Judging and Topknots

The following statement is provided by the ASTC Judges Education Committee to judges and prospective judges of Shih Tzu at seminars sanctioned by the American Shih Tzu Club.

The Shih Tzu Standard addresses both the Shih Tzu head and expression in some detail. The head should be round and broad “in balance with the overall size of the dog.” The expression is warm and sweet, “an overall well-balanced and pleasant expression.”

We are cautioned to “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.”

The Parent Club has been watching an ever growing trend for topknots that are more and more elaborate in shape and construction. It has, in fact, developed to the point of actually detracting from some of the breed’s very important characteristics—head, expression and balance.

This style of topknot may give the illusion of a longer neck when viewed from the side. The breed is required to have sufficient length to permit naturally high head carriage—in balance with the height and length of the dog. Nowhere is it stated “long neck.”

We are asking Shih Tzu judges, as well as breeders, to help reverse a trend that has become out of hand. Some handlers are hesitant to show their dogs with a more classic, simplistic topknot for fear of appearing unknowledgeable or lacking in grooming skills. Perhaps some judges are hesitant in their selections for the same reason.

No good dog should be penalized for the groomer’s preference in topknot style. However, they should not be given preferential treatment for the same thing. Let’s please heed the caution underlined in our Standard referencing “an image created by grooming technique.”