Shih Tzus are a breed that have particularly sensitive skin, and this makes them prone to conditions like dryness and various other skin allergies (that they are also genetically predisposed to). This can be made worse by bathing as things like scented shampoos can act as an irritant, and frequent washes that serve to strip their skin of its natural oils.
With that in mind, how often is too often when it comes to bathing your Shih Tzu? I spoke to our vet about this to get a professional opinion, and here’s what he said about washing regularity and how often Shih Tzus need a bath.
How often should you bathe a Shih Tzu? You should only bathe a Shih Tzu every 2 to 6 months in order to maintain a balance between their skin health and hygiene. However, the reality is this probably isn’t practical, as Shih Tzus love to run in mud, so will need more regular baths and showers.
If you’re a dog owner, you know that bathing any dog every couple of months is almost impossible, especially if you live in a wetter climate where mud is common.
So, in practical terms, if your Shih Tzu gets his coat muddy, and he starts to stink, you need to give them a bath outside of the regular bathing schedule.
However, due to Shih Tzus’ skin conditions, there are a few things you ought to know in order for their grooming and bathing regime to be happy, healthy and effective.
How to bathe your Shih Tzu in 5 simple steps
Smaller Shih Tzus can be bathed in a usual bathtub with a shower, but if you have a smaller Shih Tzu or a Shih Tzu puppy, you can bathe them in a sink with a sink sprayer.
I would not bother filling up the tub. I would instead recommend you use the shower or sink sprayer, but if you want to fill up the tub, I would advise only filling it insofar as your dog’s ankles. This means they can still have their feet touching the floor and they’re paddling, not swimming.
This is especially important if your Shih Tzu is young, anxious or not a very confident swimmer.
1. Gently wet your Shih Tzu’s coat
The first step is to gently wet your dog’s fur with the shower orsink sprayer. When doing this, you need to keep an eye on two things: the water’s heat and intensity.
The water should be lukewarm: not too hot and not too cold, and if you’re using the shower, you don’t want to scare them off with the jets! I would only turn on the shower/sink sprayer halfway, so what you have is a gentle trickle rather than an intense spray.
It is incredibly important to get the temperature and the consistency of the water right, because not only do you risk harming your Shih Tzu with burns, but you also risk scaring them and making them associate baths with unpleasant memories, feelings and sensations – making it incredibly difficult for you to give them baths in the future.
2. Use a specialist dog shampoo
Then, get a gentle, soap-free dog shampoo and use your fingers to lather and work the shampoo into the coat.
As mentioned, Shih Tzus have extra sensitive skin, which is why a soap-free shampoo is the best option.
What is the best shampoo for a Shih Tzu smell?
If you’re wondering which shampoo Shih Tzu owners most often recommend, particularly to help get rid of the smell, it’s Wahl’s 4-in-1 doggy shampoo and conditioner on Amazon. You don’t need to buy a separate conditioner. It also helps to moisturise their skin, and smells great too.
3. Rinse the shampoo away
Rinse the shampoo out and repeat the process as many times as necessary to get all of the dirt out.
4. Use a specialist dog conditioner
Once you’re done with shampooing, get your conditioner specially formulated for dogs (scent-free again to avoid skin issues and allergic reactions for your Shih Tzu) and apply it evenly to the coat, brushing it through with a wide-tooth comb.
Give the conditioner no more than two minutes to set and then rinse again thoroughly.
5. Dry your Shih Tzu thoroughly
To avoid that nasty wet dog smell, you need to dry your Shih Tzu completely. Dry your dog with either a towel or a hairdryer on the lowest setting.
Handy Hint: If you don’t dry your Shih Tzu off completely, they will probably run about like crazy after a bath. This is their way to get water off their coat and out of their ears.
Additional Shih Tzu bathing and washing tips
Now you know how to bathe a Shih Tzu, I wanted to get into a little bit more detail about how you wash some specific parts of their body in the bath or shower.
Cleaning a Shih Tzu’s face
When you’re bathing your Shih Tzu, it is important to take steps to ensure they don’t get any water or shampoo in their eyes. The dog friendly shampoos are designed not to sting, but I don’t think it’s entirely comfortable.
One way of doing this is by applying protective ophthalmic ointment to your dog’s face before bath time.
To clean your Shih Tzu’s face, use a flannel soaked with lukewarm water (no soap!) and gently wipe every nook and cranny of the face. This includes the outside ear flaps and the corners of the eyes to get rid of any stubborn tear stains.
I would do this instead of pouring water on their face – not many dogs like this!
Cleaning a Shih Tzu’s ears
Due to the way Shih Tzu’s ears hang, they don’t get a lot of air circulation, which unfortunately makes them more prone to infections. To avoid this, a Shih Tzu’s ears should be cleaned weekly.
Specially made dog ear-cleaning solution contains ingredients that helps to break down and remove wax, as well as anti-bacterial agents that soothes inflammation and prevents infection.
You should apply this solution to a damp cotton ball and gentle wipe the inside of the ear (use a different cotton ball for each ear in order to prevent spreading infection) and check for any injuries, infection, inflammation or scrapes.
If you notice something unusual, apply antibiotic ointment and go to your vet in order to seek further advice.
Taking care of your Shih Tzu’s toenails
If your Shih Tzu’s nails get in the way of their movement, this is a good time to get them cut. You can either do them yourself or take them to a vet or a groomer if you don’t feel confident.
It is important to be careful when you are cutting your Shih Tzu’s nails, as inside each nail is what is called the ‘quick’ – which is extremely sensitive pink flesh that holds the blood vessels and the nerves that go into the nails.
If you cut into the quick, this will cause bleeding and extreme pain for your dog. It will also make it incredibly difficult to cut their nails in the future.
To cut your Shih Tzu’s nails, use a sterile pair of scissors to avoid infection and gently trim the very ends of the nails off – this might take longer, but it is better to cut off too little than too much.
After cutting the nails, give your Shih Tzu a treat so that they have positive associations with the experience.
Caring for a Shih Tzu’s coat
Shih Tzus have what is called a ‘double coat’, which means that there are two layers of fur. The top layer is thick, waterproof and usually a brown colour, whilst the bottom layer is softer, more sensitive and yet also dense because it acts as an insulator.
It is usually white and is more likely to shed during the winter months. Luckily, with Shih Tzus being short-haired breeds, their coat, despite its complexities, is reasonably easy to care for.
- Brushing: Brush out dirt, prevent shedding and distribute natural oils throughout your Shih Tzu by brushing them at least once a week with a bristle brush, a hound grooming glove or or a finer brush if you want to remove excess dirt or hair. Brush your Shih Tzu more frequently – up to three times a week – during shedding season.
- Trimming: Shih Tzus don’t really need trimming, but if you choose to trim them, it is advisable to lightly trim them with electric clippers. You should also pay attention to any fur around the feet or on the pads of the feet that you might want to trim for tidiness.
- Freshening up: To keep your Shih Tzu clean between baths, doggy dry shampoo is quick and easy to use – you just need to sprinkle it on your dog and then distribute it with a brush. You can also use a spray-on dog conditioner in order to keep the coat looking shiny.
Although you should always keep in mind the allergies and skin issues that come with owning a Shih Tzu, bathing them can be a rewarding bonding experience that helps to keep them squeaky clean, happy, and free from infection!
With any dog, it is important to strike that balance between not enough grooming and too-much grooming. Whilst it is important to ensure your dog is clean, tidy and healthy, over-bathing can cause its own issues, making it ultimately more counterproductive.
You might also like…
Here are some more guides to help you care for your Shih Tzu.
- How to stop a Shih Tzu from nipping and biting
- How long the Shih Tzu heat cycle lasts
- How stop stop a Shih Tzu from snoring
Image in header via https://pixabay.com/photos/dog-shih-tzu-animal-pet-cute-1495903/