Shih tzu, being the small, short legged breed that they are, do not need nearly as much daily exercise as bigger breeds such as labradors and Alsatians. Shih tzu were originally bred as indoor house dogs but, nevertheless, they need exercise to keep them fit and healthy.
Outdoor exercise especially will improve overall physical and mental health and potentially add months or even years to their life expectancy compared to sedentary dogs. Lack of exercise and particularly walks will subject your shih tzu to boredom and most probably lead to behavioural problems such as excessive barking or chewing.
So, just how often should you walk a shih tzu?
Frankly, this can vary from dog to dog depending on factors such as their individual character and age but generally a shih tzu will need a bare minimum of a daily walk of twenty minutes duration, walked at what, regardless of the dog’s age, is a brisk pace for the dog. This brisk pace will be broken up with plenty of breaks for sniffing, peeing and pooping. I can’t understand people who are almost dragging their dog along without giving them a chance to do any of the three.
If you have the time, two walks per day of at least twenty minutes duration each is a better habit to get into. Not only is this even better for your dog’s physical and mental health but also, if you can put twelve hours between the two walks, will mean there is much less chance of your dog taking a toilet break indoors than if he only had the one walk per day.
Some shih tzu may, on a particular day when they are feeling extra energetic, want to walk for up to an hour or more. I find that if this happens the next two or three walks turn out to be of much less duration.
I don’t know if this happens with other dogs, but I can usually predict what length of walk Bruno is going to finish up doing by the amount of urine he releases at each pee stop. If there’s a lot I know it’s going to be a short one; just a few drips and I know we’re going to be out for some time.
Walking your shih tzu for more than an hour a day is getting towards the limit of what it’s little body is designed to do. Sure signs that your little one has had enough walking for one day is if he is panting heavily and/or if he lies flat on his belly and refuses to budge. If either of these happen it means it’s time to finish the walk or any other exercise and go home.
If, like me, you are walking shih tzu with several years between their ages you may at times need to take the older ones back home before taking the younger ones with their extra energy of youth out again for a longer session.
Try to vary the routes you walk your dog along. Yes, have your regular walks within the immediate neighbourhood area but also consider occasionally moving further afield. Shih tzus love a runaround in an open field, a frolic along a beach (check dogs are allowed on the beach first) and they absolutely love rolling around in freshly settled snow.
If walking near trees or shrubs be careful that there are none of those little, sticky burrs lying around. These have a habit of sticking well into your dog’s coat as well as between his toes. You’ll know if any of these burrs are between his toes as he’ll be limping. They can be removed slowly and gently by hand or, if this proves difficult, from the coat with a comb and from the toes with tweezers.
Shih tzu in general can be very obedient and usually want to behave in a way that makes their owners happy but no matter how obedient they may be they still have their moments when they want to do their own thing and stubbornly refuse to answer your commands. For that reason, when I’m walking Bruno and Charlie I always have them on extendable leashes. Although they know that moving vehicles are a bad thing to go near they are prone to dash across the road if they pick up a smell they like or see another dog they like/hate. It would break my heart if anything happened to them, so always the leash attached to the back of a harness it is and I recommend the same for any other shih tzu owner.
Always set out prepared for the weather. Shih tzu overheat easily so in the hotter months it is a good idea to keep their hair cut short and then taking walks at sunrise and sunset avoiding the heat of the day. Carry a bottle of water with you on the walk, especially if it’s going to be one of the longer ones, and also a vessel for your dog to drink it from. One of those all in one plastic bottles hinged into an oblong drinking bowl is ideal for this. Halfway through the walk find a shady spot and offer your dog the drink.
In the colder months keep your shih tzu‘s hair longer and in extremes of cold, frost and snow dress your dog in a fleece or waterproof jacket and don’t expose them to cold temperatures for more than fifteen minutes.
If the weather is so bad walking the dog is out of the question then consider exercising your dog indoors. Shih tzu are usually very playful and respond well to chasing or catching rubber ball and hunting for their favourite toy that you’ve hidden somewhere are just two ways you can get your dog running around indoors. If you have a tiled floor your shih tzu will love to push an ice cube around the floor. Charlie sometimes initiates his own indoor exercise by running backwards and forwards from room to room like a demented Banshee for a few minutes. Bruno used to do the same when he was younger, but he is more into sleeping now!
In summary then, to answer the question “How often should you walk a shih tzu?”, a minimum of one walk per day of at least twenty minutes duration, but preferably two walks a day, one of twenty minutes, the other a bit longer up to an hour and these walks to be at sunrise and sunset if possible. You need to get a “feel” of what length of walk is right for your dog. If the weather prevents “walkies”, then some form of indoor exercise should be encouraged as a substitute.
I hope this has proved useful for you, please make a comment or use the contact us form and I’ll see you in the next post.