All Shih Tzu puppies need to learn to tolerate grooming at an early age. Grooming your Shih Tzu is more than cosmetic. A matted Shih Tzu is uncomfortable and subject to skin irritations and infections.
Unclipped toenails will grow and curve, distorting the Shih Tzu’s foot to the point of crippling. Dirty ears can become infected and induce pain-related aggression and/or hearing loss. Lack of grooming can cause a Shih Tzu serious discomfort.
A Shih Tzu is not born with warm feelings toward being groomed. A Shih Tzu needs to learn to enjoy grooming. This is easiest if started sooner, rather than later. In time, your Shih Tzu will learn to love the extra attention it receives while being groomed.
Allow your new Shih Tzu puppy a couple of days to settle in to his new home and family routine. Take the first few days to familiarize all family members with the new Shih Tzu puppy’s housetraining, feeding and crating routines, and to establish basic house rules.
During this time start preparing your new Shih Tzu puppy for grooming by practicing positive association touching exercises. You will need a container of treats. You can do the touching exercises in any order, several times a day, and repeat each one a half-dozen times before moving on to the next one. Try the following exercises in five- to 10-minute sessions.
10 Positive Association Touching Exercises:
1. Scratch your Shih Tzu puppy under the chin, and then feed it a tiny treat from your other hand.
2. Touch each paw, and then feed the Shih Tzu puppy a treat from your other hand.
3. Rub each ear. Feed your Shih Tzu puppy a treat after each rub.
4. Stroke your Shih Tzu puppy’s back, then offer a treat.
5. Run your hand down your Shih Tzu puppy’s tail, squeezing softly, then feed your pup a treat.
6. Slip one hand under the Shih Tzu puppy’s chest and lift gently, and then feed your Shih Tzu puppy a treat.
7. Lift each paw, and feed a treat after each lift.
8. Massage each hind leg from hip to knee, and feed a treat after each leg.
9. Slide your hand from each shoulder to the ankle, and feed a treat after each.
10. Run your fingers over your Shih Tzu puppy’s face, cheeks and muzzle, and feed your Shih Tzu puppy a treat.
A dog that is not being shown will probably need a bath every three weeks or so--more often if he decides to roll in a mud puddle or encounters a skunk! A dirty coat tends to tangle more than a clean one, so it behooves you to bathe your dog as often as needed.
Before you actually put your dog into the sink or laundry tub, brush him out thoroughly. Water tends to "set in" mats, making them almost impossible to remove. Be sure to check the hair between the pads of the feet, which can mat and give your dog sore feet. Trim this hair level with the pads, then stand the dog in show pose and trim the hair on the top of the paws level with the table to give the feet a neater appearance. Pull any excess hair out of the ear canal with your fingers to prevent matted hair in the canal from cutting off air circulation, which can lead to ear infections. Your dog may not like to have you do this, but don't think you're really hurting him when you do: There are no nerves inside the ear canal. If you want to clean visible excess wax and dirt out of the ear with a Q-tip, fine, but be sure not to poke down deep into the ear canal, as you can injure the eardrum.
Ask your vet to show you how to express your dog's anal glands. When full, they will feel like two hard peas on either side of the anus just below the root of the tail. To clean them--a foul-smelling job definitely to be done just before a bath--cover the anus with a tissue and squeeze gently upward and outward until any fluid is extracted. This will prevent an anal abscess from forming.
If you place a rubber shower mat in the bottom of the sink or tub, you dog will have firm footing and will be less likely to struggle. Use lukewarm water and two soapings with a quality shampoo designed for your dog's coat, particularly on the legs, to get all the dirt out, and use your fingernails or a toothbrush to thoroughly clean any encrusted matter out of the hair beneath the eyes and around the mouth. Try not to get any soapy water into the eyes or ears, and use a tearless shampoo on the face to lessen the possibility of irritation. Wash the head last as this is what dogs generally object to the most.
Keep a sharp eye out for external parasites, such as fleas or ticks, as one flea can make a dog scratch out a coat that took months to grow. I find that special pyrethrin shampoos available from your veterinarian seem to be less harsh on the coat than most over-the-counter varieties. Any shampoo residue, which can cause the dog to scratch, can be removed by pouring a quart of warm water with a capful of cider vinegar over the dog, then rinsing thoroughly.
After you have rinsed the soap out, put a capful or two of conditioner into a quart of warm water and pour it over the dog, avoiding the face. Allow the conditioner to remain in the coat for a few minutes, then rinse. Some people use special oil treatments or other hair care products at this stage.
Squeeze any excess moisture out of the coat, then wrap the dog in a couple of thick bath towels for ten to fifteen minutes to lessen the amount of time he will have to spend under the dryer. Use a corner of the towel to wipe the face and blot the ears. This is a good time to cut toenails--your dog is more or less captive while swaddled in towels, and his nails are softer when wet. Cut the nails to where they hook over being careful not to cut into the red streak (quick) that can be seen in any translucent nails. If you do accidentally cut too deep and the nail bleeds, use styptic powder to stop the bleeding. Pay special attention to any dewclaws. As they do not touch the ground, they will not wear down naturally like the other nails.
A Shih Tzu should be dried with a blow dryer; one with a stand will free both your hands to work on the dog, Brush the dog gently while his coat dries to separate the hair and speed up the drying process. Once he is thoroughly dry, give him a part and put in his topknot. Then put him down on the floor and watch him prance around. They seem to know how good they look at this stage!
Between baths, if you notice your dog sitting down or rubbing his rear along the floor, check his rear. If his stool has been soft, the anal opening (particularly on a puppy) may be caked with fecal matter. Watch also that his eyes and ears do not appear irritated, and have his teeth cleaned periodically to avoid dental problems later on. Any "hot spots" caused by excessive scratching should be medicated at once to keep them from getting worse.