Do All Shih Tzu Have Long Hair?


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

If you have ever seen a dog show competition, you have most likely seen a Shih Tzu with it's long, flowing hair gracefully gliding across the floor. 

I always believed that a long coat was the norm for this breed.  That is until I met someone who said their Shih Tzu's hair never grows. 

So, I did a little research to find out, do all Shih Tzu have long hair? Here's what I found.

All adult pure bred Shih Tzu have long hair.  However, some are cut to shorter lengths as it is much easier to maintain.  If left uncut, a Shih Tzu's hair would continue to grow to the ground, and would become matted if daily brushing and detangling were not done.

Puppies are a different matter, they have short hair until they lose their puppy coat.  Only then are they able to grow their hair long.

A Shih Tzu bred with a different dog breed, may not be able to grow a longer coat.  This would explain why some people will only see short hair on their Shih Tzu.

So, if growing long hair is important to you, take a look at it's coat. 

What Type of Coat Does a Shih Tzu Have?

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

It reminds me of the Pigpen character in Charlie Brown, where dirt just follows him around wherever he goes.

This fur gets all over the carpets and furniture.  And it seems you are constantly wiping a bunch of it off your clothes.

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

Fortunately, the Shih Tzu coat is made up of this human-like hair and not fur. 

This hair is dense, as well as soft and silky, and can be straight or have a slight wave to it.  

Shih Tzu also have what is called a double coat.  A double coat is a thick undercoat beneath a longer, smoother layer on top. 

The few hairs that do fall off will usually get caught in the undercoat, and will need a good brushing to remove them. 

This is what makes the Shih Tzu a low-shedding dog breed.

Long hair that is left long and flowing is called a full coat and is very high maintenance.  It will require several brushings a day to keep the hair 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.  

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.  Talk to your vet about how much to give them.

How Often To Groom A Long Haired 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 daily brushing to keep that beautiful full coat from getting tangled. 

As this long, flowing coat will be sweeping along the ground collecting all kinds of dirt and debris.

When kept long, daily brushing is needed to remove all the accumulated debris.  If not brushed, matting will result.

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.  No more than every three weeks, unless of course, they become very dirty or stinky. 

Bathing them too often can remove the natural body oils needed to keep their skin and coat healthy.

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 owners will choose a shorter cut. 

A Shih Tzu still looks adorable with a short cut, but the time it takes to care for their hair is greatly reduced. 

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

Show Cut

Long haired Shih Tzu

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.  

To be sure they look very elegant in this long coat. 

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

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

Puppy Cut

Shih Tzu is a modified puppy 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 brush to keep his hair from getting knots.  But the time is greatly reduced.

Teddy Bear Cut

Shih Tzu dog with a teddy bear 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.  But you can use a combination of each cut to get a desired result.

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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