If you own a Shih Tzu, you know that your dog needs to be groomed. You’ve probably paid a fair bit to groomers to get the job done, but this is actually something that you can do yourself if you’re willing to put in the effort. It may not be an easy job, but it’s a great way to bond with your dog while saving some money.
Why Groom Your Shih Tzu?
Let’s be honest – Shih Tzu’s look great when they are properly groomed. You’ve probably seen dozens of them at dog shows, all looking their best. These are fantastic dogs with great personalities, but there’s something legitimately special about how they look when they’re properly cared for.
Grooming your dog is also a must if you’re looking to keep his or her skin and coat healthy. You can use this time to check your dog for fleas and ticks as well, making it an important health ritual as well as one used for beauty. Grooming can even be a great way to get your dog used to be handled by people, which can help make him or her a bit friendlier.
Most importantly, grooming your dog allows you to spend some time with your pup. You don’t have to go with a show-ready look – even cutting your dog’s hair short can be a great choice for this breed. What you do need to do, though, is to enjoy the time you get to spend with your Shih Tzu.
How to Groom Your Shih Tzu
Grooming a Shih Tzu for the first time is something of a process. You’ll want to go through each of these steps one by one in order so that you can have a little bit of guidance. When you’re done, though, you can figure out exactly what works best for both you and your dog.
Gather Your Tools
It’s always a good idea to start the grooming process with the right tools. Given the coat of the Shih Tzu, you’re going to need more than just a brush and a bottle of shampoo to get the job done. Below are the tools that you’ll want to gather:
- Brushes (pin and slicker)
- Combs (finely spaced and coarsely spaced)
- Blunt-tipped scissors
- Nail trimmers or grinder
- Nail sander
- pH balanced shampoo
- Electric hair clippers
- Cotton swabs and cotton balls
- Washcloth or sponge
- Ear cleaning solution
- Hair dyer (use only on the lower settings!)
You’ll also want a table to set the dog on, you probably don’t want to spend your entire grooming session kneeling on the floor. It’s also a good idea to grab a spray nozzle for your tub, as this will make it far easier to wet down your dog’s coat as well as to get the soap out of his or her hair.
Preparing to Groom
Once you have all of your tools in one place, you can start to groom your Shih Tzu. The first step you’ll take is always to comb out your dog’s fur. This makes it much easier to get rid of tangles and will help you to avoid having to brush your dog excessively once he or she gets out of the bath.
It’s also a good idea to give your dog a few treats before the next step if only to help to remind him or her that getting groomed is a positive experience.
Bathing Your Dog
One of the great things about having a dog this small is that you can bathe him or her in a sink. You can certainly use your tub if you like, but sinks usually come with the added benefit of having an attached spray nozzle. If you don’t have one or if you use a tub, though, you’ll want to grab one to simplify your task.
The actual bathing process is going to start by wetting down your dog. You’ll want to start from the top of his or her head, making sure that you thoroughly wet him or her down along the way. Don’t worry about your dog’s face quite yet – you’ll take care of that in a separate step.
Once your dog is wetted all the way down, you’ll move on to applying the dog shampoo. Again, you’ll go from the top of your dog’s head down, avoiding his or her face. Cover up your dog’s eyes with your hand or a washcloth and then start to carefully rinse off your dog. Do what you can to avoid getting water in your dog’s ears as well.
Now that your dog is bathed, you can clean out his or her ears. You can get a cleaning solution from your vet, and using it is as easy as dropping the proper amount of solution in your dog’s ears for a few moments. You’ll gently massage your dog’s ears to eliminate any buildup, but beyond the solution is really going to do the bulk of the work here.
Once you’ve let the solution sit for a moment, use your cotton pads to wipe off the outside of your dog’s ears to get rid of any excess solution or anything from within your dog’s ears that has been worked loose. Never use a Q-Tip inside your dog’s ear canal, though, as doing so can not only possibly injure your dog but can also stress him or her out quite a bit.
Yes, you really do need to brush your dog’s teeth. Doing so should probably be part of your regular grooming routine, both to improve your dog’s oral health and to ensure that he or she has fresher breath.
There are special dog toothbrushes you can use for this process, but Shih Tzu’s small size usually requires you to use a fingertip brush. You’ll use only a little bit of dog toothpaste, and then work it into his or her teeth and gums gently. Brushing your dog’s teeth really doesn’t take that long and you can do a lot to improve his or her dental health by brushing his or her teeth just two or three times a week.
If you can hear your Shih Tzu’s nails clicking on hard floors, it’s probably time to learn how to use dog nail clippers. Remember, clipping your dog’s nails is not only great for aesthetic reasons, but it can stop the unchecked nail growth that can lead to health problems later in your dog’s life.
Clipping is a fairly straightforward process that feels a lot scarier than it should. You’ll want to grab a good pair of nail clippers and carefully cut away at your dog’s nails a bit at a time, with a focus on not hitting the nails’ quicks. If you do clip your dog, don’t worry – a bit of baking powder can quickly stop bleeding.
Anal Sac Expression
Yes, this is the worst part of grooming a dog. It is, unfortunately, also something that probably needs to be done more often than you think. These scent glands are very important to dogs and they should express them often, but a variety of issues ranging from poor diets to infections can cause these sacs to get stopped up. If you’re going to go for the full grooming experience with your dog, it’s going to be up to you to ensure that these glands don’t wind up getting impacted and to clear them out yourself.
Expressing your dog’s anal glands isn’t pleasant but it is easy. You’ll be able to find the anal sacs fairly easily by feeling around your dog’s rear and locating the two sacs below his or her tail that feel like they’ve got a small ball in them. From here, you’re going to want to use the techniques that you’ve learned from a vet or a groomer in order to empty out the sacs.
Fortunately, you’ll rarely have to do this more than once a month. Unfortunately, though, even that might feel like it’s a little too often.
Finally, there’s the haircut. This is a key part of helping your Shih Tzu look his or her best and perhaps the part that’s scariest to most Shih Tzu owners. Fortunately, almost anyone can manage to give his or her dog one of the three basic Shih Tzu cuts.
The Puppy Cut
Also known as the summer cut, this is a short haircut that will take your dog’s coat down to just an inch or two in length. Incredibly popular because of how easy it is to do, almost anyone can manage this cut with just a set of clippers and some scissors. This cut also allows you to significantly cut down on grooming, as you’ll only need to cut your dog’s hair this short about once every three months.
The Teddy Bear Cut
This one is kind of the best of both worlds – it keeps the dog’s top knot, but reduces the amount of maintenance time you’ll have to spend on your dog’s hair. You’ll keep the hair on your dog’s head and face long, but you’ll the coat on his or her body fairly close for this look.
The Show Cut
This is the default cut for many Shih Tzu’s, and it’s the one that gives the dog its reputation for being high maintenance. A hair cut that couples the dog’s top knot with a floor-length flowing coat, it’s one that requires not only frequent cuts but also quite a bit of brushing in order to reduce tangles.
The great news is that there’s no one perfect style for Shih Tzus. Try to pick the style that you not only like the best, but that fits a realistic grooming schedule for you. You won’t want to choose a Show Cut if you’re not able to brush your dog every day, for example, but you might want to go with the Teddy Bear if you’re a fan of the top knot. At the end of the day, though, how you cut your dog’s hair is just a matter of personal preference.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. How can I groom my Shih Tzu at home?
Grooming your dog at home is really a matter of knowing everything that needs to get done and then getting comfortable with the various processes. An at-home grooming routine will include brushing, bathing, brushing the dog’s teeth, trimming his or her nails, expressing his or her anal glands, and cutting the dog’s hair. As you might expect, this can be labor intensive but it is often much less expensive than getting your dog professionally groomed.
2. How do you groom a Shih Tzu’s face?
The honest answer here is ‘carefully’. You’ll want to get a pair of small, relatively blunt scissors so that you can avoid potentially cutting your dog’s face. You’ll use a comb and the scissors in tandem to ensure that you’re cutting at the right length. It should be noted that you’re going to do this fairly slowly the first time you groom your dog, both so that you can figure out the right angles at which to cut and so that you feel comfortable with what you are doing.
3. How do you cut a Shih Tzu’s hair?
You’ll first want to start by figuring out the style that you want to try. If you are going to use the Summer Cut, for example, you’ll just need clippers to cut down the dog’s coat and a pair of scissors to carefully cut around his or her face and eyes. If you’re going for a full show cut, though, you’ll need to feel comfortable using a comb and scissors to get the dog’s hair cut to the right length while still retaining a sense of style and body.
4. What tools do I need to groom my Shih Tzu?
You’ll need quite a few tools. It’s recommended that you have two types of brushes, two types of combs, a set of electric clippers, a set of nail clippers, a good dog shampoo, wipes, towels, ear cleaning solution, gloves, eye wipes, towels, and both a set of big grooming scissors and a set of smaller scissors for facial work before you start grooming your dog.