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Grooming - Baths & More

Bathing a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu in bath tub
Photo courtesy of Windsong Shih Tzu
How Often?

Your Shih Tzu will need a through bath every 3 weeks if he or she stays relatively clean. Too many baths will dry the skin and not enough will allow too much body oil to accumulate on the skin. If your dog runs through mud or the coat becomes dirty from any activity, it is suggested to give your Shih Tzu a bath as soon as possible. 

A dirty coat is not only uncomfortable for your dog, it also will mat easier and can lead to skin irritation or dry skin. Puppies may need to be bathed more often, as they tend to get messy bottoms when they eliminate. Trimming the hair around the anus will help with this issue. 
shih-tzu-in-bath-tub
Cooper at 3 months old
Photo courtesy of The LaPenna Family
Anal Glands

When you are bathing your Shih Tzu, it is a good time to inspect the anal glands.

The anal glands (one located on each side of the anus) contain an oil. Very small secretions are released when one dog comes upon another. Also, some is normally released a bit when a dog has a bowel movement. However, it is not uncommon for there to be a buildup of this oil. At this point, it needs to be expressed. If not, a Shih Tzu may rub his rear across the floor - in response to the uncomfortable feeling - and the sacs can break open. It makes quite a mess and the smell is very overpowering.

If you notice that they are enlarged, the task of expressing them can be done in the bath - due to the mess. It works well to cover each with a thin wash cloth and gently squeeze up and out. Many owners do not feel comfortable doing this and ask either the vet or the groomer to handle this grooming element.

Trimming & Plucking

It is suggested to set aside a certain time to look over your Shih Tzu and see if there is any small snipping that needs to be done to the coat. Most find it easy to use bath time for this. You can do this gentle grooming right before your dog goes into the tub.
  • Paws: You will want to check the hair that grows between the pads on the paw of your Shih Tzu. The hairs should be trimmed so that it is level with the pads. If not, a dog will lose important traction and the hairs will pull at this sensitive area.
  • If the coat is kept long, take note if it skims past the floor and trim as necessary.
  • Ears: Keeping your Shih Tzu's ears clean and clear is very important. Long stray hairs may reduce air circulation and lead to an infection in the ear canal. While many dogs put up a bit of a fuss for this, it can be quickly done with the right tools. You can use a Hemostat tool along with ear powder to quickly pluck those hairs. 
How to Properly Bathe Your Shih Tzu

Bathing a Shih Tzu is a bit more involved than putting your dog in the tub and scrubbing away. However, the process is not overly complicated or time consuming. This can actually be a great time for your and your dog to bond together. 

This breed is so cute when they are full of suds or soaking wet; it is usually a fun time for the owner! If the owner shows a nice, happy attitude and speaks in a matter-of-fact and caring tone, a Shih Tzu will learn to enjoy bath time also.

Before you put your Shih Tzu in the tub, you should brush over the coat first. Even if you have just brushed the day before, this is a good way to make sure there are no mats; as wet mats are harder to remove than dry ones.  

To give your dog a proper bath an owner should:
  • Use lukewarm water (test it with the inside of your wrist)
  • Use a really good shampoo. Don't skimp with this since a cheap product will wreck the coat.
  • Use your hands to lather up your Shih Tzu and scrub every area of the body, including genitals and tail.  Tzu with puppy coats can be gently scrub with a quality canine bath brush
  • Use a small toothbrush to gently clean the area under the eyes
  • Thoroughly rinse out the suds. Soap residue will cake on the skin and cause problems, so be sure to rinse extra well.
  • Apply a quality conditioner. This helps to protect the hair shafts until the next bath and works to repair any split ends.
  • Use a quality leave-in spray. This protects the coat from the sun, wind and arid conditions, all which can cause static problems or drying issues.
The Drying Process

The Shih Tzu should have their coat blow dried for proper grooming. Once your dog is out of the tub, you should several small absorbent towels around your dog and use a patting motion to soak up excess water. Be sure to not rub the coat, as this can cause split ends. Spray a light leave in conditioner before you begin to dry the coat. As you use the blow dryer, use your hand to work through the hair. Once are dry enough to be separated (not clung together due to water), you can then finish off by using a brush while you dry. 

For more detailed info
on the best grooming tools to use

Important basics to know

The Details of All Grooming

This, of course, is an overview of grooming. Grooming is one of the most important elements of taking care of your Tzu. An owner must have the full & complete details of:
  • Brushing and combing
  • How to deal with disasters
  • Nails & dewclaw details
  • The exact step-by-step instructions for each part of the Tzu's body
  • The difference in grooming a short cut VS a long coat
  • What ruins a Shih Tzu's coat...and much more! Have a look at the AllShihTzu Book. Now in both print and eBook.
Nail Care

It is easiest to trim the nails of your Shih Tzu right after a bath and before the blow drying process. While your dog is wrapped in the soft towels and their nails are wet; this is an optimal opportunity to be able to clip them. Using the proper nail clipping tool, very careful clip above the red streak. If you cut too low, the nail will bleed. If this accidentally occurs, use styptic powder to slow down the bleeding.

Another option is a grinding tool which files the nail down and eliminates the need to cut. Your goal is to carefully clip or file the nails exactly to where they begin to hook over. Many owner do opt to have a professional dog groomer take care of this tricky grooming task.
You may also like:

Shih Tzu Hair Styles - Cute options that can really change the appearance of this breed. 
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