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Best Brush for Shih Tzus – Master Groomer Explains

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A Shih Tzu’s long coat is a magnet for dirt, matting, and stains. And it certainly presents us dog groomers with a challenge.

My name is Katlin, I’m a certified Master Groomer (PIGA) and have been grooming Shih Tzus (and many other breeds) for 10 years.

The key with long coats is having the right tools so you can avoid expensive grooms, shave downs, and painful tangles while maintaining their beautiful coat.

​​Quick Notes: You’ll need two primary tools, a good slicker brush and a greyhound comb. These are the two things every professional groomer and Shih Tzu owner needs to do proper dematting and daily maintenance. I’ll go into detail on why you’ll need these and how to use them later in this article.

Best Overall

Chris Christensen Coral Brush

Incredibly efficient at removing mats while being comfortable for your dog. This slicker is considered the absolute best by every groomer I’ve met (including me).

Best Budget Option

Chris Christensen Mark III

The Mark III is a more affordable version of our #1 pick, but missing a few features. The pins are not as flexible and more prone to causing brush burn.

Runner Up

Andis Slicker Brush, Large

The Andis Slicker is the cheapest of the bunch, but sacrifices build quality and comfort as a result. The pin density is low, and it’s not as effective at removing tangles.

Let’s Talk About Matting

We can always brush a few tangles or mats out.

However, heavy matting that’s right down to the skin not only makes grooming difficult, it is extremely painful for your dog.

As time goes on tangles get tighter and tighter, pulling on the skin causing severe bruising and sometimes breaking the skin.

Therefore, it’s not always possible to brush out a heavily matted dog, and the only humane option is to shave them down completely.

We can avoid mats and painful grooms with proper brushing and bathing (with the right tools). But let’s see where all these mats are coming from in this first place…

shih tzu

​Shih Tzu Mats – How they Happen


The most common place for tangles to occur are friction areas.

What I mean is anywhere that hair rubs constantly as your dog runs and plays, the hair grips onto itself like velcro and rolls and tangles.

This is usually occurs in or around the:

  • Tail
  • Armpits
  • Bum area
  • Groin Area
  • Around the collar

Whenever brushing your dog out, please pay special attention to these hidden spots.

Dry ends

Shih Tzus are prone to dry ends, which create little hair burrs that frizz and grip onto each other.

Their coat can be a perfect storm of mats because of their genetics.

The simple solution is just using a moisturizing conditioner once a month to keep hair smooth and keep frizz to a minimum. Do this in conjunction with regular brushing.

Dry ends and Matting
Getting Wet or Bathing

Every time your Shih Tzu goes for a swim or bath their natural curls will expand, grip onto each other, and then tighten as it dries, wreaking havoc on that beautiful coat.

If possible, continually brush your Shih Tzu while drying to avoid tangling.

Another very important note: After bathing you absolutely must rinse their coat thoroughly. Shampoo and conditioner that hasn’t been rinsed out will clump at that hair root, causing some very difficult tangles.

Lack of maintenance

Of course not brushing your dog out can certainly lead to some heavy matting, so we recommend brushing out your pup once every 3 days.

And like we mentioned before: make sure you’re brushing around their neck, armpits, and groin area to get out all those hidden mats.

Because these are sensitive spots with a lot of tangles, we recommend a high quality slicker brush with soft pins.

​Inspecting Your Dog For Mats

I always follow this 2-point inspection with every Shih Tzu that comes into my shop, and it’s something you can easily do at home.

1. Is there heavy matting behind the ears, on the front of the legs, or in their armpits? These are very sensitive areas, and brushing out mats can cause some severe discomfort.

2. Can you separate the hairs to see skin?

If they have mats in these areas, or you can’t see skin, then you’ll likely have to shave them completely and start over.

I know many owners hate doing this, but as groomers and dog owners we have to consider the comfort of your dog first.

Matted Dog – I’m unable to separate the hair to see the skin underneath.

​Preventing Mats

There are plenty of Shih Tzu hairstyles and trims available to you. For longer styles we are faced with the challenge of preventing matting and shave downs.

It comes down to proper brushing, but not just brushing surface hair.

You need to get right down deep into their coat and brush down to the skin (without causing irritation) to remove those hidden tangles.

We need pins that don’t just comb, but separate individual hairs as it works through the entire coat.

Another factor that comes into play is proper nutrition and reducing stress. Up to 30% of your dog’s daily protein requirement is used to grow and maintain hair follicles, meaning a poor diet can lead to dry and unhealthy hair.

Understanding the nutritional requirements of your Shih Tzu and ensuring they receive a proper balanced diet can make a massive difference in their coat, not to mention it keeps them healthy and happy.


​​Grooming Your Shih Tzu

Picking the Right Brush

​​I have frustrated Shih Tzu owners come into my shop everyday who absolutely had the best intentions of keeping their pup free of tangles, only to be told they’re STILL full of mats.

So what happened? Usually they are only addressing the surface hair and not getting deep enough, or they don’t have a slicker brush.

Get a Good Slicker Brush

This is the number #1 thing I recommend to owners, because if you’re still using that cheap pin brush from the dollar store you’re in for some difficult grooming sessions.

A good quality slicker brush is dense with hundreds of pins that separate the individual hairs as it brushes, and makes grooming comfortable.

Flexible and Smooth Pins

Your Shih Tzu has very sensitive skin underneath that coat.

A good brush will have flexible pins which bend back to release pressure in order to avoid skin irritation, and each pin surface is smooth to avoid causing pain.

Good Build Quality

When you’re holding a brush for hours like I do a comfortable handle makes a BIG difference.

And it shouldn’t break when it’s inevitably dropped once or a few dozen times.

Avoid Cheap Imitations

I know it’s tempting to just go for the cheaper version, but it’s better to just get the good brush.


Because the cheap brush has sharp pins that do not bend and will hurt your dog’s skin, the pins will wear out and break, the handle will break, and it just won’t be as efficient.

You’ll actually save money just by buying one good brush you can use forever over a dozen cheap ones.


Make sure you dog is 100% mat free with a simple and very cheap tool. In comes the Greyhound Comb to save the day. Gently glide through their coat to “seek and destroy” any of those hidden mats the slicker couldn’t quite reach.

My well worn slicker brushes and combs
My well worn slicker brushes and combs

How to Brush your Shih Tzu out like a Pro

​Here’s my process for every Shih Tzu that visits me in my shop, and how I recommend you maintain your dog’s beautiful coat. 

1. If your dog is matted, try giving them a bath first, use a fair amount of detangling pet conditioner and let it work it’s magic for several minutes before rinsing. Towel dry the dog (but leave them slightly damp). Now that those tangles are a little looser, brushing them out will be easier.

2. At least twice a week – use a good slicker brush and gently brush through their entire coat. Do not go over the same spot more than 3 times (unless you have a slicker with bendable pins) as you may irritate their skin and cause brush burn.

3. Always brush with the growth of hair (not against it), be very gentle around sensitive areas such as the armpits or behind the ears.

4. Pay special attention to friction areas such as around their neck (if they wear a collar) , groin area, and armpits. These have the most mats. Always remove their collar before brushing.

5. Now use a greyhound comb and glide through their coat, looking for any mats you may have missed, especially those deep tangles closer to the skin.

6. If you bathed them prior – use a dryer on cool (while gently combing) to blow out any remaining coat and dry before those curls contract and create more mats.

​My Recommended Grooming Tools for Shih Tzu’s

​I groom everything from show dogs to rescue dogs, and these are the exact tools me, and everyone who works in my shop uses. Also see which clippers I recommend for Shih Tzu grooming.

#1 Slicker Brush Recommendation

Chris Christensen Coral Brush

Chris Christensen is the gold standard of Slicker Brushes. They may look the similar to other slickers, but it’s the thoughtful engineering that really makes this tool shine.

What makes this slicker the best in class is the design of the pins.

You have a high pin density to help separate individual hairs. Each pin is softened to reduce brush burn. The pins are strong, but flexible, allowing them to bend slightly and not dig into the skin.

Every part of this brush is designed to make dematting comfortable for your dog.

Most other slickers are missing one, or all, of these features. You don’t know what you’re missing until you try this one.



Slicker Brush Runner Up

Chris Christensen Mark III Slicker

The Mark III is a more affordable version of our #1 pick, but missing a few features. The pins are not as flexible and more prone to causing brush burn.

This is a less expensive version of the my first pick, with a few less features.

Namely, there’s less pin density and it’s not as flexible.

But still a very good slicker brush. You’ll have to be aware of brush burn and ensure you don’t go over the same spot more than 3 times.



My Recommendation

Andis Steel Greyhound Comb

A long-pin steel comb is a perfect (and inexpensive) tool for removing deep tangles that a slicker can’t reach. I recommend using this comb in combination with a slicker brush.

There are a million replicas of this exact comb, but I prefer using Andis because the pins are stronger and the tips are softened to avoid hurting your dog.

The long pins reach deep into their coat, unhinging any hidden tangles near the surface of the skin.

While a very handy little tool to have in your grooming arsenal, it’s not necessary if you keep your dog’s coat fairly short. But it’s an absolute must-have for grooming thick or long coats.



Photo of author

Katlin Primrose

​​Katlin is ​a Certified Master Groomer (PIGA) and a registered Veterinarian Tech Assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice). You can also find her in the show ring with her dogs, winning awards in rally obedience and show grooming with the Canadian Kennel Club. You might say she's multi-talented when it comes to pets.

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