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Tips for the novice Shih Tzu Show dog handler

If you will not be hiring a professional Shih Tzu handler for the show ring, there are a few things you should know about how to protect yourself and your Shih Tzu so that neither of you are too discouraged right at the start.

Try to remember a judge’s first and lasting impression of your Shih Tzu’s temperament will be made the moment it walks into the ring. Do not carry your Shih Tzu into the ring to avoid getting its hair messed up. Let the judge see the Shih Tzu’s gait as it walks into the ring. Do not drag the Shih Tzu behind you. It invariably will be a stressful 48 hour period for your Shih Tzu before the show. This time period will either be too hot, too cold or too rainy. A few hours before the show will involve your Shih Tzu having to stand rigidly on a crate, having its face and body sprayed with grooming substance that does not smell or taste very good.


Your Shih Tzu may have to endure a session of sneezing while you brush their hair out to perfection. Then remember all the hours your Shih Tzu was in the bathtub and the grooming session the day before the show. What about the ride to the show? Was it over bumpy, uncomfortable roads? The 48 hours just before the show can be a grueling, torturous time for your precious Shih Tzu, soon to become a Show Dog Shih Tzu. Experienced judges know just what a Shih Tzu has to endure the 48 hours before show time. If your Shih Tzu can still strut into the ring after all this, the judge will have to know your Shih Tzu has an excellent disposition. This will be the judge’s first impression. It will also be a very lasting impression.

Do not try to be first to enter the ring if you are a novice. It will be much more educational for you to get behind a more experienced exhibitor or professional handler where you can observe and learn ring behavior and procedures. When you do enter the ring with your Shih Tzu, do so quickly and calmly. Have your Shih Tzu on a loose lead. Watch for the first opportunity to show your arm band to the judge for check in purposes. Then get in the line-up already forming in the ring. This is usually at the opposite side of the judge’s table. This move will give the judge a good opportunity to the second look at your Shih Tzu. Now, set your Shih Tzu up in a show pose.

As the judge goes up and down the line of Shih Tzu, maintain your Shih Tzu in a show stance. Do not brush the Shih Tzu’s hair at this time. Do not be adjusting the Shih Tzu’s feet, or tilting the head, or positioning the Shih Tzu’s tail. By the time the judge reaches your Shih Tzu, the Shih Tzu should be standing as still as a statue with your hands off of it. If you show a lot of fussing over the Shih Tzu at this time it only calls attention to the fact that you are probably an amateur at this and you will be seen as nervously mishandling the Shih Tzu. A free, natural stance will be more appealing to the judge.

People play games in anything that is competitive to try and discourage a newcomer especially if the newcomer really has a good dog. This poses a threat to others who are competing with you and people do play games to try and make you or your Shih Tzu look bad.

These same kind of games are played in other arenas of the purebred dog sport such as what we have today on the internet with so many Shih Tzu dog websites springing up. People get jealous and feel threatened by what they see their competitors doing that may take away “something” from them. So they try and set up little games to make their competitors look bad or seem unworthy in the hopes that “the consumer” will pass up their competitors when it comes time to purchase Shih Tzu puppies.

I suppose if it works in the world of politics to bad-mouth your competitor and opponents, it should work in all other situations is the thinking of individuals who stoop to this type of a tactic. And you definitely will meet up with this type in the show ring as well.

Simply label these behaviors for what they truly are, which is “unprofessional.” Don’t be “unprofessional.” Hold your head up high and always work as a true professional in anything you attempt to do in life. Do not join in with any kind of childish game playing. How you play your game is what will be remembered most.

Connie Limon

Connie Limon. 

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