Teacup dogs are not an individual breed. Rather, the term teacup refers to any number of small or Toy breeds that have been selectively bred to be extra-small. There aren’t any dedicated teacup breeds, per se, but specific dogs bred to be “teacup” sized.
Teacup dogs are not recognized by any major breed classification organization, so there are no precise specifications for what classifies a dog as a teacup. Dogs are usually classified as teacup when they are bred to be 2 - 5 pounds in weight at full adulthood, and under 17 inches in length.
The term “teacup” was coined because, at birth, these dogs manage to get comfortable inside a teacup. The term denotes their tiny size, and doesn’t refer to a dog’s pedigree or breed.
“Teacup” and “Toy” Refer to Different Things
The term “teacup” is sometimes confused with the term “toy,” as both of these descriptors pertain to small dog breeds, but they are not synonymous. Toy breeds refer, generally, to any dog under 15 pounds; as in all Pomeranians and Chihuahuas and so on.
Teacup breeds refer to dogs who are specifically bred to be even smaller than Toy sized dogs. So, for example, whereas all Pomeranians are considered to be Toy dogs, a Teacup Pomeranian is a term used to describe an extra-small version of this already Toy-sized breed.
Controversy Around Teacup Sized Dogs
These cute dogs aren’t without controversy, though. Some animal activists object to the breeding practices surrounding, and possible health issues of, teacup dogs.
Inbreeding: The breeding of ever-smaller dogs can involve inbreeding. This means members of the same litter (siblings) will be bred together, or bred with their parent. This might work to deminish the potential growth of the litter, in terms of size, but it can also create health problems. Inbred dogs are prone to a variety of behavioral and health problems, including seizures and digestive problems.
Lifestyle: People can be drawn to teacup dogs because they’re undeniably cute, and in some cases they’re then treated like toys or accessories, more than like living creatures. Imagine a life spent inside a purse or pocket...
Health: These tiny dogs are typically the result of breeding the smallest of the small together. As it happens, the smallest dogs are often the least healthy in their litter, which means teacup dogs are created by combining two unhealthy parents. This can unfortunately lead to an unhealthy pet. A teacup dog’s skeleton is very fragile, as are their organs. As such, a jump from a surface that’s even slightly too high could result in broken bones or ruptured organs.
The following are a handful of Toy sized breeds that are commonly bred to be extra-tiny teacup sized dogs.
Originally bred as a dog of up to 30 pounds, Pomeranians were bred to be smaller and smaller over time. A breed of Slavic origins, the Pom reached popularity when a British queen ended up with a particularly small one. Since then, the Pom has become an ever smaller Toy breed, and the teacup sized versions can weigh as little as 2 pounds.
Unlike many Toy sized breeds, the Yorkie was bred as a hunter (of rats). They stay true to their hardscrabble origins -- Yorkies rarely seem to know their own size, and will sometimes stand up to much larger dogs. One of the more popular breeds to make extra-tiny, or teacup sized, Teacup Yorkshires can weigh as little as 2 pounds.
With origins in Mexico, the Chihuahua is one of the smallest naturally occurring breeds. Before humans stepped in to create ever smaller versions of this breed, they had already naturally evolved as small creatures. Teacup Chihuahuas can be as small as 4 pounds. Despite their diminutive stature, Chihuahuas do need plenty of exercise and space to move around.
Other common Toy breeds that are popular in teacup sizes include the Maltese, Boston Terrier, French Bulldog, and Papillon.
More on Small Dog Breeds
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The Best Dogs for Children
AKC Recognized Breeds
Small Dog Pet Supplies
Nutrition for Medium and Small Dog Breeds