The most distinctive trait of the little Shih Tzu is his long, flowing hair. A well-groomed Shih Tzu is a beautiful sight, especially when he's trotting about the show floor. The Shih Tzu's floor-length skirt makes the grooming routine of this little companion dog not for the feint of heart.
Brush his long coat daily. The Shih Tzu is not like dogs that require only an occasional run-through with a brush. Brushing your Shih Tzu requires time, patience and daily dedication to keep mats and tangles at bay. Spray him with a detangler or conditioner solution as you brush to minimize static and breakage. Use your fingers and a comb to work out any would-be mats before they become too tight or large.
Bathe your Shih Tzu regularly. Your definition of “regularly” could differ from another Shih Tzu owner's definition, which is fine as long as your dog is clean and the schedule works for you both. Some show dogs get bathed once a week, while those that are strictly pets see the tub no more than once every couple of months. When you bathe him, soak him completely before gently working shampoo through his hair. Don't rub too vigorously, or you may cause tangles. Rinse him thoroughly. Towel as much moisture out of his coat as possible, then let him air-dry or use a hair dryer on a low setting. Brush him out once he's dry to remove any tangles.
Check his face, eyes and ears. Unless you hand-feed your Shih Tzu, he'll probably need his face wiped regularly to remove any food remnants that have collected in his beard. Wipe away any tear stains with a cotton ball or washcloth, and check his ears for signs of redness. Clean his ears with a cotton ball and ear cleaner.
Trim his toenails and the hair on his feet as necessary. Although long hair is the trademark of the Shih Tzu, that doesn't include the hair between the pads on his feet. If allowed to grow too long, this hair can mat and cause your Shih Tzu pain. Trim the hair as necessary to keep him comfortable. His toenails will also need trimmed at least once a month, but dog nails hold a vein that will bleed if trimmed too short. Have your veterinarian or a groomer show you how to trim them properly.
Brush your Shih Tzu's teeth at least three times a week. Daily is better. Your Shih Tzu may not require dental work to correct his underbite, but tartar and plaque buildup can cause gum disease and bad breath. Brush his teeth regularly to keep them strong and healthy, and to prevent stinky breath.
- If keeping your Shih Tzu's hair long requires more time and care than you are able to give, have a groomer trim his hair into a shorter puppy-style cut.
- Brushing is going to be a big part of your long-haired Shih Tzu's life, so get him used to the chore early. Start a regular brushing routine when he's young so he'll be used to it once his hair grows in fully.
- Use latex hair bands to pull your Shih Tzu's hair up and off his face. Elastic bands can pull at his hair and cause him to rub or scratch at it.
- Never wash your Shih Tzu before combing him through first to remove any tangles or mats. Washing a dog with a mat will set it and almost guarantee that the mat will need to be cut out.
- Avoid getting shampoo into your Shih Tzu's eyes during bath time. See your veterinarian if they appear red, cloudy or otherwise irritating to your dog.
- Shih Tzus grow long hair in their ears, which need to be plucked regularly to prevent ear infections. Have your veterinarian or a professional groomer do this if you're not comfortable or unsure how.
Jane Williams began her writing career in 2000 as the writer and editor of a nationwide marketing company. Her articles have appeared on various websites. Williams briefly attended college for a degree in administration before embarking on her writing career.