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The Ultimate Shih Tzu Clippers, Blades & Grooming Guide

Of all the many coat types we get asked for advice about, the Shih Tzu and Shih Tzu crosses are one of the most frequent. This guide explains clippers, trimmers, coat type, blades, brushes, comb attachments and more, all for the Shih Tzu coat. Keep reading for the full guide below...


Why is the Shih Tzu coat different?

The Shih Tzu coat is considered non shed but it actually does shed - all coat types do, even wool - however the way it sheds is different. The Shih Tzu coat is considered hair, not fur. Hair coats can grow a lot longer than fur coats tend to, and each strand is thinner than fur tends to be. The Shih Tzu coat sheds far less than a typical fur coat - but there is no such thing as a non shed coat in any breed or coat type.

Instead, the Shih Tzu has a slow shedding cycle, and when the coat does shed, it tends to get stuck in the coat, rather than drop out on the floor. The shorter the coat the more you'll notice those shed hairs, as they can get out of the coat more easily. The longer the coat the more knot-prone it will be, as those shed hairs can't get out, so removal of stuck hair needs to be more regular to stay on top of tangles before they form knots or mats. 

For all lengths of Shih Tzu coat, regular brushing is important. Daily brushing is recommended for long coats - once to twice weekly for shorter coats. Dead coat that's not removed can otherwise causing tangles and knots, and can also make the coat smellier and dirtier due to accumulated oil, dirt, dust and dander.


What brushes & combs are best for the Shih Tzu?

pin brush is better suited than a bristle brush, as it reaches through the coat better to get down to the skin. Ideally one without plastic bobbles on the ends of the pins that can otherwise come off and get stuck in the thick Shih Tzu coat. A long-toothed grooming comb with wide spacing between the teeth is used to check for tangles, and a slicker brush is the ideal tool for removing tangles and knots found (using a gentle 'patting' motion from end to tip), along with a detangler spray to make knots easier to remove, and reduce discomfort.

A regular bath will also loosen dead hairs and help them slide more easily out of the coat. Conditioner is important to use after shampoo for the Shih Tzu coat. Whether it's a rinse out, leave in, or conditioning spray, conditioner in any form helps smooth the cuticle after shampoo use, reduces knots forming, and makes brushing easier.


When does the Shih Tzu puppy coat change to the adult coat?

At first, a Shih Tzu puppy has a finer, thinner, shorter coat. The coat starts out very low maintenance. From around 4 to 12 months of age, the coat will start to change to the adult coat. The longer, thicker coat starts to come through. During this stage the coat can become very prone to knots and mats. This transition is normally complete by 12 months of age. As well as the change in texture, thickness and length, the coat colour will usually change also. New hair may come through darker or lighter, and markings may decrease or increase. 

Daily brushing becomes essential during the change, otherwise tangles can quickly turn to knots, and if left, can develop into mats. A matted coat can become a serious health concern. Mats can lead to discomfort and serious skin infections. A Shih Tzu's first trip the groomer may result in the coat being clipped very short all over if it's been left to mat, as a groomer's only option to remove bad mats is usually to clip under the mat with a short blade.  


Which clippers are best for a Shih Tzu coat?

There are a lot of clipper models to choose from, but in general, for full body clipping for the Shih Tzu coat, you'll probably want a multi-speed clipper, such as a 2 speed or 5 speed model, and one rated super duty.

Read the clipper description. It should say something like 'rated for full body clipping for all coat types'. Check it's not just a trimmer, and not only rated for light or medium duty use, or for touch-ups, as those won't cope with full-body clipping for the Shih Tzu coat type.

The description might also say something like ...for difficult, thick, double or mixed texture coats... which is what you want, as you need the right combo of power, speed and torque to handle that thick-yet-fine, multiple texture coat of the Shih Tzu - especially to cope with that cotton-soft under coat (which some clippers may struggle to get through otherwise), even more important if you're dealing with a knotted or matted coat!

A sharp blade is necessary of course (blade help coming up), and coat prep is extra important for the Shih Tzu coat (coming up also), so the blade can cut rather than 'chew' the coat - but it all starts with the right clipper.

You might want an A5 model clipper. A5 means they fit the biggest range of blades and accessories. It also means you can 'mix and match' different brands. If the clipper description says A5 type, A5 style or A5 model, that tells you the clipper is compatible with all standard blades and comb attachments by any brand. From our current best selling clipper models, here are a few options below, all rated for full-body clipping for the Shih Tzu coat, and all A5 models.

This is not a complete list, just a handy starting point so you're not overwhelmed with options. Don't rule out other clippers just because they aren't listed here! With the knowledge above it means you can research and compare any clipper.


Corded clippers for the Shih Tzu coat

Andis AGC Brushless 2 Speed

Wahl KM10 2 Speed

Andis Excel 5 Speed

You can shop all corded clipper models here >

5 speed or 2 speed? Most clippers are 2 speeds, however some newer models are now available in 5 speeds. 5 speed clippers have the same top 2 speeds as a standard clippers, but provide 3 lower speeds. Lower speeds are used to reduce speed, heat and noise, for delicate areas, very noise-sensitive or touch-sensitive dogs, and to help blades run cooler for longer. You still have the same top speeds in reserve for very thick or difficult areas.


Cordless clippers for the Shih Tzu coat

Andis Pulse ZR II 5 Speed

Heiniger Saphir** (single speed)

Heiniger Opal 2 Speed

You can shop all cordless clipper models here >

** Although the Heiniger Saphir is a single speed, it has the torque and power needed to handle the Shih Tzu coat.

Cordless clippers: Understanding batteries, charging & run-time

When it comes to batteries and charging, cordless clippers come in 2 types. The first type has removable batteries, where you can remove and charge the battery separately to the clipper. If you have 2 batteries, that means you can clip using one battery, and have the other battery on charge for endless run-time. The other type is a cordless clipper without removable batteries. For that type of clipper, you plug the clipper itself in to charge it. Run-time for cordless clippers varies considerably. Check the product information to compare battery types, charge-time and run-time. 


What else do I need to get when buying clippers?

All the corded and cordless clippers models above come with a standard size 10 blade included free. However they do not come with shorter or longer blades, or comb attachments, so you order those separately to match the length/s you want the coat to be. See more about blades and comb attachments below. 

With most clippers you'll also need oil and coolant. You'll also typically want at least one comb attachment or one longer blade (see more below to help you decide). 


How long will a blade stay sharp?

There are so many factors that there isn't an easy answer to that question. However you can get standard steel blades sharpened when they become dull or blunt, rather than having to buy new blades every time. Ceramic blades stay sharper up to 5 times longer than full steel blades, but when ceramic blades eventually become dull or blunt, you can't get that blade type sharpened. You can get both ceramic or steel blades for all the A5 model clippers listed in this guide. Do take care with your coat prep as poor prep will dull a blade very fast (sometimes within minutes!). Read more about coat prep below to avoid causing your blade to become blunt earlier than it should.


Trimmers for the Shih Tzu coat

Many Shih Tzu owners also get themselves a cordless trimmer to use on the feet, between paw pads, around the face, ears and eyes, and around the rectum, genitals, armpits and abdomen.

You can use your full-size clipper for these areas if you prefer, however factors to consider are: how sensitive your dog is, whether you want to go cordless, and if you want a smaller blade to get to those difficult areas more easily with the most minimal risk of injury. 

If your Shih Tzu is noise or vibration sensitive, or anxious about being groomed or touched in certain places, a trimmer is often recommended ideal as it's a lot lighter, smaller, lower vibration and quieter than a clipper. Being cordless and having a much smaller blade width, also means trimmers can gets in to tricky or delicate areas more easily and reduce the risk of injury, ideal if you're a beginner groomer. For the Shih Tzu, look for a mini size trimmer rather than the midi size. Mini trimmers have the smallest blade width (around 3cm). 


What blades are best for the Shih Tzu coat?

Check your clipper model first. If you have a universal or A5 model clipper (by any brand), you have the biggest range of options available in blade lengths from blade size 50 (under 1mm) to blade size 3 (over 1cm). A5 model clippers fit all brands of blades.

The size 10 blade that A5 models come with, is the blade size that all universal comb attachments fit on to. Comb attachments give you coat lengths from 1.5mm to over 3cm. For the Shih Tzu coat it's best to get stainless steel comb attachments.

With an A5 model clipper, you can mix and match brands to suit your needs, so an Andis blade can go on a Wahl clipper, a Geib blade on a Andis clipper, a Wahl comb attachment on an Andis blade and so on.

The most popular clipper blades for the Shih Tzu coat are the 10, 15, 7FC, 5FC, 4FC and 3FC size blades. Here's what to use them for:


Shih Tzu blade guide

Standard #10 blade > Comes with most clippers (you may have this length already). Leaves the coat around 2mm depending on the direction you clip in. Use by itself for anywhere you want the coat very short, such as paw pads and sanitary areas - or you can clip on a comb attachment to get longer coat lengths without buying multiple blades.

TIP: Any brand of #10 blade fits any brand of universal comb attachment for longer coat lengths up to 3.2cm (for a 'puppy cut' or 'teddy bear' trim). We only recommend stainless steel comb attachments for the Shih Tzu coat (which go up to 2.5cm), as these glide through the coat more easily and clip on to the blade more firmly on all 4 sides, so are better suited for clipping thicker and double coats. Note that deshedding is recommended before using comb attachments on the Shih Tzu coat if you find the blade 'chews' instead of cuts the coat, if the comb doesn't easily get through a thicker area, or if the coat is clogging the comb or blade. those are all signs there's stuck, dead coat that needs removing. A deshedder does this for you with ease.

#15 blade > Shorter than a #10, around 1.2mm. An optional length for paw pads instead of a #10. If you have a trimmer you do not need this length of blade.

IMPORTANT: Unless experienced or trained using them, only get the finish cut version in any blade longer than a #10. Longer blades - such as the 3, 4, 5 or 7 - come in two versions, skip tooth (ST) where every other tooth is shorter, or finish cut (called F or FC depending on the brand). All blades 10 or shorter - such as the 10, 15 or 30 - are always finish cut (where all the teeth are the same length), so shorter blades won't usually say if they're FC or ST.

#7 blade > This length is popular for matted coats. Leaves the coat around 3mm. Get the FC version unless experienced.

#5 blade > For a short trim and for when the coat has minor knots. Leaves the coat around 6mm. Get the FC version unless experienced.

#4 blade > A popular length for a summer trim for the Shih Tzu coat, or to keep the coat short all year round. Leaves the coat around 1cm. Get the FC version unless experienced.

#3 blade > For a longer trim. Leaves the coat around 13mm. Get the FC version unless experienced.

#3/4 HT blade > The longest blade at 19mm. Only for experienced users on a knot & tangle free coat (otherwise use a #3 blade - or a comb attachment on a #10 blade).

'Puppy Cut' or 'Teddy Bear' trim (one longer, fluffier length all over) > For a longer coat length, make sure the coat is free of knots or mats first, then use a longer comb attachment such as a Wahl size 8 on top of a #10 blade. The longest comb attachment length is 3.2cms so if you want longer than that you'll need to use scissors instead, or use your clippers free-hand.

Head, tail and ears > Scissors are often used for these areas but it does depend on the look and length you want. Safety tip scissors > are the most popular for trimming these delicate areas to avoid injury. Read the Scissor FAQ's for help choosing scissors that match your level of experience. 

TIP: Comb attachments offer a huge range of lengths from under 2mm to over 3cm so you can choose the length you'd like the coat to be. Most people buy a Wahl or Andis universal comb set, giving you all the most popular lengths in one set, handy for any time of year, and when you want some areas longer than others. The Wahl Universal Stainless Steel set of 8 gives you lengths from 3mm to 2.5cm and fits on any brand of standard 10 blade (the blade size you get free with the clippers listed above).

After you clip: Even with excellent coat prep you're likely to have track marks and uneven areas after using clippers. For a smooth finish, use blending thinners to go over the coat to remove track lines or uneven areas, and to blend shorter areas in to longer. Use a grooming comb to lift the coat during clipping and scissoring to check over your work for any missed, uneven areas.



What's a deshedder used for?

Regular use of a deshedder thins out the cottony-soft undercoat coat and gets rid of dead hair that's stuck in the coat. Deshedding before you clip is recommended for the Shih Tzu coat, as the under coat can be so thick and fine that it causes a blade to 'chew' instead of cut the coat. If you find your comb attachment or blade getting 'clogged' as you clip, that's a sign there's dead coat in the area that got missed during coat prep. A deshedder is a great summer tool also, for thinning out that hot under coat. Deshedders can be used between clipping when you're happy with the length but want to give your dog relief from the heat, or to reduce knots forming in problem areas when the coat is longer.

TIP: If growing your Shih tzu's coat long, or maintaining a longer coat, finishing with a boar bristle brush is ideal for all over use to bring natural oils from the skin to the ends of the hair to maintain coat condition.


The Shih Tzu shampoo mistake 

One common mistake with the Shih tzu coat is to skip conditioner! Many dog owners use shampoo only - but even the gentlest shampoo will strip condition from the coat, as shampoo is designed to open the cuticle so it can remove oil, dirt and build-up. For the Shih Tzu coat in particular however - whether you plan to clip or keep it long - always use conditioner.

Conditioner helps 'close' and seal the cuticle following shampoo use. It restores hydration and moisture. Conditioner helps you remove existing knots and tangles more easily, and reduces knots and tangles forming in the future as the cuticle is closed rather than rough and open. It also restores elasticity and helps to smooth the hair cuticle, allowing brushes and combs, as well as comb attachments and clipper blades, to go through the coat more easily.

As the Shih Tzu is (or should be!) a frequently brushed breed, conditioner also helps the Shih Tzu coat by filling in damage caused by frequent brushing and dryer use, while reducing dry, frizzy ends and reducing static. Keep in mind as well (and this applies for all breeds), that the more frequent you wash a dog, the more important not skipping conditioner becomes. As a general rule, any coat needs conditioner when washed monthly or more frequently, however for the Shih Tzu coat, conditioner is always recommended.  


Eye, Mouth & Paws: Saliva & Tear Stain Removal 

We highly recommend Fidos Tear Stain Remover. This gentle yet very effective formula is the best we've found for tear and saliva stain removal around the eyes, mouth and paws.


Removing knots for the Shih Tzu coat 

The fine, thick, dense, double coat of the Shih Tzu is prone to knotting and matting if you don't brush it often, every other day is a good frequency if kept long. The dense outer coat, combined with the soft, cotton-like under coat, can easily tangle. Brushing only the outer coat may look good but nasty mats can hide underneath. Mats can become a serious health concern. Watch for repeated biting and itching in certain spots or a colour change from saliva, leaving red stains. They are signs mats or knots have formed and may be causing your dog irritation.

Ideally brush daily with a pin brush which reaches through both layers of coat. Use a slicker and wider tooth grooming comb to target knots and keep the under coat tangle free. If you want to maintain a soft, longer, well conditioned coat, use a boar brush to finish. Keep an careful eye on under the front legs, on the legs, behind the ears, on the face, and at the base of the tail in particular, as knots are more likely to form in these areas on a Shih Tzu coat. 


If felted mats or bad knots have formed

Remove knots before you wash. Never wash a matted coat! It can make knots much worse. Using your pin brush first, section the hair, and brush down to the skin, one section at a time. When you find where a bad knot or mat has formed, spray on detangler then use the tip of a grooming comb to pull gently up to separate the knot. Pull 'up' rather than combing through the coat. Once the knot is more broken up, use a slicker to tease it out, slowly working from the outside in toward the skin. Go slowly and re-apply detangler as needed.

For very bad knots that have formed a 'felted' mat, you can use a dematting rake to cut through and break it up into workable sections, or your groomer may need to clip it out by going underneath the mat, or cut out the mats for you with scissors. Use extreme caution when clipping or cutting out a badly matted area if you want to do it at home, as skin can easily be pulled in with the hair and may result in serious injury. We highly recommend seeking professional help when clipping matted coats. To help reduce knots from forming in the first place, regularly use a deshedder to thin out the under coat and remove stuck, dead coat than easily forms knots and mats.

See the gallery of photos showing popular Shih Tzu grooming clips & styles on our Facebook page here >