Shih Tzu Exercise Needs: How Much Should You Walk Them?


A common question when it comes to smaller dogs is how much exercise they really need, after all their needs are just different on every level thanks to their size. If you are currently wondering if can Shih Tzus go on long walks then the answer tends to lean towards not. If you think about it Shih Tzus are just much smaller than your average dog and not bred for athleticism, and this means their stamina and energy is completely different from other breeds.

The average two mile walk that is recommended for most dogs will be strenuous for Shih Tzus due to their lower natural stamina and short legs. And since they are a brachycephalic breed (they have short heads and breathing passages) they can also overheat if too much strain is placed on them.

These traits mean that we should make our best to not demand too much of them when it comes to exercising.

Walking Your Shih Tzu: How Long And How Far?

Now just because they can’t walk or run for as long as a retriever, it doesn’t mean you should just avoid exercise altogether. Shih Tzus need their daily activity as much as any other breed, but theirs come in smaller packages.

Overall it’s not unlike what you would expect with kids. You don’t need them to be Olympic athletes but they still need to move.

What this means for Shih Tzus in particular is that the usual walking regime works on them, but we need to adapt the times and distances for their sake. Smaller exercise packages for a breed that comes in a small package.

Ideally your Shih Tzu should go for half mile walks, which is about one fourth of what a large breeds does on average. If you measure by time this means they’ll walk for roughly 15 minutes at a time, at a moderate pace. Pacing is indeed something important to consider with smaller dogs.

Note: By a moderate pace we mean your dog’s pace, your human stride is much faster so keep your pal in mind when walking.

Once you have the distances and times figured out you can repeat this routine twice a day. This will cover all the required exercise your dog needs on a daily basis.

You can combine this with indoor playing as well, but just remember to space it away from the walking sessions.

It might not seem like much but keep in mind how small they really are. These walks will be more than enough for them provided they are on a regular basis. If time is an issue you can also opt for a slightly longer 20 minute walk, but keep the measured pace in mind.

Is Your Shih Tzu Having Issues With Walking?

Of course just because Shih Tzus needs the exercise it doesn’t mean all of them will take to it immediately.

If your furry friend is refusing to go out for walks or has trouble keeping up in the middle of walks, there’s a lot of angles to consider. Most really aren’t a big deal, but being thorough when dealing with these matters is always important.

Do Not Let Your Shih Get Overheated!

As we mentioned earlier, due to their anatomy Shih Tzus are rather prone to overheating and this can play a role in their walking habits.

If you notice your dog is trying to avoid going into the sunlight or starts panting excessively while on walks then the heat can be a major factor.

Your best bet is to take a walk during the night, and this should let you know if the symptoms are related to the heat. If they are, then all you need to do is to reschedule their walks a bit.

Go for zones that offer more shade, and try to exercise at hours when the sun is waning or it’s already gone. Avoid hot pavement that will burn your dog’s paws; if you wouldn’t walk on it barefoot, neither should your Shih Tzu.

Of course, give your dog plenty of water once you come back.

Shih Tzu Stamina Is Naturally Low

Not all walking issues are tied to the weather or even health itself. If your dog gets tired towards the end of a walk then that’s to be expected; the distance is either too long or they are still getting used to this training regime.

But if they are lagging or asking to be carried from the moment you leave the house… that’s a whole different issue.

See, unlike many dog breeds, Shih Tzus don’t really have a strong penchant for physical activity.

Shih Tzus weren’t bred as great hunters or marathon runners and historically they were mostly companion or even prize dogs. So all in all when the breed wants to act spoiled… they are great at it.

While this can prove to be annoying it ultimately comes down to basic training and nothing else. Just because they are small and cute, it doesn’t mean they don’t need to be trained, and that will be enough to counter their attitude.

Basic training centered about treats works perfectly fine and when it comes to walking in particular you should remember the basics: You always enter new places first, and they need to walk alongside you, not rush you.

Health Problems Impacting a Shih Tzu’s Walking Ability

While the odds are slim, there’s another factor that can impact your dog’s walking habits. Have you seen your dog making odd leg movements or limping for a few steps? If so then there might be a health issue at play.

Shih Tzus aren’t strangers to various joints issues, and these can play a role into why they are having issues with walks. Thankfully for most of these cases medication is all that your dog needs to return to shape. But it’s always better to go for a checkup if you believe there could be a health issue at play.

The Right Age To Start Walking Your Shih Tzu

The right age to start walking a dog is always a heavily debated topic and for good reason.

Vets stand for the fact that dogs shouldn’t be walking until they get shots at around 4 months of age. Trainers emphasize the role walking plays into proper training from a young age. And behaviorists mention that if your dog takes to long to socialize it might impact them negatively. It’s a lot to consider!

When it comes to actual walks for exercise, 6 months is the ideal age. Shih Tzus below that age are still mostly pups and as such your priorities with them don’t really lie on exercise, but rather care and getting accustomed them to home life.

Shih Tzus do learn to walk at roughly 3 weeks old, can start socializing at about 2 months in and can easily grasp training at 3 months old or so. So while exercise walks should wait, leisure trips can play a role in their upbringing too.

If you have a large house or a backyard you can begin with practice walks from these early ages, and not only will they help your Shih Tzu to be active, but also to grow the habits they’ll need later on for their life.

Six months is definitely the moment where you should begin considering “serious” walks, but there’s still other things you can do beforehand to prepare for it.

Is Running With a Shih Tzu An Option?

Running is a complicated task for Shih Tzus there’s no way around it.

Their short heads as usual play a role, and the risk of overheating will always be present with them. And this time it won’t be as simple as going for night runs, because this is a matter of overexertion and not of the weather.

If you add their short limbs to the mix then it should be clear they’ll never be dedicated runners.

Long distance running is out of the question, and constant running in general is not something they are made for. However, short sprints and brief jogging sessions are possible.

Note: You should seriously think about going to your vet before considering these options at all.

Jogging can be a great activity for any dog breed of course. It helps build stamina, burn calories and improve cardio activity. At the end of the day Shih Tzus weren’t born to master running and so you need to take every precaution possible.

Listen to your vet and seek their advice, this should always come before any potential jogging plan.

If your vet approves of your plan and confirms your dog is in perfect health then we can go into the main considerations. Your dog will probably never run the entire way; Shih Tzus can’t and shouldn’t have to and there’s no way around that.

Keep water with you at all times like this water bottle for dogs on Amazon; being brachycephalic means they need the water more than other breeds. And lastly, consider the distances.

If you want your Shih Tzu to accelerate its pace for a bit you should really focus on the “bit” aspect. Accelerate for a few seconds at a time and see how this is affecting them on the short run. If weeks pass and you see no ill effect you can increase at small percentages without worrying.

Just keep in mind that running is not what your little lion dog will excel at, and that walks are more than enough for your dog most of the time. Be fair with your furry friend and you’ll both be fine.

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