Shih Tzu grooming is an interesting case as their hair is straight and very fine, but their coats can also be quite thick.
Genetics and age also play a big part in their hair structure, meaning no two Shih Tzu’s are the same.
Firstly, we have to pay close attention to Matting. As we all know that Shih Tzus are energetic little furballs that love to run and play. That often means more tangles.
Watch friction areas as these are prone to matting (between their legs, around their collar, under the ears, their tail, and around their butt.)
Shih Tzus are prone to dry ends, which create little hair burrs that frizz and grip onto each other. Which, of course, leads to more matting.
The simple solution is just using a moisturizing conditioner once a month to keep hair smooth and keeping frizz to a minimum, while also brushing a few times a week.
A wet Shih tzu can lead to trouble
Every time your Shih Tzu goes for a swim or bath – you should brush them out while they’re still slightly damp. What tends to happen is their natural curls will expand, grip onto each other, and then tighten as it dries, wreaking havoc on that beautiful coat.
Why is hair structure important when it comes to trims and styles?
In short – it determines what kind of grooming style we can achieve.
Some owners approach me with a picture of a show groom, however their dog’s coat won’t allow that kind of style.
A heavily matted Shih Tzu may require a partial or complete shave down.
Just be aware that every Shih Tzu is different, and may provide different challenges when it comes to grooming styles.
Prepping makes grooming easier.
One final notes – the foundation of a good groom comes from a clean dog. That means a thorough bath and brush will grant you much less stress while trimming.
Shih Tzu coats in general can be challenging (depending on their hair structure). The best thing you can do is set yourself up for success with proper bathing, blow drying, and tools.
You can learn more about how I groom Shih Tzu’s and other breeds with my beginners grooming course.
Shih Tzu Grooming Styles
1. Full Coat / Show Coat
A full coat is hair left all the way to the floor (and beyond).
You won’t find this style outside of the show ring (or from the most dedicated owners). Show coat is quite difficult to maintain and requires constant brushing and maintenance. Typically you will have an expert groomer on-call for hair emergencies and regular maintenance.
For most owners who like this style, I always recommend a Breed Trim (which we’ll talk about next).
2. Long Pet Style (Breed Trim)
While a Show Coat is meant to be as long as possible, the Breed Trim is a modified version that has shorter feet and belly. The idea behind this is you can have the look of a Show Coat, with a lot less maintenance.
Instead of hair reaching all the way to the floor, it’s scaled back so the hair doesn’t drag.
Long style trims are ideal for owners who want that beautiful look but don’t want to commit their entire lives to brushing.
Keep in mind the Breed Trim still requires plenty of daily brushing and regular visits to your groomer.
3. Teddy Bear
The most common style of Shih Tzu trim is the Teddy Bear. This style is meant to have your dog resemble an adorable teddy bear cub.
Normally the hair is left 1/2 inch or longer. Groomers will first use clippers, then scissor the dog for a flawless finish. The head is rounded, however the ears and tail can be styled to the owners liking.
Teddy bears still take a lot of upkeep but keep your dog looking like a puppy for their entire lives (which is why it’s such a favored style).
4. Asian Fusion Style
Asian fusion is all about perfectly smooth curves while creating bell-bottom legs. Some areas are extremely short whereas others are much longer to accentuate the “cartoony” shape of the dog.
As you may have guessed, this style originated in Asian countries, and is fairly new in the US and Canada but becoming more popular.
Asian fusion is a difficult groom to perfect even for the experts.
5. Lamb Leg
Lamb legs is similar to the Teddy bear trim, but with longer legs.
This is another favorite among owners as the extra length on their ‘pants’ will hide conformation flaws, and keep their dogs legs warm in the winter months (since jackets don’t protect legs).
Again, the ears and tail can be trimmed to the owners liking.
6. Kennel Cut / Shave Down
This is a typical shave down A.K.A. a “smoothie”, “kennel cut” or “skinny” trim.
These are another favorite since kennel cuts are inexpensive, easy to maintain, and can look very stylish.
Hair length is generally left at 1/2″ or shorter (ranging from a #3 clipper blade to a #10 blade all over). While the head and tail are left 1 or 2 blade lengths longer.
The face is rounded and trimmed to give them a cute “puppy face”
Most owners choose a Kennel Cut because they want to avoid brushing, or they don’t want to come in for a groom as often. Also, this is a great style for the warm months of summer.