The Shih Tzu Head

    Illustrations of Shih Tzu's head.

    The Shih Tzu has the BRACHYCEPHALIC or short-headed type of skull, also seen in the Pug and Pekingese, and this skull first came into existence as a mutation during the dawn of history. Although there is no definite proof, this mutation may have occurred in the Early Paleolithic age, over 70,000 years ago when Neanderthal man, the earliest member of Homo Sapiens, roamed the earth. The causative factors which produced such mutations were then in existence in the form of geological radiations, due to disturbances in the earth’s crust. The lands in the Chinese zone were particularly given to the production of the short-headed skull. These mutations in the canine world would undoubtedly not have survived (being unable to kill their prey) had not primitive man been willing to domesticate them, using them possibly as bed-warmers, as watch-dogs, and as food.

    To come to modern times, the original Breed Standard in the Western world was written out by General Sir Douglas Brownrigg in 1934 with the helpful advice of Mr. A. Croxton-Smith, then Secretary of the English Kennel Club, and the points regarding the head were based on the head structure of the first imports from China and their offspring. The best of these dogs had fine, massive skulls, large eyes set well apart, and broad, flat, well-padded muzzles as still described in the Standard. The American Standard amplifies the English Standard by mentioning a “definite stop” and eyes “showing a warm expression,” which are very welcome additions.


    Illustration of Shih Tzu's head.
    Artwork by Stephen Hubbell

    Head: Broad and round, wide between the eyes.

    Eyes: Large, dark, and round but not prominent. Placed well apart with warm expression.

    Muzzle: Square and Short but not wrinkled.

    Faults: Narrow head, overshot bite, snipiness, pink on nose or eye rims, small or light eye, and lack of definite stop.

    Illustration of Shih Tzu's head.
    Artwork by Stephen Hubbell

    Ears: Large with long leathers and carried drooping. Set slightly below the crown of the skull.

    Nose: About one inch from tip to stop. Definite Stop.

    Bite: Undershot, jaw is broad and wide. Teeth and tongue should not show when mouth is closed.

    A point to bear in mind is that the description of the proportions of the skull refers to the actual head structure and not to the impression given by the long, profuse hair. A good head construction can clearly be seen when a puppy is about a month old, before the coat has fluffed out. A good time to examine the skull is when the dog is wet from a bath, and sometimes it can be seen that the proportions are disappointing—the skull can be too narrow, the eyes too small and close, and the muzzle too pinched.


    The following are a few details not mentioned in the Standard:

    The skull should be broader from side to side than from front to back. The brow should be noble and should not slope away too quickly behind the eyes. The muzzle should be well-padded and there should be a strong chin. Lips should be well-defined and black (or dark brown in liver dogs) and should look rather human. The beautiful eyes should look straight into yours, and again, should look rather human as they are frontally-placed in the skull and both can focus on the same object, unlike a narrow-headed breed whose eyes are further round the side of the head. Nose-leather broad and nostrils well open. The drawings above are taken from measurements of dogs with good heads as described in the Standard, and the parti-color markings are drawn in to help with the general effect.

    The Shih Tzu Head

    By the American Shih Tzu Club Judges Education Committee

    Adapted from an article written by Gay Widdrington, Lahkang Kennels, England, for the September 1972 Shih Tzu Bulletin. This article, written in the early days of breed recognition, describes the healthy Shih Tzu head, a complex collection of recessives that needs to be preserved for the health of the breed. A head that is made to look correct by grooming is not correct. What is described here is the head that long-time breeder-judges and breeders say we are losing.

    American Shih Tzu Club JEC

    • Show Comments (0)

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    comment *

    • name *

    • email *

    • website *


    You May Also Like

    Carla Johnson's JOCAR Shih Tzu with it's accolades

    JOCAR Shih Tzu | Carla Johnson

    Carla Johnson is the breeder behind JOCAR Shih Tzu. Read about the kennel's beginnings, ...

    Biewer terrier on white background

    Judging the Toy Breeds

    Just like a child in a toy store searching for the perfect toy, judges ...

    Shih Tzu Colors, Sex, Age, and Size

    Shih Tzu Colors, Sex, Age, and Size

    Shih Tzu breed traits and characteristics: Learn more about this lovely Toy dog breed ...