BY MOLLY | EVERYTHINGSHIHTZU.COM
If you have ever seen a Shih Tzu at a dog show competition, you have most likely seen their long flowing hair gracefully gliding across the floor.
But do all Shih Tzu have long hair?
All adult purebred Shih Tzu typically have long hair, and when left uncut, the hair would continue to grow to the ground. However, if a Shih Tzu is bred with another breed, the hair may not be able to grow quite as long.
Another reason you may see a lot of short-haired, adult Shih Tzu dogs is because people are often quite busy these days, and some pet parents find it much easier to care for their dogs' hair when it's groomed shorter.
Puppies, however, are a different matter.
A Shih Tzu puppy will often have short hair until they lose their puppy coat and only then will they be able to grow their hair long.
But, long hair is often dependent on how well their coat is cared for too.
To understand how to care for a Shih Tzu coat, you'll first have to understand what makes it different from other dog breeds.
Have you ever seen a dog shake their entire body and saw a lot of fur flying off them?
This may conjure up visions of Pigpen's character in the beloved Charlie Brown cartoons, where a cloud of dust and dirt follow him around wherever he goes.
While it may be funny in a cartoon, in real life, it is quite the opposite.
When fur gets all over the carpets, furniture, and your clothing, it can be quite a nuisance to remove.
Fortunately, this isn't much of an issue for the Shih Tzu breed because their coat is made up of hair, more like humans, and not fur.
This hair is dense, soft, and silky and can be straight or a slight wave to it.
One of the most significant differences between hair and fur is that hair has a slower growth cycle, resulting in less shedding.
The Shih Tzu also has what is called a double coat.
A double coat is a thick undercoat beneath a longer, smoother layer on top. This means that the few hairs that do fall off will most often get caught in the undercoat which may require a good brushing to remove them.
This is what makes many people say the Shih Tzu a non-shedding dog breed.
Long hair left long and flowing is known as a full coat and is very high maintenance. But if you have the time to spend brushing all this silky hair to keep it from tangling, it may be worth it.
As a puppy, a Shih Tzus coat is very fine, soft, and fluffy.
It isn't until they reach between 6 to 12 months when they lose their puppy coats and develop their mature coat.
Once they have their mature hair, it should grow at a rate of a half-inch per month.
If a Shih Tzu has been shaved down, it can take between 12 to 24 months before you'll see a nice long coat touching the ground. However, be prepared to brush it daily while it is growing out to keep it from tangling.
Also, feeding them a quality diet and supplements will help grow their coat back healthier.
Omega fatty acids are excellent for coat and skin health. Find foods that contain them, or use an omega 3 supplement.
We recommend always talking to your vet before starting a supplement regime. Your vet will advise if a daily supplement is needed or even if your Shih Tzu will need them at all.
One good thing about long hair is that it won't have to be cut as often. Unless they get very dirty, bringing them to the groomers for a bath and trim can be done every 5 to 6 weeks.
But it can take hours of brushing to keep that beautiful full coat from getting tangled.
This long, flowing coat will be sweeping along the ground collecting all kinds of dirt and debris. So daily brushing is needed to remove all that accumulated dirt, so it doesn't track into your home or create matting on your Shih Tzu.
Once matting starts, it can take a long time to get them out, if at all.
Some people will opt to use a de-matting tool, while others will choose to just shave it instead.
A Shih Tzu should not be bathed too often, whereas washing them too often can remove the natural body oils needed to keep their skin and coat healthy.
No more than every three weeks, unless they get very dirty and smelly.
You can begin to see how a Shih Tzu with a full-length coat will take a lot more time to maintain than one with a shorter cut.
So, if you like to take your Shih Tzu for walks in the woods or a swim in the pool, you may want to reconsider the long coat.
It may be wiser to go with a shorter haircut if your Shih Tzu likes to do these outdoor activities with you.
As elegant as the "show cut" looks, it just isn't practical for the majority of people.
This is why many Shih Tzu pet parents will choose a shorter cut.
A Shih Tzu still looks adorable even with a short haircut, but the real benefit is the time it takes to care for their hair is significantly reduced.
Let's take a look at the differences between these three popular Shih Tzu haircuts.
The show cut leaves all the hair long and flowing. It is also the highest to maintain haircut as it must be brushed several times a day to keep it clean and avoid tangles.
However, they sure do look exquisite in this long coat, don't you think?
Although, it is not very practical for a Shih Tzu that likes to run and play outdoors and get very messy.
This type of haircut is usually reserved for a Shih Tzu that competes in dog shows.
However, many of these show dogs will get a low-maintenance haircut once their competitions come to an end.
The Puppy cut leaves the hair about a couple inches or shorter all over.
The ears and beard are trimmed to match the shorter coat, and it is by far the easiest cut to maintain.
You can choose to leave the tail and ears longer, as shown in this cutie.
He will still need to be brushed to keep his hair from getting dirty. But the time is significantly reduced.
The puppy cut and teddy bear cut are pretty similar in that body is cut short. The difference between the two is the head, tail, and legs.
The body can be cut to any length but will be shorter than the legs and face. The legs and face are left fuller and rounded.
The ears are blended into the rounded face for a full look, and the tail is shaped to look like a large cotton puffball.
In the end, the teddy bear cut creates the appearance of a cute little fuzzy stuffed teddy bear.
While the 3 haircuts above are the most common for a Shih Tzu, they can be varied to create a unique hairstyle for your dog.
For instance, you can add a top knot to a teddy bear cut or leave a fluffy tail and head on a summer cut.
The Top Knot
A top knot on a Shih Tzu is typically used when the hair on their head is longer.
Basically, it's used to keep the hair out of the dogs' eyes. But also adds a little oomph to whichever cut is chosen for them.
To get a top knot, comb all the hair around their forehead up to the top of their head.
Secure with a clip, a ribbon, or a small elastic band, giving the Shih Tzu a ponytail appearance.
Loosen it a bit if it seems too tight.
Instead of a ponytail, some owners will make a braid to keep the hair back for a different look.
It's really a matter of personal choice to leave a Shih Tzu with long hair or short.
The best haircut is one that a pet parent has the time to maintain.
So if having long hair on your Shih Tzu is what you want, be prepared to spend a lot of your time keeping them clean and tidy.