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Grooming Your Shih Tzu: Keeping Your Dog Clean

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How to groom your Shih Tzu

How to groom your Shih Tzu

At-Home Shih Tzu Grooming

If you're the average Shih Tzu owner, it might be safe to say that your dog has two main purposes in your life—to provide unconditional love and friendship and to be the little cute thing that makes you happy.

Who can resist that adorable face, fluffy ball of fur, and loyal personality? And the fact that Shih Tzus do not shed is a plus as far as keeping your home hair-free. Unfortunately, their signature long coat also makes it hard for the average person to maintain. Most long-haired dog owners I know (myself included) pay at least $50 every few months for grooming at a local pet store.

So how can you avoid shelling out money at the groomers every time your Shih Tzu's hair gets out of control? You can learn a few ways to groom your dog at home. I am not saying you should do everything yourself. Only a few people have the time, and more importantly, the talent of neatly cutting a dog's hair.

As a Shih Tzu owner (I currently own my third one), I still take my Shih Tzu to the groomer, but only once every four or five months. This is because I've learned how to maintain doggie hygiene from reading Shih Tzu books and getting tips from professional groomers.

If you're willing to put in a little time each week for some maintenance, I guarantee your dog will be happier and cuter, and you will avoid as many expensive grooming bills.

How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?

Unless your dog is muddy, filthy, or smelly, they do not need a bath. Dogs have oils in their coat that keep them naturally clean. These same oils keep a Shih Tzu's hair soft and smooth. Constant bathing only removes these oils from the dog's coat and can cause dry skin and coarse hair.

Brush Their Hair

This is the task you'll need to perform at least once a week. Use a standard wire brush or a slicker brush you can get at any pet store. Work from the bottom and work your way up. Brush in downward strokes starting with your Shih Tzu's feet, then legs, belly, back, tail, and head. Pay special attention to the following problem areas as they tend to mat easily.

  • Under the front legs (the dog's "armpits")
  • Behind the face
  • Underneath the ears
  • The back of the thighs
  • Around the anus

Brushing will prevent impossible tangles and mats from forming and also get rid of debris stuck in your dog's hair. If you're like me, I prefer my Shih Tzu's hair nice and long—regular brushing will keep you from having to get your dog's hair shaved off when you visit the groomer.

They sometimes make you sign a waiver that basically says you should expect your dog to look completely different after a haircut, in case they have to shave the mats off. Yeah, I say Shih Tzus are much cuter when they have hair, so brush your pup's hair regularly.

Trim Your Dog's Hair

If you don't already have one, get a good pair of grooming scissors or shears. A nice, sharp pair will quickly slice through your dog's hair for quick trimming. After brushing your Shih Tzu, check the following for any maintenance needed.

  • Paws: Between the toes to keep your dog from slipping
  • Ears: Inside and around
  • Tail: Under the tail and around the anus
  • Eyes: Around the eyes (see special section on "Tear Staining")

Like brushing, regular trimming will help your dog stay clean and free of any debris that tend to get stuck in the hair.

Nail Clipping

If you can hear your dog's footsteps when walking on hard surfaces, then it's probably time to check his nails. A dog's nails should not grow past the paw pads as the pressure of walking can cause discomfort or splaying of the feet. Use a dog nail clipper to maintain your dog's toenails. Be careful not to cut through the "quick," the sensitive flesh that is inside the nail. You'll know you clipped too much when your dog shrieks and starts bleeding—trust me, you don't want to do that again!

Teeth: Brushing Is Good

Does your Shih Tzu have bad breath? He probably has gum disease and a lot of tartar on his teeth. Don't rely solely on chew bones, hard foods, or biscuits to clean your dog's teeth. It's a pain, but you want your dog to have healthy teeth and gums.

If your dog is not used to teeth brushing, start with tooth wipes. This will get your Shih Tzu used to you handling his mouth, gums, and teeth and should freshen his breath a little. There are many doggie toothbrushes available at your local pet store. Your dog should love the taste of the toothpaste, and best of all, the paste itself has enzymes that help remove the plaque from the dog's teeth.

Try to brush your Shih Tzu's teeth at least once a week, and schedule for professional teeth cleaning with your vet once a year. To clean, use your fingers to lift the lips to expose the teeth. Pay special attention to the back teeth as they tend to be in worse condition than the front teeth. If there are signs of infection or gum disease, schedule an appointment with your vet immediately.

Tear Staining: Stinky Face Shih Tzu!

You'll notice that most Shih Tzus have dirty faces. This is due to food or water staining the beard, and worse, their tears accumulating under the eyes. Shih Tzus have large, protruding "bug" eyes, usually of low sensitivity but easily irritated. They constantly secrete tears that, if left untreated, will make your dog's facial hair turn brown, wet, and super stinky. It really does stink!

My Shih Tzu also likes to wipe his dirty, stinky wet face on the carpet or bed sheets, so both the stains and the smell get on our household fabrics. I have tried everything from constantly wiping or washing my dog's face and using cleaning drops, but nothing seemed to work.

Finally, I asked the groomer from PetSmart what to do about this problem: How do you keep a Shih Tzu's facial hair free of tears and caked-in bacteria? All she said was, "Keep it short." So now, I make sure I use my grooming scissors to cut off ALL the hair right underneath my Shih Tzu's eyes, so the tears pretty much don't have anything to stain. I use my grooming scissors to get rid of the hair as closely as possible, careful not to poke his eyes with the scissors.

With the mustache and beard still nicely groomed, my Shih Tzu still looks cute but has a much cleaner face. Once in a while, I'll still quickly wipe the tears with a paper towel for maintenance, then cut the facial hair off again when it grows back. My dog's face definitely stopped smelling bad, and even better, he stopped wiping his face on our household fabrics!

It's a Lot of Work but Worth the Effort

Wow, did all that sound like a lot of work? Just a bit. With practice, maintaining your Shih Tzu's hair, teeth, and nails at home should only take a few minutes at a time. I hope the things I've shared here will help you and your Shih Tzu live happier ever after and, possibly, save you from paying for expensive grooming bills!

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.


Ronda on July 26, 2020:

I have a white Shih Tzu and the eye stains were bad. I tried lots of different things from the pet store. What works is Blue berries I feed him blueberries morning and night with his food. It took about 6months for the stains to grow out. He has been clear of staining now for about 2years.

Sheila Sparks on September 29, 2019:

My dodger go crazy when I have to go to work when I get home I think he's going to have a heart ache he's 13 yrs old what can I do

Annette on October 26, 2018:

Just had my dog clip and he has razor burn on his rea in want to know what to do?

Joann on October 07, 2017:

we adopted a shih tzu and we brought him to the groomer for a bath he was very bad and at the same time nipped my husband is this normal we have him one week certain things we do he has snapped at us he can also be very love able our groomer said he may have to be sedated we do not know much of his background he was in pretty bad shape when the shelter got him any advice

tbradt on March 25, 2013:

I have a Sht-poo and her tears smell terrible even the day after i bathe her....I clean her face as well as I can but the next day it's unbearable....she smells like a dirty old rotten I just clean her face every day or what?.....please help. Thank you.

sylvia goosby on June 13, 2012:

The comments was wonderful. I have a 5 year old shih tzu and She has brown stains on her fur when i brought her i need to know how to get rid of the stains. And to make sure her eyes are healthy. what are the signs that her sight is going bad. Too

Dean White on April 21, 2012:

I just read another article by another supposedly "Authority" on grooming the Shih Tzu. She says to start at the head area (Face) an go to the rear of the dog ending with the anis and tail. You say, Start at the rear of the dog and go forward. Maybe you two should get together on this issue. This is my first Shih Tzu. She is just a six week old puppy, so I want to do things correct, but the different information from you two to does not make it any easier.

Dean White,

Kimberly on February 24, 2012:

This was a perfect article I've printed out. I've made a point of brushing my pups hair in the morning before I leave the bedroom and brush my own! I found the tear stains, nail trimming tips most useful. Thank you! This is my second shih-tzu (first that's my own), and they're definitely the best dogs.

Lyne on February 22, 2012:

sorry I mean scrash,,,

Airam on February 04, 2012:

How much does it cost ?

Jayne on January 17, 2012:

This is the first us site that has any sense on beloved shih tzu and grooming they should look like a lion read up on the breed history it's very interesting thank you for you grooming tips they were fantastic you know your stuff ?

melody on November 05, 2011:

Our dog Nytro loves the snow but it makes big balls of snow on him and i am worried about him getting frostbit. The balls of snow get so big in just a few min it is hard for him to walk than you have to use warm water to get it off of him any ideals of what to do we live in snow country and are gone to work during he day he has a dog door to get in and out for his needs.

apurva on October 30, 2011:

hey i love ur tips .. my shish tzu is 2 months old n i donno wha to feed him ....he was a month old when he came to me n i gave him ceralac stage 1 its a baby food ....nw as he is 2 months what do i feed him??

camdjohnston12 on September 08, 2011:

So cute hub and pictures!

carriie on June 23, 2011:

my shih tzu has one white long and one long black eye-lash. if i were to accidently cut one off is that a real bad thing? also, are you supposed to cut their hair away from their eyes or keep the hair hanging in their eyes??

Amy on May 13, 2011:

My Shih tzu use to have rust colored stains under his eyes, it took me 2 years to figure out why it's this way finally I stopped feeding him commercial dog food and started making him his food myself, it's been 2 weeks and that quick he's not scratching as much and his tear stains are completely gone and he has as much energy as when he was a 6 month old pup, my husband and daughter can't believe the difference. I hope this helps someone else it took me so long, I even tryed Angel eyes it didn't work.

dakota howe on February 13, 2011:

my dog is so cute but i need help cutting hur hair on her face

dog dry skin on February 07, 2011:

I have two little yorkies, and they are hard to keep clean. I wish I could only bathe them once every 5 weeks!

lulumom18 on January 13, 2011:

hello. thanks for the great info. We are getting our first shih tzu/lhasa apso mix puppy next week. I'm going to meet her tomorrow. I am very excited. I'm hoping to groom her myself. The info here will definitely make this easier.

Susan on January 09, 2011:

Marvelous advice! I have my first two Shih Tzu pups and this really helped me a lot. Thank you so much!

Vicky nash on January 05, 2011:

Great tips Hunni! Although my boss is also a dog groomer he doesn't live very close 2 me so it's difficult 2 get booked in!

This tips really helped for in-between poppys grooming! :)

Your Shih Tzu is absolutely beautiful! X

Mike Moreno on January 03, 2011:

For those that are gonna get shih tzus, be ready to be loved, coz they are very loving creatures, there is not a moment that they don't want attention, love, cuddling and hughs, just keep up with that and you'll learn the rest easy.

I keep the hair brushed at least once a week, some times two, I only give them puryfied water, (specially here in Vegas). try different food until you find the one that fits your dog, you'll know, takem for grooming or groom it your self if you know how, I keep mine with short hair, there is not really the need to keep it long, only if you really know how to keep it clean n brush, but, boy! you'l see, bathe dog once a week, or every two, but brushem often, and the rest I'll live to you, you'll adapt to your dog and it's needs, remember, you don't own you shih tzu, your shih tzu OWNS YOU!

TchrPeg on November 20, 2010:

We just adopted our Shih Tsu in April. He had been either abandoned or lost for quite awhile before Animal Control picked him up. They said his fur was was so matted and long thatthey couldn't decide if he was male or female. They took him to a vet, cleaned him up and shaved off most of his fur, and put him in an outdoor cage. The first second I laid eyes on him, I knew he was mine forever. What a lover-man!!! He's the first small dog I've had in decades (I'm a lab, shepherd, mutt kind of dog-mama) so I've had to learn how to take care of him. He made it easy---he thinks he's a lion, so the bigger dogs can't mess with him. Your hub has given me lots of good advice. I'm dealing with the tears now---we've moved back to Florida so he's jumping in the lake and the pool often. We keep his fur about 2-3 inches--shorter on his legs and belly---because of the heat. I'm wondering if anyone has had problems with their shih tzu's drinking well water. Ours is very clean---but has iron in it---could that be causing the tear stains?

steve on November 14, 2010:

My 9 year old has always had a beautiful white face but now his

Beard and lip fur has turned brown. Hence, because he licks his weenie all the time, and his paws, they are all brown now too. Isn't there are whitening shampoo or something that works. He was just groomed and I thought they would fix it, but didn't I'm wondering if it's a health problem? I've never had to give him distilled H2O.

Ginny on November 11, 2010:

GREAT, GREAT INFO! Thank you so much! Your site has provided many answers for me that I have not found anywhere else! Thanks again!!!!! :)

Tiffani on November 07, 2010:

I have two shihtzus of my own, and I have been a professional groomer for about 4 years now. one thing that i haven't seen mentioned would be that switching your dogs water from the tap to something filtered like from the fridge or a bottle can make a HUGE difference. A lot of the time depending on where your water comes from, there are too many minerals that your dog doesn't need in the water and they come out through bodily fluids such as tearing and slobber. Ever seen a dogs feet stained a pinkish brown color? Thats because they lick/chew their paws and the saliva stains the hair. Also, check the ingredients of your dog food/treats, RED dye can also be a factor...dogs dont care if their food looks like it has veggies in it...boring brown kibble is the best way to go. I also want to say that you dont have to shave/cut the hair between the dogs shihtzu is in full show coat and Ive never once cut the hair between his eyes, I pull it up into a bow and the rest lays neatly down as his mustache. It took a long time for it to grow out that way but now that it is grown out, it will never ever have to be trimmed. Everytime you cut the hair there, it grows back into the eyes...Hope this helps!

byee (author) on September 13, 2010:

Dawn, in my experience reddish brown stains on the body is usually caused by allergies. Usually, the dog will lick itchy spots that are caused by allergies, and in turn the bacteria grows and you will have a yeast infection. This is also the same stuff that are inside their ears (reddish brown, smelly gunk). I suggest taking your dog to your vet to test and treat for yeast, and then changing their diet. Food and environmental factors can cause many allergies, so you will have to be patient to see what's causing it and what you can do to stop it. We've had to try different brands and ingredients of food for over a year before we found one that worked. Do your research--there are many websites and forums out there where people share what they have done to help take care of this issue. Good luck.

For everyone who has problems with aggressive dogs: grooming is no fun for most dogs. I suggest really working with your dog to make grooming a positive experience. First, make sure you take them for a looong walk to get all their energy expended. This will get rid of a lot of anxiety and frustration before you get them started on grooming. Start slow and have treats handy. Get them comfortable enough for you to touch the parts of their body where they react the most (face, nails, etc.). Build it up over several days and then start introducing them to the grooming tools. Again, use treats so that they will associate the experience with a positive reward. Do NOT let them stop you--if they growl or try to bite, and you stop the whole session, then they know they can always do that to get you off their back. You have to be the one to end the session and tell them who's boss. Don't push them too hard, but don't let them push you around either. You should always be the one in control of the situation. Again, there are many resources out there you can read up or even watch videos on YouTube on tips on how to help your dog get comfortable with grooming. Good luck!

Dawn on August 30, 2010:

My sweet Polly (shih Tzu 10 years old) has developed staining beneath the front and back legs and under the chin. This is new. Any view on what causes this and how to remendy this? The stain is reddish to brown.

Sarah on August 28, 2010:

I have the same problem as Bubba's grandma. No one will groom my shih tzu because of his aggressiveness. My mother in law grooms him, but she can't do his ears, paw pads, or get his face completely and his ears have started to get crusty and he has some small mats in his eyes. I don't know what to do!

Nancy on August 23, 2010:

I have 2 Shih Tzus Rusty who is 4 and KD is 1. Rusty is so smart, Kd is smart but she will chew anything left within her reach. Both are very loving, as most of that breed are, we have 7 of them in our park with 6 of them being related, Rusty is the adopted big brother.

BUBBA's Grandma on August 03, 2010:

BUBBA is a 7 year old SHIH TZU...warm and cuddley and the BEST...however he has been rejected by two far... because of his aggressive behaviour...polite way of saying...NO WAY!! HE BITES!!

Any suggestions?

Theresa on July 31, 2010:

Hi i have a 9 month old shih tzu dog. The kids love him. but when any of my sons friends come over to play he barks at them and would snap at them. there only 8 yrs old kids. its a male dog and it only seems to be the boys he targets

maria on July 26, 2010:

these tips are really helpful. thanks i really didn't know that the tears around the eyes and other stuff made him stink. thanks again. :]

gramarye from Adelaide - Australia on July 02, 2010:

This is really helpful. I am getting my second pup tomorrow and don't want the horrors that my first one gave.

Alissa from Rocky Hill, CT on June 30, 2010:

This is great information for those considering getting a Shih-tzu. I got mine into the habit of grooming at a very early age, and thankfully, he actually likes the grooming now. Takes a little work, but these dogs are totally worth it!

kaltopsyd from Trinidad originally, but now in the USA on June 24, 2010:

Great, great tips! I'm getting a 8-week-old shih tzu next week Friday. I'm so excited.

Oh, and I like your writing style. Very engaging and humourous. Keep up the good work.

Pam on June 20, 2010:

I went to a petstore the other day and asked another pet owner why her shih tzu did not have stains under its eyes. She said "Use only distilled water for your dog to drink. Tap water is full of chemicals." I immediately swtiched to DISTILLED water and I have noticed a huge difference in my dogs appearance. It is white under the eyes instead of brown. Hope this helps!

prbrowneyes from United States on June 09, 2010:

Thanks for the tips, I also have a shih tzu and this hub really helps alot :)

C. M. Britt on April 29, 2010:

Thanks for your hub. I have been lucky enough to share my life with 2 shih tzu's. Great Info..

leanne on February 19, 2010:

hey i have a 7month old shih tzu she is so cute at the moment i have decided to leave her hair grow but she is looking a bit shabby and her hair is going in her eyes any advice on how to stop this n stil leave her hair grow?

Ashley on February 11, 2010:

I was told that giving the dog a raw carrot every day helps with the tearing i tried it and it seams to have worked for my baby!

Jen on January 29, 2010:

Something that eliminated tears in my shih tzu and therfore no stinky face was simply a change in diet. Find out what your little guy is allergic to and remove it from his diet and then voila! No tears! :)

peppysfireball on January 28, 2010:

I have been using Angel eyes for tearstaining for 3 months now and my shih tzu's stains are gone. My groomer recommended them as the stains are caused from the yeast growth in the tears. I have my dog groomed every 4 weeks as she only charges 25.00 which is normal here. The red on the feet is where he licks himself but it too disappeared with the angel eyes use. I buy mine on Amazon .

Rawrisme76 on January 27, 2010:

I have to take care of my shih tzu, his a Lil hassle but I'm the only one in my house who has got the guts to do it.

shih tzu dog on November 11, 2009:

i see you are truly caring owner of your dog and even in the web you show how grateful you are to have a dog like that.

Willow Mattox from Northern California on October 16, 2009:

you have some good tips and I can see that you really care about your dog. I am a groomer and you are my fave type of client. You try really hard to educate yourself so you can take great care of your pet. You shihtzu is a real cutie! Check out my set of hubs on grooming at home. Here is a link to the latest one:

oopsidaisy on September 08, 2009:

I'm looking at adopting a shih tzu and this information has been extremely helpful. Especially comments about the eyes...I've noticed quite a few who are up for adoption that have eye issues.

NinjaismyShitzu on August 17, 2009:

:D Thanks! I learned how to keep my little one's eyes clean :}

byee (author) on August 12, 2009:

Skook: they probably told you that to avoid accidentally poking your dog. The professional groomers do it. I think it can be done as long as you're careful.

Skookumchucksam on August 12, 2009:

I heard I was not alowed to trimm around the eyes? Would like to lesson bulky hair there.

Gatha on July 26, 2009:

I have a six month old shih tzu, what wonderful dogs, my problem is that I can't seem to find a groomer who knows how to do the cut where the body is cut short and the leg hair is very long, they only know how to make them look like a poodle, where can I find a picture to show to the groomer? I'm not talking about a lamb cut. I've looked for hours and hours trying to find hair dos for shih tzu, and the only ones I find are puppy cuts and a lamb cut. Help!

will& FIDO on July 23, 2009:

Thank youn for the tips. Got a 2 month old shihtzu and I'm worried with his teary eyes that's why I googled and check on your hub. I'll try my best to do things as you say towards your dogs. Thanks much. Love from Philippines!

butto101 on May 29, 2009:

Nice tips i'll use them.


chicamom85 on May 18, 2009:

What a nice informative article. My shih tzu does not like grooming of any kind but I wish i could do some of those things. She does have really nice teeth because one of her favorite toys is a toothbrush and she uses it every day.

Amber on February 18, 2009:

I bathe every week, but she hates being brushed. so i just end up being more stubborn than her.

martina!! on February 14, 2009:

Thank you SOOO MUCH for helping I love my shih tzu more than anything ever........

byee (author) on December 24, 2008:

We just switched our pug to a lamb & rice diet. She's been steadily losing her hair and has yeast infections on her paws (they are red and she keeps licking). We thought she might be allergic to the chicken ingredients in treats and food, but it might be the corn. Thanks for the comment!

cj on December 23, 2008:

Most of the hair loss and scratching is the corn in the dog food. Look for labels with no corn. Nutura brand is great my pup's hair grew back in a week.

Carole on August 31, 2008:

We found a sweet little Shih Tzu in an animal shelter while we were away on vacation. I fell immediately in love with this poor, messy, tangled mess and adopted her on the spot. We had to have her completely shaved off and buy a plane ticket for her to bring her home. Once home we realized that this little cutie could not see. No doubt the reason she was left at the shelter. The vet said that Shih Tzu puppies often do not have enough natural tear production for those big eyes and because of not being treated with artificial tears as a puppy she has not developed a film over the eye. We have been on a strict routine of eye wash, tears, and medications, but so far there has been no improvement. We love her a lot and if there is any chance of surgery restoring her eyesight I will do it. I write this only to warn other new owners of Shih Tzu (she is my first) that this might be a problem and you pet does not have to loose its eyesight. Now that we have had this little pet for 6 months she has long flowing silky hair and the top is almost ready for a top knot. However I am going to switch to a dry food so as to help in keeping that beard clean. I also bought a steel flea comb to clean around her eyes and that help get dirt and other matter from the beard.

jowee tzu on August 28, 2008:

I am a first time owner of shih tzu pup...I think your tips are all useful to keep my dog's coat free of stain and stink most specially around its eyes. It is also an eye opener for me that the pup should not have an everyday bath because it may take away the natural oil that makes his coat silky and shiny..Thanks a lot...

Katie on August 15, 2008:

Thanks for all of the great advice... I think I am going to start cleaning up my shih tzu now!! :)

byee (author) on June 09, 2008:

Thanks tzu mom! I also heard the bednadryl does not cause drowsiness in dogs like it does with humans, so it helps with dog allergies.

Vane-- as far as trimming the hair under the eyes, a good guideline would be to trim off the hair that is the most stained, usually the bunch of hair right underneath the eyes. Be careful not to cut the mustache or the sides of the face too much as this will change the way your shih tzu looks. Hope that helps!

tzu mom on June 07, 2008:

Great tips.

FYI: Frequent bathing is recommended by veterinarian dermatologists for allergy dogs & let me tell you, it works! Absolutely no signs of dry skin, etc. or coarse hair. It is important what you bathe the dog in, of course, only dog shampoo is pH balanced for dog skin, not human shampoo.

OTC benedryl for the allergy dogs also helps somewhat to "dry up" the excessive tearing (which is commonly a symptom of allergies-watery eyes- just like humans)

vane_luvs_You from LOS ANGELES on May 22, 2008:


Zsuzsy Bee from Ontario/Canada on May 02, 2008:

We keep our little guy who is six in what the groomers call 'puppy cut' too. They just look adorable as fur balls. When he was younger he went for the whole works every six weeks but my daughter learned to do the whole spiel he actually looks better. We also trim around the eyes and beard. Thanks for sharing

a great hub about our little friends

regards Zsuzsy

Ana Louis on May 01, 2008:

I like your hub. We have started doing much of the grooming ourselves, but she doesn't look as neat as when the proifessionals do it.

Your Shih Tzu is adorable. I love the white.

Great info. I learned a few things I didn't know before.