Before purchasing a puppy of any breed, from any breeder, do a little bit of research. I'm not talking hire a PI or do a full background check or anything, but a simple search on any major search engine can many times give you information about a breeder's practices that you may not otherwise see on their website or pick up on just by speaking with them on the phone. In these days of being able to purchase a puppy from a breeder in a completely different state or country, it presents both benefits, and hazards. One of the wonderful benefits, is that you have a much bigger selection to choose from to find exactly what you are looking for. There are many reputable breeders out there, but there are also some who are not so reputable. You don't have to "settle" for what ever is advertised in your local newspaper from what may just be a backyard breeder who also just purchased 2 local dogs regardless of quality. One of the hazards is that it makes it very difficult to get your money back from someone if the puppy you purchased was misrepresented. You don't really know the person you are buying from.
Ask for references! While no breeder is going to give you a reference from an unhappy customer, they should be able to provide you with several happy customers.
Especially if you are purchase a puppy for possibly breeding in the future, check with AKC to make sure that the breeder is in good standing. I have seen many people who have purchased pups from a breeder and never get the AKC papers because the breeder's AKC rights have been pulled.
Unless you have plenty of money to burn.. Do not put a deposit on a puppy who has not even been born. There is just no way to know if a litter is going to produce the puppy you have in mind. Even on a repeat breeding from the exact same parents, we do not know what is going to come out. For instance.. I have a girl, Willow who 3 times has thrown 4 pups. Her current litter is a litter of ONE. Now, if I had taken deposits on those pups before they were born, assuming she would again have 4 pups, my puppy buyers would not be very happy with me. Most breeders who take these deposits do NOT return them if they don't produce the puppy you had hoped for. They will give you the opportunity to roll that deposit to another puppy in another litter or wait for the next breeding (they may or may not use the same stud). Let's say, you find the puppy you want somewhere else, your deposit, sometimes quite substantial, is tied up with another breeder and you will lose that deposit if you do not purchase from them. IF you really think that you want a puppy out of certain parents and you do choose to put a deposit on an unborn puppy, make sure you ask the breeder to put in writing that if the puppy (girl, boy, color etc) isn't produced, you can get your deposit back so that you can use it elsewhere if that is what you decide to do. A reputable breeder will not charge you to be on a waiting list. When the breeder is ready to evaluate and price the puppies (hopefully not before 5 or 6 weeks old) they can contact the people on the wait list for deposits.
Also, we do not recommend putting a deposit on a puppy that is just a day or 2 old or even 2 or 3 weeks old without making sure you can get that deposit back if that puppy turns out at 4 or 5 weeks old not to be what you want. Birth weight has nothing to do with adult size. Birth weight has more to do with how big was mom? How many pups did she have? Who had the prime spot in utero for nutrition? For instance, Willow, who I mentioned in the above paragraph normally has 4 pups weighing from 2.5 to 4 oz at birth. This single puppy was 5.2oz and has doubled her birth weight in a week. This is not because she is going to be any bigger than any of her siblings from previous litters. It is because she received ALL of the nutrition while in utero and after she was born. She will level off and her growth will stabilize at about 4 to 5 weeks old. I have seen many times, the smallest pup in the litter pass up it's litter mates and wind up being the biggest dog. Again, just because a previous breeding produced pups that were all in the 3 to 5 pound range, doesn't mean that the exact same breeding will produce all 3 to 5 pound dogs. If you have your heart set on a pup that is going to be 4 to 5 pounds, and you have put a deposit on a 2 week old pup thinking that is what it is going to be, and by the time it is 5 or 6 weeks old, it is clear that puppy is much larger than expected... (There is not a breeder out there who guarantees size) most breeders will allow you to transfer that deposit to another puppy and give you up to a year to do so, but who wants to wait a year for a puppy that you had your heart set on having in a matter of weeks?
Make sure if the breeder cannot produce the exact puppy that you do put a deposit on, no matter what age you put that deposit on that puppy, that you can get your money back. As hard as we try, sometimes we do lose a puppy. They just fade and die and no matter what we do, we cannot save them... If you put a deposit on a puppy who dies, many breeders will not return your money. They will allow you to choose another puppy, but what if they don't have anything else that interests you? They will tell you that you can wait till they have something that does interest you. They already have your deposit, so you are locked into purchasing from them only, even if you found a puppy elsewhere that you would like to have. Just ask if it is an option that you can get your deposit back, if the puppy you put your deposit on cannot be delivered to you.
Note, that it is customary for all breeders to keep your holding fee or deposit if you change your mind. This protects the breeder from losing other potential sales on a particular puppy while they are holding it for you. So, make sure that you are sure that the puppy you pick is the puppy you want before you send any money to a breeder. It does not matter what the reason, if the buyer backs out, the breeder is not obligated to return a deposit.
Red flags to watch for websites where breeders are selling multiple breeds of dogs. Many times, these are "Kennels" where the dogs live in outdoor kennels that have cages, or small runs for a group of dogs. One breed, or maybe 2 breeds allows the breeder to concentrate on quality of that breed. It is also quite manageable (even if a breeder has more dogs than you could imagine having in your home) for a breeder of one or 2 breeds to have those dogs primarily as pets, in the home, receiving love and attention. Ask about where the dogs are kept. Shih Tzu of any size are companion dogs and NEED human interaction to be happy. Worse yet, when you see multiple breeds.. especially multiple "tea cup" breeds, these could also be brokers. Brokers many times obtain pups from breeders by posing as "families" looking to ad a puppy to their family. They know exactly what to say. Then, they turn around and sell that same puppy for as much as double the price they paid or more representing themselves as the breeder. I know, this happened to me. I had a bad feeling so I dug around and did a search and found her on something called "The Rip Off Report" with complaints against her as a broker. To make sure it was the same person, I had a friend contact her looking for a puppy and she tried to sell her my puppy for double the price, having her ship out the day after she wanted me to deliver to her.
Don't be afraid to ask lots of questions of any breeder that you are considering purchasing a puppy from. That breeder should promptly and happily answer all of your questions. Good breeders are just as concerned about where their pups go as you, the buyer are about making sure you get the right puppy for you. Everything should be clearly spelled out on a breeder's website. Deposit and refund policies, guarantees, what is expected of you as the buyer, and what the breeder is responsible for.
Remember too... "If it sounds too good to be true, it is"!!! I see the same photos of tiny puppies pop up on scam sights all the time. They offer these cute tiny little puppies that they claim will mature at 3 pounds for $350 either including shipping or with a fee of $150 for shipping. Even cargo shipping costs about $325. The crate is about $30, the health certificate about $50 and the flight itself is about $250 to be stuck in a hard crate in the cargo hold. This here is one such website. I am sure this link won't be good for long as they get caught are forced to shut the site down and they re-open it under a different name.. this one used to be poshteacupshihtzu about a year ago... same photos, same everything but now it is https://www.avashihtzupuppies.com/available-puppy