I’m the first one to admit it: a tiny dog in a teacup is adorable. And in a world where houses are shrinking and gardens are becoming less and less common, there are definite advantages to having smaller pets. A French Bulldog is going to require less acreage and less exercise than a Ridgeback or Labrador. And is probably going to make a smaller impact on your wallet when the food bill comes around.
Teacup dogs vs. Small dogs
But there is a line between a compact breed like a Frenchie or a Jack Russell and a teacup dog. Teacup dogs are tiny. While a rat would run in terror from a maltese poodle, it’s hard to picture it being anything but peckish when it sees these little fluff balls with eyes.
Teacups are not a separate breed. They are undersized members of existing breeds (often toy breeds), which are then bred specifically for small size. Most of them are smaller than the minimum size allowable for the breed standard.
So they’re adorable little balls of cuteness. But dog lovers, vets and animal rights organisations are not fans of teacup dogs, for reasons outline below.
So what’s wrong with the teacup dogs? They are so cute!
Part of the problem with these little dogs derives from the fact that undersized dogs are often bred together to produce even smaller dogs. The ‘teacup’ label carries with it a massive price-tag and many breeders are following unethical practices such as crossing close relatives and even underfeeding in order to achieve the small size.
The fact that they have a narrow genetic base, combined with the fact that dogs were just never meant to be this small, creates a host of health problems. These include hypoglycaemia, heart problems, hereditary blindness, seizures, breathing problems and fragile bones. Many animal insurers refuse to cover teacup dogs as a result.
There are also other problems such as insufficient space in the mouth for adult teeth to grow, which causes tooth decay; frequent, and often fatal, diarrhoea and a high mortality rate in pups. If you have a teacup dog in your home, make sure you schedule regular check-ups and have your vet’s contact number in case of emergencies.
I still want one
Are you sure? Many of the toy breeds, such as Yorkshire terriers, combine small size with fairly robust health. It’s relatively easy to find ethical breeders and your local kennel club will be able to point you towards a breeder they trust. Your expenses will be lower and your dog will probably live longer. You’ll also find more information on toy breeds than teacup dogs.
I said I want one
Have you considered a hamster instead? No? If you’re still set on owning a doglet, and a toy Yorkshire is still too big for you, the first and best option is to contact toy breeders recommended by your kennel club or vet and ask to be put on a contact list should they produce a pup which is particularly small. If you can find a recommended breeder of teacup dogs from either a kennel club, trusted breeder or vet, we still recommend an unannounced visit. Even an amateur can tell whether the dogs are healthy and happy.
Another possibility is to call a shelter. Many teacups are abandoned when the owners tire of the detailed and expensive care they require, or because they grow slightly larger than their fantasy of a handbag-dog. You’ll be able to ensure that the rest of the little dog’s life is relatively healthy and happy.
Words of caution
Children are not recommended for dogs of this size. Kids, often unconsciously, play roughly and teacups are fragile. They may also, because they’re easier to hurt, respond with aggression more readily than would, say, a Shepherd or Retriever.
Do your research carefully and thoroughly. Diligently read anything you can find on the toy breed your teacup is derived from, remembering that they will likely have all the health weaknesses that the toy version is prone to, plus a few extra.
As you can see from the above, teacup dogs are by no means easy pets. There are a number of issues to consider before purchasing one. We strongly recommend that you do not obtain one as your first dog. Ideally, you should already have owned a toy dog before purchasing a teacup. However, if you’ve considered the above, and you’ve done your homework, they can bring many years of happiness and companionship to your life. After all, when all is said and done, they’re still dogs.