Everything you need to know about the tiny teacup Yorkie. Is this the perfect puppy for you? We look at the pros and cons of teacup Yorkies.
Small dogs and toy breeds have been popular with dog lovers for a long time. Over the past decade, even smaller mini, micro or ‘teacup’ versions of these breeds have become increasingly popular.
The size of these dogs has even inspired some great dog names!
One of the most popular is the miniature, or teacup, Yorkie.
What Is a Teacup Yorkie?
A teacup Yorkie is a Yorkshire Terrier bred to be significantly smaller than the standard for the breed.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) Yorkshire Terrier breed standard states that a Yorkie should weigh no more than seven pounds.
Many pet Yorkies weigh a bit more than the standard but are still, relatively speaking, tiny dogs.
When an already small toy breed like the Yorkshire Terrier is miniaturized, it becomes a very small dog indeed.
Why Call Them ‘Teacup’ Yorkies?
Some mini Yorkies are so small that they can fit inside of a teacup, which is where the term comes from.
These dogs are likely to weigh between two and four pounds.
Teacup Yorkies are not a recognized breed on their own but are usually pedigree Yorkshire Terriers bred to be much smaller than average.
Teacup Dogs Controversy
Teacup Yorkshire Terriers are not a new or separate breed of dog. If the mini Yorkie puppies you have your eye on are pedigree, they are registered as Yorkshire Terriers the same as any regular-size Yorkshire Terrier.
Teacup dogs are not restricted to the Yorkshire Terrier breed, other toy breeds have been miniaturized too.
This makes a lot of people unhappy and some people quite angry.
If you are thinking of buying a teacup puppy, you should probably know why teacup Yorkies and other teacup dogs are controversial.
Not just because you may find yourself the target of criticism for your choice of puppy.
But because it is important to be aware of the challenges and downsides of miniaturizing dogs before you decide to own one.
We’ll look at the teacup dog debate, but first, let’s consider why so many of us adore tiny dogs.
What Is the Appeal of Mini Yorkies?
Why do we love tiny dogs? And why do we want them to be even tinier?
There are a couple of key reasons. One is the human need to nurture a baby animal. The other is perhaps a little more complex.
We’ll look at our nurturing instincts first.
The retention of baby-like features in an adult animal is called neoteny, which means “youth extended.”
Neoteny in Dogs
If neoteny means having baby-like features, you can see why a tiny dog might be more appealing than a big dog.
Baby animals of all species are small and have large heads in proportion to their bodies. When we see a dog that is especially small, our urge to love and protect it springs into action.
This doesn’t mean we are soppy or stupid. It is programmed into our basic biology, this drive to protect babies and baby-like creatures.
Miniaturization isn’t just about neoteny though.
The Magic of Miniaturization
The idea of shrinking a character to tiny proportions is nothing new.
The idea of a giant alien world that awaits a miniature personality has had sci-fi appeal for generations. Not just in modern cinema. Think of the Lilliputians of Gulliver’s Travels.
Like many other children of my generation, I was transfixed by stories like The Borrowers. And fascinated by tiny Shetland ponies and Chihuahuas.
Later, I watched my own children’s enchantment as we immersed ourselves in The Indian in the Cupboard or enjoyed pygmy hippos at the zoo.
Miniaturization is simply fascinating, magical even. There’s no escaping it.
With a powerful fascination for miniaturization and natural nurturing instincts for tiny animals, it is no surprise that we’ve used our power over dogs to create smaller and smaller dogs.
Micro Teacup Yorkie – How Small Is Too Small?
Of course, we humans love a challenge. You’ll find people scouring the internet for ever smaller versions of the teacup Yorkie.
You may even see people offering micro teacup Yorkies for sale. Presumably, these are even smaller.
There is no official standard for these terms, so the people who breed and sell tiny dogs use them however they choose.
Just how small can we make our canine friend while maintaining the qualities that make him a living, breathing, barking, tail-wagging dog?
Have we reached the limit yet? Or can we go further?
These are some of the questions that must pass through the minds of those involved in breeding miniature dogs.
And is there a downside to this process?
Is it possible that this miniaturization experiment that we are carrying out on dogs could be harmful to the dogs?
Is Miniaturization Harmful?
The questions many people ask are: Is miniaturization harmful? Should we be making tiny dog breeds even tinier?
These are tough questions. Our instinct when we see something unbelievably cute and attractive is to dismiss the negative and focus on the benefits and the appeal.
And there are benefits to owning a very tiny dog. We’ll look at the downsides in a moment.
But first, let’s look at some of the pleasures of owning a very small dog.
Benefits of Owning a Tiny Dog
Many of the downsides of dog ownership are well known.
Even medium-size dogs are messy and clumsy. They break and chew things and knock people over. Unless impeccably trained, they are difficult to take on public transportation or in public places.
And let’s face it, who has the time these days to train their dog to the level they’d like? Or to exercise a demanding full-size, four-legged dynamo?
The benefits of little dogs are that you can avoid most of these problems.
A More Portable, Manageable Dog
Smaller dogs are more portable and more manageable. They take up less space, shed less hair and generally have less impact on a home than a big dog.
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A dog that can sit on your lap, or in your purse, is a convenient friend. While at the same time retaining that dog personality that we love so much.
But, it’s important to recognize that you don’t need to buy a miniature or teacup dog to get these benefits.
Many small toy dogs meet all these criteria. And there is a point when the disadvantages of tiny start to outweigh the benefits.
If you have set your heart on a teacup Yorkie, you probably don’t want to hear this next bit.
Health Problems in Teacup Yorkies
The list of health problems caused by miniaturizing our four-legged friends is sadly rather long.
- heart problems
- liver problems
- brain problems
- low blood sugar
- bone problems
- psychological problems.
A teacup puppy’s tiny heart is more prone to defects and diseases than those of a larger dog. When we make body parts smaller, they don’t always work well. This is true of the mini Yorkie’s organs, particularly its heart and liver.
In addition, many teacup dogs are created using suspect breeding processes, which we’ll look at in more detail later. This further increases the chances of a teacup puppy having serious health issues.
While the life expectancy for a Yorkshire Terrier is 11-15 years, life expectancy for a teacup Yorkie is shorter. It may be as short as 7-9 years.
Brain and Bone Problems
When we mess with the proportions that nature intended, things can go wrong. Teacup puppies can suffer from brain inflammation or a buildup of fluid inside the skull.
Teacup dog skulls may also have soft spots in them, like the fontanelle in a human baby. But unlike a human infant, the soft spot on a tiny dog’s head never closes. This makes them permanently vulnerable to injury and brain damage.
Teacup puppies suffer the added problems of poor bone health. Not just in the skull, but throughout the body. This means that they are more prone to fractures if they fall or are injured.
Teacup Dogs – Mental Health
A number of studies show mental or psychological health in dogs is linked to size. Psychology Today has produced an interesting report on this topic.
Being a small dog in a big world is probably quite stressful, so it is perhaps not surprising that tiny dogs have more than their share of emotional problems.
Caring for a Teacup Yorkie
Before you decide to go ahead and bring home a teacup Yorkie, you should think about what’s involved in caring for such a tiny dog.
Because your puppy’s bones are fragile, it’s vital that he doesn’t fall or get stepped on. You’ll need to prevent him from jumping on and off of high (to him) surfaces or playing with small children.
You’ll also need to be sure that you or someone else is around to feed him frequently. Hourly is not too often for some tiny dogs. They are not able to process enough food to keep their blood-sugar level stable unless they are fed often.
You’ll also need to accept that your tiny friend may be difficult, if not impossible, to house train. Bladder problems such as incontinence are common in teacup dogs, and it is hard to potty train a dog with such a tiny bladder.
Teacup Yorkie Breeders
Earlier, poor breeding practices were mentioned as a contributing factor in teacup dog health issues. The reason is simple.
To get a smaller than average dog, you have to breed smaller than average dogs. And in many cases, the smallest dog in a litter is less healthy than its larger littermates.
Instead of selecting dogs that will make the healthiest parents, some breeders select the smallest dogs without regard for health problems they might be inflicting on the next generation.
The reason, of course, is money.
Teacup Yorkie Price
Reputable breeders are not willing to compromise the health of their Yorkshire Terriers in order to satisfy the demand for tiny dogs.
And demand is unfortunately high.
That means teacup puppy breeders can charge a lot of money for their pups.
Some teacup puppy websites offer financing to encourage buyers to dip into their wallets and make a purchase. There’s a reason for that.
You can expect to pay upwards of $2,000 for a teacup puppy. And that’s before you start forking out for the vet bills.
Finding a Healthy Teacup Puppy
Many of the above problems occur to some extent already in toy breeds. Buying a puppy that is even smaller increases the risk of them happening to your dog.
Finding a healthy teacup puppy is a challenge. One that many veterinary experts would describe as impossible. We don’t yet have the means to miniaturize a truly perfect dog.
When discussing tiny dogs, Marty Becker, DVM advises against buying “the tiniest of the tiny or any small dog before it is old enough.” He also notes that “reputable breeders usually won’t let small-breed puppies go until they’re 12 weeks old.”
Ultimately, the truth is that if you want a miniature dog, you are going to have to accept that it will also be a less healthy dog. And a less healthy dog can bring risk and heartache.
If after reading this, you still want a teacup Yorkie to love, consider a Yorkie rescue organization. It’s a way to give a dog a home without contributing to the demand for teacup puppies.
There are many rescue organizations around the country with all sizes of Yorkies in need of good homes. And adopting costs far less than buying a puppy.
Teacup Yorkies – Summary
We all want the best for our dogs, and for that reason, we hope that you will compromise and opt for a slightly bigger version of your dream.
Tiny dogs are incredibly appealing. If you find yourself longing for a teacup Yorkie, your feelings are natural and human. You may even feel that you are rescuing this little scrap of life.
But tiny teacup dogs face many problems and every time a teacup puppy is purchased, a breeder creates more teacup puppies to meet the demand. Most qualified veterinarians advise against buying these tiny puppies for that reason.
Many puppy buyers are simply not aware that miniaturizing a dog can be harmful. We hope that this guide will help raise awareness of the problems caused by trying to breed ever smaller dogs.
We know that this information may make some people sad and disappointed, but it’s important to be informed about the reality of teacup breeding.
The risks and challenges of being a teacup Yorkie owner are clear. To summarize, they include:
- accidents – the risks to your dog of being tiny in a busy human world
- sickness – the multiple inherent health problems caused by miniaturization and bad breeding
- special care – including frequent feeding, potty training problems, and preventing accidental injury
- poor nutrition and care before purchase – the risks to your puppy of being raised by a breeder unconcerned by the problems they are causing and motivated purely by money.
A puppy is a long-term commitment and should bring joy to the family that he joins. The way to achieve that is to purchase a healthy puppy from healthy parents. That puppy will be bred by a compassionate and knowledgeable person who puts the welfare of their dogs above profit.
Fortunately, there are many small dog breeds that are relatively healthy and robust and can make great family pets.
You can discover more about finding the right puppy for your family in our puppy search series.
This article has been extensively updated for 2019.
The American Kennel Club
The Kennel Club
McGreevy PD, et al. Dog Behavior Co-Varies with Height, Bodyweight and Skull Shape, PLoS ONE, 2013.
Williams, Colleen. Common Health Issues in Teacup Dogs, Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation, 2018.
Becker, Marty, DVM, Why ‘Purse’ Dogs Carry a Host of Health Issues, VetStreet, 2011.
Becker, Marty, DVM, 5 Toy Breeds This Vet Worries About, VetStreet, 2016.