A compact and solid dog, the Shih Tzu’s long, flowing double coat is its most distinctive feature. The word Shih Tzu means "lion" and although this dog is sweet and playful, he is not afraid to stand up for himself! One of the most popular dogs in the United States according to AKC® Registration Statistics, this portable pooch has a distinctively arrogant carriage with his head well up and tail curved over the back. All colors of Shih Tzu are allowed.
As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is companion and house pet, he should be lively, alert, friendly and trusting towards all. He requires minimal exercise, but his long, luxurious coat needs daily brushing and maintenance.
The Shih Tzu is a dog that does require routine bathing and grooming. This happy, affectionate toy breed has a profuse coat which needs to be bathed as frequently as every week up to no longer than every 3 weeks. Frequency of baths depends on the amount of coat and the lifestyle of your Shih Tzu. The hallmark of the breed is his profuse, luxurious, double coat. The care and maintenance of the coat sets the foundation for maintaining healthy skin and coat. Regular baths promote coat growth. A dirty coat will mat and tangle much easier than a clean coat. When the coat is dirty and breaks, the hair shaft becomes rough and eventually breaks down, which will lead to further damage of the coat. Therefore, keeping the coat clean and healthy is of utmost importance in order to maintain the luxurious, double coat.
There is an art to bathing a Shih Tzu while minimizing tangling. After the coat is wet, apply the shampoo by squeezing it through the coat in a downward motion. In order to get the coat squeaky clean, continue to move the shampoo down the coat. Thoroughly shampooing the coat will contribute to building a healthy, strong, and manageable coat. The same technique is used when conditioning the coat. It is important to condition the Shih Tzu’s coat in order to nourish and hydrate each individual strand of hair. Make sure you thoroughly rinse the coat. It is a good idea to slightly cool the water temperature down for the final rinse to ensure the coat is completely free of any product. Once the bath is finished, blot the coat with a towel and squeeze excessive water from the ears, legs, and the long furnishings. Always use a downward motion to remove the excess rather than a circular motion in order to keep the coat from further tangling.
If your Shih Tzu has a long coat, it is best to line dry the dog using a fluff or stand dryer. Systematically line dry the entire coat right down to the skin. Make sure the dog is completely dry in the area you are working on before you move onto the next section. Once the Shih Tzu is completely dry, make sure the coat is tangle free. Double check your brush out by using a metal comb. It should glide freely through the coat all the way down to the skin.
Finishing the Dog: Tools and Finish Grooming
The coat should be free of mats and tangles. The coat on this affectionate little dog should be profuse and luminous, while hanging straight and moving freely with the dog. Lightly neaten the entire outline of the dog, removing any stray hairs that interrupt the natural flow of the dog. Make sure not to over trim. Finish with a light mist of hydrating spray. The Shih Tzu wears a top knot that is gathered into a single ponytail. Make sure you part from the outside corner of the eye on each side and parting across the skull in the middle. The lavish poof that Shih Tzu’s are known for is obtained by taking a few hairs from the back section of the ponytail and gently pulling them straight up. This anchors the front ponytail to the topskull and creates the poof. Then make a half moon part for the second one and band the two ponytails together. Hair gel and hair spray is lightly used to hold the top knot in place.
If you are unable to keep up with the profuse, double coat with weekly bathing and brushing, by all means choose to have your Shih Tzu groomed into a shorter trim. A puppy or modern trim still needs routine maintenance with bath and brush outs every 2 to 3 weeks. This type of trim might be more suitable for you and your dog’s lifestyle.
General Health Care
Prep work is the foundation of all grooming. Prep work includes ear cleaning, nail trimming, trimming the pads, anal glands, and proper dental hygiene. Mastering these skills sets the professional pet stylist apart from the rest. Prep work should be done before every bathing and grooming appointment. All dogs need to have their ears checked and cleaned on a regular basis. Some need to have the hair plucked from the ear canal. This allows the ear to have proper air circulation. It is not necessary to remove all of the hair in the ear, as some serves as a barrier to foreign debris. It is imperative that you are properly trained to pull ear hair before attempting this endeavor. Proper nail care is also very important. Long, unsightly nails are uncomfortable for the dog, as well as anyone they might jump on. Long nails also compromise the shape of the foot. Trimming the pads of the foot helps give the dog good traction on different surfaces and can minimize the amount of dirt the dog tracks into the house. It also affords the opportunity to treat and condition the paws from cracks and abrasions. Anal glands should also be checked and expressed if they are full. Some caring pet owners prefer to have the anal glands done by their veterinarian. Good dental hygiene is essential for a healthy pet as well.
In order to maintain healthy skin and coat as well as overall health, it is important to provide good nutrition to your dog through a well-balanced diet, vitamins, and healthy treats.
Do they require a lot of grooming?
Shih Tzu’s do require routine grooming. As a young dog, it is imperative that you get the dog used to regular grooming. A full brush out 2 to 3 times a week is best with baths every 1 to 2 weeks. Never brush a dry coat, always lightly mist with a hydrating spray. If the Shih Tzu is kept in a shorter trim, weekly brush outs are still preferred. Routine baths ranging between 1 to 3 weeks is desirable. This is a breed that requires their caring owner to stay on top of routine maintenance.
What is a common problem in the Shih Tzu?
Every breed of dog has its own set of health concerns. Fortunately, the list is relatively short for Shih Tzu’s. With the short face and big, bulgy eyes, several eye disorders can occur in this breed such as eye infections, corneal ulcers, cataracts, entropion, and epiphora. Entropion occurs when the eyelids turn inward, and the eyelashes irritate the eye. Epiphora, better known at “wet eye”, occurs when the tear ducts do not drain properly. The short faces on Shih Tzu’s not only cause eye issues, but respiratory issues are also a concern. They are prone to heatstroke when the temperature rises and the humidity kicks in. Be very careful with this breed on very hot days.
Does the Shih Tzu shed or cause allergies?
Shih Tzu’s tend to produce less dander and saliva than other breeds, therefore reducing the chances of an allergic reactions. Shih Tzu’s make the list of the top 10 hypoallergenic breeds. However, before bringing a Shih Tzu into your home if you suffer from allergies, you should spend some time around the breed to make sure you do not have a reaction.
Are Shih Tzu’s good with children?
Shih Tzu’s generally do well in a household with children. However, like any breed of dog, it is important that the children are taught how to handle, speak, and interact with the Shih Tzu.
What if I have a show dog?
Whether you have a show dog or a companion quality dog, the same basic care is given regarding nutrition, socialization, and hygiene. A major difference is the method of grooming that is required and the conditioning for the show ring. The Shih Tzu’s profuse and luxurious show coat can sometimes be overwhelming to maintain. It is quite helpful if your breeder can help mentor you and lead you in the right direction upon entering the wonderful world of showing dogs. A great place to start is with the national breed club like the American Shih Tzu Club, www.americanshihtzuclub.org