Anyone who is a Shih Tzu owner would agree that they are some of the most calm, loving, and cuddly dogs you could possibly own. They are known for being easy to train and socialize, needing minimal exercise, and they don’t bark nearly as often as other toy breeds. It’s almost impossible not to love owning a Shih Tzu!
When I first decided that I wanted to get a dog, I did a lot of research — and it just seemed like everything I read about Shih Tzu’s was perfect. When I finally got my Chester, I quickly realized that he was even better than anything I could describe. He is playful when I want to be playful, but ready to cuddle as soon as I sit down. He was house-trained when I got him, he is very obedient (especially when there is a treat on the line), and he never barks.
The only downfall of owning a Shih Tzu is that they do require regular grooming — because the combination of a Shih Tzu’s tangly hair, big eyes, and shortened face can cause serious problems if you don’t stay on top of the grooming.
Personally, I don’t mind the basic grooming that I have to do for my Shih Tzu (like brushing my dog’s hair & teeth and cleaning his face, eyes & ears regularly) — but I’ve definitely noticed that it gets so much worse if I let it go for a few extra days.
Following is everything you need to know about grooming your Shih Tzu, including:
- How often a Shih Tzu should be groomed
- Pros & cons of professional grooming vs. doing it yourself
- How to groom a Shih Tzu at home
- Tools that make Shih Tzu grooming easier
- Specific issues that Shih Tzus face — like tear staining, shedding, eye infections, and ear infections.
How Often A Shih Tzu Should Be Groomed …And How To Do It
When you hear “grooming,” you might immediately think of how often you need to give your Shih Tzu a haircut or get your dog’s nails clipped.
But, in reality, there are many facets of grooming a Shih Tzu that all need to be done in different intervals.
Here are the 7 types of grooming that a Shih Tzu needs:
#1 – Hair brushing
You need to brush a Shih Tzu’s coat at least once a week, but every few days is best — especially if your dog has longer fur.
Shih Tzus have a unique double coat (a wool-like undercoat that insulates your pup’s body and a dense outer coat).
- If your Shih Tzu has a long coat… the hairs from the inner coat will get trapped by the outer fur instead of shedding. So, you will need to brush your dog regularly to remove those hairs that have been shed and to avoid mats. Of course, brushing also helps to remove dirt or any other debris that your pup may have picked up.
- If your Shih Tzu has a short coat… you don’t need to brush them as often.
I usually brush Chester while I am watching TV every few days. He loves being brushed, and I love that he sheds a lot less!
Here’s a list of Shih Tzu grooming tools you will need to brush, remove mats, and comb your Shih Tzu yourself.
#2 – Bathing
You should only bathe your Shih Tzu as often as you give it a haircut.
If your Shih Tzu happens to get into a mess, it is okay to wash him. But it’s important not to bathe a Shih Tzu too often — because they have sensitive skin, and too much bathing can lead to dry skin and other Shih Tzu skin conditions.
#3 – Nail trimming
If you have a professional groomer cut your Shih Tzu’s nails, then they should be trimmed every time you take your dog in for a haircut.
If you’re trimming your dog’s nails yourself, then it should be done every 4 to 6 weeks.
TIP: Look at your dog’s nails. If they’re close to touching the ground while your dog is standing, then it’s time for your dog’s nails to be clipped.
#4 – Teeth brushing
You should brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth approximately once a week — to protect your dog’s teeth and get rid of stinky breath.
The first time I brushed Chester’s teeth, it felt very awkward. But now I’m used to it, and it has just become a part of our routine!
#5 – Face & eye cleaning
Shih Tzu eyes are prone to tear staining and other eye issues. I will explain this in more detail later. But for now, you need to know that it is essential to clean your dog’s face daily.
Here’s how to clean a Shih Tzu face:
- Use a cotton ball, a washcloth that has been dipped in warm water, or a dog eye wipe to remove any tear stains or residue from around the eyes.
- Clean around your dog’s mouth — because a Shih Tzu can get food and dirt stuck in their beard.
- Completely dry off your dog’s face with a clean, dry towel.
#6 – Ear cleaning
If you are cleaning your dog’s face every day, that’s an excellent time to check their ears as well.
You will probably only need to clean their ears every few weeks or so — but you should check the ears regularly for signs of infection, excessive ear wax, excessive hair growth in the inner ear, or an abnormal odor.
Shih Tzus are especially prone to ear infections, so you need to check your dog’s ears often.
#7 – Hair cutting
How often your Shih Tzu will need a haircut depends, in part, on the Shih Tzu hairstyle you’ve chosen:
- Shorter cuts, like puppy or teddy bear styles, need to be maintained more often.
- Longer cuts can be left alone for awhile, as long as you brush your dog’s coat regularly to prevent mats.
That said, Shih Tzu hair grows quickly, so you will probably need to trim or cut your dog’s hair every 4 to 6 weeks.
Most importantly, the hair around the eyes, ears, and mouth needs to be frequently trimmed — because excess hair around the eyes and ears can lead to painful infections.
Professional vs. DIY Shih Tzu Grooming: 3 Factors To Consider
The debate about whether it’s better to take your dog to a professional groomer or do the dog grooming yourself goes on… because there is no right answer.
You will have to find what works best for you.
I’ve created a list of 3 key factors to help you decide if you want to hire a professional dog groomer or do the Shih Tzu grooming yourself. Here are 3 important factors to consider:
Professional Shih Tzu grooming prices can range from $50 to $100 each time — which means the cost to groom your dog will most likely be between $500 and $1,000 each year (not including tips, extra services, or fees).
On the other hand, you will need to buy a lot of Shih Tzu grooming products in order to properly groom your dog at home — including clippers, brushes, combs, shampoos, and conditioners. For example, a good pair of dog clippers can cost anywhere from $150 to $300 (not including attachment combs or alternative blade sizes). So if you’re going to groom your Shih Tzu yourself, plan on spending around $500 upfront on grooming tools — plus about $150 each year to replace used products.
The most obvious reason that people prefer to pay a professional groomer is the time it takes to groom a Shih Tzu yourself. Especially the first few times when you’re learning how it’s done… it could take you several hours every few weeks to groom your pup. Not to mention the fact that you will have to clean up the area afterward.
Most professional groomers can get everything done in a few hours. If you’re not prepared to set aside entire day to grooming your dog, then a professional groomer might be the best option for you.
3. Stress and Anxiety
Many dogs get nervous during the grooming process — because of all of the noises, sensations, and uncomfortable positions.
Professional groomers are trained to notice signs of anxiety in your dog, and they’re prepared to handle it.
Your dog might be more comfortable with you than with a stranger, but not if you’re unsure of what you are doing grooming-wise.
Keep in mind, you will also need to give your dog plenty of praise and treats throughout the grooming process.
DIY vs. Professional Shih Tzu Grooming: The Pros & Cons
To be honest… there are some aspects of dog grooming that you will most likely have to do yourself, and other things that you will most likely want to leave to the professionals.
For example, unless you can afford to take your Shih Tzu to a doggy-spa on a weekly basis, then you will have to be in charge of these things and do them regularly:
When I talk about taking your dog to a professional groomer, it’s only for bathing, haircuts, nail trimming, and ear cleaning that I’m referring to. So, if you’re going to do all of your dog’s grooming yourself, then you will need to learn:
- How to bathe your dog
- How to give your Shih Tzu a haircut (and how to trim the hair between the eyes)
- How to trim your dog’s nails
- How to clean your dog’s ears
NOTE: Some groomers will volunteer to brush your dog’s teeth, but your Shih Tzu will need to have their teeth brushed more often than you will take them to the groomers — so it’s a task you’ll have to learn.
While it is possible to learn how to do those things, sometimes it’s best to leave certain things to the professionals. For example:
- Trimming a dog’s nails is a delicate process — and if you clip the nails too short, you could really hurt your pup.
- Sometimes, ear cleaning also requires removing hair inside the ears, but it’s tricky to use scissors in such a small space and removing too much hair can also be dangerous.
- Many dog groomers will also check and express your dog’s anal glands. This is a delicate, stinky process — and a veterinarian will do a more complete job anyway, so I choose to let my vet take care of it.
I don’t usually give my Shih Tzu Chester a bath and haircut — because it’s a lot of work that I don’t always have time for. But when things have been tight for me financially, I have learned how to groom him myself.
Pros & Cons of Professional Dog Grooming
- Stress-free experience for the dog owner
- No clean-up
- Travel time is the only amount of time you will need to invest
- Professionals are trained to do it correctly
- Safe, sanitary environment that is specially designed for this purpose
- Costs can add up quickly
- You may need to schedule appointments
- Some dogs get nervous around strangers — especially during grooming
Pros & Cons of At-Home DIY Dog Grooming
- Lower overall cost
- Less stress for dogs that get anxious around strangers
- You set the schedule
- The high initial price to get all of the necessary Shih Tzu grooming tools
- Requires several hours plus clean-up time, plus the time it takes you to learn how to groom a Shih Tzu at home
- Mistakes can be potentially dangerous
- You are not trained to notice signs of health issues
At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing between a professional dog groomer or doing it yourself.
Personally, I’ve found that a system that incorporates both options is best for me:
- I’m careful to brush Chester’s hair every few days.
- I wash his face and around his eyes every day.
- I brush his teeth once a week.
- I take him to a groomer for haircuts, baths, and nail clippings every 4 to 6 weeks.
TIP: I occasionally trim the hair around Chester’s face myself — so that I can spread out the time in between visits.
You need to find a system that works for you, your schedule, your finances, and your dog.
The Bottom Line…
Shih Tzus definitely require a regular grooming routine — but I’ve found that as long as you do a few things on a regular basis, the overall process is a lot easier.
For example, regular brushing keeps your Shih Tzu from developing mats — which makes haircuts easier. And cleaning a Shih Tzu’s face every day prevents health issues and tear staining.
As long as you have a routine for these preventative measures and the right tools for the job, then your Shih Tzu grooming experience will be easy to maintain and cost-effective. (Not to mention that your dog will shed less and look better!)
The best part is that grooming gives you an extra opportunity to bond with your dog and build a happy, healthy relationship together.
Adam’s first Shih Tzu was a gift he received while recuperating from an accident — he enjoyed the companionship and quickly fell in love with the breed! After researching everything there is to know about Shih Tzus, he became passionate about adopting more. At his website, The Shih Tzu Expert, Adam shares his personal tips and experiences raising Shih Tzus in order to assist others who are considering getting a Shih Tzu.
I like to help people find unique ways to do things in order to save time & money — so I write about “outside the box” ideas that most wouldn’t think of. As a lifelong dog owner, I often share my best tips for living with and training dogs. I worked in Higher Ed over 10 years before switching gears to pursue activities that I’m truly passionate about. I’ve worked at a vet, in a photo lab, and at a zoo — to name a few. I enjoy the outdoors via bicycle, motorcycle, Jeep, or RV. You can always find me at the corner of Good News & Fun Times as publisher of The Fun Times Guide (32 fun & helpful websites).