Teacup dogs are a variant of several dog breeds where the canine is bred to be smaller than the average dog from that breed. Their name comes from the fact that they are, typically, able to fit in a teacup as puppies.
Even fully grown, Teacup dogs will still look and weigh no more than the average 3-month old medium-sized dog breed puppy.
What Size Dog is Considered a Teacup?
There’s some debate around the subject of the size of a Teacup dog. The general consensus is that the dog in question should weigh no more than 7 pounds.
However, some breeders prefer their cute Teacup dogs to be under 5 pounds. There are even some opinions out there that accept a Teacup dog as any dog around 3 to 5 pounds. Those dogs would weigh no more than a couple of average-sized bags of sugar in the US.
They are considered to be a subgroup of the Toy Dog Breed group because Toy dog breeds are noted as any dog under 15 pounds.
Teacup dogs should also be no larger than 17 inches in height once fully grown.
Worldwide Teacup Dog Breeds
There are considered to be just 6 Teacup dog breeds that are true Teacup canines. These are:
- Teacup Chihuahua
- Teacup Maltese
- Teacup Pomeranian
- Teacup Poodle
- Teacup Shih Tzu
- Teacup Yorkie
Though many other dog breeds have been bred down to become the same size as these other popular Teacup dog breeds, only these 6 are true Teacup breeds.
The Teacup version of the Chihuahua toy breed; puppies of this breed will actually be able to fit inside of a teacup. They must be handled extremely carefully because of their small size, so it’s not recommended for dog owners with young children to adopt a Teacup Chihuahua.
Teacup Chihuahuas grow to have the same personality type as the usual Chihuahua toy dogs – somewhat aggressive, loud, energetic. They’ll need decent obedience training from early on in their lives to curb the naturally angry disposition that Chihuahuas have.
The origins of this dog breed have been lost over time. There’s plenty of speculation, but no one is certain where this small dog breed originally came from. What we do know is it’s likely the Chihuahua was descended from the Techichi dog of the Toltecs. There’s mention of the dog coming to Mexico in the early 16th century, where the small dogs became popular. Today, that area is known as Chihuahua, located in northwestern Mexico.
It’s likely that the tiny pups we know as Teacup Chihuahuas were first bred in the US or Mexico, to appeal to people who wanted to own smaller, unique toy breeds.
As one of the tinier Teacup variety dogs, the Chihuahua weighs around 3 pounds and grows to be approximately 6 inches tall.
For more options, check out our detailed review of Dog Food For Chihuahuas.
Another of the popular Teacup breeds, the Teacup Maltese comes from ancestors that existed somewhere around 8000BCE. There is evidence that the Maltese did, in fact, originate in Malta, and that they are descended from a Spitz breed dog.
Once upon a time, the ancient Egyptians worshiped the Maltese’s ancestors as their god, and there have been plenty of references to the breed across ancient Rome and Greece.
The standard Teacup Maltese is around 2 to 4 pounds and is no more than 9 inches in height. If healthy, they’ll live up to 15 years.
Teacup Pomeranians are adorable dogs that are popular because of their appearance. These are some of the smallest puppies, able to fit into a teacup and be held in one hand with no effort at all. This particular breed requires a responsible breeder because they’re so small and extremely popular. Mishandling dogs of this size can be very dangerous to their health, and not all breeders have the health of their puppies at heart.
Though first-time dog owners may struggle with Teacup breeds, rather than the official breed of a dog, the sweet temperament of a Teacup Pom makes them easier to handle than, say, a Teacup Chihuahua.
Pomeranians originated in the Arctic. They were first bred to be working sled dogs, with their ancestors being Spitz breed dogs that would have had no trouble working pulling a sled. Poms were likely then bred further until the Teacup variant was brought into existence.
A Teacup breed Pomeranian weighs anywhere between 3 and 7 pounds. The most popular variant is the Teddy Bear Pom, which is considered to be one of the cutest and best teacup dog breeds.
You may also like our article on the Best Dog Food for Pomeranians.
Our next Teacup dog breed is the Teacup Poodle. Teacup Poodles compete with Teacup Poms for being the most popular Teacup dog breeds. They’re both similar in looks, though Teacup Toy Poodle dogs tend to be more curly-haired, while Teacup Poms are fluffy.
This toy breed dog is intelligent and perfect for dog owners that live in small spaces. They, like all of the most popular Teacup breeds, are selectively bred to be a tiny, miniature version of their standard-sized dog. Toy Poodles have been popular for a number of years, often being showcased as dogs to dress up and carry in handbags (not unlike Chihuahua dogs). Dog lovers adore small breed dogs, and the Teacup Poodle is no exception.
Poodles originated in Germany and were first bred to be the perfect hunting dog. However, today’s adorable pups of this breed are lapdogs, living a life of luxury.
Teacup Poodles should weigh less than 6 pounds and be under 9 inches in height.
Teacup Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu dog has a royal history and originates from China where they were coveted by the Imperial families. They were beloved because of their lion-like features, which were revered in China. They were even known as the “lion dog” during that time.
The history of the Teacup variant of this dog is somewhat difficult to find, but it isn’t hard to imagine that the Shih Tzu simply came to the same fate as every other small dog breed we’ve mentioned in this guide. Eventually, breeders experiment with the appearance of dogs and a Teacup Shih Tzu was always going to come along one day.
They have an obedient personality, a fluffy double coat, and the Teacup versions of this dog breed can fit in a teacup with no issues. Fully grown, expect a Teacup Shih Tzu to be under 7 pounds and around 6 inches in height.
Another similar Teacup breed is the Teacup Brussels Griffon, which shares several traits with the Teacup Shih Tzu.
Teacup Yorkshire Terriers have a somewhat similar appearance to the Shih Tzu micro dogs we just spoke about. However, the Teacup Yorkshire Terrier is usually smaller than the Shih Tzu and many other dogs of the Teacup variety. From their weight, alone, they are the smallest Teacup dog of the six most popular Teacups.
The Teacup Yorkshire Terrier has a big personality in a small body. They’re spirited, and their ancestors were working dogs that were used to hunt rodents until their sunny disposition won over some English nobles and they became more suited to be pampered pet dogs for the wealthy. Small dog breeds often end up as lap dogs, mainly because they have elderly owners who can handle a dog of a smaller size, but not a big one. It’s one of the many benefits to small dogs like Teacup Yorkies.
Yorkshire Terriers are already small dogs. The Teacup variant of the breed weights just 2 to 3 pounds, and has a height of 5 to 6 inches.
Other Popular Teacup Dogs
- Teacup Beagle
- Teacup Bichon Frise
- Teacup Boston Terrier
- Teacup Brussels Griffon
- Teacup Pekingese
- Teacup Pug
- Teacup Siberian Husky
Mixed Teacups have been attempted and though they aren’t as common as purebred Teacups, they do exist. A notable mix is the Chi-Poo, which is a Poodle mix dog that was created by crossing a Chihuahua with a Teacup or Toy Poodle. They can be as small as 5 pounds, which allows them to qualify for the Teacup name, though some weight up to 20 pounds.
There’s also the Teacup Pomsky, which is a cross between a Siberian Husky and a Pomeranian
Controversy Behind Teacup Dog Breeds
Most Teacup dog breeds were bred into existence to become a fashion statement. The first few were likely accidental, but once a breeder realized it was possible, it becomes all too easy to market these micro pups to the toy dog pet market.
When it comes to the health of a dog, size does matter, and it matters a lot. Dogs are descended from dogs and wolves of the wild variety. They were bigger, feral, and suited to the outdoors. As humans began to domesticate these animals and breed them, they changed, but they were never supposed to be pocket-sized.
Teacups are bred from dogs that were the runts of their litter. Runt puppies already have health issues due to their smaller size, and often have defects from their birth. These genetics are what get passed on to the Teacups that are born when someone decides to breed small dogs using a runt mother and father. What you end up with is a cute, fluffy Teacup dog that has the potential to carry a whole host of medical issues.
How are Teacup Dogs Bred?
To get a dog small enough to qualify for “Teacup” standards, breeders take the smallest dogs from the litters they breed and continue breeding that line of tiny dogs until they reach the optimal size. It doesn’t take long – dogs that are already smaller than their other littermates can usually yield Teacup pups quickly.
However, there are several issues with this practice.
For one, Teacup dogs are not recognized by the American Kennel Club. The AKC has extremely strict guidelines about the proper height and weight of every one of the dog breeds on their register, and a Teacup dog breed just wouldn’t meet those specifications.
Teacup puppies are also more likely to show various health issues throughout their lifespan. They are bred from litter runts – who already have health issues most of the time – and brought into existence by way of unethical breeding practices. They’re cute, and therefore overpriced, and are often extremely unhealthy.
A dog should not be a miniature size. Toy dog breeds already have health problems, and Teacup puppies just take the health of the dog to an awful extreme. That is not to say that every Teacup pup is unhealthy, but they are more likely to experience problems.
There are several common health risks and health conditions that come with a dog being Teacup breed size.
- Breathing issues/poorly developed lungs
- Brain deformities
- Heart disease
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Liver shunts (abnormal blood vessels that lead to poor growth and seizures, among other issues)
- Sliding kneecaps
- Short lifespan
- Tracheal collapse
Not all Teacup breeds live as long as their average dog breed counterparts. A number of the Teacup breeds, like Yorkshire Terriers, Poms, and Pugs, are more likely to live short lives. The Teacup Boston Terrier is another example of a short-lived Teacup dog because the breed is known to quickly develop health issues when they weigh under 10 pounds – they just aren’t able to healthily be Teacup dogs at all.
Choosing a Teacup Dog
Before you bring home a Teacup variant of a dog breed, be sure that your home is equipped to house these tiny, sensitive dogs. Because of their small size, Teacup dogs can get into the nooks and crannies of your home before you even realize it. Pet-proof your home like you would for a new kitten, and your puppy should be safe to roam the halls when they’re ready.
The great thing about Teacup pups is that they’ll feel at home in smaller accommodations. They’re the perfect pet for dog owners who don’t have a lot of space! That said, if you already have a large dog that’s quite playful, you may want to reconsider bringing a Teacup into the mix. They’re tiny and really need to be looked after. Young children aren’t ideal for them to be around, either. Teacups are as fragile as, well, china teacups. They may have boisterous personalities, but they’re still micro dogs.
If you’re concerned, adopt a Teacup that is on the higher end of the height and weight scale, closer to a regular Toy breed dog. These dogs will be healthier than the tinier Teacup dogs. Teacup Beagles (also called Pocket Beagles), for example, only just qualify as Teacup dogs because they weigh a minimum of 7 pounds, and a maximum of 15 pounds.
The average price of a Teacup breed dog varies, depending on the breed that you want. Be warned that they are some of the more expensive dogs to buy, usually costing around the same as it costs to buy a pedigree dog.
Expect to pay at least $1000 or $2000 USD for a Teacup dog. Occasionally less, sometimes more! You may find that reputable breeders charge more than sellers that you find on marketplace websites, but that’s because you’re paying for their experience and the health care of the puppy.
Always find a reputable breeder if you must buy a puppy from someone. Check for reviews, licenses, paperwork, and make sure any puppy you go to check out has a vet record that shows their health checks and vaccinations.
Never pay online for a dog from a breeder. Always see the dog in person, pay in person, and take the dog home in the same transaction where possible. Doing anything to the contrary leaves you open to awful situations where you might lose money and end up without a puppy at all.
Avoid puppy mills at all costs, as well as backyard breeders. Both of these practices are extremely harmful to dogs, and you could be buying a dog that isn’t as healthy and cared for as the breeder is making out.
Adopt, Don’t Shop
Rather than buying a dog, have you considered adopting one instead? It’s difficult to adopt a Teacup puppy, that’s for sure, but ask yourself why you’ve decided to buy a Teacup dog and if they’re really the right dog for your family.
There are hundreds of animal shelters out there looking for responsible pet owners that are willing to give a dog a second chance at a home. You’re sure to be able to find a small dog, even if it’s highly unlikely you will come across any Teacup dogs, there are certainly Toy dog breeds looking for homes.
Because Teacups aren’t officially recognized by the American Kennel Club, there aren’t any associations for them like other official dog breeds. This means that no reputable organization has taken the time to find trusted Teacup breeders, and no shelters for this specific type of dog exist.
Q: How Long do Teacup Dogs Live?
A: This wholely depends on the breed of Teacup that the dog is, but many healthy Teacup dogs should be able to live as long as their regular-sized counterparts. That said, some Teacup breeds are prone to health issues and live shorter lives because of this. Look after your Teacup, get them regular vet check-ups, and they could live as long as 16 years!
Q: What is the Best Teacup Dog to Get?
A: Teacup Shih Tzus are the most obedient of the 6 most notable Teacup breeds, while the Maltese are one of the easiest to care for. Stick to Teacups that live longer lives and have fewer medical issues. Where possible, pick a Teacup that is closer to Toy breed parameters like the Pocket Beagle.
Q: Are Teacup Puppies Hard to Take Care Of?
A: In some ways, they can be. Teacups are a different kind of challenge to regular puppies because of their size and fragility. As long as you’re prepared to care for a fragile animal, you should be able to cope with a Teacup as well as any other puppy entering your home.