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Can Shih Tzus Swim? How to Help Them Enjoy The Water

Nicole Cosgrove Profile Picture

By Nicole Cosgrove

black and white shih tzu dog standing in shallow river water

Like many breeds, the Shih Tzu does have a natural ability to swim. If your Shih falls into the pool, it should be able to swim to the edge well enough. However, the small dog doesn’t have the stamina to be able to swim for long and, although every dog is different and has different likes and dislikes, many Shih Tzus dislike water so they will not take to swimming.

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About Shih Tzus

The Shih Tzu is an ancient breed that originates from China and was likely present in Ancient China in 8,000 B.C. It is widely believed that the breed was created by mixing breeds like the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese and was developed primarily as a companion dog. They were kept by royalty and became known as “little lion dogs” because of their face and their attitude.

The Shih Tzu is a loyal, loving, happy dog, although it does tend to be quite vocal. It doesn’t have very high energy levels, although does still require regular exercise, and the breed still enjoys being a companion to its owner. You can expect a Shih to follow you around the house and it will love nothing more than spending time on your lap. While it will bark to alert you of the presence of strangers, the Shih Tzu will usually make friends very easily with strangers.

bridle shih tzu dog swimming in water
Image Credit: Kerri Back Photography, Shutterstock


Shih Tzus don’t need a lot of exercise, but they do need some. Typically, this means walking the dog at least once a day and for a total of between 30 minutes and an hour each day. While you might be tempted to take your Shih in the pool to help it get more exercise, the breed does not really enjoy the water and can quickly get fatigued if expected to swim.

How Much Exercise Does a Shih Tzu Need?

Fortunately, there are other forms of exercise that your Shih Tzu will benefit from and enjoy. You can go on walks: your companion will enjoy meeting new people, especially if they give it attention, and you don’t have to walk fast or far because the Shih Tzu’s little legs mean that it will be walking at a respectable pace even if you’re strolling.

Are Shih Tzus Good at Agility?

The Shih Tzu is a surprisingly muscular dog for its size, although these muscles are well hidden by a warm, long coat. The breed is also alert, lively, and enjoys receiving praise. This means that it can do very well in agility and several Shih Tzus have won agility competitions.

shih tzu puppy wearing a life jacket while learning how to swim in water
Image Credit: Anne Kitzman, Shutterstock

Are Shih Tzus Easy to Train?

The breed is also intelligent, which not only means that it does well in agility, but it is also easy to train, especially if you lavish praise for a job well done. This trainability, coupled with the small size and loving nature of the dog, has seen the Shih Tzu being utilized as a therapy dog and a companion dog and makes it popular as a choice of breed for the elderly as well as families.

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The Shih Tzu is a popular small dog breed. It is known for being loving, caring, and loyal. It doesn’t require excessive amounts of exercise, and normal walks will provide more than enough exercise for the breed. Although the Shih Tzu can instinctively swim, the breed usually prefers not to go near water, which means that swimming is not considered a good choice of exercise. Agility classes are a viable option, though, as this intelligent breed enjoys such activities and especially enjoys the praise and adulation it receives for a successful run.

Featured Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

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