Trim Shih Tzu Paws And Nails – A Necessary Task
Why does the particular need to trim shih tzu paws arise? All long haired dogs grow hair on the bottom of their paws in between the pads. Problems can occur if this hair is allowed to grow beyond level with the pads. The shih tzu is no exception.
The protruding tufts of hair can become matted and tangled. As well as making it painful to walk on and stand on for long periods of time the mats will trap substances and objects as the shih tzu walks along.
Caked in mud, gritty sand, stones, glass, thorns, burrs, feces and carelessly discarded gum are examples of what can become tangled in the mats of excess paw hair adding to the pain and discomfort. In winter, compacted snow that freezes into ice expanding between the pads can be a problem also.
To ensure that your shih tzu does not encounter any of these problems it is essential that this inter-pad paw hair is trimmed back below the level of the pads and that nails are trimmed back above ground level on a regular basis.
Keep The Paw Hair And Nails Trimmed Back
Depending upon your personal taste, your shih tzu is going to need a haircut every six to eight weeks or so. Any groomer worth their name will trim the excess hair and trim the nails back as part of the grooming process.
What do you do, though, if further trimming is required in between visits to the groomer? An option is to ask your vet to perform this but do you want to go to the trouble of taking your shih tzu to the surgery just for this?
Why not perform your own paw grooming in the comfort of your own home? With the right equipment, a little bit of practice on your part and a little bit of training on your shih tzu’s part you can execute your own paw hair and nail trimming.
The Equipment You Will Need
Good, professional quality, home pet grooming kits can be bought these days for very little money compared to what a visit to the groomer or the vet will cost you. Also, purchasing your own equipment is a one-off cost, as opposed to the recurring cost of the groomer or vet.
When purchasing your pet grooming kit, make sure it consists of at least the following items:-
To avoid nasty power cord tangles with your shih tzu and for convenience of movement, go for cordless, rechargeable clippers. The traditional “buzz” of clippers may upset your dog so try to buy clippers with a silent, low vibration action.
You have a small dog with small paws therefore it is necessary that the chosen clippers have small blades. For the paws size 15 (3/64”, 1.2mm) to size 30 (1/50”, 0.5mm) blades are best for getting into the crevices between the pads, though if the smallest blade you have is a size 10 (1/16”, 1.6mm), you may just get away with it. Many clippers have adjustable blades so if purchasing such a model double check that you can achieve a setting of somewhere between 15 to 30 with them.
There are many designs of pet grooming scissors. Whichever design you decide on make sure that they have rounded ends for safety should your shih tzu make any sudden, unexpected movement while you are cutting.
Ideally, have two pairs of grooming scissors in your kit. A larger pair for general work and a smaller pair for finer, finishing work. If you can, get the type that curve up at the end for added safety and ease of use.
Stainless Steel Comb
A good pet grooming comb will be made of stainless steel and have fine teeth on one half and coarser ones on the other.
For small breed dogs the “guillotine” type clippers rather than the scissor is the most suitable. These are the clippers that resemble an electrician’s wire cutters.
Accidents happen and it is best to be prepared by having some styptic powder at hand to stop the bleeding should you accidentally nick your shih tzu’s skin or cut his nail back a little too far.
Essential Checks Before Trimming
Check out each of your shih tzu’s paws before starting any trimming. If he has been licking, chewing or biting his paw or paws frequently there may be a problem that needs attention. Even if he hasn’t been doing any of this, it’s still better to be safe than sorry and to examine the paws first.
Particular attention should be paid to between the pads, also known as the interdigital area, the nails and between the nails. First check that there are no tumors, abscesses or cysts, foreign objects such as glass or tacks that have penetrated the skin, torn or broken nails and any other wounds or injuries. All of these conditions will need to be examined and treated by a vet before you can continue with the trimming. See my post “Shih Tzu Paw Problems – How To Cope With Them” for more details.
Foreign objects such as stones and burrs that have not caused any damage can be carefully removed by yourself before commencing trimming. If you find any mats or tangles in the hair, these will need to be teased out with a stainless steel comb as best as you can before trimming.
If your shih tzu has been licking, chewing or biting his paws and you have failed to find any evidence as to why, then it is almost certainly be because of an allergy. Whilst trimming the paw hair will not take the allergy away it may help make your shih tzu more comfortable with it.
How To Trim Shih Tzu Paw Hair And Nails Like A Professional
I am assuming that if you are reading this post that this is the first time you are going to attempt to trim your shih tzu’s paws. It may take your dog some time to get used to the way you will be handling his paws and the noise and sensation of the clippers. He may struggle at first until you have done this a few times. If the situation starts to become too stressful then abandon the clipping for that day and try again the next. Eventually you will become more confident and your shih tzu will become more acceptable of the situation.
Let’s Get Trimming
A grooming table would be the ideal venue for paw hair trimming but any raised hard surface will do, such as a coffee table, or you could kneel on the floor with your shih tzu either standing or lying on his side. If he likes having his tummy rubbed, you may even get him to lie on his back. Whichever way you find best suits you, start by standing or kneeling behind your shih tzu. If he is standing you will have to lift a back paw slightly and gently bend it towards you at the knee so that the pad is facing you.
If the hair between the pads is quite long, first gently pull it up above the pads, teasing out any mats you find if you can. Usually if there are mats they will be between the large back pad and the four front pads.
Now, making sure the clippers are set with the correct blade size, start trimming the hair between the back pad and the four front pads from back to front using a rocking motion as if you were drawing a letter “U”. Spread the pads apart with your thumb and only use the edge of the clippers rather than the whole width of the blades.
Then move on to in between the four front pads, again spreading the pads with your thumb as you trim, only using the edge of the blades and using the same rocking motion. Repeat the whole process with the other rear paw and then move onto the front paws. Again, if your shih tzu is standing you will need to bend his paw up at the knee so that you can see the pads.
If your shih tzu really doesn’t like electric clippers, you can perform the trimming by hand using the scissors with the safety rounded tips. There is potential to cause more damage with scissors than with clippers, so only trim the hair protruding above the pads with a flat cutting motion. Do not attempt to trim in between the pads with scissors.
When you have finished all four paws, comb each one out in turn and trim off any protruding hairs with the finishing scissors.
Trimming The Nails
Trimming the nails can be a scary prospect but if you go about it the right way you won’t hurt your shih tzu. The nails have a vein running through them that finish a small distance from the end. If your shih tzu has clear nails you will be able to see the vein. Place you nail clippers over the nail just in front of where the vein ends and cut off the excess growth.
If your shih tzu has opaque nails, trim off a small piece of nail at a time until you can see a small, dark, oval shape in the middle of the cross section. This is the vein, so don’t cut back any further. Use the length of the remaining nail as a gauge for the rest of the nails.
Don’t forget the dew claw, the flappy appendage akin to the thumb on the inside of the leg about an inch or so back from the front of the paw. That’s if your shih tzu has them, sometimes they are removed at the same time as neutering. If he does have them, trim the nails in the same way.
If you do accidentally cut off too much nail exposing the vein, stop any bleeding by dusting the wound with the styptic powder.
Learn More About Home Grooming Your Shih Tzu
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Now that you know how to groom your shih tzu’s paws, it’s not too big a step to learn how to trim all of his coat exactly how you want it. The finer points of total shih tzu grooming are too much to put into one post on this blog. I will be covering more about grooming in future posts but if you don’t want to wait that long my friends at TrainPetDog.com have a free dog grooming mini course that covers all of the essentials such as how to train your shih tzu for grooming, how to deal with “doggy odor” and how to groom different coat types. Click here for more details.
I hope that you have enjoyed this post and it has helped you with the care of your shih tzu. If you have any thoughts or questions about this post, this website or anything to do with shih tzu, please leave a comment or use our contact us form.
For more information, take a look at my post about shih tzu grooming tools.
See you then!