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Best Dog Clippers for Shih Tzu – Master Groomer Explains

shih tzu coat

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Shih Tzu grooming is an interesting and somewhat challenging 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. Not to mention matting and dry-ends can present a difficult challenge. 

  1. ​You’ll need a strong pair of grooming clippers to get through their thick coat, but the clippers themselves should be easy to handle.
  2. ​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:

Best Overall

Andis Excel 5-Speed

For decades the Andis Excel 5-speed is a corded clipper that is still considered one of the best on the market. It’s strong torque and adjustable speed help cut out matting while remaining cool.

Best for Pros

Wahl KM Cordless

This is a professional grade, high-end cordless clipper used by top groomers. It’s expensive, but you get what you pay for. A cordless clipper with this much power it pretty much unheard of.

Best Budget Option

Andis AGC 2-Speed

This is a classic clipper and typically the first choice for many new groomers. It’s powerful and sturdy, but very budget friendly. However, it’s very heavy and causes fatigue during long grooms.

Shih Tzu Grooming

Matting

matted dog
Matted Poodle Mix – I’m unable to separate hairs to see skin underneath.

While not as bad as their Maltese or Poodle cousins, Shih Tzu hair is still prone to matting. Tangles 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
  • Around their bum

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 and dry before clipping 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:

  1. Use a pair of clippers that are less noisy
  2. 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 dogs that are not groomed often will rebel against any kind of strange tool coming towards them. 

Practice Grooming Sessions

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 find them much more comfortable. Learn 11 more crucial tips from veteran groomers.

Choosing Your Clippers – Explained

Each pair of clippers is claiming to be the strongest, sharpest, lightest, and best out there. I know from experience this isn’t always the case.

With pet clippers, what you’re essentially paying for is Cutting Power and Comfort

Manufacturers will attempt to do this in several ways:

Cutting Power:

Strong torque and SPM (strokes per minute) improve cutting power and speed.

Comfort:

Clippers can be quieter and cooler for your dog’s comfort. While the clipper may be light and easy to handle for the owner. 

​Additional features may include:

  • Longer lasting batteries for cordless sets
  • Comfortable grips
  • Reduced or balanced weight
  • Strong build
  • Fancy colors and indicator sounds or LEDs.

Cutting Power and SPM

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.

SPM and Torque Example

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.

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.

​Cordless Clippers vs corded

​For most clippers – the biggest difference between corded and cordless is power.

Cordless pairs must rely on a battery, which may limit how much voltage that motor can use and therefore limit clipping power. Corded pairs are plugged into the wall socket and are limited only by the strength of the motor.

Corded sets are usually strong enough to get through any coat and perfect for Shih Tzus.

However, cordless sets have the advantage of being easier to handle, and are great for touch ups and finishing.

Cordless Technology is getting better

Cordless clipper technology is slowly improving, and specialized sets like the Wahl KM Cordless prove that.

Top-end cordless clippers come with incredible cutting power and battery life.

However, they come at a cost.

They often exceed $350 for a single pair. Not to mention you’ll need blades.

I would easily recommend high-power cordless clippers for professional groomers, but they may not be necessary for the occasional home groomer. 

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:

  • Get a clipper with good SPM and adjustable speed options
  • Powerful torque
  • Keeping blades sharp
  • Use lubricant/oil to keep blades 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

Best Bang For Your Buck

Andis Excel 5 Speed

I recommend these clippers to any and all groomers.

They’re powerful and easy enough to handle that you’ll have no trouble getting through a matted Shih Tzu coat.

Likewise, you can use them for finer detail work. While lightweight, they are somewhat cumbersome with the cord.

I know groomers that have relied on the Andis Excel for decades without any complaints.

Because they’re corded – they have a powerful torque and variable speed SPM that help cut through thick coats.

They’re somewhat on the expensive side. But with dog clippers – you get what you pay for.

PROS

CONS

Best for Professionals

Wahl KM Cordless

What makes these clippers standout is they have the full power of A5 corded clippers, but they’re cordless. That’s a big deal.

Cordless clippers are much easier to handle, but most sets lack decent power and battery life.

We’ve seen the KM series turn that around.

I was lucky enough to be one of the first groomers in North America to try out these clippers in 2018.

4-years and hundreds of grooms later, these are still my favorite clippers.

I’ll be the first to admit, however, these are expensive. I would recommend KM cordless clippers to the true pros in the grooming world, or those who take their grooming seriously.

Clipper Cords Not Charging

In late 2019 Wahl addressed an issue with the KM cordless not charging properly with the provided cord. They took the product off shelves and re-engineered and then re-released a new version of the KM cordless. So far there haven’t been any new reports of this issue.

PROS

CONS

Best Budget Friendly

Andis AGC 2-Speed

These are strong, dependable clippers that are always up to the task.

A favorite among first-time groomers because they’re reliable and less expensive than other clippers in their class.

The biggest issue is the weight. At just over 1 pound, which may not sound like a lot, after a few hours of detailed work your arm and wrist will be tired.

Here’s my suggestion:

If you’re grooming your own dogs at home these are perfect.

If you’re a brand new groomer whose on a tight budget – these will absolutely get you by until you can something a little better.

Otherwise I would consider the Andis Excel or the Wahl KM series.

PROS

CONS

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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