Tips for Making a Puppy Topknot

Puppy Topknot by Janice Jones  |Last Updated August 14, 2019

A puppy topknot might be just what your long haired puppy needs so you can see his beautiful eyes and he can see the world.  Some breeds have long coats that continue to grow throughout the lifespan. 

Dogs such as Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers and Shih Tzu can gorgeous long coats as adults, but they don’t start out that way. 

Growing out a coat is not easy and requires much time, effort and work.  Most people opt for a short cut, often called a puppy cut, unless they have their eye on the show ring.  Others just love the look of a long silky coat.

Perhaps you can’t decide whether to have your puppy grow out his hair to floor length or keep it clipped neatly in a short hairstyle. 

In the meantime, the hair continues to grow, and it is more noticeable around the face with hair seemingly growing in all directions.  A small puppy topknot will help keep stray hairs out of his face and keep him looking neat and clean.  You can even compromise and keep the dog in an overall shorter style while still preserving the topknot. 

We will assume that you have been working with your puppy and training him to enjoy the grooming experience.  It’s very hard to put a topknot in properly if your little one is fidgeting everywhere.  This is probably the number one complaint of owners wishing to groom.


If you don’t think you can put a pony tail on a moving object, stop and work on some grooming training first. Remember, all puppies are different, but none of them are born knowing how to enjoy the grooming experience.  We have to teach them. Training a puppy for grooming.

This will be a tiny topknot because the puppy just doesn’t have enough hair yet.  We will start with just one centered topknot.

Tools and Supplies for Making a Puppy Topknot

Puppy Topknot supplies
  • Small elastic bands
  • Rat tail comb
  • Fine tooth comb
  • Small puppy brush
  • Bows, optional (yes you can even put a bow on a boy)

Steps for Making a Puppy Topknot

Here's a quick list of steps you can take to make a puppy topknot for your Shih Tzu, Maltese, Yorkie or other Long Haired Dog Breed.  Remember that a very young puppy is not going to keep the top knot in for very long.  An alternative to training a puppy to tolerate a topknot is to use a a small (human) baby barrette or clip, to hold the hair away from the eyes.  

Initially you may want to add a dab of petroleum jelly just to help keep it in place.  There are also products on the market that will serve the same purpose.

1. Part the Hair to Make the Mustache

Start by dividing or parting the hair just above the top back of the nose.  A rat tail comb works well but you can also use a fine toothed comb if you’re afraid the puppy might move. Never use the rat tail comb near the eyes if you have a squirmy puppy.  For those puppies that like to move, make the part just between the eyes using your fingers.  

2. Separate Hair from Mustache and Top Knot

Separate any loose hairs that should be part of the mustache before gathering up the hair on he head.  Next gather up the hair in a V shape above the nose between the eyes. The wider part of the V is closest to the nose. The narrow part will be at the very top of the head.  You should be able to feel a higher bony part of the skull and then a drop off.  That high point at the top of the head will be the narrow part of the v shape.

3. Place a Tiny Elastic Band on the Top Knot Hair

Place a tiny elastic band on the hair you have gathered.  Elastic bands can be purchased at beauty supply stores or online.  If the hair is very thin, you will want to use a 1/4 inch band. This is tiny and often hard to manage.  You may want to use a larger 3/8 inch band and double it several times.

4. Comb Mustache and Whiskers Away from Eyes

Comb or brush the whiskers down and away from the eyes.  To train them to lie properly, a dab of Petroleum Jelly can be placed on them.  (You will need to clean around the eyes every day.)  A soft puppy brush (bristle or pin) can be used to help train these hairs to lay flatter on the face.  Be careful not to get too close to the eyes.

5. Bows and Ribbons

Everyone who loves those puppy top knots are going to want to experiment with a bow at one point.  A large show bow is not likely to stay in, but you can purchase smaller versions to help your puppy learn how to keep the bow in her hair.  


An old toothbrush works very well on a puppy's mustache and can be used to train a puppy to tolerate being brushed on the face. 

You will need to do this daily to keep it looking good. The more you do it, the more likely the puppy will get accustomed to all that great attention.  Be sure to make it a positive experience.  Stop before you find yourself getting upset at the puppy.  Always provide treats after you are done.  

My Puppy Refuses to Sit Still

There are puppies and then there are PUPPIES.  Whether there is a genetic component to how well a puppy behaves for grooming is yet to be decided.  I have noticed (unofficially) that puppies who have parents that are show dogs or have received championships, i.e championed sired, etc. tend to behave better at grooming than those that do not.  

Don't despair,  though, you can train a dog to love grooming.  Here are a few hints that might help you get the "upper hand."

Tips to Help a Puppy Hold Still When Doing a Puppy Topknot

  1. You know what they say, a tired puppy is a good puppy.  Try to tire them out either with a play session or a walk or run before attempting to groom.

  2. Add a little aromatherapy to the grooming atmosphere:  Lavender or chamomile essential oils in a diffuser helps calm puppies.

  3. Use hemp oil treats but always check with your vet before adding this supplement.

  4. Calm music tends to relax puppies.

  5. Try to groom the puppy while she/he is on your lap.  This won't make for the easiest and cleanest top knot, but the bonding and puppy cooperation is well worth the effort.  You can take this one step farther by spraying a towel or blanket with a lavender scent and then laying it on your lap with the puppy on top.

  6. Determine what grooming method your puppy finds most enjoyable for grooming.  Does she do best when you brush or comb with long strokes, short strokes, use a pin brush or slicker?  Does she prefer to have her back brushed first, then her legs, or vice a versa?  Try to get in step with her preferred rhythm.

  7. If your preferred time to groom is in the evening watching TV, be sure the TV music is not too loud or the show is not too intense.  Even puppies can pick up on our emotions and stress reactions.

  8. Try to relax fully when grooming.  Your puppy will too.

  9. Groom every day, even if it is not necessary to teach your puppy the routine.

As the Puppy Grows...

As the hair grows, you will be able to take in more hair to make larger topknots.  To do this, make a longer part at the top back of his nose and again, gather the hair into an inverted V shape.  Once the puppy has reached maturity, more elaborate topknots can be done. In the meantime, enjoy that cute face.

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