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How To

How to Groom a Shih Tzu - Brushing & More

Is Proper Grooming of a Shih Tzu Difficult?

Although this dog may have a "high maintenance" look, grooming is not overly time consuming or terribly difficult. Many Shih Tzu owners choose to have their dog professionally groomed to ensure the proper look and sleek, professional pizazz. If you choose to groom yourself, you will need a bit of time for you and your dog to become familiar with the process. Let's talk about how to groom a Shih Tzu.

A Shih Tzu pup does not need much grooming! A daily quick brushing will do. An ungroomed dog can become a mess and this is unhealthy for the dog. A well groomed Shih Tzu will have long, flowing hair and a top knot or clipped hair and optional long-haired top knot. Show dog Shih Tzu will be groomed to perfection for that particular day of show. 
Proper Grooming

If you choose to groom your dog yourself as opposed to having him or her professionally groomed, the biggest task will be proper grooming of your Shih Tzu's coat. One must remember that grooming involves all aspects of taking care of a dog's appearance. This will include teeth and nails as well.
See: Grooming - Teeth: Learn about this vital
aspect of dog care

One of the big elements of how to groom a Shih Tzu is to understand that more baths does not always = a better coat.

Shih Tzu of all ages - puppy, adult and seniors - will only need a bath once every 3 weeks. A young puppy will need a brushing every 3rd day, but no detailed work will need to be done; the coat will be very short. 
Well groomed Shih Tzu
Photo courtesy of owner: Rita Delacruz  
Your adult dog will a brushing as often as once per day or every 3 days; this can vary greatly depending on the situation and events that may dirty the coat. Brushing often enough will save you a headache in the long run, as you will be able to catch mats before they become large. If your dog is having issues with dry skin we can help!

Once your Shih Tzu reaches the 1 year mark, the adult longer coat should have grown in. It may grow a bit more up until the 2 year mark. Now is the time to groom in accordance with proper grooming methods for coat. AVOID brushing the coat when it is dry, it can easily break!

Because of static electricity and its power to break off hair, mist-spray your dog with a mixture of water and a bit of canine condition or a quality canine leave-in spray. One benefit of many good spritzes are that they will leave a fresh aroma that can last for a few days. You may also use Static Control Spray. All recommended grooming items can be found under 'Grooming' in the Shih Tzu Specialty Shoppe.
Shih Tzu with puppy cut
Sir Chester Copperfield, 2 years old
Photo courtesy of owners: John and Gail Bouwkamp
Begin at your dog's legs and work your way down to the paws. Go gently in case there are any pieces of matted hair. If you do find a mat, try to be patience and work it out before you rush to clip it. Covering your hands with conditioner and having patience, you may be able to un-work the tangle. If not, do clip it, as it will grow each day; it will pull at the skin and/or effect other areas of the coat.

When brushing your Shih Tzu, make sure you allow the brush to reach through the complete coat of hair, down to the skin. A face comb and a 2 level comb should be used on the face of the Shih Tzu and around the ears. 

Use the face comb to gently comb through the face, the "mustache" and topknot hair. For reasons of hygiene and cleanliness, the hair around the anus can be clipped with round tipped scissors if the hairs do not naturally fall to each side. Feces can and does easily become stuck to any long hair and this can lead to very unpleasant odors and compromise hygiene.
During cold seasons, you will need to make a few changes in regard to caring for a Shih Tzu in the winter. 
Growing a Long Coat

How to groom a Shih Tzu will certainly be different if you wish to have the Show Dog look (the coat will be long, soft, flowing and to the floor) This is achieved with patience as the coat grows and gentle grooming to prevent split ends and breakage. 
Some owners choose to wrap the hair. This is a simple, yet time consuming method of providing protection. 1 inch (2.50 cm) sections are combed and held away from the dog

Silk wrapping paper is then wrapped around the end of the section. It is gently folded up to the base of the dog. It is held in place by thick, non-stick rubber bands. Once you become accustomed to wrapping your Shih Tzu, the process will move along faster. 

However, a Shih Tzu that has wraps must be un-wrapped every other day, groomed and then re-wrapped. It is vital to never leave the silk papers for more than 2 days and also for the dog to become wet while wrapped. Doing so may cause mildew to begin to grow underneath the silk wrappers. This presents the possibility of a discoloration to the Shih Tzu's coat.
young Shih Tzu growing out coat
Lola Monroe Clarkson, 7 months old
Photo courtesy of Derek and Molly Clarkson
Here are Some Great Grooming Tips to Keep in Mind:
  • Please choose your products wisely; as cheap shampoos and conditioners will severely compromise the quality of the coat.
  • Never brush a dry coat - It should be lightly misted as you go around the body.
  • Brushing should be gentle yet thorough.
  • Never leave a mat unattended. 
  • Brushing should be done with long, flat strokes. 
  • Curling the brush at the end of the stroke may cause breakage.
Red Around the Eyes

If your Shih Tzu has a red/orange color stains on the face, most often under and around the eyes, this may be caused by: 1. Eye discharge that led to tear staining 2: A "Red Yeast" infection.

Be sure to clean this area daily with a soft, damp cloth and then drying with an absorbent cloth or use professional canine cleansing wipes (this is not dried off, as it contains ingredients to protect the hairs and prevent staining). If the discoloration remains, bring your dog to the vet;' a Red Yeast issue will need to be treated with medication given to you by an experienced veterinarian. There are some steps that you can take at home to resolve this issue in some cases.....We have a section regarding tear stains.

Note: For more detailed instructions on topknots, including photos, plus tons of more grooming information, you may want to see what is inside of the AllShihTzu BookNow in both print & eBook.
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