Extended Breed Standard

Based on Audrey Dadds original and amended to support 2009 KC revision
This document is intended to be read in conjunction with the Breed Standard

General Appearance and Characteristics

These two can be considered together. They are self explanatory, for alertness should be seen in the show ring and the Shih Tzu should be quick and ready to move. To see the conformation of the Shih Tzu can be deceptive because of its heavy coat. The standing position shows the outline and balance. Hands on the dog are needed to asses the width of chest and thickness of bone. It should not be so narrow in chest and fine of bone as a terrier and not as dainty as a toy. It should be solid and heavy for its size. It needs to be seen on the move and should move arrogantly, holding its head up and striding out in a lively fashion. This should not, however, be confused with rushing or running the dog around the ring at speed; that is not a show of arrogance. Neither should it plod along in a sluggish manner, this frequently means that the legs are too short. A dog which is only good when ‘set up’ is not of good intrinsic merit. It must also be assessed on the move; this is the test for conformation. The standing position should be adopted naturally and the animal should be capable of holding its tail in a ‘teapot handle’ over its back.

At first this may sound a little contradictory. The Shih Tzu should be a very friendly dog but not all respond immediately in this way to those they don’t know. An arrogant Shih Tzu male will frequently show disdain for the judge by turning its head away rather than showing its happy expression. It is undoubtedly an independent little dog with a mind of its own. Aggression or nervousness are untypical and very undesirable.

Head and Skull

The size of the head should be in balance with the body and - together with the neck - in balance with the tail. A well dressed head can do much to improve a dog’s appearance and disguise its real size. Height and breadth can be altered with good furnishings and the way it has been dressed. The length of the nose and width between the eyes can appear different according to how the top knot is tied. It is essential to examine the head closely from all angles as a ringside view or a photograph can be very deceptive. A good head is of the utmost importance and should resemble neither the Apso or the Pekingese. The muzzle should be broad and square, as depicted in the Chinese ‘lions’ and definitely not a spoon shape. The stop of the nose should start on a line with the lower eye rim. Nose length has to vary a little, depending on the size of the dog, hence ‘about’ one inch from tip to stop. Too long a nose and too short a nose are equally undesirable. It can be level or slightly uptilted. A down pointed nose is very bad as it gives an untypical expression to the face. Wide nostrils have been added to the standard as tight nostrils can cause breathing difficulties. Puppies’ nostrils will often tighten during teething and widen later. It is preferable that the pigmentation on the muzzle is unbroken.


The standard says ‘large’ but size must also be in proportion to the head. It has always been recognised that white of eye showing is undesirable. There are degrees of the amount of white showing. Sometimes it is an unsightly ring all around the eye or it may just be a small amount in the corner of one eye in an otherwise good specimen. Many dogs will show more white of eye when anxious or excited and it is up to the judge to assess the degree of the fault. Some eyes can be quite expressionless and blank. The Shih Tzu’s eyes should be full of a soft, gentle expression.


The standard for the ears is difficult to expand upon. It is preferable to have a thick ear leather as this adds width to the head.


The standard doesn’t say much about the mouth other than it should be wide with the jaw slightlyteeth.jpg undershot or level with lips level. An uptilted nose will often have a strong undershot jaw but as long as the teeth aren’t showing and the lips level then it won’t be penalised as it gives a more arrogant expression. A straight nose has a greater chance to be lacking in chin and a wry jaw is definitely a fault. Teeth aren’t mentioned either. Ideally there should be six incisors between the canines. It is fairly common in brachycephalic dogs to have five or, sometimes, four. Fewer than four incisors is definitely undesirable and these animals shouldn’t be bred from. Too few teeth will give an undesirable narrow jaw.


We do not want a swan neck but neither do we want a lack of neck. Both are equally bad. The standard describes it well, ‘sufficient length to carry head proudly’.


Neck and forequarters need to be considered in conjunction with each other, for the neck, set-on of head and shoulder placement are relative to each other. Firstly, the dog needs to be standing correctly, not strung up by a tight lead. The set on of head and placement of scapula are most important. For a well laid back shoulder the chest and neck need to be of sufficient length; the muscles of the scapula are attached to both and when they are long, the attachments of the scapula pull them further back to give a well laid back shoulder and of course they must have a good return of upper arm. The attachment of the scapula muscles is also relative to the importance of the action, a good forequarter being essential for the correct front action. To come to the leg, the standard says short. There is a danger in legs being too short as this can put the dog out of balance. The same applies if the legs are too long; balance, outline and correct movement are negatively impacted. The Shih Tzu should have a broad, deep chest, not a barrel chest like a Pekingese or a narrow chest like an Apso. So far as balance is concerned, the Shih Tzu body should be longer from the withers to the root of tail than its height at thebody.jpg withers, not from the point of the shoulder as in the Apso. The elbows are ideally level with or very slightly above the brisket line, the elbow joint coming directly under the withers with the foot directly under that. It should be possible to draw a perpendicular line from the withers to the foot. A slight bow in the front leg is permissible consistent with the chest being well let down.


The body should be short coupled, which is very different from being ‘cobby’ or short in length. Short coupled means that the coupling - which is the distance between the last rib and the hindquarters - should be short; therefore, to give the Shih Tzu its length the ribcage should be long. The body of a Shih Tzu does not have a waist, neither should it be tucked up nor tapered behind. The underline should remain nearly parallel to the top line. The body should be muscular rather than fat, and in hard condition; it being possible to feel the ribs but they should not feel too thin and bony. A fit dog should have well defined muscle tone. The top line should be level, there should be no roach, dips in the middle nor up behind. The latter is frequently disguised by the tail or by the legs being stretched out too far behind when stationary.


It is important to have some bend of stifle, since too straight a stifle will give a stilted action and cause the dog to be up behind. The legs should appear straight and parallel from behind when standing and feet should turn neither in nor out. There should be no cow hocks or bowing. The rear pastern should perpendicular to the ground.


It is difficult to expand on what the standard says about feet but note the 2009 Standard revision emphasises ‘well covered with hair’ and not the previous ‘appearing big on account of wealth of hair’.


The standard says the tail should be approximately level with the height of the skull. Sometimes you see it being brought over and pushed flat on the back. This should not be - one does not judge on its length, except as how it affects the overall balance of the dog. It should be a ‘teapot handle’ tail, with just the tip touching the back or going slightly to one side. A flat or tight tail is incorrect. The tail should be set on high. A low set tail makes it very difficult to get the correct outline.

Gait / Movement

The ideal should be free, the front leg stretched well forward. The legs should go straight, the feet movement.jpgturning neither in nor out. The latter should not be swung forward like a terrier, but neither should they throw them upwards. The head is held arrogantly high, without the need to be strung up. In the hind action, the legs should look straight, should reach well under and be driven out behind with a strong thrusting action and a slight kick showing the whole pad. Showing a full pad, however, does not necessarily  mean correct rear drive. This can only be viewed from the side. They should not be too wide apart, as the legs should converge on movement. The faster they move, the closer the legs, but never so close that they brush against or go in a straight line with each other. The Shih Tzu has always been noted as having strong rear movement. A stilted action is quite incorrect; there should be no weaving, plaiting or paddling, dragging of one leg or frequent hopping. A slight roll is permitted owing to the broad, deep chest. If the dog is not put together correctly, it will not walk correctly.


A long, flowing coat is to be desired, but over emphasis on the coat to exclude other points will be the downfall of the breed. The 2009 Kennel Club changes to the standard reinforce this point. A good undercoat, as stated in the standard, is important although some colours, especially solids, have never carried a thick undercoat.


It is difficult to expand on what the standard says about colour. All colours equally permissible.


The standard is fairly clear on size. There has always been considerable variation in the size of the Shih Tzu. It should be heavy for its size. It should always be remembered that weight and size are relative to each other but the 10.5” height at withers is a maximum size.