Place a cotton ball into each ear to keep them dry and water out during the bath. Wet or damp ears are a breeding ground for yeast and other ear infections.
Make sure you place some kind of mat or towel in the sink so the puppy will not be slipping around in the sink during the bath. Your puppy may be frightened and fidgety during a bath and the mat will keep him from slipping and sliding. You want them to feel secure during the bath.
Try to think of bathing your Shih Tzu puppy like bathing a baby. Make sure that the house is warm and that there is no draft blowing on the puppy during or after the bath. Puppies do not regulate their body temperature very well, especially toy breeds like Shih Tzu and they can become chilled fairly quickly. Younger puppies are less tolerant of chills during the bathing process and it is even more important to keep your puppy out of drafts or cold weather until he is completely dry.
Always check the temperature of the bath water and make sure that it is not too hot for your puppy! Place your puppy in the sink with warm water and wet him down thoroughly without getting water into his nose or mouth. Get your puppy used to the water by wetting his back and shoulders. I like to use a plastic cup to pour the warm water over him especially if this is a first bath as the spray nozzle may frighten them at first. After the coat is wet start at your dog's head and work your way toward the tail. Apply a small amount of diluted shampoo to the facial area with a applicator bottle for control. Work the tearless dog shampoo into the facial hair with your fingers, again being careful not to get soap in the nose or eyes. You can use a toothbrush with a tiny bit of soap on it to clean the facial hair also giving you more control of where the soap is going.
Before shampooing the body, I thoroughly rinse the shampoo from the head and face with the spray nozzle on gentle or a cup pouring warm water. If your puppy is a wiggle worm, you can hold the head steady for rinsing by grabbing some of the hair under the chin to steady the head. Again, avoid getting water into the puppies nose or ears as you are rinsing his head and face.
Continue to shampoo down the body by gently working the shampoo into the coat from the shoulders down to the rump. You do not have to scrub the Shih Tzu coat, avoid rubbing the shampoo in circular motions or scrubbing the soap in with your fingernails. This is not necessary, the shampoo will lift the soil without friction and you do not want to create snarls in the coat. After you have applied shampoo to the main body and legs, and you have gently worked the shampoo into the coat, start using your plastic cup to pour soapy water from the sink back over the puppy coat. I do this with the dilute soapy water to allow the shampoo to lift the soil from the coat and you will notice the bath water becomes dirty looking if your puppy's coat was soiled. It is very important to keep the water in the sink warm while you are doing this, and pay attention to whether your puppy is becoming chilled. When I have completely soaped the puppy all over with shampoo and cupped soapy water on him repeatedly, I let the water drain from the sink as I am rinsing his body with clean warm water from the spray nozzle. Rinse the soap from his coat thoroughly. You do not want to leave any soap residue in the coat as it will cause irritation and scratching.
Follow the shampoo with a conditioner or crème rinse. A puppy does not need a heavy conditioner, a light dilute condition or crème rinse is fine for a puppy coat. Follow the same procedure as for shampooing. Again I fill the sink with warm water and cup the warm water over the conditioned coat rinsing lightly this time until the water runs clear.
Drain the sink and gently squeeze excess water from the coat with your hands. Wrap the puppy in a thick towel while you hold and talk to him telling him what a good baby he was. I usually hold my puppies in a snug towel for about 15 minutes minutes to calm them down and usually they fall asleep while I am doing this. Holding them for awhile all snug in a towel will make the coat damp and ready to blow dry while you brush the coat. You can remove the cotton balls from his ears at this time so puppy can hear all the kind words coming from you as you hold him.
When you are ready to blow dry the puppy, place him on another towel on your grooming surface. If you will be using a "people" hand held dryer to blow the coat dry, be careful that the dryer is not too hot or you can burn the puppy's skin. I recommend a dog dryer to blow the coat dry if you can afford one as they are made especially for dogs and the temperature control on them is safer. Dog dryers are designed to use less heat and more air volume so they quickly and safely dry a dog without damaging the coat or burning the skin. Blow the coat as you brush constantly with a pin brush section by section. It does not take long to dry a puppy coat, but make sure that you get him nice and dry allover; you do not want him to chill from a damp coat. I dry and brush my puppy on a grooming table with a dog stand dryer which frees up my hands. I put towels bunched up on the table to snuggle the puppy into as I brush and dry him. After the coat is completely dried, use a comb to go over the entire coat to ensure there are no tangles remaining.
Now is a good time to trim your puppy's nails with a clipper as a regular part of grooming. The nails are softer after the bath. After bathing I also like to clean the ears with a quality otic cleaner to keep them clean and smell free. Ear cleaning is discussed on my grooming page. Use your cotton balls for this cleaning and never "stick" anything down into the puppy's ear canal not even a Q-tip.
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