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A Guide to Examining & Judging
The Shih Tzu BY JOE WALTON
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
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A GUIDE TO EXAMINING & JUDGING THE SHIH TZU
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
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A GUIDE TO EXAMINING & JUDGING THE SHIH TZU
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.”
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A GUIDE TO EXAMINING & JUDGING THE SHIH TZU
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.
SHOWSIGHT MAGAZINE, AUGUST 2020 | 205
SHIH TZU Q&A with Dr. John V. ioia
1. Describe the breed in three words. Elegant, arrogant and friendly.
It’s difficult for me to critique other judges. There appears to be more “generic” judging today. As a Toy person I am concerned that people coming from large breeds don’t have respect for our little dogs. Each of the Toys, Shih Tzu includ- ed, has a special history, anatomy and movement that needs to be appreciated. Coming from coated breeds is a distinct advantage in judging the Shih Tzu. I hear many questions from newer judges relating to gait. About the Author
2. What are your “must have” traits in this breed? This must include a dog that carries itself with regal ele- gance befitting its royal Chinese ancestry. 3. Are there any traits in this breed you fear are becoming exaggerated? A Shih Tzu must have a large skull, broad muzzle, lovely and large dark round eyes. Specimens must have good depth of chest, nice prosternum and proper layback of front assem- bly with matching rears. This assembly will provide proper reach and drive with level side gait and correct tail carriage to complete the picture. 4. Do you think the dogs you see in this breed are bet- ter now than they were when you first started judg- ing? Why or why not? The Shih Tzu is a “head breed” in the sense that it must have that beautiful, regal expression with large, warn, dark eyes and a trusting expression. I am not a fan of the overdone exaggerated topknots that seem so prevalent in past years. Fortunately, at this year’s National all the specimens were shown with moderate topknots and lovely grooming. 5. What do you think new judges misunderstand about the breed? Having seen the breed since 1971, I must say that the Shih Tzu breed has never been better. Long-term Shih Tzu enthusi- asts know the history of our breed and in the early days there was significant heterogeneity in size and structure. It’s true that in the past we had many more dogs in competition and there are many great dogs that come to mind. In the 70s it was common to need a dozen or more to make a major. Num- bers today are way down, but I came away from this National feeling that the breed’s future is resting in the hands of some very capable breeders. Dogs appear more uniform in many aspects and I was impressed with the front and rear assem- blies of many of the dogs that I judged.
We reside in New York’s Hudson Val- ley. I am an Ortho- pedic Surgeon doing General Orthopedics and Joint Replace- ment Surgery. I am involved in a number of activities outside of dogs. I have been involved in Martial Arts since 1968 and am currently a 5th Degree Black Belt in a Korean form of Karate called Tang Soo Do. In addition
to that I still enjoy playing guitar, primarily blues or rock and playing with our Grandson Zachary. My wife Barbara and I got started in AKC activities when we acquired our first Shih Tzu in 1971, shortly after the breed was recog- nized. We were fortunate to get our first show pup Sassy, which I owner-handled to her championship and also her CD. Ch Kee-Lee’s Om Tzo Tza-Tzi CD (Sassy) became our foundation. She began Bar-Jon Shih Tzu. We have had Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso and now Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. We are actively breeding and showing Cavaliers and I most enjoy doing Rally competition and Therapy Dog work with our Cavaliers. I became an AKC licensed judge in 1982, beginning with Shih Tzu. I now judge All Toys, All Non- Sporting and Most Terrier Breeds, Jr. Showmanship and Best in Show. I judged the 2016 ASTC National Specialty and Juniors at the ACKCSC National Specialty.
6. Is there anything else you’d like to share about the breed? Please elaborate.
“A SHIH TZU MUST HAVE a large skull, broaD muzzle, loVely anD large Dark rounD eyes.”
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JUDGING THE SHIH TZU by Sally VilaS
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: www.americanshihtzuclub.org. 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 thewarm, 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 carriage...in 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- shihtzuclub.org 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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SHIH TZU: Q&A on the Breed
ANN D. HEARN 1. In order, name the five most important traits you look for in the ring. 1. Admittedly, I am a face freak. 2. It must have a pleasing
there are other ‘wanna-bes’ in the ring also—don’t get obstreperous! 8. What traits do you see popping up these days that are going in the wrong direction? What is getting better? Just remember, this is a TOY breed. Any bigger and we’ll put you in Non Sporting! I do think breed type is nailed and it’s due to the intense breeding practices of you faithful Shih Tzu breeders and lovers. 9. What previously campaigned Havanese come close to your ideal? Please explain. There have been quite a few that have appealed to me and I keep looking for that type of dog. When I find it—it generally wins. 10. How does the breed in North America compare to other parts of the world? For pity’s sake—the US has the best! What more can I say! They have the best bone and are not fragile. They have the cutest attitudes. They’re great! 11. Do you have anything else to share? Keep up the diligent attitude you have exhibited in the past 10 to 12 years. I’m proud of all of you! KATHLEEN B. KOLBERT
expression, well spaced eyes and proper muzzle; nose, eye, dome of head proportions. 3. A level topline is so pleasing to the eye. 4. Clean, smooth, proper texture
coat and it doesn’t need to drag the floor. 5. The tail is the finishing touch of balance to the whole body. Let’s you know it’s a happy exhibitor! 2. How important is grooming? Do you feel that the top knot gone too far? Shih Tzu topknots are beginning to make the Poodles look like yesterday’s news! They’re a bit much. They defi- nitely don’t need to be so tall--unless you’re trying to hide something. Never think you can fool a judge that’s been to many rodeos! 3. What head characteristics are most important to breed type? As mentioned previously, the eyes just have to be proper- ly spaced, large and NOT bulging. The balance of mouth, nose and eyes is the total essence of the breed. 4. Describe ideal Shih Tzu movement and its impor- tance in judging. Well, if they want to be able to get to their food bowl, they jolly well ought to be able to move out smartly. I like a pretty side gait with equal reach and drive. Many Shih Tzu’s seem to have that. 5. Are there any unforgivable faults in the Shih Tzu breed? UNCLEAN, ungroomed dogs! Why is the world would anyone bring in that type of dog—just for points for some other dog? Have more pride than that, please. 6. What, if anything, do you feel non-breeder judges get wrong about the breed? Length of body/loin. This is not a Lhasa. 7. What do handlers do in presentation that you wish they would not? How in the world can I criticize handlers who stand at a grooming table hour after hour and day after day trying to make their dog be so appealing it will win. However,
1. In order, name the five most important traits you look for in the ring. 1. OUTLINE: I want to see a sturdy, lively, alert, toy dog with a long flow- ing double coat walk into the ring. (not carried in). With a distinctively arrogant carriage, head held high and tail over its back. 2. BALANCE: The Shih Tzu balance is of particular importance, whether
the exhibit is nine to sixteen pounds. Per the Standard and by eye measurement proper balance is noted here. BODY LENGTH: The forward point of the brisket to the after tip of the pelvis. BODY HEIGHT: Top of the withers to the ground. BACK: The five vertebrae between the withers and the loin, (ninth and thirteenth vertebrae inclusive)
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BACKLINE: Also called the top line, from the neck to the base of tail, including withers, back, loin and croup. The Standard states that the body is very compact, a little longer, with a level top line and with the height at the shoulders the same as the rump. It also emphasizes that a well-balanced outline is very important and is obtained by having the ideal length of neck; the ideal length of a straight level top line as well as the ideal length of leg. This overall harmonious effect, where every part fits properly, give one the desired well bal- anced SHIH TZU. The Standard does not describe the Shih Tzu as being a square dog with body height and body length of equal proportions. Additionally, it is equally obvious that a Shih Tzu with no neck, short legs, and too short a back can never achieve the balance required by the standard. 3. TYPE: A distinguishing symbolic mark that sets apart one dog from another. The Shih Tzu Chrysanthemum head, proud bearing and distinctively arrogant carriage. 4. SOUNDNESS: From the Shih Tzu Standard I quote: "The Shih Tzu must be subject to the same requirements of soundness and structure prescribed for all breeds, and penalized to the extent of the deviation." 5. SHOWMANSHIP: A well trained Shih Tzu that is in sync with the handler, is a sight to see. I like a dog that by actions says “Look at me I am here” 2. How important is grooming? Do you feel that the top knot gone too far? Firstly, grooming is very important, a Shih Tzu should be presented spotless clean. With the use of too much coat dressing you cannot feel the texture. Secondly, the topknot should be in proportion to the size of the head. When they are overdone and you look across the ring for balance. The entire balance of the dog is not in balance because the overdone topknot changes the entire picture of the dog. 3. What head characteristics are most important to breed type? The head is broad, wide between the eyes in balance with the dogs overall size. Eyes are large, round and not almond shaped. Placed well apart with a warm, sweet, wide-eye, friendly and trusting expression. The head is set on a sufficient length of neck to have a natural high head carriage. 4. Describe ideal Shih Tzu movement and its impor- tance in judging. Movement is very important, when the legs of a dog are too long, or too short the movement is stilled with no drive in the rear. It will also have very little kick up to show the pads. I like a good strong rear action with the pads in plain view at all times. When a Shih Tzu has substance, is compact, with good bone and carries the proper weight for its size. It will have proper movement. You will see a driving rear with the pads showing. 5. Are there any unforgivable faults in the Shih Tzu breed?
I cannot forgive a small head. The head is so much the main breed type of the dog. When the head is small everything that is associated with the head does not fit what the Standard calls for. 6. What, if anything, do you feel non-breeder judges get wrong about the breed? I think most Non Breeder Judges do recognize a proper and good Shih Tzu. However I have seen them pass over a excellent moving dog for a Flashy one with poor sub- stance, long legs and terrible movement. 7. What do handlers do in presentation that you wish they would not? Please do not run or walk so fast in my ring that I cannot see the dogs four feet on the ground. It spoils the entire picture of the Shih Tzu. A lot less hair spray in the top- knot so my fingers do not get stuck while I am trying to feel the size of the head. 8. What traits do you see popping up these days that are going in the wrong direction? What is getting better ? Many of the dogs are too small, they lack body, bone and are way too short back, and I have seen several new dogs that are very long in back. When a dog is too short or too long, they cannot move properly. The movement of a Shih Tzu is very unique and without the proper move- ment it spoils the entire dog. Breeders need to watch coat and texture. Coats are being shown that are thin and without undercoat. I think the entries are getting better, and I have seen several beautiful puppies recently that should have a wonderful future in the ring. 9. What previously campaigned Havanese come close to your ideal? Please explain. In 2006 I was at a show in New Jersey, showing my Yorkshire Terriers. After showing I stayed and watched other breeds. As the Shih Tzu were shown I noticed a young male puppy. He was so perfect in his presentation I could not take my eyes off of him. Everything about him was outstanding, his balance, his ring presence and when he moved it was excellent. His head and expression was excellent, He was well groomed and in great coat for such a young dog. That day he was Winners Dog for a four point Major. That puppy was Multiple Group & Spe- cialty Best In Show Winner and 2009 Number One Shih Tzu: Ch. Krissy’s Dream Lover, known as “Cody”; Owned By: L. Sara Lawrence and Rebecca Lawrence; Shown by: Jennifer Miller-Farias I Judged Cody only once in 2009, with Best of Breed and a Group Two. However I did follow his career and watch him time after time and in my opinion always felt he was a perfect example of the Shih Tzu Breed. 10. How does the breed in North America compare to other parts of the world? I have Judged the breed in many foreign countries and I would have to say size would be the main difference. Much more body and bone and a larger frame. In conversations with the breeders after judging they want the larger head, very dark round eyes with
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expression and the front of the muzzle flat and never turned up. 11. Do you have anything else to share? I know this breed is a great deal of work to keep them in coat for show. I was very impressed with the last issue of the Shih Tzu magazine and all of the pictures of the winners. Keep up the good work, IT IS A GREAT BREED!
WENDY L. PAQUETTE
example 1: no Coat
example 2: Show Coat
1. In order, name the five most important traits you look for in the ring. I look for essential breed type, temperament, broad round head, rectangular balance and proportion, and a high set tea cup tail. 2. How important is grooming? Do you feel that the top knot gone too far? Grooming is a very important element of the Shih Tzu. A clean
example 3: no Coat
example 4: Show Coat
Firstly, owners and handlers have a tendency to race a Shih Tzu around on a very tight lead rather than letting them move at their normal speed. This tends to make them look “strung up” instead of natural. Secondly, it would be exaggerated topknots, which many times are only used to hide faults. 8. What traits do you see popping up these days that are going in the wrong direction? What is getting better? We are losing the proper rectangular proportion as well as the proper spring of rib as defined by the standard. Dogs are becoming very compact! On the other hand coat texture and conditioning has greatly improved. 9. What previously campaigned Havanese come close to your ideal? Please explain. Rather than name dogs, here are photos of two dogs that were extensively shown and were both Specialty winners with multiple titles. These photos really explain them- selves when you can see both dogs in and out of show coat. I find some judges have difficulty seeing through the show coat. 10. How does the breed in North America compare to other parts of the world? The Shih Tzu have come a long way since their recogni- tion in the US. I personally feel that we have lost some of our large round heads and spring of rib. However after judging around the world, I feel that the North American Shih Tzu would be able to compete anywhere. 11. Do you have anything else to share? Judges need to be able to judge around the grooming. Owners and handlers need to reflect on how exaggerated their grooming is and a good judge needs to be able to determine what is excessive.
well-presented dog in excellent condition for its age, is beautiful to admire. Shih Tzu have a double coat that is luxurious to touch and different colors may have a differ- ent feel. Topknots have been discussed quite extensively lately. There are occasions where the Topknot is too extreme which usually means that too much product has been used! Some breeders and handlers are starting to “tone it down” a bit and generally most exhibitors are now agreeing less is better. Personally, as a breeder and a judge I like to be able to see the eyes from across the ring. 3. What head characteristics are most important to breed type? I feel that a large round head, large round dark eyes, warm expression and strong square muzzle with a broad underjaw as defined in the standard are most important. 4. Describe ideal Shih Tzu movement and its impor- tance in judging. Movement should be effortless with the head and tail held high, with good reach and drive and the rear pads should be seen when moving away. 5. Are there any unforgivable faults in the Shih Tzu breed? Temperament, temperament, temperament! 6. What, if anything, do you feel non-breeder judges get wrong about the breed? I think they get fooled by grooming and award pretty faces rather than the more important breed aspects of a correct Shih Tzu as described by the standard. 7. What do handlers do in presentation that you wish they would not?
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9. What previously campaigned Havanese come close to your ideal? Please explain. In considering this question, I refreshed my memory by checking the American Shih Tzu Club website, and my own library of books on the breed by Jo Ann White, Vic- tor Joris and Audrey Dabbs. I wish I had seen many of the old greats who were both top winners and top produc- ers, but I did not. 10. Do you have anything else to share? As a judge, I like for a dog to “show himself/herself” with little visible help from the handler. The more natural, the better! Training should take place at home. I see han- dlers... both professional and owner... fiddle with the dog too much and in doing so, often ruin the image. JOE WALTON 1. In order, name the five most important traits you look for in the ring. The single most important characteristic for Shih Tzu is temperament! The Shih Tzu should be a happy, out-going breed. They should want to be everybody’s friend. I love to see their tails wagging while trying to examine them. Five other characteristics of great importance are: Overall balance: height to length (slightly longer than tall), head held high, tail set on high, and arched high over back Proper large round head, with broad underjaw, and large, round, full, dark eyes; properly placed, set wide apart, nose placed not too high but never ever down faced. Proper amount of bone and well sprung ribs, and sub- stance (not fat). The standard: Regardless of size (not for its size), the Shih Tzu is always compact, solid and carries good weight and substance. Proper movement (smooth and flowing with strong rear action), but NOT raced and NOT strung-up with distinct- ly arrogant head carriage. Proper coat texture (double coated with harsher outer coat) 2. How important is grooming? Do you feel that the top knot gone too far? It is very important, in that the Shih Tzu should be clean, and the coat should be in good condition. The face should not be stained. I prefer the “old fashioned” top knot, with hair in the top knot split, and flowing
1. In order, name the five most impor- tant traits you look for in the ring. Temperament, head, coat, body and gait. This is not to say that I devalue the traits at the bottom of the list... all are necessary. 2. How important is grooming? Do you feel that the top knot gone too far?
Grooming has gone too far. I am pleased to see that some of the current exhibits are shown more naturally than just a few years ago. The Standard says “the hair on top of head is tied up.” I do not find the word “topknot” in the Standard. Some time ago I gave BOB to a dog whose hair was “tied up” but not into the usual “topknot” The exhibitor told me subsequently that my decision caused consternation on social media. I was amused as I was doing my best to judge the head, not the grooming. 3. What head characteristics are most important to breed type? The shape of the head should be round and the size in balance with the body. Large, round, dark, correctly pigmented eyes giving a wide-eyed, friendly and trusting expression are essential. The skull is domed; the stop is definite, the muzzle is cushioned, square, short; the bite is undershot in a broad jaw... the Standard is clear on the attributes to seek when judging the head. 4. Describe ideal Shih Tzu movement and its impor- tance in judging. I look for balance, level topline, natural high head car- riage (not strung-up), and tail carriage curving over the back. If the dog is strung-up or is being raced, I ask to see the gait again. And again. Three strikes and you are out of consideration. 5. Are there any unforgivable faults in the Shih Tzu breed? Temperament. It is a hallmark of this breed. 6. What, if anything, do you feel non-breeder judges get wrong about the breed? The structure under the coat. 7. What do handlers do in presentation that you wish they would not? I prefer handlers not string-up or run with a Shih Tzu. The Standard forbids this, but I see it frequently anyway. Also, there is too much product in many coats. 8. What traits do you see popping up these days that are going in the wrong direction? What is getting better? The called-for sweet, trusting expression seems to be lacking on too many exhibits. Not much body under a lot of coat is especially disappointing. Shih Tzus are meant to be a sturdy breed! Grooming seems to be getting more natural and I am totally in favor of that direction.
hallmark Jolei Austin Powers, in full coat.
hallmark Jolei Austin Powers, cut down.
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