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How to Groom a Shih Tzu – 10 Expert Tips

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

How to Groom a Shih Tzu – 10 Expert Tips

Shih Tzus are lovely dogs that have cute and loving personalities. They are suitable for a variety of home environments, but not everyone is able to commit to the coat care needs of the Shih Tzu. After all, the long, flowy coat of the Shih Tzu requires a commitment to multiple routine steps for maintenance.

Without proper care, Shih Tzu coats can become tangled and matted, leading to pain and skin problems. Here are some of the top tips for grooming at home. If you’re unsure of how to do any of these, talk to a professional groomer for guidance.

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The 10 Expert Tips to Groom a Shih Tzu

1. Train for Grooms

If your Shih Tzu isn’t used to being handled, then they may not cooperate for grooming. Dogs that aren’t used to being groomed are unlikely to sit still for grooming, which can make things like nail and coat trims stressful. For a dog that is very uncooperative, it can even become dangerous since a dog jumping around while you’re trying to trim its nails or the fur around its eyes is likely to become injured.

You can prepare your Shih Tzu pup for grooming by doing things as simple as handling their feet or touching their face. You can do this while you spend time on the couch together, providing positive reinforcement of your dog’s tolerance of being touched.

For some dogs, things like nail trims will always be stressful, so turn to a vet or professional groomer for help.

Holding her Shih Tzu dog at home
Photo By: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

2. Brush Routinely

The long coat of the Shih Tzu requires routine brushing to maintain. The frequency of brushing can vary between dogs and their individual coats, especially if you keep your Shih Tzu’s coat short. Some dogs require daily brushing, while others only need to be thoroughly brushed two or three times per week.

Using the right kind of brush can make all the difference when you brush your Shih Tzu. A slicker brush is recommended for most daily brushing, and a metal grooming comb can be used as needed in tangled or harder-to-reach places. If you get behind on brushing, you may need to have a groomer help you get the coat back under control.

3. Remove Tangles and Mats

The texture of the Shih Tzu coat lends itself to easily tangling, as well as picking up objects, like grass, twigs, stickers, and seeds. Because of the easy tangling, these coats can become matted quickly.

Mats can lead to skin infections and significant pain for your dog, so mat prevention is important. Severe mats will need to be removed by a groomer or veterinarian, but if your dog has minor tangles or mats, you may be able to gently remove them at home with a comb.

When you perform your regular brushing, check your dog thoroughly for tangles and mats. Make sure to remove them when you find them if you’re able so you can prevent worsening and the need for professional intervention.

grooming shih tzu dog
Photo By: Vershinin89, Shutterstock

4. Bathe Regularly

Regular baths can help keep your Shih Tzu’s skin and coat healthy. Overbathing can eliminate the natural oils on the skin, which are essential for skin and coat health, so aim to bathe your dog no more than twice every month. There may be instances in which your dog requires more frequent bathing for medicated baths under your vet’s guidance, though.

When you bathe your dog at home, it’s important to use shampoo and conditioner that is formulated for use on dogs. Human shampoo and conditioner are not intended for dogs and may be too harsh on the delicate skin and coat of the Shih Tzu. Rinse your dog thoroughly to ensure no shampoo is left behind on the coat. Shampoo that doesn’t get fully rinsed can lead to skin irritation and dryness.

Our Favorite Products

Selecting the right shampoo and conditioner makes the world of a difference when grooming your pup. Our favorite products are the duo by Hepper. The Oatmeal Pet Shampoo is formulated with aloe and oatmeal to soothe skin and hydrate the coat. The Pet Conditioner works at eliminating tangles and taming frizz and static. Both products are pH-balanced and formulated with pet-friendly ingredients, free of harsh soaps, chemicals, and dyes. Give this duo a try to heal and nourish your dog's coat, and leave them with an irresistible just-left-the-spa cucumber and aloe scent. 

Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
Hepper Oatmeal Shampoo for Dogs, Cats and Other...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
Hepper Pet Conditioner and Moisturiser - Scented...
pH balanced
Gently cleanses
Cucumber & aloe scent
Free of harmful additives
Combats tangles & static
Soothes & hydrates

At Dogster, we’ve admired Hepper for many years and decided to take a controlling ownership interest so that we could benefit from the outstanding designs of this cool pet company!


5. Dry Thoroughly

It’s very important that you don’t leave your Shih Tzu wet after bathing. Leaving your dog’s coat damp or wet can lead to skin irritation and coat tangling. If you come across any leftover shampoo during drying, your dog will likely need to go back into the tub for a better rinse before drying.

Dryers made specifically for use on dogs are ideal, but you can also use a human hairdryer on a cool setting to dry your Shih Tzu. If your dog goes out in the rain or goes for a swim, you will need to take the same precautions in ensuring their coat is fully dry. After drying, your dog will need to be brushed to remove any tangles left behind from the drying process.

person using hair dryer on black and white Shih Tzu
Photo By: Leeyakorn06, Shutterstock

6. Try Dry Shampoo for Dogs

It’s no secret that dogs can get a little stinky between baths, but overbathing isn’t healthy for the skin and coat. One way to help freshen your dog up without overbathing is using a dry shampoo formulated for use on dogs.

Human dry shampoo, like regular human shampoo, is likely to absorb the oils on your dog’s skin too much, leaving behind dry and irritated skin and an unhealthy coat. Dry shampoo that is formulated for use on pets can help refresh your dog’s coat while maintaining a healthy skin pH level and providing gentle moisturizing ingredients that don’t strip or irritate the skin.

Dry shampoo isn’t going to clean a muddy, dirty pup, but it is a great option for keeping your dog smelling fresh and feeling clean between baths.

7. Keep Hair Trimmed

If you’ve ever watched a dog show, you know that some Shih Tzus have very long, healthy coats. No matter the length of your Shih Tzu’s coat, trimming is important for maintaining overall skin and coat health. Even those show dogs with the floor-length coats get routine trims. The main areas of your Shih Tzu that will need regular trims are the areas around the eyes, ears, and paws.

The hair around the eyes can limit visibility and, in some cases, may even lead to irritation and infections of the eyes themselves. Excess hair on and around the ears can increase the risk of matting and ear infections. Excessively hairy paws are likely to develop mats and pick up more debris, and debris in the paws can lead to physical injury and infections in and on the paws.

If you’re not comfortable using grooming scissors on these areas, then it’s best to leave these trims to a professional groomer. If you’re uncomfortable or unsure of what you’re doing or if your dog isn’t still and cooperative, then this can lead to cuts and injuries.

person trimming shih tzu dog's fur
Photo By: siamionau pavel, Shutterstock

8. Trim Nails Regularly

Dog nails can get quite long, and long nails can lead to a slew of problems, including broken nails, infections, and even damage to the structure and function of the feet. Regular nail trims are an important part of dog maintenance. The frequency of nail trims can vary depending on how active your dog is, what types of ground they spend time on, and your dog’s nail growth patterns.

Most Shih Tzus will need a nail trim every 2 to 4 weeks to maintain an appropriate nail length. It will likely take practice and confidence on your part to properly trim your dog’s nails. If you’re unsure how to properly trim dog’s nails, a groomer or member of the veterinary staff can help you learn how to safely do this to keep your dog’s nails healthy.

9. Brush Teeth

We all brush our teeth every day, typically multiple times per day. Your dog can’t brush its own teeth, though. This means that you’re responsible for maintaining the dental health of your dog, and Shih Tzus are prone to dental disease and poor dentition in general due to the shape of their face and snout.

Using toothpaste formulated for a dog, you should aim to brush your dog’s teeth daily, although multiple times every week is going to be better than nothing. This should be a regular part of your dog’s grooming routine, and dental health is extremely important for the overall health, wellness, and comfort of your dog, so don’t skip it.

Never use human toothpaste for your dog, though! Only use toothpaste that has been formulated for use on dogs specifically.

person inspecting puppy shih tzu teeth
Image by: cynoclub, Shutterstock

10. Wipe Face and Eyes

One of the easiest things you can do to keep your Shih Tzu skin and coat healthy is to wipe their face and eyes. Try to do this every day or two. There are wipes that are formulated for use on your dog’s face and around the eyes, but you can even just use a soft washcloth and warm water to wipe down your dog’s face.

Due to the shape of their face, Shih Tzus are prone to watery eyes and a collection of “gunk” on the face and around the eyes. This buildup can lead to irritation and infections of the skin, as well as matting, so make sure to integrate this into your daily routine with your Shih Tzu. Never use soap, shampoos, or harsh products near the eyes, either.

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Maintaining the health of your Shih Tzu’s skin and coat requires a commitment of time and effort on your part, but the payoff is definitely worth it. Shih Tzus are sweet dogs that are loyal and fun, so your Shih Tzu will definitely be worth the extra effort required to maintain their coat.

If you’re ever unsure of how to handle an issue with your dog’s skin or coat, you need to discuss your issues and concerns with a groomer or vet, depending on the issue, so you can find a quick resolution.

Featured Image Credit: Toberoon, Pixabay

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