Shih Tzu Breed Magazine - Showsight

Shih Tzu Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

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Official Standard of the Shih Tzu General Appearance: The Shih Tzu is a sturdy, lively, alert toy dog with long flowing double coat. Befitting his noble Chinese ancestry as a highly valued, prized companion and palace pet, the Shih Tzu is proud of bearing, has a distinctively arrogant carriage with head well up and tail curved over the back. Although there has always been considerable size variation, the Shih Tzu must be compact, solid, carrying good weight and substance. Even though a toy dog, the Shih Tzu must be subject to the same requirements of soundness and structure prescribed for all breeds, and any deviation from the ideal described in the standard should be penalized to the extent of the deviation. Structural faults common to all breeds are as undesirable in the Shih Tzu as in any other breed, regardless of whether or not such faults are specifically mentioned in the standard. Size, Proportion, Substance: Size - Ideally, height at withers is 9 to 10½ inches; but, not less than 8 inches nor more than 11 inches. Ideally, weight of mature dogs, 9 to 16 pounds. Proportion - Length between withers and root of tail is slightly longer than height at withers. The Shih Tzu must never be so high stationed as to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty. Substance - Regardless of size, the Shih Tzu is always compact, solid and carries good weight and substance. Head : Head - Round, broad, wide between eyes, its size in balance with the overall size of dog being neither too large nor too small. Fault: Narrow head, close-set eyes. Expression - Warm, sweet, wide-eyed, friendly and trusting. An overall well-balanced and pleasant expression supersedes the importance of individual parts. 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 . Eyes - Large, round, not prominent, placed well apart, looking straight ahead. Very dark. Lighter on liver pigmented dogs and blue pigmented dogs. Fault: Small, close-set or light eyes; excessive eye white. Ears - Large, set slightly below crown of skull; heavily coated. Skull - Domed. Stop - There is a definite stop. Muzzle - Square, short, unwrinkled, with good cushioning, set no lower than bottom eye rim; never downturned. Ideally, no longer than 1 inch from tip of nose to stop, although length may vary slightly in relation to overall size of dog. Front of muzzle should be flat; lower lip and chin not protruding and definitely never receding. Fault: Snipiness, lack of definite stop. Nose - Nostrils are broad, wide, and open. Pigmentation - Nose, lips, eye rims are black on all colors, except liver on liver pigmented dogs and blue on blue pigmented dogs. Fault: Pink on nose, lips, or eye rims. Bite - Undershot. Jaw is broad and wide. A missing tooth or slightly misaligned teeth should not be too severely penalized. Teeth and tongue should not show when mouth is closed. Fault: Overshot bite. Neck, Topline, Body : Of utmost importance is an overall well-balanced dog with no exaggerated features . Neck - Well set-on flowing smoothly into shoulders; of sufficient length to permit natural high head carriage and in balance with height and length of dog. Topline - Level. Body - Short-coupled and sturdy with no waist or tuck-up. The Shih Tzu is slightly longer than tall. Fault - Legginess. Chest - Broad and deep with good spring-of-rib, however, not barrel- chested. Depth of ribcage should extend to just below elbow. Distance from elbow to withers is a little greater than from elbow to ground. Croup - Flat. Tail - Set on high, heavily plumed, carried in curve well over back. Too loose, too tight, too flat, or too low set a tail is undesirable and should be penalized to extent of deviation.

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Forequarters: Shoulders - Well-angulated, well laid-back, well laid-in, fitting smoothly into body. Legs - Straight, well-boned, muscular, set well-apart and under chest, with elbows set close to body. Pasterns - Strong, perpendicular. Dewclaws - May be removed. Feet - Firm, well- padded, point straight ahead. Hindquarters : Angulation of hindquarters should be in balance with forequarters . Legs - Well- boned, muscular, and straight when viewed from rear with well-bent stifles, not close set but in line with forequarters. Hocks - Well let down, perpendicular. Fault - Hyperextension of hocks. Dewclaws - May be removed. Feet - Firm, well-padded, point straight ahead. Coat: Coat - Luxurious, double-coated, dense, long, and flowing. Slight wave permissible. Hair on top of head is tied up. Fault: Sparse coat, single coat, curly coat. Trimming - Feet, bottom of coat, and anus may be done for neatness and to facilitate movement. Fault - Excessive trimming. Color and Markings: All are permissible and to be considered equally. Gait : The Shih Tzu moves straight and must be shown at its own natural speed, neither raced nor strung-up, to evaluate its smooth, flowing, effortless movement with good front reach and equally strong rear drive, level topline, naturally high head carriage, and tail carried in gentle curve over back. Temperament: As the sole purpose of the Shih Tzu is that of a companion and house pet, it is essential that its temperament be outgoing, happy, affectionate, friendly and trusting towards all.

Approved May 9, 1989 Effective June 29, 1989




T he Shih Tzu breed is a luxuriously coated Toy breed with a distinc- tive chrysanthemum face, rectangular body, and an amazing person- ality and temperament. Shih Tzu also have a “signature” proud head, with a tail held high over the back. They require extensive groom- ing, so the exhibitors, breeders, and handlers can easily fool the inexperienced judge. Shih Tzu are more than just a pretty face accentuated by an elaborate, and sometimes overdone, artificial topknot. Anyone contemplating judging our breed or gaining a better understanding of Shih Tzu should begin their education by obtaining a copy of The Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu Standard , available from the American Shih Tzu Club. As Chairperson of the committee that developed the guide, I feel it truly is a valuable tool that includes numerous color photos as well as a number of “before and afters” of the Shih Tzu in coat—and even shaved down naked. It also con- tains written clarifications of important points of the Standard and numerous sketches by Stephen Hubbell that outline the breed’s finer points. This booklet is an excellent way to train your eye to look beyond the hair so that you can visual- ize the actual structure and shape the dog should be as it struts around the ring. It also contains a description of the “Essence of Shih Tzu Breed Type.” A knowledge of the characteristics listed below, in order of importance, will help take the mystery away from understanding this amazing breed. ESSENCE OF SHIH TZU BREED TYPE Temperament: Outgoing, lively, alert, proud, arrogant, affectionate, friend- ly, and trusting. Head: Round and broad, with eyes that are large, round, and dark; the expres- sion is warm, friendly, and trusting, with the head in proportion to the body. Body: Overall balance and proportion is rectangular; well-bodied, good bone, topline level, high teacup tail. Gait: Smooth, flowing, effortless; head and tail held high. Coat: Long, luxurious, and double-coated. Please allow me to briefly expound on some key points when judging the Shih Tzu. TEMPERAMENT This is the most important aspect of Shih Tzu. They MUST be outgoing and friendly. Shih Tzu can have a number of personalities. They can be clowns and naughty, regal, and a bit arrogant. However, they should under no circumstances be aggressive or shy. While examining them, you can fully expect a wagging tail, sparkling eyes, and in general, an extremely happy dog that would love to be in your arms. They should love everyone!!!

“Shih Tzu are more than just a pretty face accentuated by an elaborate, and sometimes overdone, artificial topknot.”


HEAD The Shih Tzu head is what makes our breed unique. Think “round” from all sides. As a judge, I like to see the head at least the size of a grapefruit or larger. Today’s exhibitors are, unfor- tunately, what we refer to as “artists.” Once you learn how to examine the head, you can see beyond all the fuss and grandiose grooming. Using the method of cupping the head in your hands with fingers behind the ears, you can then use your thumbs to do all the examining of the rest of the head. This allows you to look into their eyes, feel the whole shape of the skull, width of muzzle, amount of stop, and fullness of fore skull, without destroying the grooming. BODY Shih Tzu should be surprisingly heavy for their size. The aver- age show dog weighs between 9 and 13 pounds, and measures approximately 9 to 10.5 inches at the shoulder when mature. Pup- pies may sometimes appear to be large, especially if they have the proper coat texture. We want substance, good bone, body, forechest, and shelf in the rear. Shih Tzu do not have a waist or tuck up. They are slightly longer than tall. GAIT Shih Tzu should be built as well as any other breed of dog. They should have a good structure so that they can move effort- lessly and smoothly, with head held proudly and the tail over the back. Ideally, the tail set is high and carried properly. (We describe it as a teapot handle.) The tail should not be flat on the back. You want to be able to see the reach and drive from the side, as well as two black pads when the dog is moving away from you. COAT Many judges are confused about coats because of all the techniques that the exhibitors are now using to camouflage bad coats—to look like good ones. The coat must be luxurious, dou- ble -coated and dense. All colors and markings should be consid- ered equally. This may be difficult, as some markings may help or hinder the appearance of balance with the overall dog. You may have to take more time on the solid colors, especially when exam- ining the heads. Different colors can have different textures and fullness of hair. Puppies that have an abundance of puppy coat will appear larger, and adults that have been shown frequently may appear to have single coats. We want a double coat that, on adults, will appear to be long, luxurious, and flowing. When judging, I will bring my class into the ring and, depend- ing on the size of the class, move them as a group or individually first. Going down the line, and viewing from the center of the ring, will give you a good indication of size, proportion, and bal- ance within the class. When judging this breed outdoors, they are sometimes at a great disadvantage depending on the show grounds and the length of the grass. This is when the examinations on the table are very important. It is difficult to judge balance when the grass is long—and is also difficult to judge movement as well. In conclusion, I feel Shih Tzu are an awesome breed and we want all judges to enjoy their experiences in our breed. Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the important nuances of our breed (by studying the Illustrated Guide) will give you the confidence to pick the correct dog whether it is being shown by a breeder, a handler or a rank novice. Do not be fooled, as the Shih Tzu is more than just a pretty face.

Sketches by Stephen Hubbell, ASTC Illustrated Guide

“Shih Tzu should be built as well as any other breed of dog. They should have a good structure so that they can move effortlessly and smoothly, with head held proudly and the tail over the back.”

A Guide to Examining & Judging


J udging the Shih Tzu can be a challenging task for the newly approved Breed judge. Because the Shih Tzu is a heavily-coated breed, one must take extra care during the hands-on examination. Please judge the Shih Tzu by the AKC standard and not by the name of the Group it is placed in. Being a member of the AKC Toy Group in no way implies that “smaller” and “cuter” are preferred. Breeders and judges should remem- ber that most everywhere else in the world the Shih Tzu is not in the Toy Group. Th e Shih Tzu has not been bred down from some other combination of breeds. Th e Shih Tzu should be the third heaviest breed in the Toy Group, right behind the Pug and the Cavalier King Charles Span- iel. At the time of recognition, one reason given for plac- ing the Shih Tzu in the AKC Toy Group was to eliminate confusion between the Shih Tzu and the Lhasa Apso. A few years ago, when AKC Group realignment was being considered, the membership of the ASTC was polled and the desire of the overwhelming majority was to remain in the Toy Group. Some members just wanted to leave things the way they were. Some members feared the breed would get larger if placed in the Non-Sporting or the proposed Companion Group. In Canada, the Shih Tzu is in the Non- Sporting Group and Canadian Shih Tzu are no larger than American-bred Shih Tzu. In fact, the Canadian dogs com- pete very well at our national specialties. Many Americans breed to Canadian dogs. Some ASTC members did not want to be placed into the same Group with Poodles and Bichon, which tend to dominate Group winning there. An interesting note about the English Shih Tzu Standard: Th e original English standard stated, “ Th e Shih Tzu is neither a Terrier, nor a Toy.” It bears repeating; judge the Shih Tzu by the AKC standard and NOT by the name of the Group it is placed in. TYPE OVER SOUNDNESS Th e Shih Tzu should move as soundly as any other breed: Sound coming and going, with a level topline and good reach and drive. But do not put physical and struc- tural soundness ahead of type. Remember form over func- tion, and the function of a Shih Tzu is to be a beautiful, pleasing companion. Please fi nd the typiest dogs in the ring and then reward the soundest of the typiest. THE INFLUENCE OF SEX Th ere is little di ff erence in appearance and size of males and females. Both sexes have been big winners, including multiple National Specialty and Best In Show winners.

These four Illustrations show correct head shape, correct eye/nose placement, with both a dog in coat and cut down. From the ASTC Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu, and used with the knowledge and permission of the ASTC.

MANHANDLING SHIH TZU Th ere is no reason to ever be heavy-handed when judging the breed. Temperamentally, Shih Tzu can “take being man-handled,” but there is absolutely no reason to squeeze the legs all the way down to the toes. It is possible to ascertain what is underneath the hair without squeezing. GROOMING Th e Shih Tzu is just as much a “grooming breed” as the Yorkshire Terrier, the Maltese, the Poodle and the Terrier breeds to name a few... Grooming and presentation are important. Excesses are not acceptable. Grooming techniques have evolved over the years, often to the detri- ment of the breed. Anyone approved by AKC to judge any breed knows what the AKC rules are, and what is and is not allowed. You all know what your options are and how to deal with it. I fi nd it di ffi cult to penalize a dog for what a human has done to it. Regarding the Shih Tzu Standard, there is nothing speci fi c in the stan- dard as to “how” the topknot is supposed to be “prepared.” Th e standard simply says, “Hair on top of head is tied up.” In fact, the standard prior to 1989, simply said, “Hair...may be tied up.” Notice there is nothing speci fi c as to what the topknot should look like or how many bands may be used, etc. If you as a judge fi nd something excessive, you will have



Illustrating Two Styles of Topknots: Left, Today’s One-Piece Topknot; Right, A Split Topknot from the 1980’s.

about the dog in front of the tail?” Again, the standard states, “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.” Regarding trim- ming, the standard says, “Trimming—Feet, bottom of coat and anus may be done for neatness and to facilitate movement. Fault: Excessive trimming.” Th e most important characteristics to keep in mind while judging these beautiful dogs are: Temperament, Balance, Heads, Body, Coat and Color, and Movement. TEMPERAMENT In judging Shih Tzu, temperament should never be an issue. Th is is a happy breed, which would rather kiss you than have you examine it. A bit of happy “naugh- tiness” should be expected. Please do not expect the Shih Tzu to be a robot. At the same time, any hint of shyness should be noted and considered when making your decisions. Aggressiveness, as in any other breed, is not to be tolerated. BALANCE & PROPORTIONS Th e Shih Tzu is a rectangular breed. Th e distance from the withers to the set of the tail is “slightly” longer than the distance from the withers to the ground. Th e limits for height are from 8" to 11"; ideally from 9 to 10-1/2". Th erefore, if a dog’s height measures 10-1/2" at the withers, the dis- tance from the withers to the set of the tail should be approximately 10-3/4". When you add forechest and buttocks to the trunk section, you have a distinctly rectangular dog. Judging height-to-length balance is

done best on the table, (where all dogs in the Toy Group must be examined). Judging Shih Tzu outdoors on grass will add at least an inch or more to apparent overall length and, of course, will distort the true balance and make the dog look much longer than it really is. Toy exhibitors frequently com- plain that the grass is never mowed short enough. On a fl at surface this is much less of a problem. Of course, judging the breed in the wind and rain creates a real disaster. When looking at a class of dogs, look at where their toplines are and not at the top of their heads. Typically, a dog with good shoulders will carry himself more upright and might appear to be taller. Begin your examination by getting a sense of the overall balance from the side, looking at and com- paring all the entries in a class. I always take a single dog or an entire class around the ring before tabling for examination. If you feel it necessary to re-examine any aspect of a Toy dog, re-table the dog. It is permissible to put no more than two at a time on the table to make comparison. As with some other Toy breeds, having the handler pick the dog up to eye level for examination to re-check details of the head is permissible. THE HEAD Th e head is the hallmark of the breed. Th ough no breed walks on its head, large, correctly-placed and spaced eyes and a strong underjaw are two key ingredients in establishing breed type. Th e head should be large in proportion to the body. Th e breed has lost head size, but what is more alarm- ing is that most dogs’ heads are nearly fl at between the ears. When you fi nd a Shih Tzu with a large head, reward it (providing

to deal with it as you see fi t. I would suggest though, that if you are going to penalize Shih Tzu for perceived grooming abuses, I ask that you be just as consistent with other highly-groomed breeds. Before the ‘90s, almost all topknots were tied up with a den- tal ligature and split, with the hair fl owing down both sides of the head. Th e Shih Tzu has a habit of shaking violently when fi rst coming o ff the table, which leaves the hair fl ying in all directions, but especially over the face. To minimize the e ff ects of shaking, exhibitors began to shorten the topknots. As time passed, other techniques were employed to keep the hair in place. Some feel the reason topknots have gotten “high- er” is to give the appearance of more neck. Th is may or may not be the reason. Some feel that this ability to manufacture an intri- cate topknot gives the expert groomer an advantage over the average breeder/exhibi- tor. To be sure, some feel these intricate top- knots are a way of intimidating the judge from really examining the head. Most Shih Tzu exhibitors believe they would not win if they did not use the “modern” topknot. I was recently told that on one occasion an exhibitor using the “old fashioned” topknot was told by a judge to go to the other exhibi- tors who could teach them how to “do up” the topknot the correct way. I prefer the split style topknot, but the style in which an entry is presented would have almost no e ff ect on my judging or placements. Th ere are simply too many other aspects of the breed that are more important and critical. Recently, I was critical of the tail of a Terrier I was judging and did not reward it a win. When I stated this to a breed expert, I was asked, “What



other key breed characteristics are present). Th ere should be good “doming” above the eyes and between the ears. Th e head should be round when viewed from the front or from the side. Th e muzzle should be broad and square from the front and perpendicular when viewed from the side. If the pro fi le of the muzzle is perpendicular, the mouth will not be too undershot. Th e nostrils should be wide open. Th e teeth, ideally, are straight, but the width of the jaw (per the standard) is more important than slightly misaligned teeth or a missing tooth. Th e “Persian Kitten” syndrome (a look in which the face is small with the muzzle pinched, with small nose leather and the entire muzzle turned up) is very incorrect. Th e Shih Tzu should never give that impression when viewed straight on. Please check the eye/nose placement not only from the front, but also from the side. Th e eyes are large and as dark as possible; set wide apart with the bridge of the nose no lower than the bottom of the eye sockets, with as little eye white as possible. Do not discard an otherwise good specimen of the breed because of a very small amount of white in the inside corner of the eye. An eye totally ringed in white is completely unacceptable. Today, a Shih Tzu with a big, broad head with plenty of doming is more the exception than the rule. Th e nose leather (not length) should be large and black with wide open nos- trils. If you must choose between “down faced” or a nose placed too high, choose the latter. Th e Shih Tzu should have a broad lower jaw with reverse scissors bite. Most mouths today are proper. Th ere are very few wry or severely undershot bites. Sometimes the teeth are a little out of alignment or there might be a tooth missing. Th e stan- dard allows for this. Th e standard does not call for full dentition and there is no reason to look any farther than across the front of the mouth. By looking at the canines and incisors, you will be able to tell whether the dog has the proper undershot bite and whether the mouth is wry and how broad the jaw is. What is most important is that the jaw is broad and the under-jaw is strong. A broad, strong under-jaw is a key to the essence of head type in the breed. Th e Hands-On Examination: Do not be intimidated by groom- ing. It is easy to examine the Shih Tzu thoroughly without disturb- ing the grooming at all. To examine the head, cup the head with your hands and fi ngers behind the jaws and ears. With your thumbs, check the ear set to see if the ears are set just below the crown of the head and to see if there is “doming between the ears.” Use either thumb to determine the depth of the stop and the length of the nose. Using either thumb, push inward on the topknot (between the bow and the stop) to see if there is su ffi cient skull forward. Often the skull falls away above the eyes, with practically no fore-skull. Run both thumbs down each side of the muzzle and mustache to determine the width. Using either hand, hold down on the beard below the lower lip and push the lips upward with the other hand to examine the bite. Remem- ber, the width of the jaw is more important than misaligned teeth or a missing tooth. Check the muzzle from the side. THE BODY After fi nishing your examination of the head, move your hands to the shoulders (it is a good idea to stay in contact with the dog as you move your hands to the shoulders). Run your hands down the forequarters, checking for normal shoulder layback. Th e forelegs should be straight, though you will seldom fi nd perfectly straight legs in the Shih Tzu. Th e remainder of the physical examination of the Shih Tzu is like that of most other breeds. Do not massage (stroke) the coat back and forth along the spine. Th ere should be good bone, good substance and good spring of rib. In fact, the stan- dard states, “Substance—Regardless of size, the Shih Tzu is always compact, solid and carries good weight and substance.” Th e stan- dard does not say, “For its size,” but says, “Regardless of size must

have those characteristics.” Th ough the Shih Tzu standard has no DQ for weight, it is good to know what a breeder expects. Weight goes from 9 to 16 pounds. Most breeders would agree that they would like their males to be about 12 to 14 pounds and bitches to be more like 11 to 13 pounds. Don’t confuse a huge coat for substance. Some “apparently big” dogs (because of the amount of coat they have) can in reality be very “shelly” and an apparently smaller dog in reality might have very good bone and wonder- ful rib spring. Th e only way to know for sure is with the physical examination. In other words, don’t confuse height or coat alone for big or little. COAT Th e standard calls for a long, luxurious “double coat.” When examining the coat texture, feel the coat between your fi ngers to determine the texture. Do not massage (stroke) the coat back and forth along the spine. Th e same would go for any other drop coat breed. Lay the tail back to see if it is set-on high. Th ere should be no rounding of the croup. Also, determine whether the tail lays fl at on the back or is more like a teapot handle. Th ere should be room for you to slide your hand between the tail and the dog’s back when the tail curls over the side. Th e tail is set on high; arch- ing well over the back and not carried tightly over the side of the dog or lying fl at on the back. Step back to determine the shape of the dog. Note the correct high-set tail and arch in both the drawing and the actual Shih Tzu photo. Top: Correct height-to-length balance; Bottom: Correct height-to-length balance: “Length between withers and root of tail is slightly longer than height at withers.”



COLOR & MARKINGS Parti-colored, solid any color, black and white or having a dark face is of no importance, as all colors and markings are equal. All colors and markings are acceptable and equal. It is more di ffi cult to judge dark-faced or solid-colored dogs because the breed’s facial characteristics do not “pop out at you.” Th is is why a careful, up close examination (on the table) is so important. Th ere are no o ffi - cial records kept for the all-time top-winning parti-colored, black masked gold or solid black Shih Tzu. Resist the temptation to have a color preference; to prefer black and white, solid black or black masked gold dogs. Do not be turned o ff by a mismarked beard (black on one side and white on the other). Th ere are breeders who prefer certain colors or markings but, as a judge, you must treat all colors and markings as acceptable and equal. A word about the colors blue and liver: Th ey are acceptable according to the standard. However, Shih Tzu with these colors frequently also have lighter eyes; though not always. Th is creates a problem in that it is more di ffi cult to get soft, warm expression from a lighter eye. Liver pig- ment is seldom seen in the ring and blue is a real rarity. MOVEMENT Th e last component of type, Shih Tzu movement should be the same as for any soundly moving dog. Th e head should be carried high. Th e standard refers to a “distinctly arrogant carriage.” Th ere is absolutely no mention in the standard about length of neck. Th e standard requires that the Shih Tzu have arrogant carriage. In order for a Shih Tzu to carry its head high (without being “strung up”),

Correct Shih Tzu Movement: Distinctly arrogant carriage, level topline, good reach and drive.

it must have good shoulder layback. Moving away from you, you should see two black pads. Th e Shih Tzu should cover ground, but is not to be raced. Th e standard states, “ Th e Shih Tzu moves straight and must be shown at its own natural speed, neither raced nor strung-up.” Enough tension on the lead to guide the Shih Tzu is appropriate. A dead loose lead is not necessary. However, please dis- courage exhibitors from stringing up their dogs. When I see abuse in this area, I usually ask the exhibitor to “move your dog again, this time slower and please let up on the lead.”


My wife Bobbi and I began exhibiting Shih Tzu under the Shen Wah prefix in the early 1970s. To date, we have owned, bred or finished almost 100 champions. We have had many Toy Group and Specialty-winning Shih Tzu as well as three all-breed BIS winners. Our biggest pleasure was breeder/ owner-handling our home-bred BIS, BISS Ch. Shen Wah’s Turn It Loose to an all-breed BIS. Our Shih Tzu, BIS BISS Ch. Hallmark Jolei Austin Powers, won the ASTC National Specialty twice. In 2010, he was the number two Toy Dog in the US. We have also bred and shown Specialty-winning Chihuahuas and have shown Pugs and Maltese. We are still breeding and showing Shih Tzu. I am approved to judge the Hound, Terrier, Toy and Non-Sporting Groups, six Sporting and four Working breeds, and Best in Show. We have been members of the American Shih Tzu Club since 1977. I served two terms as President of the American Shih Tzu Club. I have held several offices in the ASTC and was the first AKC Judges Education Chairman. I have been a member of the ASTC judge’s education committee for more than 20 years. I served on the breed standard revision committee of 1989 and also was one of three members of The Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu Standard committee.

I have given seminars concerning Shih Tzu and Chinese/Tibetan breeds in every corner of the US as well as Australia and Europe. I began judging in 1987. I have judged the American Shih Tzu Club National Specialty twice. The Canadian Shih Tzu Club National, the Dutch Shih Tzu Club National, and Shih Tzu Specialties in Japan and Sweden. I have judged Hound, Terrier, Toy and Non-Sporting Group shows in the US and abroad. I have judged Specialty Shows for breeds in most of the Toy, Non-Sporting, Terrier and Hound Groups in the US, including the Chihuahua Club of America National Specialty Show. I have also judged the Tibetan Terrier Club of America National Specialty, the Lhasa Apso Club of America National Specialty, and the Chinese Shar Pei Club of America National Specialty. I’ve also judged the American Foxhound National Specialty. I have judged at the Westminster KC and The AKC/ Eukanuba National Championship shows. I have judged in Australia, Canada, China, Japan, Mexico, The Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. I have authored numerous articles on Shih Tzu, published in “Top Notch Toys” (TNT), the ASTC Bulletin, “Dogs in Review” and the “Shih Tzu Reporter”. I served on the Board of Directors of the Dog Judges Association

of America for six years and served as their annual seminar chairman for several years. I was also the Toy and Non-Sporting Group education coordinator of the Los Angeles Area Dog Judges Educational Association. I was for many years Show Chairman of the Santa Ana Valley Kennel Club and was a board member and am a past president of the Toy Dog Fanciers of Southern California. I have been the featured speaker at the annual Canadian Kennel Club Judges Conference. We now reside in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Professionally, I hold an MA in Educational Administration and a BA in German. I studied at the University of Heidelberg, Germany, in 1965 and ‘66. For 35 years I was a high school teacher, having retired in 2002. I taught German, English, and Art and Music History. I served for more than 30 years as Chairman of the Foreign Language Department.



I have been training and trialing Shih Tzu in Agility for 24 years. I started doing Agility with my Obedience Shih Tzu, which sounds like an oxymoron. I started Agility for something different to do to keep my Shih Tzu interested in doing Obedience. She got bored with Obedience, so I added Agility to keep her interested. Shih Tzu are very much a thinking breed and will come up with different things to do if they are bored or don’t understand their job—as the center photo of “Dori” demonstrates. You must keep your sense of humor, but don’t think you can’t train a Shih Tzu like any other dog. I have trained mine (I’m on my fourth Agility/Obedience/ Rally Shih Tzu) as I would any other dog. I know that this seems taboo, but training a dog is training a dog. They are ALL different, even within the same breed, and you have to figure out what makes them “tick.” My current Shih Tzu, Dori, is the sixth dog I have trained in Agility and the foun- dation has been the same for all. That said, I do make concessions based on the dog. For example, you cannot drill a Shih Tzu as you can other breeds. Do things once or twice and quit that exercise, especially if they have done it right. If they do it right, move on. Otherwise, you are flirting with disaster. They’ll think of many different ways they can do it wrong. I keep training very upbeat and happy, but I DO mark when they do something wrong. Usually with an “Uh-Oh!” I believe dogs need to know when they are right and when they are wrong. Good things are “yes” and/or “good.” I keep training sessions short and very specific. We may only work weave poles for five minutes and quit, or work contacts and quit, or maybe a jump sequence and quit. Give them lots of things to think through. They are great problem-solvers and you want to channel that. In my experience, Shih Tzu are not a very “driven” breed, but it is there, and you have to work on building the little bit of drive that is there; lots of restraint and revving up, and then let them “explode” forward, which you would never do with a dog that has tons of drive. Build that drive when they are young. Restrain them, throw a toy, and rev them up to go get it. I use “ready, ready, ready” as a puppy, and then I transfer that to Agility equipment—contacts, weaves, and even jumps. It helps to have a toy- motivated dog. If you don’t, you can always get one of those toys you can put treats in. I throw the toy and then try to beat them to it. And if I do, I make a big deal that I got it and it’s mine; like it’s the best thing I’ve ever gotten. Most dogs love this game. The other thing to remember is not to push your Shih Tzu too fast in training. Take the time to lay a good foundation. Make sure they are confident doing all the obstacles and don’t move on until they are. If they are not confident, they will do them slowly and, let’s face it, Agility is about speed. Also, never force your dog to do an obstacles they are afraid of. If they show fear, back up to some easier form of the obstacle. This usually happens with contact obstacles, so go back to a smaller version or go back to an easier version of the obstacle. Get them confident again and then move on. Don’t be afraid to back up in your training. I have done that a lot, especially with my Shih Tzu. Agility training and trialing is fun and forms a great bond between you and your Shih Tzu. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t do Agility with a Shih Tzu. It may be a bit more challenging, but it’s worth it—and the dogs and you can have a blast. But, if you don’t have a sense of humor, get a different breed!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Beth Scorzelli is a member of the ASTC Board of Directors and an AKC licensed Canine Good Citizen and Trick Dog testing judge.



S hih Tzu were recognized by the American Kennel Club 45 years ago, but there is a fairly short list of breeder/judges. That fact, I believe, places extra respon- sibility on judges who have come from other breeds/groups to judge Shih Tzu. When selecting judges for National or Regional specialties, exhibitors are looking for judges who have proven to understand the nuances of the breed and any concerns about current prob- lems that may be evident in the show ring. We want judges of Shih Tzu to be knowledgeable and comfortable when judging these toy dogs. It is important to use parent club material about the breed. I urge new and experienced judges of Shih Tzu to include in their preparation The Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu Standard published by the Ameri- can Shih Tzu Club. This attractive 64-page booklet contains the standard,

table examination The only way to determine wheth- er the dog fits the written standard is to use your hands to discover what is under the “long and flowing” coat. The first impression when approaching the dog is the head and expression. Expres- sion is described in the Standard as “Warm, sweet, wide-eyed, friendly and trusting... 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”. Round is the descriptive word to remember as you examine the head; it should be broad, and rounded from side to side as well as from stop to occiput. The head should be in balance with the overall size of the dog. The muzzle is square, short, well cushioned, set no lower than bottom eye rim and ide- ally no longer than one inch from tip of nose to stop. Front of muzzle flat; lower lip and chin not protruding and definitely never receding. The bite is overshot. Nostrils should be broad, wide and open, and the jaw is broad and wide. Ears are large and set slightly below crown of skull. Round is also the word to remember when examining the eyes, which should be “large, round, not prominent, placed

with clarifications. These are accom- panied by wonderful drawings by Ste- phen Hubbell to help understand what is under the glamorous looking coat on dogs in the show ring. To further that understanding, there are also colored photos of Shih Tzu in full show coat and then ‘cut down’. The accompany- ing honest evaluations of the good and less desirable features of these dogs is invaluable to anyone learning or judg- ing the breed. Before any assignment to judge Shih Tzu, it is worthwhile to take this booklet off of the shelf and review what the parent club is telling you about the breed. If it is not in your personal library, review it online at: I also recommend that Shih Tzu exhibitors and breeders review this information regularly. It contains more specifics than this article, which is a condensed review of breed characteristics. ProPortion The Shih Tzu should be a rectangu- lar dog, with “length between the with- ers and root of tail slightly longer than height at withers”. It is not a square dog, and must never be so high stationed to appear leggy, nor so low stationed as to appear dumpy or squatty. Color patterns may be deceptive—a solid-colored dog will look longer than a dog that has a wide white ‘shawl’ over the shoulders. The amount and quality of hair may also vary the perception of the proportion of the dog moving around the ring. Train your eye to these variances—and then use your hands to confirm the proportion of the dog dur- ing the table examination.

well apart... very dark...” The cor- rect eyes are vital to the warm, sweet, friendly expression that is a part of the essence of the breed.

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“REGARDLESS OF SIZE, the Shih tzu iS alwayS compact, Solid and carrieS good weight and SubStance.”

There may be a ‘bubble’ of hair over the forehead; it is your job to use your thumbs and fore fingers to learn wheth- er the head is rounded, or whether the bubble is obscuring the fact that he dog does not have enough stop. There may be a towering topknot, but you should put your fingers through it at the base to determine the shape and size of the head. We are losing the nice big head that should be a hallmark of the breed (narrow heads are a fault), so judges are urged to reward the proper heads when possible. The topknot should help to frame the face and enhance the expression. Higher is not better! In fact, the too-tall topknot can actually distort the expres- sion as well as the moving profile. While there should be enough length of neck to “permit natural head bal- ance with the height and length of the dog”, the Shih Tzu standard also asks for an “overall well-balanced dog with no exaggerated features.” After examining the head, it is time to further examine the body. Hopefully you will find straight front legs, tight elbows, broad and deep chest, good spring of ribs, well angulated shoulders, level topline, flat croup and a tail that is set on high, heavily plumed, and car- ried in a curve over the back. It is very important to remember that the Shih Tzu should not have a ‘waist’—there should be little tuck up. There are exhibitors who don’t seem to understand how to set their Shih Tzu up on the examination table. And, there are good handlers who are able to create a level topline when the dog is on the exam table but—for both, the true test is to watch the dog mov- ing and then make final placement deci- sion based on structure, movement and carriage. Judges need to be patient and examine all dogs equally. Some current concernS Tails should be “set on high, heav- ily plumed, carried in a curve well over the back. Too loose, too tight, too flat, or too low set a tail... should be penal- ized to the extent of the deviation.”

There are many Shih Tzu with a slop- ing croup and a resulting low tail set; these affect the topline and the overall balance of the dog. There are also increasing numbers of Shih Tzu with ‘flat’ tails, where the tail is almost lying on the back of the dog. Even though the flat tail is more subtle than the low set tail, it is also improper. balance We are seeing Shih Tzu that are suc- cessful in the ring and might look ‘glam- orous’ moving around the ring, but they are too short in body. Eyes, as noted ear- lier, breeders need to pay attention to size, shape, color and placement of eyes to protect the proper expression. Size & JudgeS Shih Tzu are in the Toy Group, and have a range of weights (9 to 16 pounds) and heights (9" to 10 ½ " but not less than 8" nor more than 11"). Regard- less of size, the Shih Tzu is always com- pact, solid and carries good weight and substance. Exhibitors complain that many judges seem to think that smaller is preferred—not true! As long as the Shih Tzu is within the weight and height range, each must be judged equally against the written Standard of the breed and not by any ‘cute factor’ that might be seen in smaller dogs. Please visit the American Shih Tzu Club’s website: http://www.american- to view the Illustrated Guide to the Shih Tzu and other articles about Shih Tzu. about the author My husband and I began showing Poodles in Obedience and then Con- formation many years ago and discov- ered Shih Tzu about the time they were recognized. Both breeds are wonderful family companions, which was impor- tant for our situation: our show dogs were kept in small numbers in a home situation. They had to enjoy life with our two sons and their friends. I judge the Toy and Non-Sporting Groups, Best in Show and Junior Showman- ship. I’ve been privileged to judge in

Japan and Australia, and to judge the American Shih Tzu Club National Specialty twice. I am currently AKC Delegate and Recording Secretary for the Ameri- can Shih Tzu Club (a past Presi- dent). I am also a member of Poodle Club of America, Golden Gate Shih Tzu Fanciers, Nor-Cal Toy Dog Fan- ciers and Poodle Club of Central California, and have served as an officer and/or committee member for all them. “clark”, 2013 national Specialty best of breed winner, before and after his retirement haircut— appreciate how well he represents the Shih tzu Standard. as you examine a Shih tzu, remember what you would like to discover under the hair. photo courtesy of wendy, richard and Jody paquette. illustration courtesy of the illustrated guide to the Shih tzu Standard.

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T he Shih Tzu is a “big dog in a little package.” In the United States, where the breed stan- dard calls for a weight of 9 to 16 pounds, the Shih Tzu is classified as a toy breed, but in many other countries it is in the Non-Sporting or Utility group. What- ever its size, a proper Shih Tzu should be sturdy and well-boned. If you pick it up, it is likely to be deceptively heavy for its size, with heavy bones, good spring of rib and a broad, deep chest. From what we know of the breed’s history, it has always been thus. Th ere is no evidence of a so-called “imperial gene,” and breed historian Vic- tor Joris states that the breed in the royal court was similar in size to what is called for in today’s breed standards. Although the origin of the Shih Tzu is shrouded in mystery, it is probably mostly of Tibetan origin. Along with such breeds as the Lhasa Apso, Tibetan Terrier and Tibetan Spaniel, it is one of a group of small, shaggy Oriental breeds classi- fied as “lion dogs” and considered sacred

in Buddhism. Once such dogs were sent as gifts to the ruling Chinese emperors in Beijing they were likely crossed with oth- er Chinese breeds such as the Pekingese, Pug and Japanese Chin. Th e Shih Tzu was developed as a distinctive breed mostly in the court of the Chinese dowager empress Cixi (T’zu Hsi). After Cixi’s death in 1908 breeding became more haphazard. Because the breed was associated with the royal court, it is believed to have become extinct in China after the 1949 Communist revo- lution. Th erefore, all modern Shih Tzu are descended from just seven dogs and seven bitches, three of which were imported into Norway by diplomats stationed in China, a fourth into Sweden and six into Great Britain. Only one of these was actually bred in the royal palace. Th e final founda- tion dog was a black and white Pekingese deliberately crossed with a Shih Tzu in 1952 by a British breeder to reduce size and length of leg and improve pigment. Until 1952 Shih Tzu and Lhasa Apsos were con- sidered the same breed by the AKC and the

Canadian Kennel Club. Th e Shih Tzu did not receive full AKC recognition as a sepa- rate breed until 1969. After that time, its popularity exploded. Th roughout history, the breed’s sole purpose has been to serve as a com- panion dog. Th e wide variety of colors and markings found in Shih Tzu, all of which are to be considered equally, are probably in part the result of court eunuchs breeding the dogs to match the colors of the gowns of the ladies of the court. Shih Tzu temperament has always been friendly and outgoing. A well-bred Shih Tzu rarely meets a person he does not like, or a situation he cannot handle. In fact, he is likely to give a burglar a guided tour! In the show ring, a Shih Tzu should move smoothly and proudly around the ring, with a distinctly arro- gant carriage. Without being raced or strung up, he should naturally hold his head high and his teacup-handle tail (probably wagging) should be curved well over his level topline.


One of the most distinctive features of the Shih Tzu is its head. While Shih Tzu should be of sound structure, as any dog, it is the complex collection of recessives that create the head and expression that distinguishes this from all other breeds. Th e head should be round, like a softball. Th e wide-set eyes should be large, full, round, dark and expressive. Th e short, broad, well-cushioned square muzzle should be set no lower than the bottom of the eye rim and the lower jaw should be strong and broad. Th ere is a deep stop. In the show ring, judges should be sure to look beyond the elaborate grooming to be sure that the head underneath is cor- rect. At home, the a ff ectionate warmth in your Shih Tzu’s expression will melt your heart. It can also, of course, be a way for your dog to convince you that it is simply too sweet and charming to be forced to do something it doesn’t want to do or be punished for a misdeed! As befits its royal ancestry the Shih Tzu can sometimes be stubbornly independent. Th is can make training a challenge. With this breed, you will find that praise works far better than harsh discipline. Anytime your dog is doing what you want, praise him profusely…pretty soon he’ll think the behavior was his own idea and delight in pleasing you with his cleverness! If your dog is on the floor and misbehaving (bark- ing, jumping up and such), simply turn your back and ignore him rather than give him the attention he is seeking. Because Shih Tzu love people, they consider being ignored the cruelest punishment of all. One of the things all Shih Tzu require is regular grooming. Whether you keep your Shih Tzu in gorgeous long coat or in a cute pet clip, whether you use a pro- fessional groomer or do it yourself, all Shih Tzu should be brushed and combed daily, checking eyes and ears and rears in particular for any problems. Remember that small mats that are easily removed can quickly become large ones if ignored, that dirty coats mat more quickly than clean ones and that bathing a matted dog sets in the mats like concrete. When training your dog for grooming, don’t put him down on the floor when he is misbehaving. Instead, take things in small increments, with lots of pauses for petting and praise (and maybe even bits of kibble). Release him only when he is calm and cooperative.

Training this breed for obedience can be frustrating, because Shih Tzu are real hams. Th ey are likely to wander o ff to greet people at ringside, flip over on their backs while wagging their entire bodies when told to “down,” and otherwise add crowd-pleasing enhancements to their routines. Performance activities are a

great way for you and your dog to bond and training is well worth the e ff ort. Shih Tzu, like all dogs, should learn the commands “come,” “sit,” “down,” “leave it,” and “stay” at the very least for their own protection. Shih Tzu, being even- tempered and a ff ectionate, also make good therapy dogs.


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