5 Tips for Giving Your Shihpoo a Basic Haircut


Lovable Shih-poos

If you have not yet tried cutting your Shihpoo’s hair, you are in for the experience of a lifetime. When faced with performing the procedure yourself or taking the little furball to a groomer charging $50 to $100, many households will favor the cost savings option of doing-it-yourself at home. After all, if you are going to trim the puppy three or four times a year, the purchase of your own clippers will cost far less over time than the groomer.

Clipping Your Shihpoo’s Hair at Home

To give your Shihpoo a basic haircut

  1. find an assistant
  2. set aside at least an hour
  3. make sure you have some high-quality clippers and a large flat comb
  4. be prepared with incentives and rewards, and
  5. use a large sink or tub to control the potential chaos
Giving Our Shihpoo a Puppy Cut at Home

The first time I attempted to trim our 6-month old puppy’s hair, I had a partially-committed teenage assistant and clippers that were woefully lacking in quality. Here is why the other requirements are so important.

What’s In the Length?

Decide ahead of time how long or short to cut your Shihpoo’s hair. You have four basic options: 1) the buzz or naked cut, 2) the puppy cut, 3) the medium cut, and 4) the long “what-was-I-thinking” cut.

The buzz or nake cut clips your puppy’s hair right down to the skin. This is rarely a good idea. We did this the first time we cut our puppy’s hair at home and would never recommend it. We had terrible hair clippers and thought this the only way to get rid of some of our puppy’s matted clumps (we wish we had known of the dematting tool we’ve since used – check it out on our recomendations page, especially the “Poodle Pet” comb).

The Puppy Cut is likely the most popular trim from your Shihpoo, especially thanks to the ease of caring for it. You may not have to brush your Shihpoo’s hair for a month after such a cut. They are still oh-so cute!

The medium cut will require weekly brushing at a minimum, if not twice or three times a week. The long cut requires daily brushing along with regular dematting and grooming. Depending upon your Shihpoo’s curly or wavy hair, the long cut may look flowing or actually be uncomfortable for your puppy.

Here are some examples of the different cuts:

Our Titus Rex
Courtesy of AndHerLittleDogToo

An Assistant Is a Must for Shihpoo Haircuts

If at all possible, do not embark upon this journey alone. While you never know how your Shihpoo will react to his or her first trim (or second or third), having a second pair of hands will be extremely helpful.

This second set of hands and arms will assist you less with restraining your puppy and more with keeping your puppy from eating its own clipped fur. Your assistant will also help with offering your puppy incentives and rewards throughout the process.

The good news is that you can find such an assistant in the form of a spouse, partner, friend, teenager or even a fairly responsible young child. And while the assistant need not be at your side every minute of the process, he or she should be available and in the immediate vicinity through the entire haircut, certainly within earshot so as to hear your call for help when needed.

Time Required for a Shihpoo Bath

Speaking of time, you will need to set aside at least an hour to trim your puppy the first time. The first time I tried cutting my puppy’s hair, it turned into a three hour affair (absolutely not of the love variety). I did not have a decent set of clippers or incentives at hand. And my assistant did not arrive till halfway through.

Subsequent haircuts have taken anywhere from 45 minutes to just over an hour. Granted, these are not show worthy styles. We like our Shihpoos trimmed short. Otherwise, long and curly hair tends to matte without daily brushing.

The Right Trimmer or the Wrong Outcome

Unless you are a masochist and want to try this entire endeavor with plain ol’ scissors and a comb, you will need a high quality electric dog clipper and a large, flat comb. The first time I attempted to clip our Shihpoo’s hair, I had purchased a relatively cheap pet clipper at the local pet store, spending around $50 or $60. I figured that since it was not the lowest price clipper, it would get the job done.

Try and try as I might, the clipper would not cut through my dog’s thick, curly fur without three or four attempts. I returned the clipper and exchanged it toward the purchase of a much nicer set. Oh, what a difference!

Even though I ended up spending over $150 at the local pet store for my Andis AGC2, it was worth it. But my recommendations page has a link to it on Amazon for around $100! Click here. I would recommend you find a two-speed clipper set. Trimming my puppy’s hair with the new equipment was like cutting through hard butter with a hot knife: smooth and effortless.

Beware of the potential to burn your puppy’s skin. All clipper heads will heat up quickly, so you cannot leave the trimmer head stationary on your Shihpoo’s skin. Plan to clean and oil the clipper blades more than once during the whole operation, plus before and after.

Having a large, flat plastic or metal comb will make a short trim much easier. You generally do not want to trim your puppy to the skin, especially in cold weather. Use the comb to act as a barrier between the clipper and the skin. Run the clipper head across the flattened comb to cut the fur. This will leave your puppy’s coat evenly cut to the width of the comb.

If you want a longer trim, use the heads that typically come with the electric trimmer.

Honestly, you will likely find trimming the paws and around the puppy’s privates and face the most difficult. One of our Shihpoo’s holds very still for everything except the trimming of his nose and eyebrows while the youngest is a continual furry ball of motion. I wrap my hand around their snout firmly, but not overly forcefully, to finish the job. I am sure there are easier ways, but this works for me.

Incentives Keep Your Shihpoo Invested in the Haircut

An hour and a half into the frustrating experience that was my first attempt to cut my puppy’s hair, my daughter began offering training treats to the dog every few minutes to help him focus on something other than trying to eat his own fur off the floor (yes, it happens).

We went through more snacks in the next hour than we would in two weeks of training, but it was worth it. Although it felt like we had given him an entire bag of treats, in reality, we only used 5 or 6 total, because we broke them into two or three pieces to make them go further.

Location Location Location: Find a Haircutting Sink or Tub

Like buying a home, finding the right place to attempt to trim your dog’s hair is everything. We happened to move houses between our puppy’s second and third haircuts. At our previous home, I cut the dog’s hair outside in an enclosed pen first, then on the kitchen floor with a vacuum at hand to keep the mess under control (only partially successful).

Our new home came with a large sink (almost a tub) in the laundry room. Initially, we talked about getting rid of it and replacing it with additional shelving, but after using it as a place to trim our puppy’s hair, I will never allow its removal. It is deep and rectangular, with a flat bottom. It keeps both the puppy and the trimmed hair contained.

Your home may not have such a large sink. You might consider a bath tub as an alternative. Either way, keep the drain plugged so the hair does not go down and clog your pipes. Regularly scoop the clipped hair and place it in a garbage can.

The best option, of course, would be to have a grooming table of your own. If you have ever observed a professional groomer, you have noticed that the table has a strap and loop hanging from a vertical arm (very reminiscent of the hangman game you may have played growing up). The loop is not a choker but rather a control tool. With the loop gently around your puppy’s throat, your dog is much more likely to stand still while you do the trimming.

I haven’t got a grooming table yet myself, though I have my eye on one. When I do end up getting one, I will use it in the garage during cold seasons and under our covered back porch during warmer days. Vacuuming up the hair and then blowing out the stray strands into the grass makes clean up a cinch.

Bonus Tip

While you are at it, you might also consider trimming your puppy’s nails. Here I add a strong word of caution. If your puppy has black nails like both of our puppy’s do, you may want to leave this to the professionals. As careful as I try to be, and clipping according to instructions from my vet, I have still clipped my poor little guy’s nails to the quick twice.

If you have ever done it or seen it yourself, you know that cutting your dog’s nails to the quick means blood, and lots of it. A dog nail cut to the quick can take an hour or more to stop bleeding.

Consequently, we decided to pay the extra $15 or so to have our dogs’ nails trimmed at their vet appointments every couple of months. For me, it is definitely worth not having to clean up what otherwise looks like a crime scene in the laundry room sink.

Final Words

Don’t expect perfection with your first few attempts (or ever, really). The good news is that Shihpoos are still adorable with short trims, if not as fluffy and puffy as the composed and perfectly impossible photos might make them seem. Shorter hair is also so much easier to groom and wash.

Either way, your Shihpoo will be the loving, patient and playful bundle of joy you have come to know, puffy or not.

Related Questions

What are some grooming ideas for a Shihpoo? Many Shihpoo owners want to groom their puppy after the style of one of their parents: Shih Tzus often have long, flowing hair on their bodies and faces, requiring much more care than the short trim, known as the “puppy cut.” Toy Poodles, of course, have very curly hair, so a Poodle puppy cut involves shaving around the face, neck, feet and the base of the tail.

How often should you brush your Shihpoo? Depending upon the style of cut, you may need to brush your Shihpoo daily or weekly. If you clip your Shihpoo’s coat down to 1/4 inch during warm months, brushes may be even less frequent, though I would recommend continuing the routing so your puppy is habituated to it as his or her hair grows.

Published September 12, 2019

Todd Christensen

Founder and lead blogger at ShihpooCentral.com, Todd loves his family's two Shih-poo puppies, Titus Rex and Stark Antonio (aka Sir Titus Whitus and Baron von Wigglebutt). He and his wife have four wonderful human children as well, and he doubles by day as a financial educator facilitating budgeting, credit building and debt elimination workshops.

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