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How Often to Brush Shih Tzus: Full Brushing Guide

Many owners ask about brushing their Shih Tzu. From how to do it, how often should it be done, and which brushes should they be using!

These are all great questions with important answers, so i’ll cover absolutely everything you need to know below.

The following info will ensure that owners are grooming their Shih Tzu correctly and effectively.

A breed with such a gorgeous coat, needs proper grooming! So let’s get into it…

brushing a shih tzu

Shih Tzu Coat Basics

Before we dive into the specifics of brushing, it’s important to understand what makes a Shih Tzu’s coat unique.

This breed has a double coat consisting of two layers: a soft, wool-like undercoat for insulation, and a longer, flowing outer coat that can either be straight or slightly wavy.

Here are a few more fascinating facts about the Shih Tzu coat:

  • Hair, not fur: One of the most distinctive characteristics of a Shih Tzu’s coat is that it’s made up of hair, not fur. This means it grows continuously, much like human hair, and sheds less than other breeds. Because of this, Shih Tzus are often recommended for people with allergies.
  • Low-shedding: While Shih Tzus do still shed, they a considered low shedders compared to other double coated breeds. This is a unique quirk that draws even more people to this amazing dog.
  • Changes Over Time: A Shih Tzu’s coat can change color as they age. It’s not uncommon for a Shih Tzu puppy’s coat to darken, lighten, or change color entirely as they grow.
  • Temperature Regulation: The Shih Tzu’s double coat not only protects them from the cold but also helps regulate their body temperature in hot weather. It’s important not to shave your Shih Tzu’s coat in the summer, as you might unintentionally expose them to sunburn or overheating.
  • Prone to Knotting and Matting: Despite its beauty, the Shih Tzu coat is high maintenance. Because of its length and fineness, it’s prone to knotting and matting. Regular and thorough brushing is crucial to maintain its health and shine.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), regular brushing is vital to prevent matting and keep the coat healthy.

Related: How Quick Does Shih Tzu Hair Grow

The Importance of Regular Brushing

You might wonder, why is brushing so essential? Especially if Shih Tzus are a “low-shedding” breed.

Here are some reasons:

  • Prevents Matting: Regular brushing detangles the hair, preventing painful mats from forming.
  • Distribution of Natural Oils: Brushing helps distribute the coat’s natural oils, keeping it shiny and healthy.
  • Bonding Time: It’s a great opportunity to bond with your furry friend.

I’ll explain below how often owners should be brushing their Shih Tzu, as this is crucial too.

Choosing the Right Brush

Choosing the right brush for your Shih Tzu is critical.

PetMD recommends using a slicker brush or a pin brush. These brushes are gentle on the delicate coat and effective at removing loose hair and tangles.

Deshedding tools or other elaborate de-shedders are simply not necessary for Shih Tzus, and could even be worse for our Shih Tzus coat than using nothing at all.

It’s best to stick to a slicker brush, pin brush, or a simple rake style brush.

You can find more information on choosing the right brush on PetMD’s guide.

Brushing Frequency

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) suggests brushing Shih Tzus daily.

Their long, flowing coat tends to tangle and mat easily, and daily brushing keeps them in check.

I’ve come across many owners who’ve made the mistake of brushing just once a week if that. This has lead to numersou issues with their Shih Tzus coat including knots, tangling and matting.

Brushing little and often is the key to properly grooming your Shih Tzu. A 10-15 minute brushing every single day will always be better than a weekly brush for 1 hour.

The Right Brushing Technique

Now that we know the “why” and “when,” let’s get to the “how.” Here’s a step-by-step guide to brushing your Shih Tzu.

  1. Create a Calm Environment: Start by creating a calm, comfortable space for your Shih Tzu. This will make the grooming session less stressful.
  2. Start with a Comb: Use a comb to gently work through any tangles or mats.
  3. Use the Right Brush: Once the coat is tangle-free, use your slicker or pin brush. Start from the head and move towards the tail, following the direction of hair growth.
  4. Be Gentle: Shih Tzu’s skin is sensitive. Brush gently to avoid discomfort or injury.
  5. Don’t Forget the Undercoat: Make sure to brush the undercoat as well. But be extra gentle to avoid hurting your pet.
  6. End on a Positive Note: Reward your Shih Tzu with a treat or their favorite toy after each session. This reinforces the grooming process as a positive experience.

I’ve got to mention the importance of developing a positive relationship between your Shih Tzu and their brush.

There’s nothing harder than trying to brush a dog that’s petrified of their own brush. It really doesn’t need to be this way, but if a dog gets spooked or has a bad experience with their brush, it can happen easily.

By emphazing to your Shih Tzu that brushing is a nice, calming and positvie event where they get a few treats and TLC then it can make the whole ordeal so much smoother.

And this will ultimately effect just how well you can groom your Shih Tzu.

Dealing with Mats and Tangles

Despite our best efforts, Shih Tzus can still develop mats and tangles due to their long, fine hair. Here’s a more detailed approach on how to handle these:

  • Identify the Mat or Tangle: First, you’ll need to identify the mat or tangle. These often occur in high-friction areas such as behind the ears, under the armpits, or around the collar area. Regularly checking these spots can help catch mats early before they become problematic.
  • Don’t Pull: Never pull on a mat or tangle. This can cause your Shih Tzu pain and possibly injure their skin. Instead, try to gently tease it apart with your fingers first.
  • Use a Comb or Dematting Tool: After loosening the mat with your fingers, use a comb or a specially designed dematting tool. These tools have sharp blades that cut through the mat without hurting your pet. Always use these tools cautiously and follow the direction of hair growth to avoid injuring your pet.
  • Use a Detangling Spray: Detangling sprays can be extremely useful when dealing with mats and tangles. They help to soften the mat and make it easier to remove. Apply the spray, let it sit for a few minutes to soften the hair, then gently comb through the area.
  • Trim if Necessary: If a mat is too tight or close to the skin, it might be safer to trim it off. Use a pair of blunt-nosed scissors and be very careful not to cut the skin. If you’re not comfortable doing this, seek professional help.
  • Seek Professional Help: If a mat is too large, tight, or you’re not comfortable removing it yourself, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A professional groomer or vet has the tools and experience to remove mats safely without causing unnecessary pain or damage to your Shih Tzu’s coat.

Regular brushing and checking for mats and tangles can help prevent them from becoming a larger issue. With patience and care, you can maintain your Shih Tzu’s coat in top condition

Bathing and Brushing

Bathing your Shih Tzu before a brushing session can be beneficial. But of course, you don’t want to be bathing every single day!

According to VCA Hospitals, bathing helps to loosen any dirt and debris in the coat, making the brushing process smoother.

However, always remember to dry your Shih Tzu’s coat thoroughly before brushing to prevent tangles and mats.

I have a complete guide on bathing your Shih Tzu here. Please do not bathe your Shih Tzu too often! As this can have detrimental affects.

Expert Tips on Shih Tzu Brushing

Here are some expert tips that can make the brushing process more manageable:

  • Consistency is Key: Make brushing a part of your Shih Tzu’s daily routine. This will help to keep their coat in top condition and minimize the formation of mats and tangles.
  • Patience is a Virtue: Brushing can sometimes be a lengthy process, especially if your Shih Tzu’s coat is long. Be patient, and take breaks if needed.
  • Training Matters: Train your Shih Tzu to enjoy grooming sessions. This can make the process more enjoyable for both of you.

Final Thoughts

Brushing your Shih Tzu is more than just a grooming task. It’s a bonding opportunity and an essential part of their overall health and well-being.

With the right tools, techniques, and a whole lot of love, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu’s coat remains as magnificent as they are.

For more details on pet grooming, you can check out resources like the RSPCA, AVMA, PetMD, and VCA Hospitals.

Remember, every Shih Tzu is unique, and what works for one may not work for another. So, find a routine that best suits your furry friend, and happy brushing!


Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.