Adrienne is a certified dog trainer, behavior consultant, former veterinarian assistant, and author of "Brain Training for Dogs."
What Are Teacup Dog Breeds?
"Teacup," as the name implies, is a term meant to depict smaller-than-average dog breeds. The term is quite flashy and attractive when one reads it advertised on the Sunday newspaper as pictures of cute, small dog breeds capable of comfortably fitting into a coffee cup come to mind.
As innocent as the term "teacup puppy" or "teacup dog" may appear, there are a lot of important facts to become aware of before falling in love with these dogs and considering paying a premium price for one. Learning more facts about them can help make the difference between enduring many heartaches and expenses and enjoying a dog for many years to come.
Teacups are basically very small versions of popular breeds of small dogs. Also referred to as micro-dogs or pocket-sized dogs, as one may imagine, on top of being small, these dogs also considerably weigh less than the standard set forth for that particular breed. For sake of an example, according to American Kennel Club, the Maltese is expected to weigh under seven pounds, with a preference for specimens being anywhere in between the four and six-pound range. A teacup Maltese would instead weigh considerably less than this standard, making it even much smaller than acceptable.
It's important for prospective dog owners to realize that the term "teacup" is not an official term, and that as such, it is not endorsed by any of the main dog breed registries. They are not a specific breed of dog. The term is mostly an astutely thought marketing ploy specifically crafted for the purpose of attracting buyers and persuading them into thinking that teacup puppies are valuable and worthy of a higher price tag.
When a prospective buyer, therefore, goes to purchase these dogs, they may be really smaller than the average weight and size for the breed, or they may actually be normal size or even bigger, but the breeder still markets them as "teacups" just in hopes of adding a glitzy touch to make up for the higher price tag. The term is, therefore, a big red flag that should send warning beeps left and right.
The terms "imperial" or "tiny teacup" should be regarded as what they really are.... A MYTH often used by unethical breeders to create a market for dogs that do not conform to the breed standard.
— American Shih Tzu Club
The Ugly Truth About These Breeds
Having a smaller-than-average dog may be appealing as these dogs can easily fit into a pink Gucci bag, but the health of such dogs should not be put on the line just for the purpose of attracting buyers who wish to make a fashion statement. Before committing into purchasing a smaller version of an already small breed, it is therefore important understanding how these breeds are produced and how this can impact their general health.
Behind the creation of these breeds, there is often a breeder who is purposely raising runts of the litter. Runts of the litter are basically smaller than average dogs who are weaker and often struggling to survive. While a reputable breeder who occasionally stumbles on these specimens may sell these runts with a strict spay and neuter contract, so that these specimens are not allowed to reproduce, an unethical breeder may instead purposely breed their runt with another runt (often closely related by inbreeding) in hopes of producing whole litters of smaller than average dogs.
On top of that, there are chances that some unethical breeders may also purposely stunt the growth of their puppies by not providing them the needed nourishment these puppies need.
These puppies are therefore called "teacups" and they are often sold for a hefty price. How much does a teacup puppy cost on average? The price of a teacup dog breed may easily range anywhere between $750 and $2,000!
What breeds are teacup dogs? There are several dog breeds that are described as teacups, and it's concerning that more and more are being added to the list. Here is a list of teacup dog breeds.
A List of Teacup Breeds
Common breeds that are bred as "teacups" include the following, but several more exist:
- The Chihuahua
- The Maltese
- The Pomeranian
- The Poodle
- The Pug
- The Shih-tzu
- The Silky Terrier
- The Yorkshire Terrier
The Problems With Teacup Dog Breeds
On top of engaging in unethical practices and selling teacup puppies for a premium, breeders of these breeds are also giving away dogs who are likely to encounter several health ailments along the road. At the veterinary hospital I used to work for, we had a client who was over and over coming to visit us, not because she liked us, but because her puppy was often terribly sick. This puppy has frequent bouts of digestive issues and bouts of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis that led to costly frequent hospitalizations who often had her worried sick. She must of spent thousands of dollars as IV fluids were pumped into the pup for days and each time her bills were quite hefty!
What health problems are these breeds prone to? Teacup puppies can be prone to bouts of hypoglycemia, where their levels of blood glucose in their blood would drop causing weakness, shivering and even seizures in sever cases. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, miniature breeds are predisposed to hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Being smaller, also means that these dogs have a faster metabolism which often translates in a need for more frequent feedings.
Other health problems may include increased risks for liver shunts, hydrocephalus, larger moleras, heart problems, seizures, teeth problems (imagine all those teeth crowded in such as small mouth!). On top of that, these small fragile dogs can be easily sat on or dropped making them particularly unsuitable for families with small children. These alone are just some good reasons why teacup dog breeds are far form being everyone's "cup of tea."
Of course, as with everything dog related, there are always exceptions to the rule. Several owners of teacup puppies or runts of the litter have stories of their tiny dogs leading over all healthy and happy lives, but buyers must be aware of all the extra care these small dogs may need and not always these health problems may show up right away, but can insidiously raise their ugly heads only weeks, months, or years later!
Micro dogs weighing three pounds or less at adulthood are more prone to serious health problems and generally live shorter lives. It’s hard on them, and it’s hard on their families to lose them at an early age. There are plenty of small dogs who are healthy; let’s not encourage the breeding of tiny, unhealthy dogs simply so we can have bragging rights about whose dog is the smallest.
— Dr. Marty Becker
What to Consider Before Purchasing a Designer Breed
Let's face it, the market of selling puppies is sadly like other businesses around the globe and it tends to be shaped by different trends and fads. Still as of today, teacup remains a buzzword that is meant to attract buyers in hopes of having them shell out money without many reserves. While these breeds are not endorsed by any reputable dog registries, celebrities are often to blame for the spread of designer dog breeds who are then specially crafted by unethical breeders for a profit.
Sure, it can be cute and trendy to carry an adorable tiny pooch in a pink Gucci bag, but dogs are not fashion accessories and don't deserve to be treated this way! When dogs are purchased on a whim, just because famous Hollywood stars have them, people often fall into the trap of not realizing the amount of work and care small dogs require.
But what if a person really wants a teacup breed, has the time and will to care for one, does this mean that the idea should be completely abandoned? Not necessarily, but it's a good idea to conduct careful research.
Obviously, the unethical breeders purposely breeding these dogs for a hefty price tag should be avoided. Pet stores are also a problem considering that their puppies are for the most part supplied by puppy mills. Perhaps a better option for those really interested in a teacup is to simply consider purchasing a toy dog breed which is the healthier version coming in a healthier weight range and size for its standard.
Reputable breeders may also occasionally stumble on smaller than average puppies that they are willing to supply along with a heath guarantee and a contract stating that the puppy remain of pet quality and is spayed and neutered. Not to mention the countless rescues or shelters who have an abundance of small dogs in desperate needs for a caring family and home.
We recognize that many Chihuahua fanciers do want the very small puppy. While they are adorable and can be perfectly healthy, the buyer should be cautioned as to the extra care that may be required with regard to their general health and well-being.
— The Chihuahua Club of America
- Vet Street, 5 Toy Breeds That Worry This Vet the Most
- American Shih Tzu Club, Imperial Shih Tzu
- The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America, Code of Ethics
- Chihuahua Club of America, Teacup Statement
- The Chihuahua Handbook by D. Caroline Coile
© 2016 Adrienne Farricelli
Libby Ceballos on July 12, 2020:
Looking for a tea cup chihuahua
Nancy Wilson on April 13, 2020:
Many years ago I had a female yorkie 5 lbs that I bred to a smaller 3 lb. male also owned by the breeder I got her from. She had 4 pups but one was a runt and it a soft spot on top of its head that didn't close but got bigger. It had water on the brain. I had to have him put to sleep when he was only 4 wks. old. I didn't want to breed her anymore so I had her spayed. Runts are more prone to have problems.
john davie on February 07, 2020:
looking for yorkie bigger than tea cup size price and availability please reply in Canadian funds
Kathryn on January 22, 2020:
I had one for almost 6 yrs then all of sudden she had three seizures nearly back to back. She then had one shortly after that one she lost control of her bladder. She passed within the hr without ever regaining consciousness. She was only 1.2 pounds. So still watch tneir sugqr!!
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 30, 2019:
Hi Kemi, I am in the United States so provided the price range in US dollars. This was back to when the article was written in 2016, prices may have increased further in the meanwhile. Thanks for sharing the average price for Canada in Canadian dollars.
Kemi on August 30, 2019:
I’m not sure where you are exactly but the pricing ($750-$2000) is inaccurate here in Canada for sure. “Teacup” dogs range from $1500-$3500.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 28, 2019:
So sorry Judy you have dealt with so many problems in your 4 and a half pound Yorkie. You and her were surely strongly bonded. It must have been truly heart breaking losing her and going through all that.
Judy on July 11, 2019:
I had a 4-1/2 lb yorkie. She had surgery at about 4yrs because she needed a liver shunt to survive. She was the cutest, sweetest most loyal little pup, and she had my heart at first sight. She fell asleep in my arms every night. But as she got older, she just developed more and more health problems. She only lived to be 8 yrs old, and a piece of my heart died with her. She’s been gone for 6 yrs now, and I still miss her more than I can say.
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on April 18, 2019:
Teacups are sure hard to resist with their little bodies and cute faces, but there are important risks to consider.
Aopa on March 22, 2019:
I love tea cup puppies and dogs though I wish it’s not a bid problem if I get one
Adrienne Farricelli (author) on August 13, 2017:
Jessica, as the article concludes did does not apply to all teacups. See section "Of course, as with everything dog related, there are always exceptions to the rule. Several owners of teacup puppies or runts of the litter have stories of their tiny dogs leading over all healthy and happy lives."
Jessica on August 07, 2017:
I have a teacup she is 3 never had a problem
How are They Created?
When breeders selectively breed small dogs, they may occasionally stumble on runts of the litter.
While a reputable breeder will sell these smaller than average pups with spay and neuter contracts so that these dogs produced by accident cannot reproduce, an unethical breeder instead may intentionally breed two undersized dogs to produce litters of smaller than average puppies.
These puppies are then called “teacup puppies” and breeders ask a premium price for them marketing them as valuable. How much does a teacup puppy cost on average? A teacup puppy may easily cost anywhere between is $750 to even $2,000!
Did you know? The American Shih Tzu Club clearly states that an ethical breeder will not advertise a runt as a tiny teacup but would sell it as a pet quality puppy meant to be exclusively kept as a companion.
In spite of their descriptive name, the Australian Shepherd is not originated from Australia, it is an American-bred breed. The Australian Shepherd was initially developed in order to be a working dog, helping farmers and ranchers to herd livestock in the Western parts of the United States. The breed was so successful and talented in its job as a herder, that even nowadays, several ranches and farms use Aussies to help out around the flock. There are multiple theories around the Australian Shepherd’s exact ancestry, due to the lack of documentation. It is presumable that the breed’s ancestors included Shepherd-type dogs and several different Collies, which were imported to the United States on ships alongside sheep from Australia in the 1840s. Breeders always had the intention of enhancing and developing the breed’s herding abilities. Ultimately, they succeeded and created the perfect versatile, intelligent, and hard-working herder. The Australian Shepherd’s numbers started to increase significantly in the post-World War II days, thanks to the renewed interest in Western-style horseback riding. The fanciers of rodeos, or horse shows, and the viewers of the famous Western Hollywood productions, quickly became a fan of the signature athletic dogs that they saw working along with the cowboys. The AKC (American Kennel Club) recognized the breed relatively late, in 1993.
Regarding the Teacup Australian Shepherd, the breed is a fairly new one on the horizon. It was developed in 1968 by Doris Cordova of Norco, California. This breeding program aimed at the creation of a smaller version of the Australian Shepherd, while preserving the breed’s greatest qualities. They did this, by crossing smaller specimens of the Australian Shepherds. Eventually, the program succeeded, and Cordova with other breeders managed to develop and maintain the Teacup version’s size while preserving the important qualities of the parent breed. Today the breeders continue to strive to produce a mirror image of the Australian Shepherd in a small size that fits into the city lifestyle, without sacrificing any ability, instinct, or character.
Despite the short history of the Teacup Australian Shepherd, there have been many controversies around them. The NSDR (National Stock Dog Registry) considered both the Teacup and the Miniature version of the Australian Shepherd a size variant of the parent breed. Meanwhile, the Australian Shepherd Club of America considered these versions a fully separable, distinct breed. For many decades, the clubs, and organizations did not agree on the categorization of the Teacup Australian Shepherd. Both the UKC (United Kennel Club) and the AKC grouped them with the parent Australian Shepherd breed. Eventually, in 2011 the AKC admitted the Teacup Australian Shepherd to the Foundation Stock Service. Owing to their original place of birth, under the name Miniature American Shepherd. Later, in 2015 the club granted full recognition for the breed.
Nowadays, as hybrid breeds and miniature versions of purebred are getting more and more popular, the Teacup Australian Shepherd is also loved by many people. Although their original herding purpose is not used as it was earlier, they serve as a fun and loyal family companion, and as an intelligent, very talented agility dog.
SHOULD YOU ADOPT A TEACUP CHIHUAHUA?
The decision to adopt a teacup Chihuahua pup is yours alone to make. Everyone wishes their dog could stay a puppy forever, and teacup Chihuahua owners get to live that dream.
However, teacup Chihuahuas come at a price. Health issues can stack up quickly.
That said, any teacup Chihuahua owner would tell you that they love their fur-baby with all of their heart. If you own a teacup Chihuahua, you know how special he or she is to you.
Even though teacup Chihuahuas require extra care, they make excellent pets for devoted, responsible owners.
Still on the fence about getting your own teacup chihuahua? Let’s break down a few reasons below to help you decide.
THEY ARE A ROYAL AND LOYAL DOG BREED
They have unique personalities and run the gamut between quirky and energetic to goofy and diva-like. However, no matter what, they are usually very affectionate with their owners. They love to snuggle up and create a strong bond with their family. They are extremely loyal and grow very attached to their owner.
LOUD BUT PROUD DOG BREED
Just like other types of chihuahua, the teacup variety is still just as lively and as excitable despite their very tiny size. To make up for their small stature, they do tend to bark a lot and very loudly, but a little training early on can help curb this habit.
COURAGEOUS AND PROTECTIVE
Even though they are known as a miniature version of the world’s smallest dog, teacup chihuahuas are very courageous and are great protectors. Their barking will warn you of any danger there may be, and they are very alert.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TEACUP CHIHUAHUA AND A STANDARD CHIHUAHUA
A Teacup Chi is a very small dog breed even when compared to a standard chihuahua. For this reason, they aren’t the ideal dog for every family. They are known to have much shorter tempers and may end up being more aggressive than standard chihuahuas. Their care also requires much more time and effort on the part of the owner, which includes more responsibility because of their smaller size.
Teacup Poodle Breed Details
- Family Friendly
- Kid Friendly
- Pet Friendly
- Stranger Friendly
- Easy to Groom
- Energy Level
- Exercise Needs
- General Health
- Shedding Amount
- Barks / Howls
- Easy to Train
- Guard Dog
- Watch Dog
- Apartment Friendly
- Can Be Alone
- Good for Busy Owners
- Good for Novice Owners
The American Kennel Club (AKC) does not recognize the name "Teacup Poodle," as the so-called Teacup Poodle is merely a very small Toy Poodle. Since the Teacup is essentially a non-hybrid Poodle, it is in the Toy Group. This dog was not so much bred as down-bred, and its only purpose — and possibility — is pure decor. Like fine porcelain on wheels, the tiny Teacup Poodle must be watched at all times, lifted and set down to prevent it from tumbling and breaking, and handled with great care lest it be seriously injured. Not only is this dog not for inexperienced dog owners, it is not for people who must budget.
Consider these Teacup Poodle facts:
- Easy to train
- Highly intelligent
- Loves human company
- Wonderful watch dogs
- Low grooming maintenance
- Perfect for apartment living
- Very expensive
- Barking can be a problem
- Crate training is a must
- Extraordinary equipment needed
- Veterinary bills can be astronomical
- Requires around-the-clock monitoring
- Exercise needs are specific and demanding
- Mortal danger can occur from simple activity
- Might be told a litter runt is a Teacup Poodle
- Not good for households with small and / or young children
- Presents a seemingly endless laundry list of health problems
- Expensive house modification and new furniture is practically a must
- Early, constant and careful socialization, training and care is mandatory
- Owners and all others must shuffle rather than walk to prevent crushing a Teacup underfoot