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Can a Shih Tzu Swim? Dog Stamina & Strength Explained

Written by: Brooke Billingsley

Last Updated on April 5, 2024 by Dogster Team

black and white shih tzu dog standing in shallow river water

Can a Shih Tzu Swim? Dog Stamina & Strength Explained

Shih Tzus are often thought of as dogs that aren’t suitable for any activities other than sitting on laps. For some dogs, this is true, but for many Shih Tzus, they have a moderate activity level that needs exercise and mental stimulation.

Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs that love to play and participate in activities. If you need a buddy for walks, light jogs, easy-to-moderate hikes, and even dog sports, a Shih Tzu can be a great companion for these activities. These fancy pups can be quite the little outdoorsmen, so don’t sell your Shih Tzu shorts.

Can Shih Tzu’s swim, though? Yes, Shih Tzus can swim.  Swimming is a great form of exercise that is low impact and supports the health of the joints and cardiovascular system, but is this a safe activity for your Shih Tzu to participate in?


Can Shih Tzus Swim?

Not only can they swim, but many Shih Tzus enjoy swimming and have a natural ability to swim without any guidance. Unfortunately, Shih Tzus aren’t necessarily built for swimming. This means that they lack the stamina necessary to safely swim for very long.

Allowing your Shih Tzu to swim is a great form of exercise for these strong pups, but they may get tired quickly. It’s extremely important that your Shih Tzu is never allowed to swim without direct supervision.

Ideally, they should wear a properly fitted doggy life jacket when swimming. A lifejacket can ensure your dog doesn’t go under the water if they become exhausted, but a lifejacket isn’t a guarantee of safety, which is why it’s so important that you are always nearby and properly supervising your Shih Tzu when they’re in the water.

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

Are Shih Tzus Strong?

Even though their stamina may be lacking, Shih Tzus are actually quite athletic, muscular dogs. They can excel in a variety of activities, including agility. Their strength and athleticism make them ideal companions for many types of dog sports, and Shih Tzus can also be good companions for active households that spend a lot of time outdoors.

Although strong, there is a major reason that the stamina of the Shih Tzu is lacking: the shape of the face. Shih Tzus have a short snout and somewhat flat face, which can lead to a variety of breathing issues. Their facial shape is a notable reason why they may struggle to develop adequate stamina for participating in activities like swimming for very long.



Shih Tzus are athletic little dogs that have a natural ability to swim, but they don’t have the stamina to swim for extended periods. Properly fitted doggy life jackets and adult supervision are necessary to ensure the safety of your Shih Tzu during swimming.

Regular swimming can improve the stamina of your Shih Tzu, allowing them to swim for longer, but the shape of their face and short snout may make it difficult for them to develop adequate stamina for extended periods of swimming.

Featured Image Credit: Sue Thatcher, Shutterstock

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