Shih Tzus are charming and elegant, and their gorgeous coat of hair really makes them stand out. When it comes time to pick a hairstyle and haircut, there are a lot of options out there.
We’ll cover some of the most popular styles and help you decide what’s best for you and your dog.
What is a Shih Tzu?
Before we talk hair, you need to know a little bit about Shih Tzus (sometimes called the Shitzu).
The Shih Tzu is an adorable, small dog that hails from China, where it was kept by royal families as companions. They’re known for being affectionate, mischievous, and charming.
But one of the most distinctive features of the happy little “Lion Dog,” as it’s known, is that glorious coat of long hair.
Shih Tzu dogs have a double coat with a long, silky outer layer and a dense, thick inner layer. Their coat is long and flowing, and either straight or with a slight wave.
At conformation shows like the American Kennel Club dog show, you’ll usually see show dogs with the hair on the top of their head tied up in a rubber band or bow, similar to a Maltese.
When kept long, the feet and bottom of the coat are trimmed so that the dog looks neater.
Their coats come in a wide range of colors, including black, blue, brindle, gold, liver, red, silver, or any of these colors mixed with white. They can have black or tan markings or a black mask.
Not everyone keeps their pet’s hair long, however, since it takes a lot of work. Owners may cut the hair into any number of different styles.
Some people choose to do a specific cut for the male and a different one for the female.
A Shih Tzu’s hair is similar to a human’s in that it doesn’t stop growing until it hits the genetically-determined length. That means you can have a dog with hair trailing along the ground like a cape!
Their hair grows pretty fast and can gain a half-inch to an inch in length each month, so that means you need to keep up on your grooming.
There’s is some debate among some dog owners about whether some dog breeds should have their hair cut, but when it comes to Shih Tzus, it’s necessary.
There are other dogs out there as well who absolutely must be trimmed, like the poodle and the Yorkshire terrier.
How long you trim their hair is up to you, however.
While you don’t want to shave them bald, since this can expose them to the elements, you should keep them trimmed to maintain their glamorous looks.
You can trim your dog yourself or take them to a dog groomer if grooming your Shih Tzu isn’t your favorite thing in the world.
Ready to learn about all the different Shih Tzu hairstyles and cuts out there? Let’s dive in!
The Top 8 Shih Tzu Haircuts and Hairstyles
1. Puppy Cut (also known as Summer Cut)
The puppy cut, also known as the summer cut, is a popular style. Not only is it fairly simple to do, but it looks cute and gives your dog a break from the heat of summer by removing much of the length.
There are several lengths of puppy cuts. There is the short haircut, which leaves the hair all over about an inch long, except for the face. The hair on the face, ears, and tail is kept slightly longer.
A moderate puppy leaves the hair closer to two inches long with the face a bit longer.
Then there is the puppy cut style that leaves the hair on the ears and tail long.
What you choose is a matter of preference, but be aware that you’ll need to keep up with regular brushing the longer the hair is. Shorter hair requires less maintenance.
This cut can be done using clippers or scissors. Because the hair is kept fairly short, you’ll need to head to the groomer or trim them yourself every month or two.
2. Teddy Bear Cut
The teddy bear cut is another popular option because it makes your dog look like an adorable stuffed animal. Like the summer cut, this cuts the hair an even length along the dog’s body.
Usually, the hair is a little over two inches long or so.
The ears are the same length as the body, but the facial hair is about twice as long as the body and ears.
This cut requires a bit more grooming and brushing than the summer cut since the dog’s hair is left longer, but it’s still a fairly low maintenance cut.
This video shows a Shih Tzu getting an adorable teddy bear cut.
3. Practical Top Knot
The practical topknot lets you leave those cute pigtails on the top of the head but takes a lot less maintenance than that fancy show cut.
The body hair is left fairly long, though not full-length, and the top is kept up with some ribbons, barrettes, or clips.
You can clip the hair short and just leave the head hair long, or you can let the body hair get closer to the ground.
The challenge is keeping the hair out of your pup’s eyes. No one likes having their vision obscured, so be sure to keep that topknot in good shape.
4. The Top Knot Show Cut
This is the cut if you want your dog to look like a real show dog. Break out the brush, shampoo, and conditioner, because this cut takes a lot of work.
In fact, you’ll be combing, brushing, and styling your dog every day if you choose this cut.
But they look fabulous with it!
This cut leaves the dog’s long coat fully intact, with the hair flowing down to the ground and even beyond.
You’ll need to keep your dog cool in the summer because all that hair really keeps the heat in.
5. Lion Cut
The lion cut keeps the hair short on your cutie’s body and longer around the face and head, like a glorious lion mane.
This is the ultimate low-maintenance trim, with short hair on the body that shouldn’t get longer than 2 inches, but is usually much shorter.
6. The Full Shave
The full shave, as the name implies, takes your Shih Tzu’s hair down to the skin. You don’t want to go totally bald, though. Leave about a fourth inch to protect your pup from sun, wind, heat, and cold.
The ears and face are usually left slightly longer.
7. Flared Bottom Style
Flared bottom isn’t as popular as many of these other options. It leaves the body short, between 2-3 inches, and the legs, tail, face long. The legs flare out, kind of like a skirt.
8. Japanese Cut
The Japanese cut, or Japanese style, doesn’t have a single standard, but it involves keeping the body very short and the ears and legs long. The leg hair may be tapered, circular, straight, or naturally-shaped.
Shih Tzu Face Styles
There are different styles for Shih Tzu faces. So how do you cut a Shih Tzu’s face? If you want to try your hand at pet grooming, get some scissors, a comb, and a pair of clippers (you can find all of these on Amazon).
Rounded Clipped Face
In this clip, the face is cut short and the chin is rounded off. This helps keep the face, eyes, and mouth tidy and cleaner than other styles.
Squared Face Trim
The squared face trim involves leaving the hair slightly longer and cutting the chin straight across. It has a clean look, but it requires that you break out the scissors more often to maintain it.
Westie Style Clip
The Westie style clip makes your pup look similar to a West Highland White Terrier. That means a short chin and longer cheek hair and ear hair. All of the hair is trimmed straight across.
Taking Care of your Shih Tzu’s Gorgeous Coat
How often you trim your dog depends on how long of a haircut you give them. Short cuts need to be maintained more often, sometimes every month or so. But they require less brushing day-to-day.
Longer hair cuts require less trimming, but they call for frequent brushing, sometimes daily or even twice a day!
The adorable Shih Tzu looks good no matter which style you choose, but take your budget, time, and preferences into consideration before picking a cut.
Start getting your dog used to grooming at a young age. Ten weeks is ideal when your Shih Tzu puppy is young and eager to learn.
You should start trimming once the dog’s adult hair grows in, somewhere between nine and 12 months old.
With puppies, it’s best to start gradually by brushing them gently and rewarding them for being patient and calm. You can slowly work up to longer and more rigorous grooming sessions.
Bathing should happen every 3-6 weeks, depending on the coat. Pick a shampoo that is made for dogs with longer hair. You may also want a conditioner, especially if your pup has long hair.
Keep their faces clean by wiping them gently with a wet cloth once a day. You can purchase products aimed at helping you keep stains away or to remove them, which are common dogs with light hair.
Some Shih Tzus don’t like being groomed. If that’s the case, start slow and get them used to the process.
First, just gently brush them and reward them when they are calm. Gradually comb them for longer sessions as they tolerate it.
If you’re still struggling, consider talking to a professional groomer. They’re experienced in handling reluctant dogs.
Professional Touch for Your Shih Tzu Haircuts vs DIY
You don’t need to go to a professional to groom your dog if you don’t want to. You can watch DIY videos and figure things out as you go.
You can find lots of grooming tips online. But there are some advantages to having a pro do the job.
First, as we mentioned, they know how to handle nervous, aggressive, or reluctant dogs. They also have all the right tools to make the job quick and easy.
Plus, it saves you a lot of time, since grooming a long coat can take hours!
Additionally, dog grooming takes skill and time to learn, so your dog will likely look better, at least at first, if you take them to a pro.
The disadvantages are that it costs a lot and some dogs are extremely stressed out by going to the groomer.
Grooming can be a bonding experience with your dog, especially if you do it in a calm, pleasant way. Lots of treats can help! Many Shih Tzu owners opt to groom their dogs because it makes them feel closer.
Which Shih Tzu Haircuts best match for your Shih Tzu lifestyle?
So which is the best haircut for your Shih Tzu? To be honest, it’s whichever one matches your lifestyle. If you don’t mind lots of maintenance and you like the look of a long, glamorous coat with a long topknot, do it!
But be realistic. If you are more laidback and you won’t brush your dog twice a day, then go for something a little more simple and short. Either way, they’ll still look good and you’ll both be happier.
The Shih Tzu’s coat is its crowning glory, so treat it right by choosing a style that you can maintain and that makes you both feel good.