“How To Groom A Shih Tzu Dog” is third post of a series of three linked articles aimed at helping you keep your shih tzu in peak condition. The first two, “How Often Should You Bathe A Shih Tzu?” and “How To Bathe A Shih Tzu Dog For Healthy Skin And Coat” are available by clicking the respective links.
This time I’m going to discuss a few more home grooming tips that you can easily do and add to the routine after bathing your shih tzu. These actions will make your shih tzu feel much more comfortable and happier, though he may not think so at the time!
Shih Tzu Ear Cleaning
As I implied at the end of the previous post, the narrow inner ear canals of a shih tzu are very susceptible to painful infections, especially if you don’t keep them dry and clean. If you have been following my articles you will have kept your dog’s ears dry while you were bathing him by placing cotton wool buds just in his outer ear canal. Now it’s time to remove them and clean inside his ears.
In order to do this you will need to visit your veterinarian and purchase some medicated ear cleaning fluid. It comes in a squeezy bottle with dispensing nozzle attached. You can buy these online but if this is your first time doing this it’s best to find out which one your vet recommends specifically for your dog.
You will also need your bag of cotton wool balls. This time I would say to definitely cut them in half because they will need to fit all the way inside his ear at the appropriate time.
If your shih tzu hasn’t experienced this before, he’s likely to struggle the first time you administer the fluid, so be prepared. The complete ear cleaning process is best actioned one ear at a time. It doesn’t matter which ear you start with, but for now let’s say we’re starting with the left ear.
Span your right hand over the back of your shih tzu’s head at the top of the neck. Lift up his left ear flap, folding it back at the hinge and tucking it under your right thumb. This exposes his inner ear while also allowing you to hold his head steady with one hand.
With your left hand, pick up the ear cleaner bottle, twisting the dispenser nozzle open in the process. Insert the nozzle into the top of his ear orifice and administer the correct number of drops as directed on the bottle.
Immediately cover his ear with the flap and hold it there. If you don’t do this he will shake his head, spreading ear cleaning fluid everywhere, including over you. Still holding the flap over his ear, massage the ear for a minute or so.
Next, grab a half of a cotton wool ball and insert it into the ear as deep as it will go. Twist it around once or twice and withdraw it. You may find the cotton wool ball now has some reddish brown earwax deposited on the end.
Now, if you can, either with a pair of tweezers or your thumb and forefinger, pull out the tufts of soft hair growing inside his ear. If you don’t want to do this, your veterinarian or professional groomer can do it for you.
That completes cleaning the left ear, now repeat the whole process for the right ear. Of course, you will need to hold his head with your left hand this time, and administer the fluid with your right hand.
Shih Tzu Teeth Cleaning
Your shih tzu’s teeth are subject to decay, painful infections, plaque and falling out just like ours. You can help prevent any of this happening by brushing his teeth on a regular basis. This needs to be done more often than every four weeks after his bath. Try and clean your shih tzu’s teeth at least once a week, more if you can to win the battle against plaque.
Do not use toothpaste intended for humans. Such toothpaste is designed to be spat out and not swallowed. Your shih tzu will swallow it, not knowing that he should spit it out.
Apart from this, human grade toothpaste will almost certainly contain two ingredients that have the potential to make your shih tzu seriously ill. Fluoride, originally developed as an insecticide and rat poison, can cause problems with teeth and bones if ingested in large enough quantities, even in humans. Xylitol, an artificial sweetener I talked about in “What Can Shih Tzu Not Eat?”, can cause diminishing blood sugar levels leading to canine diabetes and also liver disease.
So choose a good quality, unsweetened, canine toothpaste that has been designed to be swallowed. It should be flavoured to taste appealing to your shih tzu, potentially making teeth cleaning time easier for you to administer. Your chosen toothpaste should also contain a mild abrasive to enhance the removal of plaque, bacteria and food particles. It should not foam when used.
Also don’t skimp on the quality of the canine toothbrush you buy. Choose one of a size suitable for small breeds that ideally has two heads of stiff bristles facing inwards towards each other at a 45 degree angle. This arrangement allows you to clean both sides of your dog’s teeth at once. When the bristles soften with age, replace the toothbrush.
As your shih tzu will swallow the toothpaste, you don’t have to clean his teeth in the bathroom, you can do it from the comfort of your favourite armchair. Just squirt a little paste onto the toothbrush and scrub away at the teeth for two or three minutes as you would your own.
If this is the first time you have cleaned your dog’s teeth, he may absolutely refuse to let you put the brush into his mouth. In this case, just put a little toothpaste on your index finger and rub his teeth that way. After a few times, when he is used to having his teeth cleaned, you can try the brush again. There are also available finger toothbrushes, that fit on your finger like a thimble, to help you with this.
To keep your shih tzu’s teeth in good condition in between brushes, there are dental sticks, biscuits and toys available that are designed to clean a dog’s teeth as he chews on them.
How To Clip Your Shih Tzu’s Nails
If you have a tiled or wooden floor in your house, you will know that your shih tzu’s nails need clipping if you can hear them tapping as he walks across the floor.
Clipping your shih tzu’s nails is another task that you could pass on to your veterinarian or professional groomer if you cannot do it yourself for any reason. However, if you have a quality pair of canine nail clippers and some styptic powder, there is no reason why you couldn’t do this job yourself and after bathing is as good a time as any.
What you must be careful of is cutting the nails too short, just as you would be so careful with your own. Inside each of your shih tzu’s nails is a vein that ends somewhere near the front. To avoid causing pain and some slight bleeding you should clip no further back than this vein ending.
If your shih tzu has light coloured or transparent nails the vein inside should be clearly visible. It is then easy to place the blades of your clippers just in front of the vein and make the cut.
It’s a little more tricky if your dog has dark, opaque nails. If this is the case, trim a very small section from the end of the nail. Have a look at the cross section of the cut. If you can see a pink or grey oval, this is the quick. Do not cut back any further. If you do not see the oval, cut back a little at a time until you do. This will then be the correct length to cut all of the nails.
If you do have a mishap and cut back too far in error, sprinkle some styptic powder over the end of the nail to stop the bleeding.
To complete the pedicuring properly, trim back any tufts of hair growing between the pads of your shih tzu’s paws. This will help reduce the chances of inflammation and infection. It is also a good opportunity to check for any debris trapped in the paws that survived the bathing process.
How To Groom A Shih Tzu Dog – Further Information
I have put this series of three posts together, this post, “How Often Should You Bathe A Shih Tzu?” and “How To Bathe A Shih Tzu Dog For Healthy Skin And Coat”, to put across how easily you can home groom your shih tzu to help keep him in prime condition.
If this has whetted your appetite and you want to get more involved with home grooming your shih tzu, I recommend the free dog grooming course offered by my friends at TrainPetDog.com. These people know everything there is to know about grooming a dog and their free course can lead you to develop your skills so that you never have to visit the groomers’ again. Take a no obligation look at this free dog grooming course by clicking here.
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See you next time!