Giving Your Shih Tzu a Bath the Right Way: What To Know! (2024)

A Shih Tzu with long, flowing hair lying on blue and purple towels with bathing supplies around her.

Giving a Shih Tzu a proper bath is not only so he can look clean and smell nice. Baths are also necessary to maintain your Shih Tzu’s skin and coat health.

How often should a Shih Tzu be bathed? A Shih Tzu should have a bath no more than once every three weeks. Bathing helps to remove built-up dirt, oils, odors, and irritants, but bathing too frequently could strip the skin and coat of natural, important oils, leaving the dog itchy and prone to infections and other skin issues. 

Below, we’ll walk you through the process of how to bathe your Shih Tzu the right way plus provide tips and recommendations on how to keep your pooch’s skin and coat healthy. 

How To Give a Shih Tzu a Bath

Every Shih Tzu owner knows they have to give their dog a bath occasionally, but the reasons why are not often clear.

Routine baths wash away the oils, dirt, odors, and irritants from the coat and help to keep the hair manageable. 

Bathing your Shih Tzu will also help keep the skin balanced and properly moisturized (if you use the right shampoo and conditioner) and can treat or prevent  skin and allergy-related problems.

Most of all, a bath will make your Shih Tzu smell fresh and nice, and here’s how to do it right. 

1. Gather Supplies

You’ll need bathing supplies, and you want them handy while bathing your Shih Tzu. You don’t need lots of special, expensive equipment – just the following items.

  • Comb and brush
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Small washcloth
  • Absorbent towel
  • Cotton balls (for the dog’s ears)
  • Towel or rubber mat to line the sink, tub, or the floor
  • Blow dryer (optional)
  • Treats

2. Brush Your Shih Tzu Thoroughly

Always start with giving your Shih Tzu a thorough combing before bathing. Although this step seems pretty basic, it’s something that dog parents often forget about.

Pre-bath brushing is helpful, especially for medium to long coats, as it helps remove mats and tangles.

It will also remove dirt buildup so the shampoo can get through your dog’s coat and skin easier.

Combing your Shih Tzu’s coat will also help soothe and relax them before the bath.

3. Choose & Prepare Bathing Area

Generally, dogs dislike being unsteady on their feet, and slipping is often an issue when bathing them. 

You can bathe a Shih Tzu puppy in the sink, but remember that it’s elevated, and if your pup jumps out or slips, they could be seriously injured. So, don’t forget to use a restraint if you go this route. 

Another option is to bathe your dog in the tub, but don’t forget to add a nonslip element like a mat (I love this loofah mat)or towel to keep your Shih Tzu from slipping. 

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Once you have prepped the bathing area and placed all supplies within arm’s reach, fill the sink or tub with several inches of lukewarm water.

Make sure you test the temperature with your inner wrist.

4. Shampoo & Apply Conditioner

A nozzle or a showerhead works best when bathing Shih Tzus. Make sure to place cotton balls inside the ears before starting, and thoroughly soak the coat down to the skin before you shampoo. 

When shampooing your Shih Tzu, don’t be shy with the amount you’re using.

It’s important to use enough to clean their entire body properly. Massage the shampoo all over their body, from their coat down to the skin.

Start with the feet, going up and over the entire body except for the facial area. Don’t forget to lather their paws, armpits, underbelly, and tail.  

Now, you can get a small washcloth, dip it in the sudsy water, wring it out a bit, and use that to wipe your Shih Tzu’s face clean. 

Once you’re done cleaning their face, it’s time to rinse the shampoo out. Make sure to remove any residue before applying the conditioner and massaging it into the dog’s coat.

After that, rinse the coat thoroughly, although you may need to drain out most of the water in the sink or tub first. 

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If you’re not confident that you’re using the right shampoo and conditioner for your Shih Tzu, the Earthbath Oatmeal and Aloe shampoo and conditioner bundle is highly recommended.

It’s made of the finest natural and organic ingredients and is specially formulated for pets with itchy, dry, and sensitive skin. 

5. Lightly Dry Coat, Apply Detangler, and Comb

Dry your Shih Tzu with an absorbent towel. Be sure not to rub vigorously as this will only cause tangles.

If you prefer, you can use a blow dryer set to the lowest setting to finish up the drying process.

Remember to hold the dryer several inches away from the dog to prevent burns and avoid drying out the skin. 

Next, apply a detangler, and start combing your Shih Tzu’s hair to remove any other loose hair and remaining mats. 

If you want your Shih Tzu to cooperate and even love bath time, this is when you give them a reward or treat. 

Recommended Detangler for Shih Tzu: Cowboy Magic

Sometimes, combing and brushing simply isn’t enough. That’s where the Cowboy Magic detangler comes in.

It will do wonders in untangling even the most stubborn mats, and it smells really good too. This is a concentrated formula, so a little bit goes a very long way.

How To Wash a Shih Tzu’s Face

It’s recommended to use a damp washcloth or wipes (these moisturizing, compostable wipes are perfect) for cleaning your Shih Tzu’s face, gently wiping over the face and around the eye area.

It will reTove any debris around their eyes and tiny food bits from the face without risking the soap or shampoo getting in their eyes. 

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How To Dry a Shih Tzu After Bath

Allow your Shih Tzu to shake off the excess water from the bath, and pat the coat dry with an absorbent towel.

You can also use a hairdryer, but remember to use a low-heat setting and dry the hair in layers. 

If you prefer to towel-dry or let the coat dry naturally, keep your dog somewhere clean to prevent him from rolling around in any dirt. 

A Shih Tzu still wet from a bath wrapped in an orange towel.

What Can I Bathe My Shih Tzu With?

There are different products to bathe your Shih Tzu with, depending on your dog’s needs and your preferences.

  • Hypoallergenic shampoos for those with sensitive skin or allergies
  • Flea and tick shampoos to kill and repel pests
  • Medicated shampoos for different skin conditions (itching, scratching, etc.)
  • Color-enhancing shampoos to restore the coat colors (whitening, darkening)
  • Shampoos with conditioner

Just keep in mind that many Shih Tzus have sensitive skin, so the more gentle and natural the product, the better.

What Causes a Shih Tzu To Smell So Bad?

Shih Tzus with greasy, oily skin that smells bad may be a result of a skin condition called seborrhea or other allergies and skin infections that leave the skin rough and scaly.

Other health problems like eye and ear infection, anal gland issues, tooth decay, and other medical issues can also cause a bad doggy odor.  

Can I Use Regular Shampoo on My Shih Tzu?

Regular shampoo or human shampoo is not advisable for bathing your Shih Tzu.

While it can remove dirt, grime, and bad odor, the regular shampoo is not designed to match the dog’s pH level and will likely strip the skin of important nourishing oils.

As a result, it will make them more vulnerable to bacteria, viruses, and parasites. It may also dry out their skin, leading to excessive scratching that would result in abrasions.

Can I Wash My Shih Tzu Puppy with Baby Shampoo?

Baby shampoos are mild and designed for sensitive skin, usually with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0, which is close to the pH levels of dogs (5.5 to 7.2).

That makes baby shampoos safe to use for Shih Tzu puppies, but it is in no way the ideal choice. 

They can be an emergency backup option, but using baby shampoo on dogs can still cause damage to their skin and coat over time. 

At What Age Should a Shih Tzu Have His First Bath?

Shih Tzu puppies as young as six weeks can take their first bath, but ensure that the water temperature and the room are warm enough to keep your puppy from getting chilly. 

Can You Bath a Shih Tzu Once a Week?

Ideally, you should give your Shih Tzu a bath once every three weeks.

Bathe them too frequently, and you risk stripping away their body oil faster, which can cause dry skin, possible irritation, and other skin and coat issues. 

However, baths can be given to Shih Tzus more often when using specialty or prescription shampoos to resolve moderate or severe skin and coat problems. 


Bathing your Shih Tzus isn’t only for aesthetic purposes. Giving a Shih Tzu a bath is essential to keeping the skin and coat healthy, but not all baths are the same.

Your bathing techniques, the timing of baths, and the products you use play a big role. 

Last update on 2024-05-25 at 09:56 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API