Shih Tzu Grooming Tools – Exactly What Do You Need?

Why you need shih tzu grooming tools.

Shih tzu grooming tools.
ID: 16179967 © nanka-photo | Depositphotos

If you want the best for your shih tzu then you will have to be active with home grooming at least to some extent. If you’re currently taking your shih tzu to the groomer’s every six to eight weeks, which is a reasonable interval between haircuts, then you will have to be maintaining your dog’s appearance and health in between visits, for which you will have to acquire your own shih tzu grooming tools.

Essentially, once or twice between groomer visits you will have to bathe your shih tzu. At least once a week it would be good practice to check the ears for excessive hair growth and that the ears are clean and free of infection. At the same time the paws will need to be inspected for excessive hair growth between the pads and to check that the nails have not grown too long.

Then there’s brushing. Your shih tzu has two coats, an outer one and an inner one. Contrary to what a lot of people believe, the shih tzu breed does shed hair. The reason you don’t see the shed hair all over your clothes and furniture is that it gets trapped between the two coats. If you don’t brush your shih tzu’s hair every day and clear out the dead hair, mats and tangles can form.

The Tools You Will Need

Some shih tzu grooming tools on a table.
ID: 240850542 © hurricanehank | Depositphotos

This is not going to be a comprehensive list of what to have in your home grooming kit. I will just run through the basic equipment that will make life easier for you and your dog. Some are essential, some are desirable. I will let you know which ones are the essential tools.

Just a few more words before I carry on. I advise against buying cheap items as they will be of a lesser quality and often badly designed to the extent that they may even hurt your shih tzu. Cheap items tend to break or wear out quickly and will need replacing often. They will actually cost you more in the long run. As a rule of thumb, it is usually best to go for the best professional quality, trusted brand equipment that you can afford. Generally, it will be better designed for your comfort, your dog’s comfort and will be more durable, lasting for years instead of weeks or months.

Also, do not be tempted to use human grooming products on your shih tzu. For example, the blade sizes on clippers will be unsuitable, pin spacing and lengths on brushes will be wrong as will teeth spacing and lengths on combs. Always use grooming products specifically designed for small breed dogs on your shih tzu.

Electric Clippers

Electric grooming clippers.
ID: 202627720 © djekill2007 | Depositphotos

Electric clippers are a handy tool to have to trim the hair that grows between the paw pads, something that will need to be done between visits to the groomer. They are not strictly essential, as you can do this job with a sharp pair of rounded end scissors but electric clippers will do a better and more efficient job. Plus, as you and your shih tzu gain more confidence with the clippers, you may even want to progress to a complete shih tzu grooming haircut.

Many clippers now are cordless which makes them much more portable and easier to maneuver around your shih tzu to reach those hard to get at places. In addition to this, there is no cord for a playful puppy to chew through.

Some dogs become anxious and intolerant of loud clipper motors that cause much vibration, so look for clippers that specify low noise and low vibration. Also consider the weight of the clippers and the grip as you could be holding them for several minutes at a time.

Blade size is probably the most important consideration when choosing clippers. Most professional quality clippers come supplied with a single, fixed size blade, usually size 10 which is just about small enough to trim in between paw pads, but a no.15 or smaller is better. If purchasing clippers with an adjustable blade, make sure sizes 15 to 30 are achievable. The no.10 blade is also good for trimming around the anus area for sanitary reasons, under the armpits and under the eyes if your shih tzu will tolerate this.

If you do progress to performing complete shih tzu haircuts you will need to buy some bigger blades or use the plastic, clip-on combs that come with some clippers or can be purchased as extras. If using these combs a size 30 blade will be needed. Check for the availability of spare blades before deciding on your clippers.

As inferred earlier, don’t buy cheap clippers. The blades will be inferior and will blunt easily, snagging on mats and becoming hot enough to burn a dog’s skin. Professional quality clippers will have sharp blades that will glide though mats and have less tendency to overheat with continuous use.

Professional groomers use well known quality, brands such as Andis, Oster and Wahl.

Click here for my review of the best professional dog grooming clippers for a shih tzu.

A groomer using clippers on a shih tzu.
ID: 132960022 © photography33 | Depositphotos

Electric Clipper Spare Blades.

If you decide to cut your shih tzu’s hair yourself you will need some extra blades for you clippers. Sizes 3 and 4 are good for general shih tzu clipping, whereas a 5 or 7 will be needed to remove stubborn mats.

The higher the blade number, the closer to the skin it will cut. Size 3 will leave ½” to 1“ (13mm to 25mm) of hair and a 7 will leave ¼” (6mm). In addition to the size number the blades fall into “Finish Cut” and “Skip Tooth” categories. Finish Cut, represented by “F” or “FC” after the size number, does just that, finishes the cut off by giving a smooth appearance to the coat. Finish Cut blades will not deal with tough mats. Skip Tooth is for an initial rough cut to remove the majority of excess hair and mats but can also be used for finishing if you want a layered effect.

To complicate things even further, there is a choice of blade edges. “UltraEdge” blades use high carbon stainless steel to prolong the life of the cutting edge. “CeramicEdge” being harder still will last even longer, though they will break if dropped. The ceramic does not conduct heat as readily as steel so will stay cooler for the comfort of the dog. “ShowEdge” blades you will only need if you require that immaculate finish to the coat that show dogs have.

Clip-on Combs

Clip on combs are ideal for new groomers as an alternative to changing the blades. They ensure that there is a gap between the clipper blades and the skin making it unlikely that you will nick your shih tzu’s skin.

The combs, usually made from plastic or stainless steel, come individually numbered in a set. Again, the higher the number, the shorter the hair after cutting. For example, a no.1 will leave ½” (13mm) and a no.5 will leave ⅛” (3mm). There’s nothing to choose between the plastic or stainless steel version except for the stainless tends to stay on the clippers better if you hit a knot or a mat.

Clipper Lubricating Oil

Every time the clippers are used a drop or two of lubricating oil should be applied to the blades to prevent the possibility of them seizing up, to keep them running freely and keep them sharper for longer.

TIP: If you have a sewing machine, you can use sewing machine oil to lubricate the blades.

Clipper Coolant

If the clippers are in use for a long time the blades may become too hot for use against a dog’s skin. A liberal squirt of coolant will almost instantly cool the blades down again ready to carry on cutting. The coolant when applied to the blades also acts as a cleaning agent.

Blade Wash

Blade wash will keep the blades clean and disinfected. To use and to avoid contaminating the whole jar, pour a little of the cleaning agent into a small dish, for example a ramekin dish, then dip in the cutting edge of blades while the clippers are running.

Dog Grooming Shears

A groomer using shears on a shih tzu.
ID: 27495345 © semenovp | Depositphotos

In my opinion shears or scissors designed specifically for dog grooming should be an essential tool in your home grooming kit whether or not you are doing a complete grooming job. Ideally for working on a shih tzu, they should be 6½” to 7” (160mm to 175mm) size with gently curving up blades and rounded safety ends. Curved blades allow you to get into awkward areas and also to work around the eyes with the ends of the shears pointing safely away from the eyes.

It is also good to have a smaller pair of shears, say around 3½” (90mm)  in your grooming kit for finishing work and getting into even tighter spaces.

Coming soon: Shihtzuandyou.com’s favorite recommended dog grooming shears.

Brushes

Ideally, a shih tzu should be brushed every day to remove dead hair, dirt and other debris that gets trapped between the two coats and also to prevent uncomfortable and ultimately painful mats and tangles from forming. You will appreciate that with such frequent use a cheap brush is not going to be up to the job.

The cheaper end of the range of brushes available have badly designed pins that are too sharp, dig into the skin and cause unnecessary pain. They will not be designed to avoid bristle burn on a dog’s skin. Cheaper pins will also be quite weak and will bend or break when getting caught in a mat or tangle. The handle is also likely to break easily.

Go for good quality, well designed brushes from trusted brands. They will have sturdy pins that do not bend or break and a sturdy, ergonomically designed handle that won’t start to feel uncomfortable on longer brushing sessions.

Before using any brush or comb test it out on your own arm first to make sure it is safe and to discover how much pressure you can put on it when brushing. That way you will avoid inflicting painful bristle burn upon your shih tzu.

The Pin Brush – A Grooming Kit Essential

A pin brush suitable for grooming a shih tzu.

A good quality pin brush will have rounded ends to avoid damaging your shih tzu’s skin. If you keep your shih tzu’s hair long a brush with 27mm pins will brush through the more dense outer coat to the woolly undercoat removing tangles and mats. 20mm pins are the recommended size for shorter haired shih tzu.

Some pin brushes have retractable pins for cleaning purposes that greatly helps to empty the brush of accumulated dead hair.

Don’t use pin brushes designed for human use on a shih tzu as the plastic tipped pins will not penetrate a shih tzu’s coat.

The Slicker Brush – Another Grooming Kit Essential

I say essential, but if your shih tzu has short hair you may get away with just a pin brush.

Some shih tzu hair with a slicker brush.
ID: 44218807 © trybex | Depositphotos

Slicker brushes have thinner, more densely set pins than a pin brush. It separates the hairs, enabling you to glide through mats and tangles, removing loose hair and debris whilst at the same time massaging your shih tzu’s skin encouraging the release of natural oils that keep the skin and hair healthy and shiny.

Boar Bristle Brush – Optional But Nice To Have

This type of brush will not remove any stubborn mats or tangles, therefore it should only be used after a slicker brush has done its job or if your shih tzu hair is cut really short.

Use of this brush will stimulate the skin to release its natural oils, so if you want to give your shih tzu’s coat a glossy, shiny finish, then a once-over with a boar bristle brush will do the job. Generally, shih tzu love the feel of the bristles brushing against their skin and in some cases may even find a way of letting you know when they want to be brushed this way.

Brushes Designed For Puppies

Shih tzu puppies will not grow their second coat until the age of around ten months. Brushes designed for adult shih tzu are too big and too harsh for a puppy’s sensitive skin. Only brushes designed specifically for puppies should be used. Because it is very rare for a shih tzu puppy to suffer from mats and tangles the pins on these brushes are softer and more flexible. When the puppy has grown into an adult the brush can be kept for face work.

Coming soon: Shihtzuandyou.com’s favorite recommended dog brushes.

Combs

Combing will not be necessary for really short coats but for longer haired shih tzu brushing alone may be insufficient and a good combing after a thorough brushing may be necessary. Going over the body and the face with a professional quality comb will remove any last remaining mats and tangles, leaving a neat, shiny coat.

There are several types of grooming comb available and which ones you need, if any, depends largely upon you, your shih tzu and your grooming strategy. I think having at least one comb in your grooming kits is essential. If you have just one comb it should be one of the Greyhound variety.

Grooming a shih tzu with comb and shears.
ID: 41220573 © chaoss | Depositphotos

Greyhound Comb

The classic style steel comb, the Greyhound comes in many shapes and sizes. The perfect one for shih tzu will have two sizes of teeth on the same comb. One half side will have extra fine teeth for under the eyes and face finishing work, while on the other half side will have medium or coarse teeth for removing any remaining tangles or mats from the body to make the coat totally mat free.

Rat Tail Comb

A rat tail comb is like half a greyhound comb with a long, tapering handle from which it gets its name. It’s only necessary to own one if you have a long haired shih tzu and you want to part the hair along the back bone. The rat tail is the perfect comb for this. It is also good for parting the head hair for making a topknot. The handle of the comb can be used carefully for loosening stubborn mats.

Plastic rat tails do not work very well, so if you are going to buy one go for a steel one.

Flea Comb

Apart from the obvious, that is checking the coat for fleas, the extra fine teeth of a flea comb is great for removing food particles and other debris from the face including under the eyes, the whiskers and the beard.

Flea combs tend to be less expensive than other combs.

Dematting Comb

A dematting comb can be used as an alternative tool to the slicker brush. You will only need to use one or the other, not both.

Dematting combs are great for ensuring that long haired shih tzu with thick coats are kept mat and tangle free. The teeth of these combs are actually individual, tiny, sharp knives that slice through mats and tangles removing them with ease. Your shih tzu is protected from skin damage and lacerations by a guard that ensure the knives only cut hair.

A dematting tool for a tangle free shih tzu.
ID: 27193799 © budabar | Depositphotos

Deshedding Brush

Although termed as a brush by the grooming trade, this tool more resembles a comb with its steel teeth. It is another one of those tools that isn’t essential but is good to have at hand. Its purpose is to comb out the loose and dead hair that accumulates between the two coats of a shih tzu. This allows air to pass through the coat which, in turn, allows the skin to breathe. Deshedding brushes are not designed to cut hair or remove mats and tangles.

Coming soon: Shihtzuandyou.com’s favorite recommended dog combs.

Nail Clippers and Grinders

Nail clippers are another essential item for your grooming kit. Your shih tzu’s nails are going to be in need of clipping every two to three weeks, which means that even if your groomer does the job at haircut time, you will still have to cut the nails in between visits.

You will know that the nails need trimming when you can hear them tapping as your shih tzu walks on hard surfaces. Nails that are too long can put pressure on the toes and stress on the legs from having to stand awkwardly. As your shih tzu stands upright and still, the nails should not quite reach the ground. If they protrude any further they may get damaged and split, leaving them open to infection.

Nail clippers come in various sizes and two basic designs, the guillotine type and the scissor type. Whichever design you opt for, choose the small size. Before clipping make sure the blades are sharp as dull blades can damage or splinter the nail.

After clipping, smooth down the rough cut end of the nails with a nail file or nail grinder.

Clipping shih tzu nails.
ID: 43859905 © Aksakal | Depositphotos

Guillotine Style Clippers

These resemble an electrician’s wire stripping tool. The excess part of the nail is placed in a circular aperture between the two blades. The nail end is then sheared off as the handles are squeezed together.

The guillotine style clipper generally makes a clean cut and rarely splinters the nail, if at all. These are my favored style of nail clippers for a shih tzu.

TIP: Cat nail clippers are ideal for a shih tzu puppy’s nails. Move on to adult dog clippers when the nails no longer fit into the aperture.

Scissor Style Clippers

As the name suggests, these clippers resemble scissors and cut using a similar action. The better designs have a guard fitted to help prevent cutting off too much of the nail.

Nail Grinders And Nail Files

Freshly clipped shih tzu nails can feel sharp and scratchy if your shih tzu paws at your bare arm or leg. Ragged edges can draw blood or put a run in nylons.

Smoothing over the cut ends with a grinder or a file will ensure that your shih tzu’s nails will not damage people or property. This is especially important if you have children around that interact with your dog.

An adult shih tzu’s nails smooth down well with a nail grinder. Some people even prefer to perform the whole trimming operation with a grinder as it reduces the chances of accidentally cutting into the quick and causing bleeding. Some shih tzu may even tolerate the grinder rather than the clippers.

TIP: If you have a Dremel type tool available in your household, you can use that with the appropriate nail polishing point mounted, saving you from having to buy a new nail grinder.

Puppies’ nails are difficult to grind and are better suited to being smoothed over with a file.

A cordless dog nail polisher.
ID: 33677417 © vlabos | Depositphotos

Styptic Powder

Hopefully you will never need to use this but it is an essential part of your shih tzu grooming kit. Make sure you have some to hand before you start any nail trimming just in case you accidentally over trim and cut into the quick. A little styptic powder dusted over the wound will stop the bleeding. Alternatively you can use silver nitrate powder to do the same job.

Ear Grooming

Just as important as regular nail trimming is regular ear grooming. The hair that constantly grows inside your shih tzu’s ear needs to be plucked out by pinching it with your thumb and forefinger and pulling or, if you find that difficult, with curved hemostat forceps.

The hair needs plucking out because it attracts dirt and debris, leading to a build up of wax and subsequent painful bacterial infections and allergies.

As with the nails, if you take your shih tzu to a groomer he will do this for you but you will need to do some home plucking and cleaning between visits.

If you notice any redness or bad odor around the inner ear then do not proceed with ear grooming until you have consulted you vet. If there is no such redness or odor then continue with the ear grooming process.

Ear Cleaner, Cotton Balls And Ear Powder

One ear at a time, squeeze the recommended drops of ear cleaner into the ear. Immediately cover the ear with the ear flap and massage the bottom of the ear for a minute or two.

WARNING: You are probably going to have to battle some resistance with this!

Then stand clear and allow your shih tzu a head shake which will loosen up any debris. After this, remove the debris with a clean cotton ball or clean ear wipe. Some people use cotton buds but I’m afraid of causing damage with one of these if my shih tzu flinches. Whichever you use, don’t insert it into the ear any further than you can see.

After cleaning dry the ear and treat with ear powder.

Summing Up Your Shih Tzu Grooming Tools

Tools used for dog grooming.
ID: 72668413 © frank11 | Depositphotos

The Essentials

  • Electric clippers
  • Additional blades for electric clippers (If you are trimming the coat.)
  • Clipper lubricating oil
  • Clipper coolant
  • Clipper blade wash
  • 6½” to 7” curved dog grooming shears
  • Pin brush
  • Slicker brush or dematting comb
  • Greyhound comb
  • Rat tail comb (If your shih tzu has long hair, a centre parting or a top knot.)
  • Nail clippers
  • Nail grinder or nail file
  • Styptic powder
  • Dog ear cleaner
  • Cotton balls or dog ear wipes
  • Dog ear powder

Add These If You Can

  • Clip-on comb set for electric clippers (If you are trimming the coat.)
  • 3½” curved dog grooming shears
  • Boar bristle brush
  • Flea comb
  • Deshedding brush (If your shih tzu has long hair.)
  • Dog curved ear hair hemostat forceps

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I hope that you have found this post useful. If you are seriously interested in home grooming my friends at TrainPetDog.com have an instructional shih tzu grooming ebook for you to download absolutely for free. For more information, click here.

If you have any questions or opinions related to this post or anything shih tzu, please leave a comment or contact us.

Goodbye for now, see you next time.

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