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Exercise and Activity Requirements
 for the Shih Tzu


The Shih Tzu is most certainly an indoor dog. Bred originally in Tibet as companion dogs to royalty, they are bred to live inside.

Happy in even a small apartment or a sprawling farm, the Shih Tzu does require a short exercise period each day. Despite their size, the are active and need to release energy.

Although this dog does not need to live in a house with an accompanying yard; it is strongly suggested to offer daily exercise. This will be both inside and outside.

Studies have shown that Shih Tzu that do not receive this daily release of energy have more behavioral issues, such as excessive barking
Shih Tzu running on grass

Outside Exercise

Outside activity for the Shih Tzu is vital to its overall health; both physically and emotionally....and will help to increase life span.

A daily walk of 20 to 25 minutes per day good is the minimum requirement and two 20 minute walks per day is best for this breed. You'll want to walk at a pace that is brisk for your Shih Tzu; whether he is a puppy, adult or senior dog.

Be sure to bring along water (the use of a canine travel container is helpful, as the main container holds the water and the cover serves as the dish). Take a break at the halfway point to offer a quick rest in the shade and the opportunity to re-hydrate.

Exercising your Shih Tzu outside does not need to be limited to walks around the neighborhood; you can offer a wonderful range of activities. These dogs love to walk along the beach or run through fields. Many owners find that their Shih Tzu enjoys playing catch with a tennis ball the most out of any game.
Winter exercise - Owners who live in areas that receive severe cold weather and snow will need to limit outdoor activities during this time. The Shih Tzu may certainly be led outside to eliminate. A path should be shoveled for the dog first, and the larger the area the better. 

Your dog can remain outside, preferably supervised for about 15 - 20 minutes before coming back inside. Ice melt chemicals should not be used in the area in which the Shih Tzu will walk, as this may cause harm to the paws. There are specially formulated ice melt products made for where dogs will walk. 
Winter exercise for Shih Tzu
Porter, 10 months old
Photo courtesy of owner: Laura Toma
When walking in the winter, protect the paws with paw wax or slip on sturdy doggie shoes onto your Tzu. A dab of nose balm will protect the nose from drying winds while being active outdoors.

Summer exercise - Beware of how the Shih Tzu and summer heat do not mix well. This breed can quickly become overheated. To prevent this, do not go for long walks in hot weather (above 85 degree Fahrenheit, 29.4 Celsius) during the middle part of the day.  During summer months, exercise is best done in the early morning and again as the sun is setting. At any temperature, if you notice your Shih Tzu panting heavily or acting confused, take actions immediately to get your dog to a cooler environment and offer plenty of water.
Shih Tzu exercising indoors
Maci (18 months) & Bailey (2 years old), sisters! Photo courtesy of owner: Kathy Lugo

Indoor Exercise

When the weather is too cold or too hot, it is important to provide indoor exercise for your Shih Tzu. This dog does not need to be at constant play; a quick burst of a fun game for about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes will be sufficient. There are many games that you can play with your Shih Tzu to keep him moving and to help release pent-up energy. 

One of the activity games you can play with your dog is Hide and Seek. This is a game that your dog will love and begin to look forward to. It is best to begin with a new and special toy that is only used for this game. You begin making sure your dog is paying attention to you. Once his gaze is watching your hand, hide the toy in an easy area such as under a couch cushion. Encourage your dog to find it, act excited and pretend you are looking for it also.

Your Shih Tzu will know where you hid it and will just need to search for a moment or two to find it. 
Once he finds it, act excited again and reward your dog with very happy words and praise. The game goes on as you choose more and more difficult hiding spots. This will get your dog moving! Once the game is done, make the final reward be a healthy doggie treat so that your Shih Tzu learns to understand that the treat means the game is over for the day.

Giving your dog an ice cube is a very simple and easy way to provide quite a bit of activity. Dogs will spend a lot of time chasing around a slippery object that seems to come alive as it slide across a bare floor each time their nose touches it. This simple activity is also fantastic for puppies that are teething, as when they finally catch their "toy", chewing on this applies cold directly to their aching gums.

Activity for a Previously Immobile Dog

In the case of caring for a rescued Shih Tzu that was crated for for a long time or for a Tzu that was ill and unable to exercise as usual, there may be some muscle atrophy. 

In these cases, you'll want to speak with your veterinarian to gradually get your Tzu back on track. This usually involves starting off slowly and gradually increasing both duration and intensity. For some, massaging the muscles and helping the dog stretch before walks can be helpful.

There is much to know about Shih Tzu exercise. Some of the issues include:
  • How to handle a Tzu that does not want to go outside to exercise
  • How to handle a hyper dog
  • How to keep exercise time safe
  • How to handle an overheated Tzu...and much more...Take a sec to learn about the new-edition AllShihTzu Book. Now in both print & eBook.
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