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Grooming your Shih Tzu

Updated: Jun 2, 2023

Most people think that grooming is only about brushing your dog’s coat. Actually, in addition to brushing, grooming also includes washing, hair cutting, nail clipping, and teeth cleaning. Regular brushing and combing helping to remove dead hair and dirt and prevent matting. Grooming your dog can also be a good way to bond with your dog. It is important to get him used to it from an early age. Below is some information to get you familiar with grooming tools and grooming tasks. You should find it helpful, but it will not make you a professional groomer! It is mean to be an overview.


All dogs should have the basic supplies such as brush, comb, and scissors. However, long coats require different grooming tools:

  • Slicker Brush – This brush is used for nearly every breed of dog to release dirt and to pull loose hair from the dog’s coat. There are less expensive brushes but this one is wonderful, It gets you matts easily and the shape is great for feet,

  • Pin Brush - This brush is commonly used for regular brushing of long-coated large dogs.

  • Dryer Holder - If you are using a Hand-Held Dryer (as opposed to a floor dryer) you will need a dryer holder so you have both hands free when drying your dog.

  • Electric Clipper for Small Animals - (such as Oster A5 Model or A2 Model) – The Oster A5 Clipper is a one-piece clipper with snap on blades. This clipper is highly recommended because it is the easiest to use and operate. The Oster A2 Model is a very good clipper to use, though it requires interchangeable heads which makes it a little harder to use due to the added inconvenience.

  • Electric Clipper Blades - Blades are designed the model clippers. Each blade is numbered. The higher the number, the more hair it removes. An Oster 3F is recommended,

  • Electric Clipper Spray Lube - This spray product is used to cool and lubricate the blades. Use of the spray lube is necessary when clipping in order to prevent clipper burns.

  • Grooming Table (18' x 34'') - A grooming table is not necessary but it is helpful. (You will understand after wrestling with that wet puppy!) A standard size grooming table is usually a folding type and easy to carry and move to a different location. It is 30" high and has ribbed rubber matting.

  • Scissors

Large and small sizes and some are designed for left-handed people.

Round end - the are helpful for trimming sensitive areas line ears and face.

Curved - The curved shears are useful for trimming the fur on the dog’s feet.

Thinning Shears – These are useful around eyes and ears to give a natural appearance but keep fur from irritating the eyes and ears. They can take some training to get used to.

Shampoo and Conditioner

You may have to try a few shampoos to find one that works for your dog. Shih Tzu's have sensitive skin so watch out for allergic reactions (red skin, itching, small bumps on the skin, bald patches, red or watery eyes, shaking head, rubbing face, etc.). If your dog has a white or light-colored coat and pink skin, he may be more sensitive to just about everything, from dry air and sun, to irritation from grooming products. In addition, dogs with short coats are more likely to have reactions to certain products. There are many specialty shampoos - like whitening shampoos that may be necessary if you have a dog with white hair. Conditioner is optional. I use Ice on Ice shampoo and find that conditioner is not necessary but does still help keep hair tangle free. A nice conditioner recommended by my groomer is Fruit of the Groomer but it can be somewhat difficult to find. Finishing spray is also optional but if you keep your Shih Tzu in a long coat you may find it beneficial.

Once your dog is completely brushed, combed, and tangle-free, he is ready for a bath. Make sure you gather and prepare all the necessary equipment and supplies so that you can reach what you need when you need it.

Bath your Shih Tzu every couple weeks. More often can dry out delicate skin. Before bathing put a cotton ball in your dog's ears (far enough in to not fall out but not too far!). You can also use your thumb over the ear opening to keep water out of the ears. It is also important to keep a hand over the dog's eyes to prevent any soap from getting into them.

  1. Using a spray hose, wet the entire coat, except the head and ears, thoroughly with warm water. Apply shampoo to the dog's coat and lightly spray with water again. Create a lather (a small rubber-bristled bathing brush may be used for lathering the dog). Pay special attention to the pads of the feet and the rectum area.

  2. When the coat is thoroughly soaped and scrubbed, rinse it with warm water. A double bath is recommended so repeat the soaping and rinsing process. Apply conditioner and let set for a few minutes. On the last rinse be sure to get all of the soap out of the coat.

  3. After washing the rest of the dog, wet the dog’s head and shampoo the head and ears and any part of the neck or chest that was not previously done. Pay special attention to the ears.

  4. Turn the water off. Squeeze excess water out of your dog's coat by pressing the fur to his body with your hand. Then gently squeeze the hair on the legs, tail, and ears with your hands to remove excess water. You can also blot the dog with a towel (do not rub as it causes tangles!). Cover your dog with a large, absorbent towel. Keep his head covered to keep him from shaking and spraying water over you and the room.

  5. Dry your dog with a hair dryer. Be careful not to get the dryer too close to the skin or leave it in one place too long- it may burn your dog. Use a pin brush to brush through the hair as it dries.


For grooming nails teeth and ears it may help to wrap your dog in a towel. These are NOT their favorite activities.

The following are three types of nail clippers that are suitable for small, medium, and large breeds. The scissors-type is recommended for small dogs. The guillotine-type is used on medium-sized dogs. And finally, the Dremel type nail grinders.

Styptic Powder is necessary to stop the bleeding of nails that are cut too short.

Don't forget to trim the hair on your dog's paws. Dogs grow hair between the pads of their foot quite fast. If ignored, it tends to mat. Left alone, the mats increase in size and can spread the pads further apart.


Dog experts recommend that dogs should have their teeth brushed each day but you should at least brush them once a week. Ignoring your dog's dental issues can give rise to tartar, cavities, and plaque that can lead to inflammation and gingivitis leading to large vet bills. Vets sedate dogs to clean and examine teeth so the bill is hundreds of dollars for one cleaning. There are many types of toothbrushes (360, finger, etc.)and flavors of toothpaste (vanilla, mint, beef, etc.(. Find what brush your dog tolerates best and what does the best job. Many kits come with multiple styles of brushes you can try.

If your dog absolutely refuses to have his teeth brushed. there is floride additive, gel application, or spray options.


Check your dog's ears every day. lf your dog is used to your handling his ears then he will be more comfortable with it when a professional groomer or vet has to examine them.

The ear’s tiny hairs can trap dirt, bacteria, and moisture inside the ear canal, causing ear infections. You may choose to trim the hair inside the ears or dogs, pluck the ear hair. Plucking is often recommended for Shih Tzus who have small, floppy ears. To pluck your dog’s ears, dust the ear with a little medicated ear powder or boric acid powder using a cotton ball to make it easier to grasp the hairs and use forceps or tweezers pluck out each hair.

You dogs ears should be wiped out with ear cleanser every week or two. Add a few drops of cleanser, massage the base of the ear, let your dog shake their head, then wipe out any excess wax with a cotton ball. Do not use rubbing alcohol to clean your dogs ears. You can use mineral oil.


It is ideal to check your dog's eyes every day. Most dogs can accumulate debris in the corners of their eyes. Wipe the face down with a moist cloth and clean the corners of the eyes with a moist cotton ball every day. If you dogs eyes are dry, you may need to add eye drops.

After all that you may decide to look for a trustworthy groomer. Just remember some of these tasks have to be done between groomings. Also, consider professional grooming can get expensive (running $60+ every 4-6 weeks).

It is important to find the right groomer for your dog. This will be a relationship since your dog will be visiting this groomer regularly. Talk to your veterinarian, your kennel manager, and other dog owners. If you see a dog on the street with a style you like, stop the owner and ask where the dog was groomed. Find out:

  1. Did the groomer go to grooming school or apprentice with a professional groomer?

  2. How long have they been grooming?

  3. Do they have much experience with Shih Tzus?

  4. What is their policy for uncooperative dogs (tranquilizers, muzzle, etc.)?

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