Finding A Breeder
Buying a companion that is likely to require a commitment of up to 15 years is not a decision that should be entered into lightly. Puppies are available everywhere nowadays it seems. Websites are overflowing with puppies for sale catering for that impulse purchase. It really isn't difficult to find a puppy - but it is more difficult to find a carefully bred puppy from a knowledgeable breeder whose first priority is the wellbeing of their dogs, not the money you have to spend. Whilst it is not for us to dictate prices, you should expect a carefully bred and reared Shih Tzu puppy to cost between £900-£1500.
What To Look For In A Breeder
A responsible breeder will be striving to breed the best dogs that they can in terms of health, temperament and breed type. They will be knowledgeable about the breed and able to answer Shih Tzu specific questions that you may have. They may well be showing their dogs or at least have made efforts to learn more about Shih Tzu and how to improve the quality of the dogs they are breeding. They will ideally be a member of one or more breed organisations. All breed clubs have a Code of Ethics which their members are required to abide by.
A responsible breeder will always be able to show you the mother of the puppies. The puppies should be clean and the mother should be in good condition - allowing for the fact that she has just raised a litter of pups. It isn't always possible to see the father since it is common to use stud dogs from outside but the breeder should be able to tell you something about him, including a photo and the details of his owners. You should be provided with a diet sheet and a worming record in addition to a legible pedigree, contact information and a contract of sale. Generally, Shih Tzu puppies should not be placed in a new home until they are at least 9 weeks old. A responsible breeder will be on hand to offer help and advice after you have bought your puppy for as long as you reasonably might need it. They will also stand by their dogs and be prepared to take the dog back or at the very least help you with re-homing if something goes wrong or you are unable to care for the dog.
It is difficult to offer ironclad guarantees when you are dealing with a living being but by buying your Shih Tzu puppy from a reputable breeder you will know that every effort possible has been made to breed a sound healthy puppy that will be supported by a knowledgeable person as it grows up with you.
What To Avoid
Avoid anyone trying to get you to take on a puppy under 8 weeks old. 9-12 weeks is best, under 8 weeks is unacceptable. See also our Buyer Beware page.
You should absolutely avoid buying a puppy from a puppy farm (sometimes called a puppy mill), a pet shop (since their stock almost always comes from puppy farms) or a dealer. At first glance these can be a good option, you might not have to wait for your puppy and you might (but not always) save yourself a little money on the purchase price. You may even know someone who has bought from a puppy farm or a dealer and had no problems. But it is a lottery. In most cases there is little thought given to which dog is bred with which bitch and whether the breeding could give rise to inherited conditions. Whilst the conditions in which the dogs are kept may not be sanitary, the puppies would likely receive little in the way of human or canine interaction and so may be stunted socially. And once you have bought your puppy, that's it - you're on your own.
Buying your puppy from a casual breeder can also be problematic. Whilst it would seem to be ideal to buy a puppy from a litter raised by a (probably much loved pet) bitch in a home environment you should question the motives behind having the litter. Are the people knowledgeable about Shih Tzu? Are the people concerned a member of a breed club and striving to learn as much about the breed as they can? Can they answer your questions about Shih Tzu satisfactorily? Are they prepared to stand by the puppies that they breed and would they take them back if there was a problem? Is there a proper contract of sale with satisfactory provision if things go wrong? If the answer to these questions is yes then the chances are you are talking to a responsible breeder, if not then you are just increasing your risk.
Finding A Responsible Breeder
The Shih Tzu Club has a Puppy Coordinator who can put you in touch with Club members who have, or are planning to have puppies. Debby Gracey can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kennel Club's Assured Breeder Scheme is making great improvements in raising overall standards in dog breeding amongst it's members. Members receive visits from a breeder advisor to check everything is as it should be and that the scheme rules are followed. You have the opportunity to feedback to the Kennel Club your experience and views. Although the scheme has a system of accolades to rank breeder experience there is currently no requirement for a breeder to demonstrate Shih Tzu specific knowledge. Whilst this is less than ideal it is still a very good national scheme and far and away better than taking your chances in the private ads online. Puppies can be searched for using the Find A Puppy service.
Other Shih Tzu breed clubs maintain lists of reputable breeders too. Their details can be found on our Links page.