Outgoing, loving, and good with children, Shih Tzus (pronounced sheed-zoos) make delightful, toy-size family dogs. To most Shih Tzu lovers, though, it's their silky, floor-skimming long hair that is the main (or mane!) attraction. To maintain long hair on a Shih Tzu, however, daily grooming and lots of patience are required.
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Brush Shih Tzu long hair daily
If you know you are going to want a long-haired Shih Tzu, it's important to get the dog used to daily grooming from the start because if he's not used to it, he may resist it. Speak softly and lovingly to your dog as you gently brush him so it's a bonding time to look forward to instead of a painful ordeal.
A Shih Tzu's hair tangles easily, so daily brushing keeps it tangle-free and less likely to get matted. To be sure you get all the way through your Shih Tzu's double coat, lift up the top coat and brush the undercoat first. Start about an inch from the hair's end and gently brush through that small section so that it's free of tangles all the way to the skin. If you are brushing gently, it won't hurt the dog if you hit a tangle. Once the hair is smooth, move up another inch and brush through that part to the end.
Continue this method until you can brush through the entire length of the undercoat in one stroke without hitting a tangle and the same with the top coat. Be sure to also brush the paws, legs, neck, mustache, and tail but use a comb for the face. If you do encounter a matted area, holding the hair at the base of the mat near the skin while you gently work at the mat keeps it from hurting the dog.
Choosing tools and supplies
You'll need a wide-toothed comb, a comb for the face, and a wire brush with flexible pins. Water tends to set mats rather than break them up, but a capful of coat conditioner mixed with a cup of water in a spray bottle can soften tough tangles and mats if necessary. Dog owners have different opinions on the best dog shampoo and conditioning products, so try several to find what works best for you.
Watch for Shih Tzu hair growth stages
At around 5 months of age, Shih Tzu hair will be long enough to get in the eyes, so you'll need to trim it just above the nose or put it up in a top knot. Most Shih Tzu puppies change from their puppy coat to adult coat around 10 or 12 months of age and will shed a lot during this change. Remind yourself during this time that grooming will be easier once she has her adult coat. If you've been grooming daily all along, you've established a routine, so you won't be trying to introduce daily grooming in the midst of her coat change.
Change the top knot daily
Shih Tzus have a characteristic top knot that is both cute and functional in that it keeps the long hair out of the dog's eyes, which are sensitive and can be easily injured. Even casual top knots should be changed every day so they don't become matted. The top knot is actually two poofs. Part the hair across the head (but near the eyes so you catch all the hairs), comb it up smoothly, and secure it with a small band. Take a few hairs from the middle and pull them straight up so the top knot poofs. Add a bow to this top knot if you wish.
Make the back one the same way using the hair you parted. Attach the two top knots with another hair band. For a show-worthy look, tease the hair lightly inside, keeping the outer hair smooth, and secure it with a band. Use the long end of the comb or a pick to gently pull some front hair forward to further poof it. Make and attach the back poof. Use a curling iron to make curls in the hair, let them cool, and then gently brush out the curls for a pretty curve to the ends.
Long-haired Shih Tzus usually have top knots, but if you're not showing your dog, you could trim the facial hair and leave the body hair any length. So-called puppy trims are also cute for a break from taking care of the long hair or for a cooler cut in the summer.