When you think about fast dogs, you likely think of the Greyhound. The Shih Tzu is not a breed that immediately comes to mind when gauging the speed of a dog. After all, they were bred to be lapdogs for royalty, not for chasing or racing.
The average running speed of the Shih Tzu is 6 to 8 mph (9.7 to 12.9 kph), which isn’t the slowest of dog breeds but certainly nowhere near the fastest.
Keep reading if you’d like to learn more about the Shih Tzu, including how slow the slowest dog runs and how much exercise a Shih Tzu needs.
How Fast Can a Shih Tzu Actually Run?
The average speed of a Shih Tzu is 6 to 8 mph. But slower and faster Shih Tzus are out there.
How fast a Shih Tzu runs depends on several factors, such as their health and age and even if their coats are clipped short or not.
The fastest Shih Tzu is Sweetiepie. They were clocked at 21.12 mph (33.9 kph) in 2021 and 18.54 mph (29.8 kph) in 2022! This was through AKC’s Fast CAT (Coursing Ability Test), in which select dogs’ speed is tested by chasing a lure.
But how does the average Shih Tzu’s running speed stack up against that of other animals?
|Animal||Running Speed (mph)|
|Shih Tzu||6–8 mph|
|Gray Wolf||36–38 mph|
Why Don’t Shih Tzus Run Very Fast?
The Shih Tzu is contending with several features that impact their running speed. First, they are small dogs and relatively stocky.
Greyhounds have long slim legs and bodies. Even their snouts are long and thin, which makes their bodies quite streamlined — these dogs are built for speed! Shih Tzus are built for companionship, so reaching high speeds just isn’t in their genetic makeup.
The Shih Tzu is also a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a short snout and a flat face. Dogs (and cats) with flat faces have shorter airways, so they can struggle to breathe when overheated or if they have overexerted themselves.
Short legs and long coats can also hinder the Shih Tzu’s speed, along with if they are older or have other health conditions. All these aspects can factor into why Shih Tzus are fairly slow.
Speed Is Relative
The kind of speed being discussed here is in sprinting and sudden bursts of speed. Animals built for bursts can’t maintain high speeds — the Cheetah is a perfect example of this. They are the fastest animal on land but can only maintain their top speed for brief periods. Their average speed is actually about 40 mph (64 kph), which is slower than the Greyhound.
Animals like the wolf are built for endurance, so they can sustain speeds of 5 mph (8 kph) and are known to travel up to 12 miles (19 km) per day.
Shih Tzus are more sprinters than endurance dogs, but they aren’t that fast either way.
What Kind of Exercise Does a Shih Tzu Need?
Not only are Shih Tzus not known for running, but they aren’t athletic either. They were bred to be lap dogs, which is what they do best. But these dogs will run when given a chance.
Shih Tzus can do well in agility courses and can be quite energetic, but their exercise needs are moderate. Due to their propensity to quickly become overheated and exhausted, it’s typically best to break their exercise into several walks spread throughout the day.
Two to three walks of 15 to 20 minutes every day are ideal. On hot summer days, keep the walks short, and ensure that they have enough water and shade.
Besides walks, playtime with your Shih Tzu is also necessary every day. This gives them additional exercise and a stronger bond with you.
But when it comes to more strenuous activities, such as hiking and running, Shih Tzus aren’t really built for that. Still, many Shih Tzus do successfully hike with their owners. Just be prepared to carry them at times, and ensure that they have access to water and shade.
Running is another story because they might encounter breathing problems if pushed to run for a long period of time.
When a Shih Tzu Becomes Overexerted
This is when being a brachycephalic breed can be a significant issue. Heat exhaustion is a serious outcome when a dog overexerts itself, which can be more evident with the Shih Tzu. Panting is normal, but if your dog is struggling to breathe, call your vet immediately.
Other signs of heat exhaustion include:
Once you’ve noticed any of these signs, you must start to cool down your Shih Tzu. This can be done with cool water (not cold), and let them drink as much water as they want.
Call ahead to the closest emergency clinic or your vet to let them know that you’re on the way, and they can give you further advice on how to treat your dog on your way there.
While Shih Tzu isn’t the fleetest of foot, they aren’t as slow as the sloth (which moves about 45 meters per hour, which is apparently slower than a snail!). Every dog has their own unique temperament and energy level, so some Shih Tzus might live to run, while others will prefer to snooze on your lap. Fast or slow, enjoy your daily walks with your dog!
Featured Image Credit: Helena Lopes, Pexels