Your pup is growing, and when they do, their hair is growing right alongside them.
Shih tzu hair grows fast, so knowing what haircut to give them (and how often to do it), is just another part of being a shih tzu owner.
Shih tzu haircuts come in a wide variety of styles and difficulties. While some would argue that you don’t really need to think about what the haircut looks like, we’re pet owners, we want our shih tzus to look the same on the outside as they are on the inside.
We want personality-defining haircuts that really show off how our dog is.
What is the Best Haircut for a Shih Tzu?
It’s going to come down to preference, but there are seven main styles that most people choose from for the most aesthetic appeal for their shih tzu. Let’s take a look at them now.
Everyone loves teddy bears, and with a simple cut, your shih tzu can emulate them. This hair is a bit longer and comes with more maintenance, but basically, everything except the tail and head are cut down to about two inches.
Anything more than this and they’re just going to grow out rapidly and look like a mess before you have a chance to cut it again. The head and tail sit at about three and a half inches, giving a fluffy and fuzzy look when you stare into their adorable little eyes.
Not looking to do a bunch of maintenance on your shih tzu’s haircut?
That’s okay – the summer cut was designed for you. From the best of the tail to the nape of the neck, hair is trimmed to about one inch tall in total, which is ultra short.
From there, face hair stays around two inches, while the tail remains around two inches as well. This gives your shih tzu plenty of ventilation on their skin so that they don’t overheat, and makes their hair look absolutely adorable.
The Dog Show Do
This is basically just extremely long hair, and while this doesn’t sound like it’s a style, it’s actually harder to maintain than the summer cut or teddy cut.
You have to brush this constantly, and keep top knots tied so that their isn’t covering their eyes and making it difficult for them to move around.
Shih tzus are small dogs, so you don’t want this hair to be so long that it ends up causing them to trip or stumble in the slightest. You’re going to run through your brushes like nobody’s business if you want to maintain this.
The Lion’s Mane
Simply put, this is short hair all along the body and tail, but a nice floof of three inches of hair on the head. If you’re doing the haircut yourself, this is a perfect cut when you don’t feel comfortable using the grooming scissors too close to your dog’s face.
Long Top Knot
This one is a simple trim, leaving your dog’s hair relatively long at about four to six inches, but tying up their hair to keep it out of their eyes. This is different from a dog show cut, which is just extremely long, because this still allows for their feet to be visible.
Long on Top and Bottom
This one is simply leaving the hair on the body and legs of your dog at about two inches, while leaving their head around four inches.
It’s going to look long and be different from the lion’s mane we talked about earlier, but with a catch: you’re also going to leave their tail long.
The hair on here can be between four and six inches. Just be sure to monitor your shih tzu so you know if they’re tripping over this or not so you can make corrections.
It’s basically the buzz cut for dogs. This is great if your dog has yeast infections on their skin on a regular basis, or if you’re suffering from their pet dander. It’s important to know your guards when you do this haircut so you’re keeping them safe.
For a full shave, the body, head, and even the tail usually only have one inch of hair in total. Because of how fast their hair grows back, you might find yourself doing this every three to four weeks (which is around bath time) to keep them maintained.
How Often Does a Shih Tzu Need a Haircut?
Every four to six weeks is going to be your best time to give them a haircut. Shih tzus hair grows extremely fast, and in some instances, it can even grow faster than human hair. This time frame is done for a number of reasons:
- Preventing allergies from getting worse
- Stopping them from tripping on their own hair
- Keeping potential skin yeast infections to a minimum
- Helping them stay cool all year long
- Removing dander from their hair
If you suffer from allergies, every four weeks is an absolute must. If you’re going for a show cut, you won’t be trimming their hair, but you still have to be ready to take care of it as often as possible.
How Do You Cut Shih Tzu Hair?
This is your full step-by-step guide to cutting the hair on their body. We’ll get into the hair on their face shortly afterwards.
1. Start by Combing
The last thing you want for your pup is to snag their hair while you’re cutting it with a pair of trimmers or scissors.
To avoid this, comb through their hair thoroughly. They’ll enjoy this part, so it won’t even feel like a haircut to them. Be sure to be thorough, especially if you’re going from a very long style down to a shorter one.
2. Go to Trimming
Kick on the trimmer, and get to work. Depending on how long you want your dog’s hair to be, you need to select the appropriate trimmer guard. You want to use it from the base of their tail tup to the bottom of their neck the entire way through.
3. Trim Your Dog’s Nails
While you’re here, it’s important to clear their nails. Sometimes we can forget how long they get when you have all of their long hair covering them. Take the time to trim them.
For the rest of your dog’s body, gently go over it with the grooming scissors. You’ll use the comb to spot any random tufts of hair that were hiding against your dogs legs or belly, ensuring an even cut the whole way through.
How Do You Cut a Shih Tzu’s Face?
Grooming scissors, and a lot of patience. Your shih tzu grows long hair everywhere, and the most intimidating place to DIY cut their hair is right around the eyes and under their chin. In fact, sometimes their hair gets so long, you don’t even know where to begin.
You start by trimming from their neck and working inward. Starting at the face is going to leave a lot of tangling and inconsistent cuts, and the entire process will take longer. Ideally, you will have trimmed their legs and body first, and work your way up their neck.
Work inward around their chin and ears with the scissors. Use the brush side of your dog grooming scissors to brush the hair into manageable areas, and trim lightly while holding it far away from their face.
Come in from the chin and ears to get around their eyes, holding the hair under their chin gently to hold them in place. Do underneath their chin last.
Run your hands along their face gently to feel for any snags or knots, while also ensuring that everything has been cut to the length that you want.
Should You do it Yourself?
How well do you know the anatomy of a dog?
Are you positive you won’t nick anything or make your dog uncomfortable during the process? I’m not saying this to seed any doubt in your head, but you need to ask yourself these critical questions before you decide to get trimmers and start the job yourself.
While most trimmers, especially those designed for dogs, come with plenty of safety guards that won’t let you down, you still need to account for possible issues.
The average dog hair trimmers have an RPM of about 6,000, which is pretty high for steel blades to be spinning.
Ask yourself the following questions to see if you’re equipped to handle your shih tzu’s haircut on your own without any outside help.
Do you have a pair of well-oiled trimmers that can cut hair easily?
Dogs don’t like to sit still for too long, as we all know. Shih tzus are especially rambunctious with their high social and attention needs, so you might run into issues here. You don’t want dull trimmers that have to drag through the same patch of hair over and over again.
Are you confident when holding trimmers?
If not, it’s going to take some extra time to get through your shih tzu’s hair. This means it’s just going to be a drawn-out process and take ages to complete.
You don’t want your pup roaming around with a half-haircut just because they couldn’t sit still, and you were having a hard time handling the trimmers.
Are you fast?
Doing something well and doing something fast are not mutually exclusive. Once you get good at something, you can do it quickly with precision, and still have an awesome outcome.
If you’re not handy enough with a pair of trimmers, you’re going to take too much time in certain areas. This can lead to a quick half-cut, or overdoing it in certain areas and causing shorter spots where you didn’t want any.
Is your dog comfortable?
If you have nervous energy, your dog will. They may not be able to understand what you’re saying, but pets in general feed off of your emotions.
Nervousness coming off of you is going to give your shih tzu a reason to be nervous. If you’re feeling too nervous while doing this, you might need to take them to a parlor instead.
If you really want to pursue doing it at home, there’s a guide here that shows you a thirteen-minute process from start to finish to completely groom your shih tzu.
What do You Need for Shih Tzu at-Home Grooming?
If it were as simple as a pair of clippers, dog grooming parlors wouldn’t be making any money. There are five basic things that you need to properly groom your shih tzu at home.
- Grooming Brush: Shih tzus have long hair, so they’re prone to knotting and bunching up, which isn’t comfortable for anybody. Do your best to brush through their hair every single day, but especially just before you cut their hair. When you bring the trimmer through it in the next step, knots and matting are going to hurt your pup when the trimmer pulls on them.
- Trimmers w/ Guards: This is where you have to decide how long you want your shih tzus trimmed hair to be. If you’re going for a very short finish to avoid pet dander or just keep them cool in the summer months, find a short head. If you’re going to trim their hair regularly, you can go for a longer head if you like how it looks, or if it suits your dog’s personality.
- Grooming Scissors: These scissors can be seen in the video above—long scissors with a metal brush built into one side. This helps grab the hair and straighten it out as you cut through it. You’ll use these a lot around your shih tzu’s head and ears for safety. These are designed in a specific way to help you cut through their hair quickly, while keeping them as comfortable as possible.
- Doggy Bath Tub: We don’t want a bunch of loose hairs everywhere at the end. Consider giving your shih tzu a bath right at the end, once you’ve gone through their hair and you know all the lengths are perfect. This will help prevent itching, as well as keep their coat nice and clear.
- Dog Towel: To dry them off with after the bath. This way, you get to see just how well you did when their hair fluffs up after running the towel over them. You might notice some imperfections in their coat if this is your first time doing this, but it’s just information for next time—you’ve got this.
Apart from those tools, you also need to have a place for your shih tzu to stand while you trim them. Look at any dog grooming video or go to any parlor, and you’re going to see a table that’s made for your shih tzu to stand on.
Some of these are going to include collar holders from the top, so your shih tzu will stay in place while they’re getting their hair trimmed. If you’re doing this at home and you have a designated area, this might not be necessary.
These collar and leash holds are there to keep your dog secure and stable. When a dog groomer brings scissors near the long hair around your shih tzu’s eyes, your dog can feel uncomfortable.
Most of the time, people leave their shih tzus at the groomer’s while they run around town to do errands. Your dog needs to feel safe and understand that someone is in charge.
At home, as long as your shih tzu listens well, you might not need this. Consider holding their collar instead of using a leash holder if they’re being rambunctious.
How to Avoid Tangling?
Tangling is uncomfortable, and for your shih tzu, it can be downright painful if you unknowingly drag a pair of trimmers through it.
The hair gets snagged in the blade, the blade pulls on the hair, and then you have to console your little one while they’re trying to figure out what happened.
It’s not a fun time. Getting rid of tangles before they become a problem is an absolute necessity.
All you have to do is take your metal dog hair brush, and find the knots. Use your non-dominant hand to clutch the base of the knot, almost like you’re pinching the hair. We don’t want any of the hairs located in the knot to pull close to your dog’s skin.
Once you’re 100% sure you have all the hairs, it’s time to bring the brush close to your non-dominant hand, and brush outward from the location of the knot.
This should go fairly smoothly without snagging your dog’s hair, but just to be safe, go gentle at first and make sure it’s not tugging on them.
It can take as much as fifty brush strokes to work out a knot, but they will come out from doing this.
To check for more knots, gently run your hand along your shih tzu’s hair, with all four fingers and your thumb close together so they don’t go underneath/through any knots and pull on them. Repeat this process to get rid of the next ones.
Do Shih Tzu Haircuts Help With Allergies?
They most certainly do. While shih tzus are labeled as hypoallergenic dogs, that doesn’t mean they’re allergen-free. Pets create dander, and even though shih tzus grow hair instead of fur, they can still end up with a fair amount of dander.
Trimming their hair nice and short not only removes all previously gathered dander from their hair, but it keeps things maintenance-free and clear, so your shih tzu doesn’t make as much dander on a day-to-day basis. At least, during the days following their haircut.
However, this is where you run into cutting time problems. If you suffer from allergies from your shih tzu’s dander, you can’t wait the full six weeks to give them a haircut; you have to do it every four weeks, otherwise that dander could build up and set off your allergies.
This equates to an extra handful of haircuts every single year. If you’re paying a parlor, that’s more annual costs for your shih tzu. This is when a lot of shih tzu owners seriously consider doing it at home.
We have a guide dedicated to explaining allergies surrounding shih tzus and whether they are hypoallergenic or not.
Are Grooming Parlors Expensive?
Shih tzus certainly have high maintenance hair, so if you’re considering going with a parlor, there’s a hefty cost associated with it. Even if you’re just getting a cut every six weeks, that’s going to run you about $50 per haircut.
You can find grooming parlors that might only charge about $20 for a haircut, but more often than not, these parlors are spending a lot of time and utilizing a lot of safety precautions with your shih tzu, and charge more money.
Annually, you can expect to spend anywhere from $160 up to $400 on dog haircuts alone. This doesn’t include washes, nail trimming, or ear/teeth cleaning either, so if you also outsource those for your shih tzu, you could be looking at a thousand dollars per year for all this care.
DIY or In the Parlor, it Needs to Get Done
Your shih tzu needs their hair cut for a variety of reasons, but more than anything else, it’s just so it doesn’t get too long .We already know that dogs can’t sweat, so when you leave their hair long, it insulates them and makes them more prone to overheating.
For allergy purposes and maintaining your pet’s snag-free, catch-free hair, you need to either do this at home, or bite the bullet and spend the money on a professional groomer at a parlor. Either way, it’s time to make a decision.