Shih Tzu Breed Magazine - Showsight



I n the more than 50 years since I acquired my first Shih Tzu, the breed has made great strides. It has become far more uniform and sound, both physically and tempera- mentally. However, it has also become part of an overall trend in the show ring for more hair, more grooming, more flash, and more speed. A number of recent articles have been lamenting the fact that many breeds in the show ring today have come to deviate considerably from the written Standards for their breed to the point that it is often difficult to win with a dog that fits the Breed Standard, because it is different than most of its competitors. One article cited the “elegant looking Shih Tzu with its long neck” as a prime example of this type of deviation. The Shih Tzu is meant to be a sturdy breed with a broad and deep chest, and good spring of rib. It is slightly longer from withers to tail than its height at the withers. As noted in the Standard, “Of utmost importance is an overall well-balanced dog with no exaggerated features.” The Shih Tzu should always be compact and solid, and carry good weight and substance regardless of size. While it should never be so low-stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty, it also must never be so high- stationed as to appear leggy. The neck is supposed to flow smoothly into the shoulders. It should be of sufficient length to permit a naturally high head carriage that is in balance with the height and length of the dog. Nowhere does the Shih Tzu Standard call for a long neck or long legs. The front legs are to be well-boned, muscular, and set well-apart and under the chest, with elbows close to the body. The tail should be set on high and carried in a curve, well-over the back. Too many tails today are too tight, too flat, or set too low. You should be able to insert your hand between the front legs, and into the teacup-handle curve created by a properly set tail. Coupled with longer necks, flat or low-set tails destroy the desired over- all outline of the dog.

The angulation of the hindquarters should be in balance with the forequarters. If it is not, one gets what is often seen in today’s ring—a dog that is strung up and raced around the ring, with its front feet barely touching the ground and a flashy rear “kick.” This is not the good front reach and equally strong rear drive called for in the Standard, but simply an effort to get the rear legs out of the way of the front legs. It also often results in a sloping topline rather than the desired level one. At a slower speed, and not strung up, a dog with this angulation would lack the desired smooth, flowing, and effortless movement. While the Shih Tzu should be sound, it is not a generic dog. Its most distinguishing feature is its broad, round head and the warm, sweet, wide-eyed expression that reflects its temperament. The desired head is the result of a complex collection of recessives that are being lost. Unfortunately, heads have gotten smaller as the dogs have gotten taller with finer bones and longer necks. Narrow heads and close-set, small, light, or almond-shaped eyes are serious faults, as are the lack of a defi- nite stop or an overshot bite. The muzzle should be square, short, and well-cushioned, and set no lower than the bottom eye rim. For health reasons, the nostrils should be broad, wide, and open. When judging our breed, the Standard says, “Care should be taken to look and examine well beyond the hair to determine if what is seen is the actual head and expression rather than an image created by grooming technique.” With a light touch, this can be done without destroying the grooming!

BIO Jo Ann White acquired her first Shih Tzu before the breed achieved full AKC recognition. The former President of both the American Shih Tzu Club and the Shih Tzu Club of Central Florida, she remains on the Board of both clubs as well as the Manatee Kennel Club. The author of The Official Book of the Shih Tzu and a longtime Shih Tzu Breed Columnist for the AKC Gazette, Jo Ann is no longer able to show due to health issues but remains active as head of the ASTC website ( ) and Chair of the ASTC Publications Committee. The breeder and/or owner of about 20 champions, she is pictured winning an Award of Merit from the Veteran Class at an ASTC National with her beloved BIS and BISS “Chico,” the sire of 16 champions.


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