Shih Tzu Guide

If like me you are the proud pet parent to a Shih Tzu you know part of their appeal is their beautiful coat, big round eyes, and sweet expressions. They may be little dogs however it’s important to remember that these little bundles of joy require a lot of grooming.

Care and grooming of the Shih Tzu need particular attention. Keeping the coat short and manageable does reduce grooming time although grooming is still required regardless of the style that your Shih Tzu is groomed in.


The Shih Tzu is a doubled coated breed; their coats comprise of an outer coat of long smooth guard hairs, and an undercoat of fuzzy hair. The outer coat helps repel water and dirt, while the undercoat helps regulate body temperature. When choosing a hairstyle for your Shih Tzu it is recommended not to clip so short so as to expose the skin to the potential of sunburn or impact the dog’s ability to regulate it’s body temperature. Work with your groomer to agree on a style that is both manageable and respects the function of the dogs coat. To keep your Shih Tzu coat in good condition it is important to brush it regularly. Daily brushing will help keeps mats at bay as well as strengthen your bond with your dog. The best time of day to do this is when your Shih Tzu has had time to eat and play and also when you have quality time to spend with them. When brushing pay particular attention to friction areas such as the armpits and groin area, and the legs and ears as this is where groomers see most mats. If your dog wears a harness for walking be sure to remove this as soon as the walk is finished as prolonged wearing of a harness can cause mats on the back and the chest. If your Shih Tzu has long hair around leather collar is recommended rather than a flat collar as this helps prevent the hair from becoming tangled. For home brushing of the coat, you will need a pin brush and a comb. Professional grooming should be undertaken every 6-8 weeks.

At home bathing

A lot of people that want to bathe their dog between visits to the grooming salon ask if they can use their own shampoo and conditioner on their dog. The answer is definitely not and here is the reason why. A dog’s outer layer of skin is not as thick as humans so it is much more delicate than ours. It also has a different pH level to ours making the skin not only delicate but susceptible to absorbing undesirables. Products formulated for human use will disrupt your dog’s skin acid mantle creating an environment where bacteria, parasites, and viruses can run rampant resulting in a lot of discomfort and skin problems. To protect against this never use human shampoo, soap, conditioner, perfumes, or household products on your dog; always use products specially formulated for dogs, and use natural products as a first choice. For more details on how to choose a dog, grooming products read our blog on this subject. We recommend the Precious Pet range of shampoos which we use in our salon and resell in our boutique.


The Shih Tzu large eyes make them susceptible to eye problems. To protect against issues it is important to clean your dog’s eyes daily. This can be done using clean, lint-free cotton pads dampened with warm water. Gently wipe each eye, using a separate pad for each eye, and paying particular attention to the inner corners where material can build up. Leaving gunk in the hair has the potential to irritate the skin underneath and cause your dog discomfort. When cleaning your dog’s eyes also check for any irregularities; eye discharge that is green, yellow or excessive should be checked by your vet.


Like a lot of floppy eared dogs Shih Tzu are prone to ear infections. Their ears contain wax, yeast, and good bacteria that help keep the ears healthy and infection free. To avoid ear problems the outer ear canal should be cleaned regularly to maintain the normal microbial flora. If your dog is scratching its ears or dragging its head on the floor this could indicate an ear problem. Check if the ear/s are smelly, red, irritated, have discharge, or are crusted or scabby, if they are seeking veterinary assistance. If your dog’s ears are dirty wiped the outer ear canal with a cotton ball dampened with sweet almond oil or similar natural alternative. Never insert anything into the dog’s ear canal and never use cotton tips to clean the ear. Most Shih Tzu will have hair growing from the ear canal, this may need to be removed to maintain good ear health. The removal of ear hair is best left to a professional groomer or vet to avoid causing your dog pain or damage to the ear.


Small breed dogs usually experience more problems with gum disease than larger dogs. The Shih Tzu under-bite makes it more predisposed to periodontal problems so regular brushing is recommended. For this, you will need toothpaste formulated for a dog (never use human toothpaste) and a dog toothbrush which is an appropriate size for your pooch’s mouth. Regular brushing combined with annual oral examinations, a supply of chewing items such as hard rubber toys, and a good quality dog food will all contribute to good dental hygiene. If you are unable to brush your dog’s teeth at home your groomer should be able to help get your dog used to having its teeth brushed.

Sanitary area

This area is often overlooked when grooming at home but ensuring your dog’s anus and genitals are free from faeces, discharge and urine is essential to their health. To avoid matter build up the hair in the areas of the anus and genitals should be kept short and tidy. Your groomer should provide a sanitary trim during the grooming process. Check your dogs behind after they have been to the toilet and remove any faeces that has attached to the hair. A dog will scoot its bottom on the ground to help clean themselves so if you see them do this check and clean as required.

In addition to regular grooming, another general aspect of Shih Tzu cares you can give your dog is yourself and your time. If you can offer your beloved companion the required level of care your efforts won’t go unrewarded. You will share your life with a beautiful little dog who will be your best friend and adore you unconditionally.

For more advice on caring for your Shih Tzu download our guide to caring for your Shih Tzu – Caring for your Shih Tzu pooch Dog Spa