How to Groom a Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu’s need a lot of care when it comes to grooming, they have long flowing hair that needs to be maintained to avoid matting and keep your dog happy. We’re going to look at how to do an easy Kennel Cut from home, which is a short cut on the body, and then tidying up the face and paws. There are many styles of cuts but this is a perfect cut for summer as it keep’s your pup nice and cool during the hot months.

Why Groom at home?

  • Your Dog is not comfortable in unfamiliar environments or people.
  • Grooming needs to happen often, and professional grooming can be quite expensive. This is a great way to save some money.
  • You can really bond with your dog by taking on this task at home.
  • You decide how to style your dog, which can be a lot of fun!

Getting Started

Grooming Supplies You’ll Need:Kennel Cut on Shih Tzu

  • A good set of Dog Clippers
  • Desired Blade Length (#5)
  • A Brush and Comb
  • A Pair of Shears/Scissors, and Trimming Shears
  • Dog Shampoo
  • Nail Clippers or Dremel tool
  • Gold Bond Medicated Powder in case of razor burn

Begin by deciding whether or not you want to bathe your dog first. Most groomers will first “rough in” their dogs by clipping off the bulk of the hair, then bathe and dry the dog, and then finish off the groom. We’ll explain the process of roughing in, bathing, and then finishing the groom.


Start by doing a “Rough In”

Begin by deciding how long you want the hair to be; the smaller the number on the blade, the more hair will be left on the dog. Let’s say we’re going to do a #5 kennel cut on this dog. A #5 cut looks great and is a nice short cut for summer, but it won’t leave your dog without any hair.

Clean your dog’s ears and clip their nails at this point. If their ears need plucking then use ear powder to rid their ear canals of the extra hair. This is safe and doesn’t hurt the dog if it is done in small amounts. Make sure the nails are clipped close to the quick without hitting it. You can also use a dremel tool to get even closer to the quicks without hurting your pup.

Attach your blade and clip the body and legs of your dog. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look perfect, we’ll fix that later. Leave the head, tail, and ears (depending on your preference). The purpose of this roughing-in process is to remove the bulk of the hair as it’s a waste of time (and shampoo) to wash hair you’re just going to cut off anyway. Be sure to always clip with (not against) the grain of the hair!

Bathing your Dog

Bathe your Shih tzu after clipping off some of the body hair to save time. Wash your dog well; be sure to only use a pet-safe shampoo. Make sure you wash under the feet and between the paw pads really well, as well as their ears as that is where a lot of grime will build up. Rinse off any shampoo very well. When you think you’ve rinsed off all of the shampoo, rinse for one minute longer to be extra safe.

Towel dry your dog with a thick, fluffy towel, next dry your dog off with a blow dryer set on warm or cool. Do not use hot air when your dog is this wet, as the skin will burn before the hair is dry. When your dog is almost dry you can use a bit of hot and warm air to finish up the job. Never use clippers on damp / wet hair as it will ruin your blades. Make sure your brush, then comb through your entire dog to make sure there are no tangles.

Cutting and Trimming your Shih Tzu

Body and Legs

Go back over the body and legs with the 5 blade (or the blade of your choice). If the coat looks a bit uneven then use a slicker brush to brush the fur backwards against the lie of the hair, then quickly run the clippers back over it. This will make all the hair the same length.

If you have a cordless clipper then get it out now, if not then attach a #10 or #15 blade to your clippers. Clip the sanitary area of your dog without running the clippers over an area too many times. Next clip between the big paw pad and the toe pads using a scooping motion. If you feel comfortable then use your clippers to take out a tiny bit of the eye corners. Clip away from the dogs eyes towards the nose, but don’t shave the bridge of their nose. Only clip out the corners of the eyes that are closest too the nose, don’t worry about the other corners. Now clip out the armpits. Go slowly as this skin is very thin and can cut easily. If you aren’t comfortable using a 10 blade, then feel free to use your 5 blade. If you don’t want to do that then hold out the front leg of your dog gently so it’s out to the side then roll your hand down, there should be some long hair under the armpit, you can snip that off.

If you notice any small red dots appearing then stop, that’s called clipper burn and it means you’ve done an area too many times. You can apply a bit of goldbond powder to keep your dog comfortable. It doesn’t hurt your dog, it’s like razor burn on humans.


Head and Face

Now for the head. Choose a blade 2 sizes larger than the body blade. For example because we used a 5 blade, we’ll start with a 3 blade on the head. Start just above the eyes and clip back over the head to where that bone protrudes at the base of the skull. Then clip out the cheeks beside the ears but don’t clip out the mustache! We’ll do that later. Clip the chin in the same blade. If it looks too long the go down a blade.

Now get out your scissors. It’s best to have two pairs for this job, a pair of thinning shears (look like scissors with one blade that has notches) and a pair of straight or curved scissors.

Comb out the mustache and part it in the middle then take your scissors and cut the mustache in a U shape starting from the front of the muzzle and ending just at the outside corner of the eye. Do the same for the other side. Now take you thinning shears and comb the mustache up, take the sharp edges off by taking a little bit off with the thinning shears. You don’t have to do this step; it just makes it look nicer and less harsh.

Decide what you want to do with the ears; there are many styles so it’s entirely up to you!


Paws and Tail

Carefully cut the hair in front of your dog's front two nails.

Scissor the paws to make them look nice and round. Do this by first picking up the paw and locating the middle two nails. Hold your scissors perpendicular (at a 90 degree angle) to paw and cut off a straight line in front of the nails. That will give you the starting point of how long the paw fur should be. Now cut a circle around the entire paw. Trim off any bits of hair sticking out on the leg. Repeat for all four paws and legs.

Decide what you want to do with the tail, some groomers (like myself) will “blunt cut” the tail. This means to gather all the hair to just blow the heel of the hind leg and cut off all the hair about 1-2 inches longer than the heel. Other groomers will “flag” the tail by cutting it in the sickle shape like a golden retriever. It’s up to you.

You’re done!


Check over your dog once more for long hair that you may have missed and tidy things up. Please share tips or feedback in the comments below!
Here’s a great Video Guide going through the above steps!


Photos by: Tearstone

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