Shih Tzus are small dogs with long, flowing coats that require a great deal of care. Though many family pets are kept in short coats all year, those that are not clipped must be groomed frequently, to ensure that their hair doesn’t mat, and care must be taken to keep it out of their mouths and eyes. It’s best to get Shih Tzu puppies used to grooming from an early age, since they need to be brushed frequently throughout their lives. According to the expert groomers at the Shih Tzu Club, these dogs should never have their long coats groomed dry, but should always be sprayed with an appropriate coat conditioner when they are brushed.
The Shih Tzu’s long coat requires frequent brushing to keep it clean and tangle-free. If your dog has a topknot, start at the top of the dog’s head, undoing the topknot before brushing. Using a combination of a bristle brush and a comb, gently comb out the hair on the top of the head, paying particular attention to the ears, where mats tend to form. When all the hair is smooth, carefully use scissors to keep stray bits of hair from hanging in your Shih Tzu’s eyes. Also shorten the hair around the dog’s mouth, since Shih Tzus that have long hair in this area end up with faces that are constantly dirty, and the hair gets in their mouths when they eat and drink.
The owners of Shih Tzus with long, flowing hair typically gather their pets’ hair into a top knot as part of the grooming process. This lets the dogs keep their long hair, but holds it back out of their faces. There are many variations on the top knot, allowing you to get as fancy as you wish, and some owners go so far as to use French braids or other fancy styles as a way of keeping the hair out of their dogs’ faces. For most people, though, a simple top knot works well. Carefully gather all of the hair growing from the top of the dog’s head and bring it together on top, then hold it together with a rubber band, just like a human’s ponytail. Make sure not to pull the hair too tightly, since that can hurt your dog.
Shih Tzus may develop discolored areas around their eyes from normal eye discharge. The best way to prevent this is to develop a daily grooming ritual for your Shih Tzu, wiping gently around the eyes with a damp cloth. If the fur becomes stained and the color won’t wipe off, the discolorations can be removed with an over-the-counter oral preparation or commercial tear-stain treatment applied to the affected areas. Persistent red or brown stains may be a sign of a red yeast infection or other problem and require veterinary attention. If you choose to try one of the many home remedies that some people insist will work, check with your veterinarian first, since some of these do no good and others can even be harmful to your dog.
Use a comb and bristle brush to work through your Shih Tzu’s entire coat, including legs and feet, removing any mats or tangles that you find. If you encounter any mats, gently work them out with your fingers and the bristles on the brush. While brushing, pay particular attention to the areas where the dog’s legs join the body, around the neck, and on the chest. Divide the coat as you go, so that you are combing right down to the skin. Also check the hair in the tail area for cleanliness, and if feces is sticking to the hair it should be carefully trimmed. Clip your Shih Tzu’s toenails carefully with a guillotine-type nail clipper. If you cut them too short -- if you hit the quick -- they will bleed. A professional groomer can cut your Shih Tzu's toenails properly if you are uncomfortable performing this function.
Not all grooming sessions require bathing, but Shih Tzus do require a bath on a regular basis. The frequency depends on their living conditions, but show dogs are generally bathed every week, while family pets only need a bath when they are dirty. Bathe them after brushing, since bathing can make mats and tangles worse. Place dogs in a tub and wash them with warm water, lather them well with shampoo made for dogs, and rinse very thoroughly, since any shampoo left in the coat will cause the hair to appear dull and can also cause itchy, flaky skin. Use a coat conditioner once the dogs are well-rinsed, and leave some in the coat to help prevent tangles. Wrap Shih Tzus in a towel to dry, and replace the wet towels with dry ones two or more times, to absorb as much water as possible. To finish the drying process, use a blow drier on the coat while combing through it, leaving the coat silky and flowing.
References & Resources
Shih Tzu Club: Care & Grooming of the Shih Tzu All Shih Tzu: Shih Tzu Tear Stains American Shih Tzu Club: Grooming the Companion Dog
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