When you purchase your Shih Tzu, you will make it clear to the breeder whether you want one just as a lovable companion and pet, or if you hope to be buying a Shih Tzu with show prospects. No reputable breeder will sell you a young puppy and tell you that he is definitely of show quality, for so much can go wrong during the early months of a puppy’s development. If you plan to show, what you will hopefully have acquired is a puppy with “show potential.”
To the novice, exhibiting a Shih Tzu in the show ring may look easy, but it takes a lot of hard work and devotion to do top winning at a show such as the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club dog show, not to mention a little luck too!!
The first concept that the canine novice learns when watching a dog show is that each dog first competes against members of his own breed. Once the judge has selected the best member of each breed (Best of Breed), provided that the show is judged on a Group system, that chosen dog will compete with other Best of Breed dogs in his group. Finally, the dogs chosen first in each group will compete for Best in Show.
The second concept that you must understand is that the dogs are not actually compared against one another. The judge compares each dog against his breed standard, the approved word depiction of the ideal specimen that is approved by the American Kennel Club (AKC). While some early breed standards were indeed based on specific dogs that were famous or popular, many dedicated enthusiasts say that a perfect specimen, as described in the standard, has never walked into a show ring, has never been bred and, to the woe of dog breeders around the globe, does not exist. Breeders attempt to get as close to this ideal as possible with every litter, but theoretically the “perfect” dog is so elusive that it is impossible. (And if the “perfect” dog were born, breeders and judges would never agree that it was indeed “perfect.”)
If you are interested in exploring the world of dog showing, your best bet is to join your local breed club or the national parent club, which is the American Shih Tzu Club, Inc. These clubs often host both regional and national specialties, shows only for Shih Tzu, which can include conformation as well as obedience and agility trials. Even if you have no intention of competing with your Shih Tzu, a specialty is like a festival for lovers of the breed who congregate to share their favorite topic: Shih Tzu! Clubs also send out newsletters, and some organize training days and seminars in order that people may learn more about their chosen breed. To locate the breed club closest to you, contact the American Kennel Club, which furnishes the rules and regulations for all of these events plus general dog registration and other basic requirements of dog ownership.
The American Kennel Club offers three kinds of conformation shows: an all-breed show (for all AKC-recognized breeds), a specialty show (for one breed only, usually sponsored by the parent club) and a Group show (for all breeds in the group).
For a dog to become an AKC champion of record, the dog must accumulate 15 points at the shows from at least three different judges, including two “majors.” A “major” is defined as a three-, four- or five-point win, and the number of points per win is determined by the number of dogs entered in the show on that day. Depending on the breed, the number of points that are awarded varies. In a breed as popular as the Shih Tzu, more dogs are needed to rack up the points. At any dog show, only one dog and one bitch of each breed can win points.
Dog showing does not offer “co-ed” classes. Dogs and bitches never compete against each other in the classes. Non-champion dogs are called “class dogs” because they compete in one of five classes. A dog is entered in a particular class depending on his age and previous show wins. To begin, there is the Puppy Class (for 6- to 9-month-olds and for 9- to 12- month-olds); this class is followed by the Novice Class (for dogs that have not won any first prizes except in the Puppy Class or three first prizes in the Novice Class and have not accumulated any points toward their champion title); the Bred-by-Exhibitor Class (for dogs handled by their breeders or handled by one of the breeder’s immediate family); the Americanbred Class (for dogs bred in the US); and the Open Class (for any dog that is not a champion).
Excerpt from Comprehensive Owner’s Guide: Shih Tzu