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What Are the Differences Between Toy and Teacup Dogs?

The Maltese is considered a toy breed.
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  • Last Modified Date: 24 November 2014
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Toy and teacup dogs are extremely different, though they may be relatively the same size. The term "toy" is used to describe certain breeds — or groups within breeds — that are very small in size, typically under 12 inches (30.48 cm) when fully grown; pugs, Maltese, and chihuahuas are just a few examples of breeds usually recognized as toy breeds. "Teacup" is not an official term, and is often used to describe any dog that is very small in size. These dogs are specifically bred to be as small as possible, and often have extremely delicate bones, respiratory problems, and other health issues.

There is no official size standard for a teacup dog, although the name comes from the idea that the animal is small enough to fit inside a tea cup. The name is generally considered to be a marketing term, and none of the major international dog registries recognizes the group. Toy and teacup dogs may share their small size, especially for the smaller of the toy breeds, but puppies sold as teacups are often those that were born premature, or were bred from two exceptionally small parents. Most reputable breeders do not sell teacup dogs, though they are very popular.

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A main difference between toy and teacup dogs is their general health. Toy dog breeds are typically healthy while teacup dog breeds tend not to be. Teacup dogs usually are smaller and frailer than toy dogs, and they characteristically contract illnesses and diseases faster, have more medical complications and are more apt to die younger.

Toy and teacup dogs also differ in their breeding. Teacup dogs are generally bred by mating the runt, or the tiniest and least healthy dog, of one litter with the runt of another. Some backyard breeders and puppy mills breed teacups for the sole purpose of producing the smallest dog possible for the simple fact that they assume women will like the tiny dogs. Unknowing families purchase these teacup dogs because they may seem "cute," but most teacup dogs are unhealthy and are simply a way for the breeder to make money off the runt of the litter.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) in the U.S. has a compilation of all the registered breed types on its website. The site can serve as a good reference tool to examine and compare various dog breeds. A qualified breeder in the U.S. typically raises dogs according to the AKC's standards, usually by breeding two champions to preserve the integrity of the breed.

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Kristee
Post 4

@giddion – It is a huge shame. Many people who think teacups are adorable have no idea that they won't live very long.

People get really attached to their tiny dogs, because they feel protective of them and nurture them like small children. It really hurts when the dog dies, because even if you weren't, you feel responsible for letting something happen to them.

I'm glad that reputable breeders don't breed teacup dogs. I think that more awareness needs to be raised about the issue, because before reading this article, I didn't know that teacups were unhealthy and frail, and I'm an avid dog lover.

cloudel
Post 3

Pomeranians are my favorite kind of toy dog. They look like little lions, and they have so much spunk!

They are surprisingly aggressive. I guess that the smaller the dog, the scarier it thinks it needs to sound to protect itself.

This is also true of chihuahuas. I've met many a nervous chihuahua that would growl, bark, and bite any stranger. I'm more wary of this kind of dog than I am of a ninety-pound labrador!

StarJo
Post 2

I always think of my neighbor's toy poodle with the ridiculous haircut when I hear the term “toy dog.” The poor thing was groomed to look so frilly and silly. It really was its owner's toy.

giddion
Post 1

It makes me so sad that breeders make unhealthy little dogs for money! It broke my heart to read that their bones are delicate.

Teacup dogs are so small that the least little thing could destroy them. If you roll over on them on the couch or drop them, you could break their bones!

I wouldn't want to own a dog like this. They might be cute, but I would be so afraid that I would accidentally kill them!

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