S'Dandi Shih Tzu
All Rights Reserved
2000 - 2008
Sally and Dick Watkeys
8235 Outer Drive South
Traverse City, MI 49684
231.929.4213
Graphics courtesy of:
S'Dandi Shih Tzu
Just BePaws . . .
After you have chosen the best dog you can find, trained it to walk on lead, stand on the table for examination, and show in the ring, the rest of showing is in coat and grooming preparation. If you can do a beautiful topknot, imagine how much better you’d feel and your dog would look when you walk into the ring. I know. I’ve been there, done that. If the topknot goes in well, it’s amazing how quickly the confidence level goes up. I know the standard says not to take too much off for faulty grooming, but who’s going to put up a poorly groomed dog next to a beautifully groomed specimen? I don’t think I would either if I were the judge. How do you learn those grooming tricks?

It’s a long, hard process. Some of it is by trial and error. What works best, what product produces the nicest coat texture, how much do you trim and/or not trim…

I hope the following suggestions will be useful to those of you who are just starting out.

My trick is to find a picture of the most beautifully groomed Tzu I can find, blow the picture up and attach it to my tack box or grooming area at home. That way I can use it as a guide/motivator or whatever you want to call it. It’s always there in front of me as an example. Am I doing the topknot as well, is the coat flowing down from the center of the back? Maybe not this time, but the goal for the next time is right in front of me. Next time, I’ll do better.

Everyone of us probably has a closet full of grooming products tried once or twice and then, discarded. We all end up with a favorite shampoo and conditioner, eventually, but isn’t if after spending a great deal of money trying many other products first?

One of my favorites is Nature’s Specialty Aloe Shampoo, Nature’s Specialty Brightening Shampoo, Conditioner and a separate Remoisturizer. I found them at a show in Michigan while showing my first little bitch. Thankfully, a more experienced breeder/owner/handler was kind enough to say this was a good product and explain how to use it. It was an easy suggestion, took only a few minutes of her time and has been a staple at our house ever since. I still try something different every once in awhile but return to this old favorite. I am always pleased with the results. If you’re looking for a new product to try, you might just be pleasantly surprised with the results of these items. Another conditioner I just tried is Biogroom’s Silk Rinse. It did a wonderful job on a heavily coated male making his coat softer and easier to handle. This particular male has the strongest coat I’ve ever encountered. Since different coat textures require different products, I had to experiment to find the one that worked best for his type coat. Sometimes, it’s just trial and error and lots of luck.
Another important place to consider clipping is around the anus of the dog. You should be attempting to give as clean an appearance as possible. The anal area is an area not to overlook. I use a #10 blade and carefully clip around the anus. (picture 8) This is a spot that should not be done the night before the show. (It is also a spot that might need some practice before you do it on your show dog.) Setting the tail in also takes some practice as you don’t want to trim away any of the rear hair. Take just a little at a time until you get the look you like. Less trimming is sometimes better in this area. (picture 9)

You want the dog to be accustomed to the “new do” before ringtime. Be careful not to get too close causing clipper burn. I also clean up the genital area of both bitch and dog. I like the clean look there so that urine doesn’t collect to long hair becoming odorous. (picture 10) My girls are clipped around the vulva and part way up the tummy, my boys, around the penal/scrotum area and up the tummy. (Some folks like to leave a “wick” on the boys, but I find this more trouble than it’s worth.) Trimming this area makes for easy cleanup for me before a show, as there is no tummy hair for urine to stain and smell. A little self-rinse and powder will make the dog presentable even in a 4-day circuit. You might have to work on a little side coat if you have a leg-lifter but this method makes it easier for me. You might also want to band up some side coat for additional help depending on each individual male. (picture 11) I band my girls in the back when in season. (picture 12) It saves lots of time and cleaning. Just remember, the bands must be changed daily and the coat brushed/combed through to eliminate matting.

Now… on to the topknot. There are many different ways to do the “show topknot.” (This could be the topic for another article.) Hopefully, there will be some wonderful exhibitor near you who is willing to share some helpful hints to make it easier for a novice to build that pretty look on the top of the head. If you find such a person, be eternally grateful for their help.

Let’s discuss the maintenance topknot. It must be reworked daily depending on the dog. Sometimes, more than once a day is necessary. I usually separate the front part of the head and band that hair. (picture 13 & 14) With a dog that has a heavy headfall, you might want to make this section into two parts. (picture 15) Then, separate the back part of the head and band that. Attach the two/three sections together with one or more bands to keep it from falling in the face. (picture 16 & 17) Another maintenance type topknot is made by dividing the headhair down the center, separating it in two sections and banding those two sections together. This makes a pigtail appearance to the head but is also good for dogs with heavy falls. (picture 18 & 19)

Nothing is more frustrating, than to have a lovely specimen of the breed who digs out the facial hair making a topknot impossible. I know as I have had it happen. Be sure to check the ears and eyes if the dog starts rubbing the face. There might just be a problem that has gone undetected. Check with your veterinarian to be sure.
The Specifics…

Trimming is another questionable area. How much do you take off and where? I start with the feet, cleaning them up around the pads and clipping nails.(pad pic) Next, stand your dog on a table with someone else’s help to keep the head and tail up. Pull the leg hair up from the ankle joint so just the foot hair is exposed. Make a nice circle around the outside of the foot with your scissors. (picture 1)

I try to angle the scissors toward the table to make the best look to the cut. (picture 2)

Now, let some of the hair you held up drop a little at a time and blend in by scissoring outside of your first cutting. (picture 3 & 4)

If you comb the hair down, place your scissors at the table top on top of the coat, you can see where to cut to the best advantage. (picture 5)

The idea here is to give the impression of a well-groomed foot with the coat hair draping down around it. Be sure the hair is dry or you might be taking too much off. You don’t want a “puppy” look on your class dog.
For class dogs, you should be trying for a look that is clean at the table length. Continue around with each foot. I start at the show-side and go toward the front of the dog finishing on the non-show side. You want a nice clean appearance coming and going where the dog isn’t tripping over the long coat in front of the feet. (picture 6, 7 & 8)
picture 1
picture 2
picture 3
picture 4
picture 5
picture 6
picture 7
Be sure you watch your dog as he goes away. Do his pads look clean as he gaits away from the judge? It’s just another special item to check. If you’re lucky enough to have a dog with nice, black pigment on the pads, you’ll have an even nicer look.
Coat care is an ongoing process as well. A clean coat is a healthy coat and one that will grow. Daily brushing/combing is a necessity when developing the show coat. Start at the underneath part of the dog, part and brush layers using a good conditioner/spray to help keep the coat from breaking. If you have good coat texture, this isn’t the job from “Hell.” Start your dog lying on its side as a puppy for this part of the grooming procedure. (I can’t seem to get my babies to do this well, even though others seem to have no problem. It must be my problem.)

Line brush up to the part. That means separating the side coat with a rattail in layers. Brush each section towards the feet until reaching the center part of the dog. Turn your dog around and do the other side the same way. Then, stand the dog and trim around the bottom of the coat at the tabletop. Having a helper for this makes the trimming easier as the dog’s head and tail can be held up so the coat falls smoothly. As the coat grows, you should stand the dog at the edge of the table and trim just below the edge. The coat should drape slightly. Finish with some hugs and kisses for a job well done and give your special show dog some time on a smooth floor to run and build those leg muscles. Rewarding your dog for good behavior on the table during grooming will make for an even better behaved dog the next time.
picture 8
picture 11
picture 10
picture 9
picture 12
picture 14
picture 13
picture 19
picture 18
picture 17
picture 16
picture 15
Remember, a clean coat is a better coat. Bathe immediately upon returning home from a show to remove the spray, etc. used for the show. That way, the coat is not sticky from the additives and is easier to manage with less chance of damaging the hair.


Another area that tends to be forgotten is the mouth. Make sure those teeth are pearly white for the judge’s examination. Nothing is more disgusting than to look in the mouth and see teeth that need to be cleaned with breath that is bad. A little daily/weekly brushing keeps the teeth and gums healthy and white. It is also good preventative for bacterial infection that can set in due to gum disease causing other health problems. There is a new product on the show circuit called Oxyfresh. Supposedly, it promotes a healthy mouth with less tartar accumulation. We are just trying it at S’Dandi. I’ll keep you posted on the results. If it works, it will be worth its weight in gold.

If your dog is “groomed to the nines” and presented at it’s best, the owner/handler has a much better chance at winning. It isn’t an easy accomplishment, but it can be done. Good luck, work hard and groom, groom, groom!!!!

If anyone else out there has any other helpful hints, I’d be happy to add them to another article giving credit to those used. Just email your suggestions to me. Working together, we can and will end up with better dogs both in the ring and in our breeding programs.
Grooming 101
updated
11/30/07