Can Shih Tzus Swim? Is It Safe To Take Them Near Water?

February 8, 2021

Are Shih Tzu’s Able To Swim In Water?

It’s a hot day at home and your child’s put up their paddling pool, or your having a stroll along the beach with your furry friend and can’t help but ask yourself, can a Shih Tzu swim?

Well, yes, Shih Tzu’s can most definitely swim if they want to, as it’s instinctual. It’s also safe to take them near water as long as they are supervised or wearing a life jacket that can keep their head above water.

When looking at your Shih Tzu however, you might be wondering if they find it difficult to swim or if they might be scared of water due to bad previous experiences or fear of the unknown.

We have put together a guide below that will help you get familiar with all the ins and outs of your Shih Tzu’s first time swimming and how to keep them safe.

Do Shih Tzu’s Find Swimming Hard?

Compared to other dog breeds, Shih Tzu’s might have a harder time swimming than others due to the shape of there narrow nostrils and airways.

The small size of these dogs may mean they get tired quickly when swimming too as they have to use twice the effort of a big dog to propel themselves forwards.

Shih Tzu’s additionally have to hold there head quite far back when swimming and have long hair which can weigh them down and make the experience slightly more exhausting.

So yes, Shih Tzu’s do find swimming harder than other breeds but are probably fine for short periods of swimming now and then.

How To Teach Your Shih Tzu To Swim

It’s best to teach your Shih Tzu to swim gradually, rushing the process or forcing it may only make him more afraid and stop the dog from getting close to the water again.

We have listed out some fool-proof steps below to help your dog swim for the first time.

Find a Safe Place

Using the sea might be a little terrifying and rough for your Shih Tzu to learn swimming in, instead go for a quieter pool and lake where there are no strong tides that may startle your dog.

You could potentially just start your dog off with a paddling pool so as he can get used to the feeling of the water then fill it up gradually.

Use a Dog Life Jacket

A dog life jacket will give you peace of mind that your dog will not get pulled under when swimming. The lifejacket will also help support your Shih Tzu’s body weight with all the long hair and make it a more relaxing experience.

Familiarise With The Water

Letting your dog smell, feel and be near water with you is the best step to take before actually swimming. This is the time to use positive reinforcement and encouraging language to help your Shih Tzu feel a little more comfortable.

Move Out Further

Slowly walk with your Shih Tzu as you increase the depth of the water to the stomach level of the dog then walk back to the shallow area, repeating this will help your dog have less fear.

Support Your Shih Tzu

As you start to move deeper into the water, this is where you can support your Shih Tzu from underneath as their legs get used to paddling.

This will make your dog feel more comfortable and in control while they get the hang of swimming.

Make The Exit Obvious

Call your dog towards the dry ground when he is done swimming and don’t leave too much distance between the two of you in case your dog needs assistance.

Important Tips To remember

  • Never let your Shih Tzu swim more than one arm length away from you.
  • Be patient with your dog.
  • Never force or rush the familiarisation process.
  • Practice in calm water away from distractions.
  • Use a dog lifejacket.

Safety Tips For Your Shih Tzu When Swimming

Now we have covered the basic steps for teaching your dog how to swim, there are some important safety tips to be using while your Shih Tzu gets familiar with swimming.

  • Never leave you dog alone in water – Never leave your Shih Tzu in water alone or be a far enough distance that you couldn’t get to them in time in case an incident happened, Shih Tzu’s are toy breeds, so they may require your help now and then.
  • Learn CPR – In case of an unfortunate incident, it’s a good idea for you to familiarise yourself with CPR for dogs as this could potentially save their life.
  • Don’t let your dog drink the pool – Pool water is full of chemicals which should not be ingested by dogs as it can make them seriously ill, seawater should also not be drunk by dogs due to the high salt content.
  • Wash them down after use – It’s a good idea to wash your Shih Tzu down after they have used the pool or sea as saltwater can dry out there skin and chlorine can also contribute to itchy skin on your dog.
  • Use a dog life vest – As we mentioned above in our teaching tips, it’s a brilliant idea to make sure your Shih Tzu is wearing a life jacket while swimming as this will help to keep them afloat.
  • Be careful when swimming in the sea – Strong tides can carry your Shih Tzu away easily if your not paying attention, so be extra attentive if your dog is swimming around the sea on the beach.

How To Care For Your Shih Tzu After Swimming

If your dog takes a liking to swim then you will need to be doing some aftercare when he comes out the water.

Unfortunately, swimming dogs are much more prone to getting ear and skin infections, they also could develop itchy and dry skin after prolonged swimming in water.

We have listed out a few aftercare tips below to care for your dog after they get wet.

Avoid Dirty Water

Never let your Shih Tzu swim in dirty water, even if it is shallow. This type of water could be full of nasty bacteria and parasites which could harm your dog.

Try Conditioner Before Swimming

Using a high-quality leave-in conditioner could be very useful for your dog’s dry skin before they go swimming, this will stop your dogs skin from drying out too much after swimming.

Rinse & Dry Well

Whether your Shih Tzu has been swimming in a regular pool or the sea, they need to be rinsed down after to avoid any chemicals or salt drying out your dog’s skin and causing issues.

After rinsing your Shih Tzu it is then very important to dry them off well and put some conditioner or oil in their coat.

A bath once a week

If your dog is swimming more regularly or nearly daily, then you need to be bathing your dog at least once a week to take off any stuck debris or dirt.

Oatmeal shampoo can also help your dog if they are developing an itchy and dry coat from swimming.

Always Make Sure Ears Are Dry

Making sure your Shih Tzu’s ears are dry after swimming is very important as moist ears can be a place for lots of bad bacteria to grow or parasites such as mites to live.

Clean Ears Once a Week

As well as making sure your dog’s ears are dry after swimming, you should be cleaning them with a gentle dog ear cleaner once a week too.

This will remove any salt and sand while additionally preventing any infections.

Replenish & Hydrate

Swimming is an intense exercise for you Shih Tzu, especially as they are so little, so after this exercise, you should make sure your dog has fresh and clean drinking water on hand as well as a treat to refuel them.

Use Oil Supplement’s

To help your dogs dry skin you can be supplementing their food with omega 3 oils such as salmon oil.

These supplements can also help your dog fight against any skin infections or ear infections that might try to occur from swimming.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shih Tzu’s Swimming

Why is my Shih Tzu so scared of the water?

This could be due to too numerous reasons such as the feeling of the unknown, being too cold or maybe if they have had a bad experience with water such as being bathed.

Are all dogs able to swim?

No, some dogs can swim and others can’t, this depends on your breed and their fear of water, some dogs may be fine with just a light paddle and others could be completely terrified and panic when coming into contact with water.

Can a dog dive underwater?

Yes for a movement or two, some dogs can dive underwater to fetch toys, they have a natural reflex within them that supports this and stops them from inhaling water.

How can my dog become happy about swimming?

If your Shih Tzu is a puppy then this is a great time to introduce them to some water and get them used to the feel of it, then gradually increase depth as they get older.

For older Shih Tzu’s try the gradual exposure technique again and start them off with shallow then eventually to deep water. Use positive reinforcement to help them succeed and become happy with being around water.

Last Words

To round up, Shih Tzu’s definitely can swim if they want to and its also very safe to let them, as long as you accompany them and never leave them alone in the water.

Just remember the safety tips above so as your pup can stay out of danger and never force your dog to swim if they don’t want to.

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Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.

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