Wudnshu Kennel
American Hairless Terrier

The Teacup Myth
Written by: Kady Harrington
American Hairless Terrier

"I'm looking for a teacup AHT"...."How do you breed for a teacup size"....."Tiny toy AHTs for sale!" Recently we have received many emails on this subject and felt it was time to address the myths and risks of the teacup dog. While the idea of a tiny companion is seductive (especially if you have met 'pocket' size canines belonging to others) it would be wise to do some serious research on your chosen breed and it's ideal sizes and on the potential health risks for a dog deliberately bred to be extremely smaller (or larger) than it was meant to be. They can be extremely hard to care for (especially a hairless one) and many die suddenly and at a young age despite the best of care.

What is a "teacup" dog?
Well, actually it's more of a marketing term or gimmick. Some breeders or retailers use this term to indicate an individual of extremely tiny size, most often 1-4 pounds as adults. Typically it's in association with breeds such as Maltese, Poodles, Yorkies, and other toy breeds. The American Hairless Terrier is also a victim of this ploy. There is NO official 'teacup' size...these are indeed TOY breeds (the AHT is actually a terrier) but they are not TEACUP breeds, and none of the standards provide for such a 'variety'.

So do 'teacup' dogs even exist?
Of course they do. For one reason or another very small individuals do occur in any breed. Though even these individuals face many of the problems of tiny dogs, the problems become worse when these tinies are then bred to each other. NO reputable breeder will deliberately breed exceptionally tiny individuals.

Size Guarantees and how to they get those tiny dogs?
There aren't any perfect guarantees. Period. Size is determined by a number of factors: Genetics (parents, grandparents. etc.) as well as being affected by environment (nutrition, medical care, etc.). Genetic contribution by the parents is 50/50 (NO - the male is NOT genetically "stronger" then the female. High school biology should have taught you that) and the parent's parents also contribute. Wonder why your puppy has a curly tail and his parent's have straight tails? Look to the grandparents (or maybe even further back). Same goes for size.

Those 'teacup' puppies you see may genuinely grow up to be tiny...or they may have falsified papers indicating they are older they they really are (and won't you have a surprise when your 'puppy' suddenly grows, well, BIG?). The thing is, even the runt often catches up to his sibling and grows into a normal size adult. So even a "tiny" puppy won't necessarily grow into a 'tiny' adult. Most often, those that deliberately market "teacups" are also breeding from pet or unknown lines, or worse buying from puppy mills with even LESS care about these puppies and haven't done the research needed to know a pedigree. They simply put two "small" adults together and sell the offspring as 'teacup'....again, what a surprise for the new owner when their 'teacup' puppy is now a perfectly normal 10 pounds or so! NO person - breeder, pet store worker, etc. - can guarantee a size. A knowledgeable breeder may be able to give you a sound and reasonably accurate estimate of size range based on knowledge of pedigree, the parents, the breed, etc. But until a dog is mature (as late as 24 months) there is no way to give you a 100% guarantee of size. Remember that when someone tells you they 'guarantee' it will be a teacup - they also know if it grows too big you're probably too attached to give it back in order to get your refund or replacement.

We once saw a photo of a 'teacup' adult...it was a normal size adult (on the smaller end of the standard, but normal) and it was posed in an extra large 'tea' cup!!! From the photo it looked like a real tea cup and many a person has been fooled by it! Be smart in your research.

Health risks a teacup faces...
Exceptionally tiny individuals face a number of health risks based on their size alone.

  • Fragility results in easily broken bones, especially legs, when they jump off a piece of furniture or a lap. There have been cases of bones simply shattering on impact in the course of normal playing, tumbling around on the floor or yard, or being held too firmly. One adult was routinely carried in the owner's pocket and caught a leg on the pocket, breaking it from relatively minor force.
  • Often a 'teacup' dog's mouth is simply not big enough to accommodate all it's adult teeth and problems arise with crowded teeth, deteriorating adult teeth, etc.
  • Internal organs may not be fully or adequately developed.
  • One of the biggest problems with any tiny is that they expend so much energy simply trying to keep their own body temperature normal, that they can't consume enough calories to fuel their own body and essentially starve to death despite proper feeding. They require careful care and monitoring because they often simply can't maintain a healthy body temperature.
  • Tinies may have problems regulating their own blood sugar.
  • A simple case of diarrhea can kill a teacup since it dehydrates so quickly, and will most likely cost a minimum of a trip to the vet.
  • It is not uncommon for a teacup to die at a very young age, even with an owner who takes the best of care. (Of course those that make a living selling these dogs aren't too bothered since this certainly opens up the market for them to sell you another one!).

Small size equals big purchase price
Just in case the risks aren't enough, the final insult is the exceptionally high prices that are often tagged on these diminutive babies. Dubbed "designer dogs", their price tags are typically FAR in excess of a price of a normal, healthy, well bred puppy from a reputable breeder. Some sellers require hefty deposits that equal the entire costs of another puppy! It is not uncommon to see price tags in the $2000.00-$3000.00 range.

But I really want the smallest individual I can get...
Be very sure you're willing to take on the necessary care required. Are you going to be able to protect it from accidents? Provide adequate warmth, food, vet care? Have you educated yourself on the risks involved and are willing to take that chance that something could happen?

First consider smaller breeds (such as the Chihuahua) that are normally very small compared to most other breeds. Don't expect a breed that is normally 10 pounds or more to be "teacup" size. Read the standards set forth by the parent club for your breed (they can be found on AKC and UKC websites) and know what a normal size range is.

Then find a reputable breeder and talk to them. It may be that a smaller adult (but not a teacup) would suit you fine. Many people have misconceptions about what 5 or 6 pounds looks like. If you must have a tiny, the only way to guarantee a size is to get an adult. And any breeder who gives a hoot about his/her puppies will NOT be letting that tiny out the door at 6 weeks, or even maybe 8, 10 weeks or more. Make sure the breeder can provide genetic screening information (such as patellas, hips, etc.....find out what is typical for your chosen breed). Make sure they can provide a well researched pedigree and a sound contract that protects the PUPPY and you, not just the breeder.


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