sweater or coat for frolicking in the snow.

Most people think that their dogs need to be trimmed short in the summer to keep them cool.  The Shih Tzu’s coat does a great job insulating the dog, keeping it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. 

So, don’t feel as if you are hurting your dog if you opt for a long style in the summer.

The Ears:  Long and Silky or Bare and Smooth

Ears can be trimmed to the length of the whiskers and mustache giving the appearance of a rounded head. They can be left long. They can be shaved completely.

The Legs:  Straight Leg, Boot Cut or Bell Bottoms

Legs can be trimmed to the exact length of the body, left long, straight, and feathery, or clipped shorter at the top and longer at the paws giving the appearance of belly-bottoms.

The Tail:  Thick Plumage - The Signature Look

In any case, most people do not touch the tail other than to trim the ends, providing a plumage of thick tail hair that is carried over the body.  This part of the body does tend to mat if neglected, so if you want to maintain that thick plumb, brush and comb using a steel comb several times per week.

Shih Tzu Haircuts:  Tips to Help You Choose

  • Your decision does not need to be based on the climate:  The Tzu with long hair will do fine in the summer; the Tzu with short hair might need a coat or sweater in the winter.
  • Long, thick face furnishings are beautiful, but if you have a Shih Tzu that dives head first into the water bowl, those lovely locks will be perpetually wet.
  • A close shave over the face including whiskers and beard might seem like the perfect solution, but remember that the whiskers (not the hair) are there for a purpose as a sensory organ.
  • If your Shih Tzu loves to take long walks through the woods, or quick romps on the beach, keeping a long style will take much more work.
  • Dogs that spend time in the woods or fields do best with shorter leg styles.  It is much easier to remove dirt, debris, or burrs when the hair is an inch long.
  • Love that topknot look?  Expect to redo it at least every day.  Some dogs need to have it done twice a day.

Naming Shih Tzu Haircuts

You will hear the terms, pet or puppy cut and sometimes the term Summer Cut or Teddy Bear Clip is used. You might think they all mean something different, but they all refer to the same cut. 

Whatever name you give it, this style is the most popular because it is so easy to maintain. Here the groomer clips the dog down to approximately one to two inches of hair overall the body, legs and face. 

Ears can then be trimmed to the length of the facial hair or left longer.  When completely brushed out, the dog looks like a fuzzy stuffed animal.

Remember, if you do keep your Tzu in this style, brushing is still needed because even with only one inch of hair, mats can develop.

Just For the D.I.Y.       Tools You Will Need

Shih Tzu Haircuts:  Your Shopping List

If you want to tackle grooming at home and save a ton of money, you will first need to purchase some tools.  Here is a list of supplies that I recommend, but you need not purchase all of them at the same time. 

  • Clippers:  I recommend a two-speed.
  • Clipper Blades #3, 4, 5,7, 10 and 15 and maybe some clip on combs
  • Clipper oil, Clipper blade coolant
  • Scissors:  Straight and curved
  • Thinning Shears (optional but gives that professional finished look)
  • Comb & Brush
  • Patience and Some tasty treats

If you want to clip your own dog, you will need to invest in a good pair of clippers with several different blades and clip on combs.  You will also want straight and curved scissors and possibly a pair of thinning shears.

A well-equipped home grooming salon will keep a variety of blades:  #3, 4, 5, or seven for overall trimming the body and legs, #10 for the sanitary areas, and #30 for the footpads. The footpads can also be done with the number 10 blade to save money.

The larger the blade number, the finer the clip. A number 3 blade will leave about an inch of hair. You can also achieve this length by purchasing a set of clip on combs that can be used with a #30 blade.

Clippers and Accessories

Most professional groomers will have a wide assortment of blades and combs, but if you are only clipping your own dog, there is no need to purchase one of each. A few blades will do an adequate job. 

Clippers heat up quickly, and the last thing you will want to do is burn your little guy.

Purchase a can of blade coolant or keep two blades on hand to switch out when one overheats.  Blades also need oiling, so a small container of blade oil is also recommended.

Dog Clippers

The three major manufacturers of dog clippers are Andis, Oster, and Wahl.  All are equally good.  A two-speed clipper is about all you would ever need for home grooming projects. For more information, please check out our dog clipper review page.

The clippers below are all excellent but if you are looking for a cordless or higher speed clipper, the ones below these four recommended clippers are all great choices.

Clipper Blades

Most clippers that you purchase will come with one blade, a number ten.  Clipper Blades can become expensive so you will want to purchase only those that you will use with your Shih Tzu.

For routine in home Shih Tzu grooming, I recommend purchasing the following blades:

#10 for sanitary clips

#15 for removing the hair between paw pads

#3 - 4 - 5  for overall grooming (A #3 clipper will leave the longest hair coat)

#7 if your dog is badly matted

Both the Oster and Andis blades are interchangeable so you can purchase Oster blades for your Andis clipper and visa versa.  The Wahl blades are not and will need to be purchased specifically for a Wahl clipper.

Clipper Blade Oil and Coolant

In addition to purchasing a dog clipper and blades, you will also want to purchase clipper oil and coolant.  Clipper oil is used to lubricate your clipper blades and should be applied before beginning your Shih Tzu hair cut.  The coolant is used as the name suggests to cool the blade.  Blades tend to heat up rapidly and to prevent burns on your dog, you will need to cool down the blades.  There are several ways to cool blades:

  1. Turn off the clipper and give your dog a break while you wait for your blade to cool off.
  2. Change out blades which means you will need at least 2 of every type of blade.  (Two #10 blades, two #7 blades, etc.)  One cools as you use the other)
  3. Purchase a can of coolant that can be sprayed directly on the blade to cool it down so it is comfortable for your dog.

Prefer that Professional Touch for Your Shih Tzu Haircuts?

Anyone who has no interest in grooming at home or who is pressed for time, a professional groomer is the way to go.  At first you may be intimidated by the lingo and how to describe how you want your Tzu groomed, but don't be.  Your dog groomer is there to work for you and they should be willing to clip your Shih Tzu the way you'd like them to look, within reason, of course.

You may choose to use terms such as 

"Give him a puppy cut"

"I want a teddy bear cut"

"Give him a practical top knot"

"I prefer a lion cut"

Be prepared to elaborate, especially if you have special concerns such as keeping more facial hair, allowing your dog's top knot to grow, or allowing growth on your dog's ears.  Some groomers have a set image as to how each puppy cut should look.  If your image of a Shih Tzu puppy cut does not align with your groomer's, you are likely to be disappointed.  

The easiest way to communicate your desires is with a picture.  Find the Shih Tzu haircut that most appeals to you and save to your smart phone or present physical photography of your ideal look.  Where to look?

Find Shih Tzu Haircut Photographs for your Groomer to Copy

It is not difficult to find the perfect picture to show your dog groomer.  You may have a friend's dog's picture but most likely, you will search the internet for inspiration.  May I suggest these resources to spark your imagination

Pinterest Shih Tzu Grooming Hairstyles

Pinterest Shih Tzu Haircuts

Shih Tzu Haircuts - The Takeaway

So what do people do with all these Shih Tzu Haircuts? Standard haircut names don’t seem to exist, so if you know what you want your groomer to achieve, it is best to find a picture to take along when dropping of your Tzu. 

If your ready to do it yourself, grab a clipper and have some fun.

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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.

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