The Shih Tzu is a sacred dog associated with royalty, and she must look the part. The breed has an “air” about it bordering on arrogance, and a naturally high head carriage is an integral part of that breed type. It’s no surprise, then, that part of the Shih Tzu standard important enough to mention twice is “High Head Carriage,” and it may be the only standard to do so.
With one exception, however, a high head carriage isn’t possible in a poorly built Shih Tzu. She must have a sufficient length of neck to be able to carry her head high and proud while she’s gaiting, as well as when she’s standing still. The Shih Tzu, however, is like all heavily coated breeds in that a multitude of flaws can be hidden under a curtain of hair, and only a hands-on assessment can find those issues. That one exception, by the way, is that a Shih Tzu can have a high head carriage if her shoulders are steep because her neck “inserts” into the space between her shoulder blades that aren’t laid in well. It presents as a right angle between the neck and the topline, rather than the more desirable smooth arch. Her shoulder blades should slope well back in a correctly formed and firm back with no “dipsy doodle” behind the withers, and they should lay close against the rib cage. The angle at the shoulder joint should be pronounced, her elbows should be well tucked-in – and we haven’t even gotten to her south of the border region. A sound Shih Tzu makes having a correct head carriage look easy, but without it, the dog lacks that certain “something.” As always, we defer to breed experts on proper head carriage.