We want everyone who gets a Shih Tzu to make an informed decision about getting a puppy.  These are some things to consider when you are interviewing the breeder of your next family member.  A responsible breeder will be happy to answer these questions for you.
How long have they been breeding dogs, Shih Tzu in particular?
Does the breeder demonstrate a knowledge of the breed and the AKC breed standard?
Do they represent their dogs honestly and try to assist people in their understanding of the breed?
Do they participate in competition with their dogs (confirmation, obedience, agility, tracking, etc.)?
Do they trace health problems in the dogs they keep and those they place?
Have the puppies been raised in the home?
Has the puppy's temperment been evaluated?  Does the breeder guide you in which puppy best meets your needs?
How was the sire chosen?
Are the sire and dam available for you to meet?
Where did you learn about this breeder? 
Is the pet puppy being sold on a mandatory spay/neuter agreement and limited AKC registration?
Does the puppy appear to be in good health?
Does the breeder require a visit to you vet within 48 hours of your recieving the puppy?
Does the breeder provide a health record and pertinent information regarding care of the puppy?
Does the breeder provide a 3-5 generation pedigree for the puppy?
Will the breeder be available for the life of the puppy to help with any questions or concerns?
Will the breeder take the dog back at any time for any reason if you can not keep it?
Does the breeder belong to the American Shih Tzu club and/or a local Shih Tzu Club?
                                                                  Most responsible breeders do not advertise in the newspaper or put a sign in the yard.  There are many slick websites offering puppies for sale.  Educate yourself  and know what to look for in a breeder. 
                                                                                                                                           The responsible breeder strives to breed as close to the AKC standard as possible.  "Imperials" & "tinies" are not recognized as such and often dogs bred down in size may have serious and expensive health issues.
                                                                                                        Experience may be the best teacher but do you want it to be at your puppy's expense?  Novices in dog breeding may not have the skills to recognize potential problems in the breed.  They are often unaware of what these health issues may even be.
                                                                                                                                                             It is a responsible breeder's job to educate the public about their breed and share as much information as they can with the new puppy's owner to insure a happy life for the puppies they have brought into this world.
                                                                                                                                                             This indicates an involvement with their dogs and offers valuable experiences that they can share with others who may want to pursue these or similar endeavors.   If all they offer is puppies for sale, this may indicate that they are breeding primarily for profit rather than a sincere desire to improve the breed. 
                                           If the answer is 'he is sweet and cute and here' or 'the neighbor down the street had a male...'  a whole lot of thougt may not have gone into this breeding.  Responsible breeders plan for years in advance how they are going to proceed with their breeding program in order to maintain the integrity of the breed.
                                                                             While the sire may not be owned by the breeder,  you should be able to see photos of him and have a contact number for his owner to ask about his health and the temperments of puppies he has produced.  The dam is generally available for you to meet. 
                                                                      Properly home-raised puppies who have had a lot of human contact, gentle handling and loving care are better able to make the transition to their new homes.  They should have experienced all the activities of daily living that any busy household will offer.  Puppies should not be placed before 8 weeks old and the ASTC Code of Ethics suggests the puppies not be placed before 12 weeks.
How To Select A Responsible Breeder
A bold, active puppy is better suited to a household with noisy, vibrant children just as a calmer, more sedate puppy may be better suited to a home with a quieter lifestyle.  The breeder should be able to help you make the right choice so that you and your new family member will have a happy life together.
                                                                                                                                                            A breeder who insisits on these is usually a responsible breeder.  They care for the puppies they produce and want long, healthy lives for dogs they have placed as family companions.
                                                                         The puppy should be alert, clean with a fluffy coat with nails and anal area trimmed for sanitary purposes.   It shoud be free of any diseases, infections or parasites.  They should have a certificate of health from the breeder's vet as well as a record of vacinations and wormings. 
                                                                                                                                           This is done to insure you have recieved a healthy puppy and aquaint the puppy with the new vet.  Extra time should be allowed for the vet visit if you get the puppy on a weekend.  The breeder should have a written contract agreeing to take the puppy back if the vet determines it to be in ill health.  They should be willing to refund you purchase price or replace the puppy with a healthy one. 
                                                                                                                        The breeder should have researched and be aware of the genetic problems that may lurk in their lines.  They should  be knowledgeable and be working to control/eradicate the conditions that are particular to our breed including but not limited to renal dysplasia, portal systemic shunts, hip and eye problems, inguinal hernias, allergies, thyroid problems and Von Willebrands disease. (See Shih Tzu Health for more information.)
                                                                                                                                                           You should recieve a full record of immunizations and treatments the puppy has had as well as information on feeding, grooming and training your new puppy.   Many breeders also provide food, toys, crate and a waterer to get you started.
                                                                                                           There should be a majority of titled dogs (the initials CH, CD, etc.) before or after the dogs' names in the first two generations.  The term "champion lines" means nothing if the titles are back 3 or more generations or there are only one or two in the whole pedigree.   Also, remember that not all champions are created equal and that a champion may or may not produce quality puppies.
AKC papers should be provided per the terms of the sale agreement.
                                                                                                                                                     The breeder should make you feel comfortable enough to ask any questions that occur, either now or later as the dog grows into your family.  If you do not get a good feeling, keep looking for another breeder.
                                                                                                                                       The responsible breeder should be willing to take the dog back at anytime in its life if you are no longer able to keep the dog.  This is the hallmark of a good breeder and would render rescue obsolete if they all did.
                                                                                                                                          Membership in the Breed parent club or its affliates generally means that a breeder has a Code of Ethics to follow and holds themselves to a higher standard when breeding.  They do not sell puppies to pet shops, commercial puppy mills, broker dogs they have not bred themselves, offer puppies for raffles or auctions, crossbreed or sell crossbred puppies or provide stud services to unregistered bitches.