If you're a shih tzu parent, you already love your little ball of fur. They are likely full of energy, show tons of personality, and have a knack for cuddling. In fact, they're probably the king or queen of the castle—and that's not just because of their attitude. This breed was originally bred for noble families in China, according to Marty Goldstein, DVM. That's partly why their long, luxurious, and silky-smooth coats could remind you of the robes of royalty.
While beautiful, all of that fur can be difficult to manage for both you and your pup. Plus, as Goldstein explains, shih tzus have a double coat—a soft, insulating layer of fur beneath the outer layer—and they're prone to eye and ear health problems. "You see, thick, long fur can hide minor issues and discomforts in these areas," he continues. "If your dog's fur is very long, you may not notice the issues until they become bigger problems."
Luckily, regular grooming is the easiest—and most impactful—solution to prevent potential hidden health issues. Here, we explore how often this special breed should be groomed, along with our top shih tzu haricut styles to try.
groomer giving shih tzu a puppy haircut
Credit: siamionau pavel / Shutterstock
The Top Knot Cut
In every pet parent's heart, their dog is the fairest of them all. And even if your pup doesn't compete on the national stage, you can give them the "show dog" look with a top knot style. As Goldstein describes, the fur is long and falls evenly all the way to the floor for this look. Then, the hair around your pup's face is pulled up into a small ponytail at the top of the head, between their ears. Yep: They can match you with a messy bun!
If it sounds cute, that's because it is. However, it does require some maintenance. "Your pup's long fur will quickly pick up dust, dirt, water, and other debris from around the house and outside," Goldstein explains. So, you will need to remove the top knot every evening to comb the area so it doesn't become painful.
While you're doing this, do a quick check of their eyes and ears to ensure no health issues are present. Once your dog wakes up in the morning, you can pull the topknot back up.
The Teddy Bear Cut
Unlike Elvis, you don't have to ask your pup to be your teddy bear: They already are! And they can look like one with this medium-length haircut. As you can guess from the name, the style mimics a cute, cuddly teddy bear with a light trim on the face that's then teased out. Then, the fur on their body is kept to an even 2 inches, Goldstein says.
Though this haircut is definitely less to manage, it can still be a challenge since the double-coat grows back quickly. Plus, the fur around the face can easily tangle or get matted. "The long strands of fur around your pup's eyes can actually block their vision, which can be frustrating for your dog and cause them to be irritable or overly nervous," Goldstein explains. "Who can blame them? You'd probably be irritable too if your hair was always in your eyes."
The solution is to increase the frequency of grooming visits to keep your shih tzu comfortable (and adorable).
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The Lion Cut
When they're playing a game of fetch, they can be as fast and furious as a lion! Now, they can even look like one with this medium-length cut. Goldstein says that for this shih tzu cut the fur around the dog's face and neck is kept long and trimmed to look like a lion's mane. Then, the hair on their body is shorter, around an inch or two. This cut, along with the teddy bear, is ideal for summer or if you live in a hotter climate. You can expect your pup—err, lion—to need a trim every four to six weeks.
The Puppy Cut
If you ask Goldstein, this is the most functional and comfortable shih tzu haircut, regardless of age. The puppy cut, also sometimes known as the summer cut, features fur that is cut very short (around 1 inch) from the tip of your pup's tail all the way up to the tip of their nose.
"This cut reveals the shih tzu's athletic little frame, bright, intelligent eyes, and that spunky personality we all love so much," he explains. "Although they're small, shih tzus are active, fun-loving, inquisitive pups who do a fair amount of jumping, playing, rolling, and romping."
So, this haircut style allows them freedom of movement. And while sure, it's ideal for summer when it's hot outside, Goldstein says it's also fine for colder days, too. "Shih tzus have the double-thick coat; even an inch or so of fur can still help protect them from cold weather in the winter," he adds.
How Often Should a Shih Tzu Be Groomed?
Goldstein says the best thing you can do for your dog's health and happiness is to keep their grooming as simple and functional as possible. For the shih tzu, that means keeping their fur short and tidy, from their nose to the tip of their tail. "Even with a short cut, your shih tzu's double-coat can easily develop mats and tangles, which can pull your dog's skin and make them uncomfortable," he continues. "So, at a minimum, your dog will need at least 10 minutes of brushing every day."
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The frequency of grooming visits varies depending on the size of your shih tzu and their unique coat. However, a good rule of thumb is once a month or every six weeks. You should plan on going more frequently in the summer and opting for a shorter style—like the puppy cut!—to keep your little one from overheating. You can go for longer grooming in the winter, like the top knot, since they likely won't spend as much time under the hot sun.
Also, Goldstein suggests you ask your groomer for tips on improving your shih tzu's daily grooming routine to keep your pup happy … and looking adorable!
How to Groom a Shih Tzu's Face
Depending on the temperament of your shih tzu, they may allow you to trim the hair around their face at home between grooming sessions. However, it is essential to ensure that both you and your pet are calm and comfortable with this process, Heather Hoffman, a veterinarian at Chewy, says. If not, it's much safer to have your shih tzu professionally groomed.
Before you start the process, Hoffman recommends introducing your pup to scissors by letting him smell and touch them. "You can also open and close the pair of scissors to allow acclimation to the sound of cutting," she adds.
Here's how to trim your shih tzu pup's face:
- Comb out any tangled hair
- Use round-tipped scissors to cut little pieces of hair, being mindful to avoid eyelashes
"If your fur baby starts to show signs of stress, like lip licking, pulling away, panting, or excessive yawning, give them a break before continuing," she suggests.
Honestly, though, it's probably best to take your shih tzu to the groomer instead of trying to trim their face at home. "Their short muzzle, pronounced brow, and large 'puppy dog' eyes are all situated very close together on the face, which makes it difficult to trim the fur around these sensitive areas safely," Goldstein warns. "That's why, in my opinion, it's best to leave the haircuts to the professionals."
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