Can Shih Tzus Swim? (All You Need to Know)

Swimming can be a great type of physical exercise, especially for your dogs. It improves their overall health. But, not all dog breeds are natural swimmers or capable of swimming.

Can Shih Tzus swim? Yes, this dog breed knows how to swim. However, they are poor swimmers because of their physical limitations, but Shih Tzu can learn to swim with appropriate training and supervision.

Indeed, there’s nothing better for dogs to cool down and keep healthy than having a dip in the water. But, not all of them love and enjoy splashing into it.

This article will give you information that all you need to know about Shih Tzu’s swimming ability, how to teach them, and the precautionary methods to keep them safe around water.

Are Shih Tzu Dogs Good Swimmers?

Shih Tzu dogs have a primitive ability to swim. However, they are not born to be good swimmers.

They are not bred for a long strenuous workout. Shih Tzu’s physical structure limits them from getting enough air. Its muzzles are short, so they still need to extend their neck to get some air fully.

These dogs lack the stamina to swim for a more extended period. They are considered brachycephalic or known as “short-headed.”

It means that its nostrils are narrow and its airways are partially obstructed. That is why merely breathing, especially if on the water, makes it a bit harder for them.

They also tend to get tired quickly, even if they swim within a short period. Shih Tzu cannot tolerate long distances in the water.

Its short legs will be pretty exhausted in propelling themselves forward. Shih Tzu will be using more energy compared to long leg canines.

Another factor is their hair. Commonly, Shih Tzu is groomed to have long hair. Hence, this lengthy hair turns heavy when submerged in water.

The heavy mass of its wet hair can be a significant issue for swimming Shih Tzu because it can drag them down under the water surface.

Despite difficulties encountered when swimming, these dogs still enjoy doing it now and then.

How To Teach Shih Tzu To Swim

Even though swimming is a dog’s instinct already, especially for Shih Tzu, there are still canines that don’t want to get near in any water. Perhaps, this is due to lack or never been exposed to swimming, or it could be that they do not realize that they can eventually swim.

If that is the case, then it’s time for you to awaken your dog’s ability to swim. Here are some steps on how to teach your Shih Tzu swim.

1. Choose A Safe And Perfect Area To Swim

If this is your Shih Tzu’s first time to swim, it would be ideal for dipping them in a pool, calm or shallow lake or a quiet pond. You may also opt to bring them to a place surrounded by people because they might enjoy the company.

Bringing them on a wide-open sea is not a good idea. The water’s current and its waves can be too overwhelming for your small dog to handle. Worse, the strong wave might catch you off guard and sweep your dog away.

But, if you insist on bringing them to the ocean, then be extra careful.

Rivers are also not a safe and perfect area for them; unless you know the spot very well and are not fast flowing or too deep. Avoid water with many plants because it might catch your pet’s paws.

2. Prepare Necessary Stuff

When training your dog to swim, bring with you some familiar gear, a ball, or toys to soothe them. Since you will be the one to train your Shih Tzu, make sure also to pack up your swimming gear.

Bring a life jacket for your dog. If you noticed that your pet is immensely struggling, its life jacket will help them head above water.

It will be best to use a life jacket with a handle that you can hold and use to guide your dog in the water.

3. Get Your Dog Used To The Water

The goal here is to make your Shih Tzu comfortable in the water.

You can slowly submerge its paws in shallow water while sitting beside them. Another is you can begin tossing a ball. Let your dog run into it and fetch it.

Whenever your dog gets the ball into the water, do not forget to give rewards or treats. Repeat this routine until your dog gets used to the water.

It will keep your dog more relaxed if you encourage and praise them for their small achievements.

4. Support Its Weight

Please pick up your dog and hold them with one hand under its belly.

If you are about waist-deep in the water, let your dog paddle out. Lower your dog into the water while supporting its weight.

Be careful to avoid submerging its face in the water. Keep supporting your dog’s body until it will be able to do it independently and begin to swim.

5. Show Your Dog How To Get Out

Guide your dog towards the dry area by calling them as you walk towards the shoreline or pool steps. They might have difficulty getting themselves out of the water even if they already know how to swim.

6. Keep An Eye To Your Dog

Do not stay too far from your dog. Be near at least an arm’s length distance.

Also, do not stop holding your dog until they learn to be steady, develop a good form, and be sure of its strokes.

Know your dog’s limitations and notice signs of fatigue so that you can immediately rescue them.

Then repeat steps several times until your dog learns how to swim. In no time, your Shih Tzu will be able to continue to improve.

shih tzu in water

What To Do For Your Shih Tzu Safety Around Water?

To keep your Shih Tzu safe around water, do not leave them unattended. It is an essential thing to do. Supervise your dog while it is on the water because things can happen quickly.

Get a life vest or any water safety jacket. Look for a comfortable style for your dog to wear, such as having a back handle so that you can lift them.

Always prepare your pet for an exit ramp to get out of the water. Also, your dog must learn how to use it.

You may use a barrier around the pool to keep your dog safe from possible falling accidents. There are times where dogs may suddenly fall because of an animal that got into the water, which caught the dog’s attention.

Check the water’s temperature if it is too hot or too cold for your Shih Tzu to endure. If your dog is swimming on a lake, be keen to see algae blooms. There are forms of algae that are toxic to dogs.

It’s better to run a water test for possible bacteria or toxins if you own a pond and if that is where you intend to submerge your pet. Ensure that there is no presence of harmful animals or parasites on the water that may bite or infect your pet.

To minimize your dog’s risk of drinking unsafe water, hydrate them first before going swimming. Make sure that it is fresh and clean drinking water.

Monitor your dog for symptoms of heatstroke. Sometimes dogs may enjoy too much to the point that they may get tired or overly exhausted, especially if they are under the sun’s heat. Remember that they are very prone to overheating.

Do Shih Tzus Like Water?

Though some pets may get excited about dipping into the water, some are content with being dry. Shih Tzu is one of those breeds who are not fond of getting wet. In other words, they don’t like water that much.

They have so much fur that will take time to dry naturally. Aside from that, it can become water-clogged while swimming that could weigh the dog down, cover its face, and be challenging to breathe.

This small dog breed tends to get frightened or nervous when in open water. Thus, it’s making its overall water experience unpleasant.


In summary, swimming is common for most dogs. And this physical exercise is excellent for their health.

However, not all dogs care to be in the water, just like Shih Tzu. Some of them know how-to, but most are still deficient in swimming and need training.

This breed of dogs has its physical limitations when dipping into the water. They quickly get colds and chills. That is why Shih Tzu should dry off thoroughly.

Before getting your dog into the water, make sure that your dog gets comfortable first and slowly get them into the shore or pool.

Then, reward your pet always for every small step. It will keep your dog excited to jump into the water.

It is also an excellent opportunity to condition your dog and stop getting scared of water. As much as possible, it’s better to start training your dog when they are still young.

Dogs may react differently into training. Just let them get used to the water gradually. Avoid forcing your dog because it can be traumatic to them.


Image credits – Canva

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