With Shih Tzus being so small, is it appropriate for them to run for long distances?
As I receive a lot of questions about Shih Tzus running, I’ve decided to write this Shih Tzu Running Guide to answer everything an owner could possible want to know.
This will cover things from when a Shih Tzu can start running, to how far they can run, and whether or not they’ll make a good running partner!
Let’s get into it!
Can a Shih Tzu Run?
Absolutely! Shih Tzus, despite their small size, are quite capable of running.
However, their physical makeup, notably their short legs and pushed-in face, mean that they are not natural-born runners like some other breeds. So owners need to know a few crucial things to keep their Shih Tzu safe. More on this below.
So, while they can run, it is not an activity that should be overly strenuous or prolonged.
When Can Shih Tzus Start to Run?
Shih Tzu puppies have a lot of energy and love to play and run around. However, at this young age, their bones and joints are still growing and can be easily damaged.
➡️ As a general rule, avoid structured running activities until your Shih Tzu is fully grown, usually around one year of age.
Of course, the odd run here and there isn’t likely to do much harm, but repetative running for substantial distances definitely can! This is why it’s best to wait until around one year old for more extensive running sessions.
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How Far Can a Shih Tzu Run?
This varies based on the individual dog’s age, health, and overall fitness level.
➡️ On average, a healthy adult Shih Tzu can run for about half a mile to a mile.
Puppies and older dogs will have a shorter range.
Remember, these are not working dogs bred for endurance, but rather companion animals.
Is It Safe for Shih Tzus to Run?
Yes, it can be safe for Shih Tzus to run, but there are important factors to consider.
Due to their flat faces, Shih Tzus are more susceptible to heat stroke and breathing difficulties, especially in hot weather.
Furthermore, they have a predisposition to certain orthopedic issues, such as hip dysplasia and patellar luxation, which can be exacerbated by excessive running.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recommends that you always observe your Shih Tzu during exercise and stop if they show signs of distress. Also, it’s important to consult with your vet before starting any new exercise regime with your Shih Tzu.
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Can I Take My Shih Tzu Running With Me?
You can, but it’s essential to take into account the limitations of your furry friend.
Remember, Shih Tzus aren’t built for long-distance running.
If you’re a serious runner, your Shih Tzu will not be able to keep up with you.
However, for very short, leisurely jogs or sprints in the park, your Shih Tzu can make a great companion.
As per RSPCA guidelines, make sure you:
- Start slow and gradually increase the distance.
- Keep an eye on your dog’s condition. If they seem tired or distressed, stop.
- Avoid running in extreme weather conditions.
- Always have water available for both you and your pet.
It’s important to always be realistic with your Shih Tzu. They might like to run, but they’ll quickly get tired if made to run repetatively or for any kind of long distance.
Never push your Shih Tzu too hard as this could be dangerous for their health!
The Importance of Regular Exercise for Shih Tzus
Regular exercise is crucial for your Shih Tzu’s overall health and well-being.
According to PetMD, it helps maintain a healthy weight, reduces the risk of many diseases, and can improve your pet’s mental health.
For Shih Tzus, the following exercises are generally recommended:
- Short walks: These are ideal for Shih Tzus. Aim for at least one 20-30 minute walk each day.
- Playtime: Shih Tzus love to play! Fetch, tug-of-war, or just romping around in a safe area can provide excellent exercise.
- Mental stimulation: Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs that enjoy problem-solving. Interactive toys and puzzle feeders can be a great way to engage their minds.
Tips for Running with Your Shih Tzu
If you’ve decided to include your Shih Tzu in your running routine, here are some tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience:
- Avoid hot weather: Due to their brachycephalic (short-nosed) nature, Shih Tzus are more prone to heatstroke. Always avoid running in hot weather.
- Watch for signs of fatigue: If your Shih Tzu starts panting excessively, slowing down, or refusing to move, it’s time to stop.
- Choose the right leash: A harness is a better choice for Shih Tzus as it distributes pressure more evenly and doesn’t strain the neck.
By following these basic tips your Shih Tzu will be safer on each run.
Potential Health Concerns of Running Too Much
Shih Tzus are generally healthy dogs, but like all breeds, they can be prone to certain health conditions. These can be exacerbated by strenuous exercise such as running. Here’s a detailed look at some of the potential health concerns:
- Brachycephalic Syndrome: This condition is common in short-nosed breeds like Shih Tzus. It can lead to breathing difficulties, especially during strenuous exercise or in hot weather. Symptoms include noisy breathing, excessive panting, or struggling to breathe. If your Shih Tzu shows these signs during or after running, it’s essential to stop the activity and consult with your vet.
- Hip Dysplasia: This is a genetic condition where the hip joint doesn’t fit snugly into the hip socket. While it’s less common in small breeds like Shih Tzus, it can still occur. Running, especially on hard surfaces, can put extra strain on the joints and potentially exacerbate this condition. Regular vet checks can help detect early signs of hip dysplasia.
- Patellar Luxation: This is another joint issue where the kneecap can slip out of place. It’s fairly common in small breeds, including Shih Tzus. Excessive running could potentially trigger this condition, especially if your dog is predisposed to it. Symptoms include limping or an unusual gait.
- Eye Issues: Shih Tzus have protruding eyes that are prone to injury and various eye conditions, including ulcers and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). While these aren’t directly related to running, if your dog is running in an area with low-hanging branches or other potential hazards, they could be at risk.
As per guidelines from VCA Hospitals, regular vet check-ups are essential to monitor your Shih Tzu’s health.
Expert Opinions on Shih Tzus and Running
Experts generally agree that while Shih Tzus can run, it should not be the primary form of exercise.
Dr. Jerry Klein, the AKC’s Chief Veterinary Officer, states, “Shih Tzus are not built for rigorous exercise. Short walks and playtime are usually sufficient for this breed.”
Running can be a great way to bond with your Shih Tzu and help them stay in shape.
However, remember that due to their specific breed characteristics, they cannot handle intense running sessions.
Always keep a close eye on your furry friend during exercise and be ready to adjust your plans based on their needs.
Above all, enjoy the time spent with your Shih Tzu, whether it’s a leisurely stroll in the park, a quick sprint, or just some quality playtime at home.
Remember, every Shih Tzu is unique. What works for one might not work for another. It’s essential to know your Shih Tzu’s individual characteristics and adjust your running and exercise plans accordingly.
When in doubt, always consult with your vet or a professional dog trainer. After all, the ultimate goal is to ensure the health and happiness of your furry friend!