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Shih Tzu grooming is an interesting case, their hair is straight and very fine, but their coats can be quite thick.
Genetics and age also play a big part in their hair structure, meaning no two Shih Tzu's are the same. However, when one comes into my grooming shop I typically approach my "clipping" technique the same way.
You'll need a strong pair of grooming clippers to get through their thick coat, but the clippers themselves should be easy to handle. Secondly, you'll want a pair that remains cool and quiet throughout the groom.
I've had the pleasure of grooming literally hundreds of Shih Tzu's and trying dozens of clippers in my shop, so here's what I believe is the best tool for the job:
OUR #1 RATED
ProClip AGC2 2-Speed Clipper
ProClip AGC2 2-Speed Clipper
Great bang for your buck. Lower SPM combined with powerful Torque means they cut through dense coat while staying cool (and quiet).
A6 Cool Comfort Heavy Duty
A6 Cool Comfort Heavy Duty
Very light and comfortable to hold, but runs slightly louder and hotter than the Andis Proclip. The A6 comes in a very close second place.
Shih Tzu Grooming
While not as bad as their Maltese or Poodle cousins, Shih Tzu hair is still prone to matting, and are most likely to develop within friction areas.
What are friction areas?
Think of the areas that rub the most on your dog: between their legs, around their collar, under the ears, and around their butt. Sometimes these can be brushed out, other times the matting is too thick and we have to shave them out.
At the point of no return (where you cannot easily separate hairs with your hands ), this calls for a complete shave down.
Prepping Makes Clipping Easier
Before diving right into your groom you should try bathing, brushing, and drying your dog beforehand. Firstly, this will help loosen up any mats and give your dog a nice "fluffed" look.
But more importantly, your clippers will have a much easier time getting through that thick coat, making your grooming session quick and easy.
Grease, dirt, and oils create additional friction that your blades and motor will have to struggle through, which in turn creates a lot more heat. A quick bath will extend the life your clippers, and make the groom much more comfortable.
Is Your Dog Too Scared To Groom?
Sometimes the noise from your clippers and the strange environment is enough to send your dog into a panic, making them impossible to groom.
There's two quick solutions for this:
- Use a pair of clippers that are less noisy.
- Groom them more often (with lots of praise and encouragement).
This solves things 99% of the time. Clippers that sound like a lawn mower will certainly cause some distress. And dog's that are not groomed often will rebel against any kind of strange tool coming towards them.
Do practice sessions where you place your dog on the table and get them used to being touched all over. Try using the vibration setting from your cell phone to get them used to the feeling and sound a clipper makes.
After a few weeks of practice you'll have an angel of a dog for grooming. Click here to learn 11 more crucial tips from veteran groomers.
Choosing Your Clippers (What You Need to Know)
The Different Types of Clippers Explained
There's a massive assortment of pet (and human) grooming clippers out there, all claiming to be the newest and best - but what is the actual difference?
When it comes to pet clippers what you're essentially paying for is Cutting Power and Comfort.
Manufacturers will attempt to do this in several ways:
1. Cutting Power
Giving you stronger torque and SPM (strokes per minute) for maximum cutting power and speed.
Engineering to reduce noise and heat to make the grooming experience comfortable for your dog.
Other features may include: Quick charging time, longer lasting batteries (for cordless sets), comfortable grips, reduced or balanced weight, strong build, and all sorts of cool colors and LEDs.
Cutting Power - What SPM Really Means For You
Manufacturers often refer to the power of their clippers with Strokes Per Minute (SPM). Or, how quickly the blade moves back and forth within 60 seconds. This means the faster the SPM the better it cuts, right? Not necessarily.
Picture yourself armed with an axe, and you're about to swing at a tree to chop it down. You swing as fast as humanely possible, but you have absolutely no strength behind your swing.
Sure, you're fast, but you're barely making a dent, and the stubborn tree stump mocks your weak blows.
Now, take a step back, summon all your strength and take a mighty, powerful swing! Even though they come slower, it's far more effective.
With clippers, that speed and strength is referred to as SPM (strokes per minute) and Torque.
What we need is a balanced combination of SPM and torque to really get some serious cutting power.
The last element to consider is how sharp your axe is (or your clipper blade). If your cutting tool is dull, then it's going to take a lot of extra time and energy to cut that tree down. Which is why a sharp blade can make all the difference.
What Makes a Powerful Set of Clippers:
A combination of SPM (speed), Torque (strength), and a Sharp Blade make a great set of clippers that can get through anything.
Why You Should Avoid Cordless Sets
The biggest difference between corded and cordless is simply power. Cordless pairs must rely on a battery - which limits how much voltage that motor can use and therefore limits clipping power. Corded pairs are plugged into the wall socket and are only limited by the strength of the motor.
Therefore corded sets are usually strong enough to get through any coat. However, cordless sets have the advantage of being easier to handle, and are great for touch ups and finishing.
Noise and Heat
The #1 complaint I hear from new clipper owners is from excessive noise and heat. The loud buzzing can be stressful for your dog (and annoying for you), and the heat can easily burn their skin, making grooming a painful experience. How do we avoid this?
Why Your Blade Is Getting Too Hot
The short answer: Friction.
Higher SPM (stokes per minute) will lead to greater friction, which leads to a hot blades. But we need a decent SPM in order to cut through thick coats. So what do we do?
We can solve this dilemma in several ways: by getting a decent SPM clipper but with adjustable speed options, that also has powerful torque, keeping our blades sharp, and using lubricant/oil to keep things cool.
We can also research and make purchases wisely, as some sets are simply less efficient and heat up faster.
Why Clippers Get Hot:
- High SPM – High strokes per minute leads to greater friction and heat over time.
- Dull Blades - Causes greater friction. Blades need to be sharpened or replaced after 100 hours of use.
- Thick or Dirty Coat - Thick, matted coats that are full of oils and dirt will create extra friction, you can prevent this by bathing and brushing your dog before using clippers.
- Lack of lubricant or clipper oil - Clipper oil should be applied before every use, and every 10 minutes while in use. Check out what we use for clipper lubricant in the shop.
Please bare in mind that all clippers and blades will get hot after extended use. There's just no avoiding it, eventually friction (and the laws of physics) catch up to us.
What we can do is apply all the tactics above to give us the most amount of grooming time and comfort for our dogs.
How do professional groomers clip all day without burning their dogs?
Groomers will swap out the blades as they begin to get warm. Often they will have duplicates of every blade length, and while one is in use the other is cooling off on a ceramic tile.
The Best Dog Clippers For Shih Tzu's
How We Reviewed Each Set
A Little About Me:
I've been a professional dog groomer for 9 years, and I've worked on everything from rescue dogs to professional show dogs. I've also tried many different styles of dog clippers, and have had hundreds of Shih Tzu's come through my shop.
My co-groomers and I rate clippers based on several key factors:
- Comfort for your Dog - Do they get too hot or excessively noisy?
- Budget Friendly - Are they too expensive for what they offer?
- Overall Power - How easy is it to clip through dense or matted hair?
Secondary ratings are based on:
- Comfortable Grip - Easy to hold for long periods of time
- Good Build - Will it survive being dropped?
- Battery Charge Length - (if a cordless pair)
Andis ProClip AGC2 2-Speed Clipper
This is our "go-to" corded clipper when is comes to thick coated dogs. In fact, this is what me and three of the other groomers in my shop use exclusively on any Shih Tzu that come in.
What makes the Andis clippers so special is the lower SPM (strokes per minute) of 2700, but strong torque and cutting power, meaning they cut through any coat but stay cool by not creating excessive friction. Also, the adjustable 2-speed function is a very useful for cutting through thicker coats.
Furthermore, the andis proclip is much quieter than most clippers, so if your dog is sensitive to noise this is a life saver.
It's built solid but you won't find any fancy grips and LEDs here (although it does come in multiple colors). Also, they're heavier than most other clippers, which may be bothersome after some time.
The extra comb attachments it came with weren't amazing, and broke easily. Typically I don't use these attachments anyways, but I feel like they could have sent out better quality accessories.
All-in-all, this is the best bang for your buck. This is a professional grade set so you'll pay a little more than your typical pair, but once you give them a try you'll never look back. I've been using my pair everyday for 3+ years without any problems.
Our Secon Pick:
Oster A6 Cool Comfort Heavy Duty
This was my second place pick, and is a reboot of the classic A5 (an old favorite among many veteran groomers). The much needed update added a nice looking and comfortable grip, reduced overall weight, and reduced noise.
What's really nice is the 3-speed option, allowing you to alter the SPM (strokes per minute) for cutting through thick coats without getting stuck or creating too much heat. The SPM can be altered from Low (3,100), Medium (3,600), and High (4,400).
Also, the Oster A6 is much, much lighter and easier to handle, and when you're grooming all day that makes a huge difference.
This is our second choice only due to the clippers running slightly hotter and making more noise than our first pick - the AGC ProClip 2-speed. While the A6's are more comfortable to handle and carry less weight - the extra heat and sound are deal breakers, and that's why this comes in a very close 2nd place.
Recommended Comb Kit:
Wahl Professional Animal Stainless Steel Guide Combs
Clipping also requires combs, but not all comb sets are created equally. And most times the comb set that comes with your clippers are cheap plastic and break quickly (along with limited options).
I know what you're thinking with my recommendation: "Why use Wahl Combs with Andis Clippers? Why not use the Andis Comb Set?"
The issue is with how Andis creates their comb sets. Each comb comes with a release spring towards the bottom, and while clipping the spring will accidentally release and the comb comes loose - leading to big mistakes. Wahl combs are also spring loaded, but in such a way that they won't release by accident.
Another mistake I often see is people purchasing the low budget/cheap plastic comb sets. But what they'll soon find out (especially on a thick coat) is they crack and break very easily.
Wahl has fantastic stainless steel combs that are solid and easy to clean, and they're very decently priced. But the big advantage is they'll last you forever. I've been using my set in a commercial dog grooming shop for 6 years and they're still going strong.
Final Note: I recommend using a #10 blade with this comb set. And remember: blades will dull quickly if used on a dirty/oily coat, so always bathe your dog prior and make use of blade oil.
Katlin is a 7-year certified advanced professional groomer, a registered veterinarian tech assistant (working in emergency, exotics, and general practice), and even owns her own popular collar and leash brand. You might say she's multi-talented when it comes to pets.