Do All Shih Tzu Have Long Hair?

APRIL 19, 2019 | WRITTEN BY MOLLY

Long haired Shih Tzu walking with a smaller short haired Shih Tzu puppy

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 pure bred 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 so long.

Another reason you may see a lot of sort 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 the dogs hair when it's cut shorter.

Puppies are a different matter, they will often have short hair until they lose their puppy coat.

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 Shih Tzu coat, you'll first have to understand what makes it different from other dog breeds.

How Shih Tzu's Coat Differs From Other Dog Breeds

Have you have ever seen a dog shake their entire body and saw a lot of fur flying off them?

This may conjure up visions of the character called Pigpen in the beloved Charlie Browns 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, as well as soft and silky, and can be straight or have a slight wave to it.

One of the biggest differences between hair and fur is that hair has a slower growth cycle which results in less shedding.

 Shih Tzu also have what is called a double coat.

A double coat is a thick undercoat beneath a longer, smoother layer on top.

So with this double layer, the few hairs that do fall off will most often get caught in the undercoat, and will need a good brushing to remove them.

This is what makes many people say the Shih Tzu a non-shedding dog breed.

Long hair that is left long and flowing is known as a full coat and is very high maintenance.

You will spend a lot of time brushing all this silky hair to keep it from tangling.

This full coat is known as a “show cut” as it often found on Shih Tzu that compete in dogs shows.

In competition, the breed standard will always be in a full coat, and they always looks so elegant and graceful wouldn't you say?

Growing Long Hair on a Shih Tzu

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 begin to 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 they will have a nice long coat that touches the ground.

But, be prepared to brush it daily while it is growing out, to keep it from tangling.

Also feeding them quality nutritional diet 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 if your Shih Tzu needs one less often.

How To Groom Long Hair on a Shih Tzu

One good thing about long hair is that it won’t have to be cut as often.

And unless they get very dirty, bringing them to the groomers for a bath and a 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. 

Whereas 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.

Bathing

A Shih Tzu should not be bathed too often.

Bathing 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 see how a Shih Tzu with a full long 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 swimming in the pool, you may want to reconsider the long coat.

It may be a wiser decision to go with a shorter haircut if your Shih Tzu likes to do these outdoor activities with you.

Show Cut vs. Puppy Cut vs. Teddy Bear Cut

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 cut, but the real benefit is the time it takes to care for their hair is greatly reduced. 

Let's take a look at the differences between these three popular Shih Tzu haircuts.

  • Show or Standard Cut
Long haired, well groomed Shih Tzu dog.

The show cut leaves all the hair long and flowing.

It is also the highest maintenance haircuts and the must be brushed several times a day to keep it clean and avoid tangles.

They do look very elegant in this long coat.

But, it is not a very practical for Shih Tzu that like to run and play outdoors and get very messy.

This type of haircut is usually reserved for Shih Tzu that compete in dog shows.

But even many of these show dogs are cut down once their competitions come to an end.

  • Puppy Cut
White Shih Tzu dog sporting a variation of a summer cut

The Puppy cut leaves the hair until it is about a couple inches or shorter all over.

The ears and beard are trimmed to match the shorter coat,

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 greatly reduced.

  • Teddy Bear Cut
Tan Shih Tzu dog in a fluffy, teddy bear hair cut

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 puff ball.

In the end, the teddy bear cut creates the appearance of a cute little fuzzy stuffed teddy bear.

These three are the most common of Shih Tzu haircuts. 

Check out some variations of these Shih Tzu hair cuts to help 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 skies the limit when styling a Shih Tzu.

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 pony tail appearance.

Loosen it a bit if it seems too tight.

Instead of a pony tail, some owners will make a braid to keep the hair back for a different look.

Final Thoughts

It’s really a matter of personal choice whether 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.

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