Basic care

Caring for Shih Tzu Hair

Josie F. Turner
By Josie F. Turner, Journalist specialized in Animal Welfare. November 17, 2020
Caring for Shih Tzu Hair
Shih tzu

Animal file: Shih tzu

The Shih Tzu is a breed native to Asia, likely Tibet or China. They are characterized by a small body, brachycephalic snout and, perhaps most noticeably, their beautiful long hair. Their features make them a much sought-after animal, but they are only for guardians who can meet the responsibility of all their needs. In particular this means their hygiene and hair care.

Although the Shih Tzu is affectionate and loyal, they can be stubborn, especially if not trained early. AnimalWised takes this into consideration as we explain everything about caring for Shih Tzu hair, with emphasis on tips on brushing, bathing and long hair care for dogs.

You may also be interested in: Caring for a Sphynx Cat


  1. How often to bathe a Shih Tzu
  2. How to bathe a Shih Tzu
  3. Brushing a Shih Tzu's hair
  4. Cutting the hair of a Shih Tzu
  5. Uñas, orejas y ojos
  6. Cleaning a Shih Tzu's teeth

How often to bathe a Shih Tzu

The frequency a dog is bathed will depend on their needs. Due to their long hair, bathing a Shih Tzu is an essential element of their care. Not only does bathing keep their coat clean, it helps to avoid knots and improves their health. As with all dogs, how often you bathe a Shih Tzu will depend on their activity. If they leave the house a lot and have access to water, they will need more frequent bathing than a dog which only leaves the house to walk on the pavement.

In general, you should bathe a Shih Tzu 1-2 times a month. You will need to use warm water and a special dog shampoo and conditioner. Never use personal hygiene products intended for humans. While the dog is still a puppy, use hypoallergenic and non-tear bathing products.

Bathing a Shih Tzu puppy for the first time

Ideally, we will accustom the Shih Tzu puppy to bathing from an early age. Use positive reinforcement during their socialization stage, associating the bathroom with somewhere they can be relaxed. We can do this with toys, encouraging words, water games and treats.

You should not bathe a puppy 10 days before or after they are vaccinated. If you need to bathe your Shih Tzu urgently, make sure you speak to your veterinarian before they administer any vaccines or continue their vaccination schedule.

Caring for Shih Tzu Hair - How often to bathe a Shih Tzu

How to bathe a Shih Tzu

Here we explain how to give a Shih Tzu a bath step by step:

  1. Start by running the water in your bathtub or sink until you find the perfect temperature, not too high and not too low. Room temperature should be warm enough to avoid colds or a significant drop in immunity.
  2. While bathing them, you can place two cotton balls over their outer ears to prevent water from getting into the ear canal. You can also use an elastic bandage to do the same.
  3. Begin to wet them progressively, always from the bottom up. Try not to overwhelm them and, if you notice they get very nervous, use your voice to calm them down.
  4. You should not get their eyes or ears wet.
  5. After moistening the entire body, apply the shampoo and spread it carefully with your fingers through the long hair. Don't rub or you may encourage tangles.
  6. Leave on for a few minutes and then rinse.
  7. Apply a conditioner using the same technique. There are different types: rinsing, no rinsing, liquid or aerosol. Use one which is suitable for your dog, but use one. It not only adds shine to the Shih Tzu's hair, but also makes it easier to comb and prevents dry skin.
  8. Take your Shih Tzu out of the bathing area and wrap them in a towel without rubbing.

Drying the Shih Tzu's hair

After each bath it is necessary to thoroughly dry the Shih Tzu's hair. Without scrunching their hair, press a towel over their body until you have absorbed excess moisture.

Then use a special dryer for dogs and a comb to dry the rest of the hair. Apply the action of the dryer at the lowest temperature and keep it 20 cm away. This will help you with the comb so as not to leave any wet patches. If you don't have a comb, use your fingers to avoid the tangles the dryer can produce.

Many dogs are scared of the hair dryer, so be patient until they get used to it. It is best to first allow them to observe and sniff it as much as they want while it is turned off. Once the Shih Tzu feels comfortable with the hair dyer, turn it on slowly and build up to drying their hair. Comb once completely dry.

Brushing a Shih Tzu's hair

Brushing the Shih Tzu's coat is necessary not only after bathing. This should be done several times a week. Ideally you should comb it daily, but we know this takes time. Brush a Shih Tzu's hair every other day for an average of 3-4 times per week.

Regular brushing will not only keep the Shih Tzu's long hair soft, well-groomed and tangle-free, it will also remove dead hair. This keeps your home more hygienic as there won't be as much loose hair left behind. It will also help to prevent parasites and detect them more quickly.

For correct brushing, we recommend you purchase a rake-style brush for long haired dogs. This will help you eliminate knots and tangles to which long-haired dog breeds are particularly prone. Be careful with tough knots. if the tangle is very close to the skin and it doe snot easily brush out, you may be best cutting it out with scissors. After you use the rake, use a slicker-type brush to finish.

Before you begin, it is best to lay the dog on its side to brush more easily. You will need to accustom them from a young age to being comfortable in this position while you comb, brush and bathe the Shih Tzu, or any dog.

Best results will occur if we moisten the long haired coat of a Shih Tzu a little to speed up the process. Use the brush on their legs, the stomach, the haunches and chest. Combing is most important on the head, feat, snout and ears. Brush and comb in order from tail to head so you don't miss any parts.

The hairstyle you choose will depend on the type of haircut the Shih Tzu has. Many people choose to put a hair tie to collect the hair on the top of the head to create a top knot for Shih Tzus. If you choose this style, do not tighten the band too tight or it will cause them pain.

Cutting the hair of a Shih Tzu

Maintaining the Shih Tzu's coat also includes giving them a proper trim from time to time. If you want the care you apply to the coat to last and the dog to be comfortable, you must be realistic when choosing a cut. For example, if your dog spends a lot of time playing outside or if you live in a very hot place, short hair will be best. If, on the other hand, the dog is an apartment dog and you have time to attend to it, you can let them have long hair.

Ideally you will have the money to take them to a professional groomer. They will be able to provide the best care when shaping their coat. At home you can take care of trimming the hair under their legs so it doesn't drag on the ground, as well as any hair which gets into their eyes. We should also check the hair around their anus, especially with puppies. Fecal matter can stain this area and create a hygiene problem.

Although ideally performed by a professional dog groomer, you can cut the dog's hair at home in a pinch. Our guide to cutting a dog's hair can help. So too will our helpful video guide below:

Uñas, orejas y ojos

When caring for Shih Tzu hair, you cannot forget to take care of their other grooming needs. This means trimming their nails, cleaning their eyes and cleaning their ears. Doing this all at once means you can best keep on top of their hygiene.

It is essential you trim the Shih Tzu's nails so they don't injure themselves or ruing your home. Although ideally the dog will wear them down with walks, this is not always the case with Shih Tzu's. They do not run on hard surfaces as much as other dogs, mainly due to their size. You will need to use special dog nail clippers and ensure you don't cut into the quick.

If we cut too deep, the dog can bleed and be in serious pain. In turn, this will make cutting their nails in the future much harder. Guardians who do not feel comfortable trimming their dog's nails should have it performed at a groomer or the veterinarian.

We also need to clean their eyes regularly as Shih Tzu's are a breed of dog which is prone to staining. We also need to clean away any debris which may accumulate under the eyes as this can encourage infection if not.

With regard to the ears, Shih Tzu's are prone to the presence of ear mites. You can learn how to clean a dog's ears with our step-by-step guide, but you can have the groomer clean them if you are unsure. We need to be careful never to go too far into the ear canal or we can seriously damage their hearing.

Caring for Shih Tzu Hair - Uñas, orejas y ojos

Cleaning a Shih Tzu's teeth

Shih Tzu, like many other small dogs, are susceptible to the build-up of tartar and dental plaque. Proper dental hygiene is an important part of preventive medicine in dogs.

There are varying degrees of periodontal disease, ranging from gingivitis to severe periodontal disease. The results includes tooth loss, something very common after oral cleanings at the veterinarian.

Unlike other hygienic routines, oral cleaning is often ignored. We recommend you discover the different ways to clean a dog's teeth, paying attention to the tools that allow us a good mechanical effect when rubbing. This will help remove tartar thoroughly. Although oral cleaning should be daily, just as with humans, you can clean their teeth every other day.

If you want to read similar articles to Caring for Shih Tzu Hair, we recommend you visit our Basic care category.

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Caring for Shih Tzu Hair