Take, for instance, dogs that are categorized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) as “toys.” Breeds of dog that fall into this category are already very small: Yorkshire terriers, chihuahuas, pugs and more. There are 23 dog breeds in the AKC’s toy group and there are two breeds that are broken down into toy varieties: poodles and Manchester terriers. Each breed is subject to its own regulations for registration, but in general the toys are in the 10-pound range.
However, there are many dogs being sold as unofficial “toy” or “teacup” versions of dogs that already are quite small. An Internet search for “teacup Yorkie,” for example, yields a plethora of results. These designations are not officially recognized and are more of a marketing ploy, according to both a local chihuahua enthusiast and at least one website that sells the animals.
“The truth is that Yorkies of the regular breed standard 3-7 pounds are already very small dogs, and very cute,” says the website www.teacupyorkies.com, based in Saratoga Springs, Utah. The site contains information about and referrals on where to buy Yorkshire terriers of all sizes. “According to the ‘urban’ definition a teacup Yorkie would be an extremely small Yorkie under the normal breed guidelines. More explicitly, this means less than three pounds. Teacup Yorkie is not an official term but rather ‘slang,’ a marketing term, and quite frankly a fad.”
Lesley Harger, a Reno resident and longtime Chihuahua rescuer and activist, said the toy or teacup versions of that dog are often runts of a litter or are sold at a very young age in an attempt to make money.
“When someone calls it a ‘teacup,’ what they’re trying to do is sell something that is really tiny,” she said.
The Chihuahua Club of America goes so far as to have an official statement on its website about the teacup issue. It says that a particularly small Chihuahua is not something exceptional, but rather causes a great deal of confusion and is not at all endorsed by the organization. Just as there are variations among humans’ sizes, the same can happen with dogs, the site says.
“Unfortunately, the additional adjectives used to describe the size differences and physical appearances are many and have been misused for so long they now seem legitimate,” the club statement reads. “Teacup, pocket size, tiny toy, miniature or standard are just a few of the many tags and labels that have been attached to this breed over the years. The Chihuahua Club of America is concerned that these terms may be used to entice prospective buyers into thinking that puppies described in this way are of greater monetary value. They are not and the use of these terms is incorrect and misleading.”
The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America (YTCA) goes so far as to ethically preclude uses of “teacup,” “tiny specialists,” “doll faced” or similar terminology.
“Special circumstances often come with extra tiny dogs,” according to the YTCA website. “They are extremely susceptible to both hereditary and non-hereditary health problems, including birth defects that may go undetected for a long time. Other common problems may include, but are not limited to, diarrhea, vomiting, along with extra and expensive tests prior to routine teeth cleanings and surgeries. Small ones are more likely to have poor reactions to anesthesia and die from it. Tiny dogs are more easily injured by falls, being stepped on and being attacked by other dogs. These health problems nearly always result in large veterinary bills.”
Speaking from experience, my girlfriend’s Yorkshire terrier is often mistakenly called a “miniature” because he is so small — about five pounds on a bad day. Other than some failing eyesight and occasional annoyance at dinner time, he is in good health for being 13 years old. The only health concern he really has is making sure he isn’t squashed by our Saint Bernard or kicked by me after he barks for 20 minutes because he wants my food.
I always assumed because of the prevalence of the term that there were lots of legitimate “toy” versions of dogs. This information won’t make me assume that all such dogs will be sickly or that persons peddling them are crooks, but it will make me more aware of potential issues and I hope it will do the same for you.
For more information, visit www.akc.org, www.teacupyorkies.com, www.ytca.org and www.chihuahuaclubofamerica.com.