The Chihuahua is the smallest dog breed in the world, and one that most of us would recognise on sight, even if the tiny size of dogs of the breed came as something of a shock the first time we saw one!
Chihuahuas of all types are hugely popular as pets both within the UK and further afield, so much so in fact that they are the second most popular breed of dog in the UK overall. The small size of Chihuahuas not only makes them undeniably cute, but also means that they are a viable choice of pet for people who live in smaller homes and cannot accommodate a larger dog, and there are a lot of positives about the breed as a whole that helps to contribute to the high level of demand for Chihuahuas in the UK.
Even though regular Chihuahuas are very small dogs, there is also something of a fashion at the moment for Chihuahuas that are even smaller than the norm, and these are usually referred to as miniature Chihuahuas or teacup Chihuahuas.
Owning a very small dog like a Chihuahua – even one of a regular size – means that their owners need to pay special attention to fulfilling the dog’s needs, protecting them from harm, and accounting for the ways in which such a small dog sees and navigates the world around them. However, when it comes to teacup Chihuahuas things can get even more complicated, and caring for a teacup or miniature Chihuahua can be a challenge that many of their buyers are unprepared for.
There is also a considerable amount of debate over whether or not teacup Chihuahuas should actually be bred at all, and both the Kennel Club and affiliated Chihuahua breed clubs have weighed in with an opinion on the matter, which we will discuss in more detail later on.
If you are thinking of buying a teacup Chihuahua, you should first learn as much as you can about the Chihuahua breed as a whole, and teacup or miniature Chihuahuas specifically. This includes learning about the special challenges that can be faced by teacup Chihuahuas and the people that look after them, and the reasons behind the objections to teacup Chihuahuas in the first place.
In this article we will provide a detailed introduction to the facts about teacup or miniature Chihuahuas, and share some insights into the pros and cons of their ownership; and the arguments surrounding the existence of teacup Chihuahuas at all, and whether or not they should be bred. Read on to learn all about teacup Chihuahuas.
A Chihuahua is a very small dog breed that falls within the Kennel Club’s toy dog grouping, and the breed originates from Mexico, where dogs of this type have a very long documented history going back to around the year 300 BC if not earlier.
Chihuahuas are small, finely boned little dogs that often have disproportionately large skulls, with pointed ears and delicate facial features. There are two variants of Chihuahua coats, which are longhaired and shorthaired respectively, and both coat variants are accepted within the dog’s breed standard.
Chihuahuas come in a huge variety of accepted colour combinations, which means that when you add in different head shapes and coat lengths, the appearance of different Chihuahuas can be very variable. However, the small size of the breed and their distinctive features make Chihuahuas instantly recognisable to most dog owners, and they are a common sight on the streets and in the dog parks of the UK.
A teacup Chihuahua is a regular Chihuahua that may possess any combination of coat styles and colours found within standard sized dogs of the breed, but in miniature. Even though standard-sized Chihuahuas are already very small, a teacup Chihuahua is significantly smaller again, and the name “teacup Chihuahua” is often used to describe such dogs because theoretically, they may be small enough to physically fit into a teacup.
The only theoretical difference between a teacup Chihuahua and a regular Chihuahua is their size, and any dog of the breed that is noticeably smaller than the norm may be described as a teacup or miniature Chihuahua, although these terms are used informally and do not describe a specific size, appearance, or other physical trait.
In terms of whether or not teacup Chihuahuas appear naturally within the breed, there is no really simple answer to this question.
Individual puppies within any given litter can be quite variable in terms of their differences from each other, and puppies that are noticeably smaller or larger than the norm can and do appear in litters of dogs of all breeds.
If a litter has a runt – a puppy that is smaller and potentially, weaker than their littermates – and they retain this small size into adulthood, their size might result in their being referred to as a teacup Chihuahua, even if the breeder had no intention of deliberately producing very small puppies.
Alternatively, if a breeder does wish to produce very small or teacup Chihuahuas specifically, they might design a breeding program to enable this, and to maximise the chances of producing uniformly small dogs within all of their litters.
As mentioned, teacup Chihuahuas might appear naturally in regular-sized litters as a runt or simply a particularly small puppy, but if a breeder wishes to deliberately breed teacup Chihuahuas, they need to take a more proactive approach to doing so.
The process of managing mating matches and developing a specific trait within a breed line is known as selective breeding, and this is a common and widely used practice by professional dog breeders. Selective breeding can help to improve the quality of a breed line, introduce or reinforce desirable traits within the breed, or be used to breed out less desirable traits.
When undertaken responsibly, selective breeding can help to improve the quality of the breed in question as a whole, but selective breeding undertaken for less noble reasons or without due care and attention can actually have the opposite effect too.
To produce teacup Chihuahuas, a breeder needs to develop breeding stock lines of very small dogs of the breed that will theoretically in their turn produce smaller puppies. This process takes time, and selectively mating two small Chihuahuas may result in their having a litter of teacup Chihuahuas, or simply result in slightly smaller puppies that in turn, can later be used in breeding programmes to reproduce and reduce this size trait again and again until the desired size is achieved.
To be able to produce teacup Chihuahuas, a breeder may concentrate on buying and breeding particularly small Chihuahuas or existing teacup Chihuahuas to introduce the small size trait. A runt that occurs naturally in a standard litter may also form the basis of a teacup Chihuahua breeding programme, although the health challenges that sometimes (but not always) accompany the runt of a litter may make this unviable.
The term “teacup Chihuahua” or “miniature Chihuahua” is a generic term used to refer to particularly small Chihuahuas, which usually means dogs that fall below the minimum size guidance set out within the Chihuahua breed standard.
Whilst this is what is widely understood and accepted to be meant by a teacup Chihuahua, there is no formal term used for dogs of this type, and the term is not formally recognised within breeding and showing circles as dictating a specific size of dog.
What any given breeder selling teacup Chihuahuas means by their use of the term can be variable – obviously they are indicating that their dogs are smaller than the norm, but by how much – or even if this is true – can vary widely.
Whilst the size of both parent dogs in any mating match can give a good indication of the size that their puppies will reach when adult, this can still be very variable and you cannot be sure of the adult size any puppy will reach. This also means that a Chihuahua breeder might advertise or sell their dogs as teacup Chihuahuas when in reality, they might reach a normal size, or not be particularly small.
So, what actually constitutes a teacup or miniature Chihuahua? Well, to be able to tell the difference, you first have to know the size of a standard Chihuahua. This is the size that is notated within the Chihuahua breed standard as the accepted size range for dogs of the breed.
The breed standard for Chihuahuas in the UK states that dogs of the breed may have a weight of up to 2.7kg, with a weight of 1.8-2.7kg being the ideal. The average height of a standard-sized Chihuahua is between 15-25cm tall, which even at the very top end of the height spectrum, represents a very small dog!
We may never know for sure when the first teacup Chihuahuas appeared, or when they started being referred to as teacup Chihuahuas. The Chihuahua breed as a whole is a very ancient one that is well established in most countries of the world, with a large total breed population.
There is no doubt that particularly tiny Chihuahuas have been appearing within litters of regular-sized dogs of the breed probably ever since the breed first came into being, as a result of the occasional very small runt of the litter, and/or the variations in size that can occur naturally within all dog breeds.
However, the widespread presence of teacup Chihuahuas, public awareness of them and demand for them among puppy buyers is a relatively recent phenomenon, and one that has only really arisen within the course of the last decade or two.
The internet has played a part in this to a great extent, as it has helped to make it easier for dog buyers and breeders to find out about different types of dogs and dog breeds, and to spread the word about new, notable, or unusual variants within standard breeds.
Chihuahuas are also hugely popular with a large number of celebrities, some of whom are often photographed out and about with their dogs, which helps to contribute to interest in and demand for the breed as a whole.
Teacup Chihuahuas in particular often get a lot more attention than standard-sized dogs of the breed when featured in the media, and this of course raises interest in and demand for miniature Chihuahuas specifically. Paris Hilton’s 2016 purchase of a teacup Chihuahua for $8,000 was widely covered in the media, and high-profile features such as these often result in a spike in demand for teacup Chihuahuas, and an increase in wider public awareness of their existence.
Within the Chihuahua dog breed specifically, the life expectancy of individual dogs of the breed can be very variable, and even the average longevity of the Chihuahua covers a very broad range of anything from 10-18 years.
Dogs of the breed reaching their late teen years in good health are far from uncommon, but at the bottom end of the average age spectrum, ten years of age is considered to be below the norm for a small dog breed.
The health of individual dogs of any breed can be highly variable, but for most pedigree dog breeds there are a number of breed-specific health issues that tend to occur with the breed more often than they do in others, and that can be passed on through the breed line as hereditary health conditions or congenital defects.
When it comes to hereditary health problems within the Chihuahua breed as a whole, there are a number of conditions that can be found within some breed lines, including hydrocephalus, hypoglycaemia, epilepsy, and patellar luxation, to name a few. You can find out more about hereditary Chihuahua health problems within this guide.
A teacup Chihuahua may inherit a hereditary health problem or conformation defect just as any other Chihuahua might, and they may also be born with a fontanelle or soft spot on their skulls, which may not fully close in the normal manner when the dog reaches maturity.
Teacup dogs of all breeds are more likely to suffer from complications due to their small size than standard examples of dogs of the same breed – like fragile bones, problems with the respiratory system, and congenital birth defects.
If you are considering buying a teacup Chihuahua, you should research the breed’s general health in detail as well as considering health issues that may be specific to teacup Chihuahuas too.
When it comes to health issues or care challenges that affect teacup Chihuahuas specifically or that are more likely to be found within miniature Chihuahuas, there are a few additional factors to consider too.
Very small dogs of all types (including standard-sized Chihuahuas) have small bladders, and may not be able to hold them or very long. This may be classified as medical incontinence, and/or mean that if your tiny dog cannot be let out to go to the toilet frequently, they may toilet in the house.
Hypoglycaemia or low blood sugar is also something that teacup Chihuahuas are more prone to than standard dogs of the breed, because they are so small and the balance between their energy expenditure and food intake is such a delicate one.
When it comes to veterinary procedures and surgeries for teacup Chihuahuas like spay and neuter surgery and non-standard operations too, these can be more risky when dealing with such a small dog. Not only is the surgery itself more challenging on a tiny dog, but the balance of anaesthetics and sedatives and the margin for error with medications is much narrower too.
Even when it comes to the things the dog eats, a couple of dog treats a day might tip the balance when it comes to too much food intake for the weight of the dog, and if such a small dog eats something toxic (like chocolate or grapes) they may only need to eat a very tiny amount for it to have an adverse effect, when a larger dog might get away with this without any problems.
Chihuahuas of all types are objectively very small dogs with delicate limbs and features, but teacup Chihuahuas of course exhibit these traits to an extreme, and such dogs are so tiny that they can easily be injured or hurt in the course of everyday life.
Playing with larger dogs, accidentally stepping on your dog’s paw or a bump or fall may all cause injury to a very small dog like a teacup Chihuahua, and the owners of such dogs need to put a lot of time and effort into keeping their dogs safe and protected, whilst still permitting them to socialise and have a normal life.
Teacup Chihuahuas of course have very short legs, so they cannot always keep up with an average human’s walking pace, will tire out quickly, and will only be able to manage relatively short walks at a time. Teacup Chihuahuas are often carried around in bags and dog carriers to account for this, but such dogs do still need to be walked, exercised and permitted to socialise with other dogs in the normal manner, and so managing all of these needs together can be challenging for their owners.
The Kennel Club in the UK has already expressed their concerns about so-called teacup puppies of all breeds, citing the correlation between health issues and teacup dogs as the main cause for concern.
Unscrupulous practices on the part of some teacup puppy breeders exacerbate such issues, such as deliberately breeding runts, withholding nutrients to stunt growth, and breeding from bitches at the very start or end of their heat cycles, which can result in premature delivery and so, smaller puppies.
Some such breeders will also sell their pups at eight weeks old or even younger, so that puppy buyers cannot get a good idea of the adult size the pup will reach.
The Kennel Club’s statement on teacup puppies says that the Kennel Club does not recognise any dog breed as having a “teacup” variant, and will not record dogs as being “teacup” within the pedigree registry.
Whilst the Kennel Club states that it is possible for a breeder to mistakenly using the term “teacup” and/or to responsibly breed smaller dogs, puppy buyers should proceed with extreme caution.
In closing, the Kennel Club refers puppy buyers and breeders to the breed standard for the dog in question (the Chihuahua breed standard can be found here) and pays special note to the advice given about ensuring that dogs are not bred for exaggerated features, including those relating to size.
Ultimately, a Chihuahua of any size can be registered with the Kennel Club if they are full pedigree and fulfil all of the other requirements, but they cannot be registered as “teacup Chihuahuas” or “miniature Chihuahuas,” or any other similar variant designed to indicate a small size.
If a dog is a full pedigree that is registered with the Kennel Club and has all of the appropriate paperwork to back this up, they are eligible to be entered in the appropriate classes within Kennel Club dog shows, and Kennel Club affiliated shows.
This means that if you own a teacup Chihuahua that has full pedigree papers, you could theoretically enter it in a Kennel Club dog show class that is eligible for dogs of the same age, breed and classification.
However, it is important to remember that teacup Chihuahuas are not recognised as a variant of standard Chihuahuas by the Kennel Club, and that their small size places them outside of the breed standard.
Because how closely the dogs in the ring adhere to the breed standard is the criteria used to judge each class, a teacup Chihuahua would not be placed in the winner’s line-up – and they might well raise the eyebrows of both the judges and other competitors if they attempt to compete.
When it comes to fun, local dog shows that are not affiliated with the Kennel Club, a teacup Chihuahua can be entered just as any other dog can.
As well as the Kennel Club (which is the UK’s umbrella organisation for all pedigree dog breeds) there are a number of Chihuahua-specific breed clubs and organisations in the UK too, which concentrate on the welfare and improvement of the Chihuahua breed specifically.
Some such clubs and organisations are formally recognised Kennel Club partner clubs, and work alongside of the Kennel Club to monitor breed health and drive improvement.
The position taken by all Kennel Club affiliated Chihuahua breed clubs supports that of the Kennel Club when it comes to teacup Chihuahuas, and considers them to be a bad thing that is potentially detrimental to the breed as a whole, as well as teacup Chihuahuas themselves.
The British Chihuahua Club is one such organisation, and like other reputable Chihuahua breed clubs, there is a statement within their Code of Ethics that means that breeding teacup Chihuahuas fall outside of the code.
This is covered in point 6 of the Code of Ethics, which states that “All members of the British Chihuahua Club will agree not to breed from a dog or bitch which could be in any way harmful to the dog or to the breed.”
Whilst this is a very general statement, the formal policy of the Kennel Club and responsible Chihuahua breed clubs on the breeding of teacup Chihuahuas that states that doing so is harmful to both the dogs themselves and the breed as a whole means that this statement can and does apply directly to teacup Chihuahuas too.
There are a whole host of reasons for why teacup Chihuahuas are frowned upon by the Kennel Club, responsible Chihuahua breed clubs and responsible Chihuahua breeders, so if you are thinking of buying a teacup Chihuahua or even breeding them yourself, it is a good idea to learn what the objections are.
The potential health implications of teacup size is of course the first and most important factor to cover, and there are multiple different facets to this. As well as the potential health issues that can be inherited by Chihuahuas of all sizes, teacup Chihuahuas may also suffer from overly fragile bones that are very easy to injure, respiratory problems, and other birth defects. They will also have a harder time regulating both their temperatures and blood sugar levels, and may not be able to hold their bladder for very long at a time either.
When it comes to how teacup Chihuahuas are bred, as mentioned earlier, it is entirely possible that any given litter may contain a runt that might be small enough to be “teacup size” or that a standard-sized dog may sometimes produce a litter of small pups. But deliberately breeding Chihuahuas to produce teacup-sized dogs can mean integrating unscrupulous breeding practices, which are widely discouraged by responsible Chihuahua breeders.
These may include deliberately breeding from runts, mating dogs at such a time as to increase the chances of a premature delivery and so, smaller pups, providing inadequate nutrition to enable normal growth, and breeding very young or very old bitches to reduce puppy sizes.
Additionally, making any deliberate change to the core traits of a dog (such as their size) when not undertaken for a good reason is considered to stand against the principles of breed improvement, as this does nothing to advance the breed as a whole and may even harm it.
Deliberately producing dogs that fall outside of the breed standard is frowned upon for all pedigree dog breeds, Chihuahuas included.
Whilst not every teacup Chihuahua will be frail or unhealthy, by deliberately breeding for a small size, the chances of producing some pups with health issues rises exponentially, and this is not negated by the presence of some healthy dogs of the teacup type.
This in turn leads to an increase in demand for tiny dogs that may or may not have health issues, and incentivises ever-more breeders to produce such dogs to meet demand.
Another facet of the teacup Chihuahua debate is that people who deliberately breed teacup Chihuahuas do not generally appraise prospective puppy buyers of the potential issues that doing this can cause, and the odds of a puppy suffering as a result of their small size. Disguising a pup’s potential size by selling them when very young and deliberately marketing to uninformed buyers are widespread practices when it comes to non-standard dogs that may come accompanied by problems, which is once again considered unacceptable by responsible breeders.
Because teacup Chihuahuas are unusual and relatively uncommon, they often command higher than normal prices too, and selling non-breed standard Chihuahuas for an artificially inflated price is once more discouraged by responsible breeders.
Finally, whilst it might seem as if the potential teacup Chihuahua problems that can arise are limited to only dogs of this small size, making changes to any pedigree breed line that falls outside of the breed standard and potentially introduces problems is also considered to have a wider impact on the breed as a whole.
Physical traits and changes within dog breeds often become established and standardised over time if they are considered to be desirable and in demand – like the current trend for highly exaggerated English bulldogs, which look very different today to their historical appearance. This is a potential risk for the Chihuahua breed in terms of teacup Chihuahuas, and were the presence of teacup Chihuahuas at all not strongly discouraged, over the course of years and decades, might result in a wider trend of the breed’s size decreasing over time too.
Here at Pets4Homes, we support responsible dog breeding practices and want to make sure that prospective puppy buyers can get the facts about the type of dogs they are considering buying before they commit to a purchase.
When a certain dog type is widely recognised to fall outside of its breed standard in such a way that may be problematic in terms of its health, we take the same viewpoint as the Kennel Club and other responsible breed organisations in the best interests of the dogs, and the breed as a whole.
Because of the potential problems with teacup Chihuahuas and the clear guidance provided by the Kennel Club on their position when it comes to teacup dogs, Pets4Homes does not permit breeders and puppy sellers to advertise teacup Chihuahuas or miniature Chihuahuas for sale on our site.
If you are browsing adverts here for Chihuahuas for sale and find an advert for a so-called miniature or teacup Chihuahua, please use the “report” link within the advert’s contact details to let us know about the problem anonymously, and we will take the appropriate action.
The Chihuahua dog breed as a whole is one that is very well established and popular within the UK, and as a whole, it is not a rare or unusual breed.
However, teacup Chihuahuas are often marketed as rare, unique, one of a kind or otherwise unusual, in order to create demand for them, raise interest, and often, inflate the final sale price.
Because responsible breeders, responsible pet classifieds websites and offline platforms and major breed clubs and authorities strongly discourage or even forbid the breeding and advertising of teacup Chihuahuas, they can be hard to find offered for sale, contributing to public perception of their rarity and so, appeal.
It is very hard to get an idea for what percentage of Chihuahuas offered for sale at any given time are so-called teacup Chihuahuas, because responsible websites like Pets4Homes don’t allow them to be advertised and so, don’t have data on their numbers to refer back to.
However, in most areas of the UK there will be teacup Chihuahuas offered for sale in various locations both online and offline, and they are not as uncommon as many breeders imply.
Bearing in mind that litters of dog breeds of all types often contain a runt and that within the Chihuahua breed, runts are often described as “teacup sized,” teacup Chihuahuas are not really as rare as their sellers tend to lead people to believe.
According to our Pets4Homes chihuahua statistics, the current average advertised price of Chihuahuas for sale (as of January 2019) in the UK is £725 for a Kennel Club registered pedigree Chihuahua, and £535 for a non-pedigree or unregistered dog.
Teacup Chihuahuas are often offered for sale for figures much higher than these, with prices commonly reaching £1,000 or even more. However, it is also entirely possible to find teacup Chihuahuas for sale at prices lower than the norm too. This might represent the presence of or possibility of health issues within such dogs, or may be because a responsible breeder who produced a runt or overly small dog by accident wishes to find them an appropriate home whilst recognising the disadvantage of the size rather than playing up its perceived appeals.
Chihuahuas of all types are often considered to be easy targets for thieves, and a reasonable number of dogs of the breed are stolen every year. Sometimes such dogs are stolen opportunistically because the thief simply likes the look of them, but dogs that are in demand or considered to be potentially valuable may be deliberately targeted and stolen to order, for later sale or to be used for breeding.
Desirable Chihuahuas of all types may catch the eyes of thieves, and whilst some Chihuahuas can be quite feisty, they tend to be used to being handled and carried, which along with their small, portable size can make them very easy to steal.
Whilst the very issue of teacup Chihuahuas at all is a very contentious one, there is no debate over how cute and adorable they look, and how much potential demand there is out there from people who would love to own them. The very points that attract you to a teacup Chihuahua in the first place can also make them appealing targets for thieves, so you should always keep your dog within your sight when outside of the home, and don’t leave them in a car or tied up outside of a shop unsupervised.
Despite the objections to teacup Chihuahuas and the position taken on them by the Kennel Club, Chihuahua breed clubs and responsible Chihuahua breeders, teacup Chihuahuas are still totally legal to own, buy, sell, and breed in the UK.
It is also possible for a dog that is what might be called teacup sized to be born naturally as a runt or particularly small example of the breed, and these dogs need homes too – although a responsible breeder who accidentally produces a miniature Chihuahua would not advertise it as such or try to play up this trait as desirable. They would also ensure that any puppy buyer fully understood the implications of the dog’s small size, and will almost certainly sell it as a pet dog only, with a caveat stating that it must not be bred from or entered in breed shows.
When it comes to dogs deliberately bred and advertised as teacup Chihuahuas, the question of whether or not you should consider buying one becomes a moral issue, which only the person making the decision can decide upon.
If you are thinking of buying a teacup Chihuahua, bear the following cautions in mind before you make a final decision:
Standard-sized Chihuahuas that fall within the breed standard and that are considered to be excellent examples of the breed are still very small and cute dogs – with a height of just 15-25cm tall when fully grown, even a larger Chihuahua is objectively very petite.
By accepting a dog that is just a shade or two larger than one described as teacup, you can still buy a very small dog, without the correlating increased chance of health problems that accompanies this.
When you are considering buying a dog of any breed, size or type, it is vitally important to view the big picture and take into account all of the pertinent factors; choosing a dog on the sole basis of traits like an abnormally small size is not a sound foundation for making a decision on the right type of dog.
Chihuahuas can be complex dogs to care for in general; they are small and delicate but also often feisty and energetic, and they need the right balance of protection from harm, and the ability to live a normal life, which mean socialising with other dogs and being able to play, walk, and run around.
When you add in the potential health complications and the special care required to keep a teacup Chihuahua safe and healthy, this often means that teacup Chihuahua buyers soon find that they have bitten off more than they can chew.
Consider buying or adopting a standard-sized Chihuahua in favour of a teacup variant, and if you do find that you’ve fallen for the charms of a Chihuahua breeder’s runt or a particularly small dog, find out all about the dog in question and any potential problems it may inherit first.
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