While the term "teacup puppy" is a marketing phrase rather than an official category of dog, it refers to puppies that are expected to be smaller than normal when they grow up. How well a tiny puppy gets along with kids depends on a lot of factors, including the personalities of both the puppy and the child.
Teacup and Toy Dogs
You won't find the term "teacup" used by respected organizations like the American Kennel Club or the Continental Kennel Club. You're also unlikely to see registered breeders of those organizations using the word. But, unofficially, the term "teacup" is used by some breeders who selectively breed the smallest animals from a purebred or hybrid line of dogs. Many of them are bred from toy breeds like the chihuahua, Pomeranian or Yorkshire terrier -- or hybrids of toy breeds, such as the Morkie (Maltese-Yorkie cross) or Pomchi (Pomeranian-Chihuahua cross).
Toy dogs are small and cute and are often chosen as lap dogs and companions for apartment dwellers. The AKC recommends small breeds as a first choice, mainly because shedding, exercise needs and healthcare costs are lower than with larger breeds, and diminutive dogs are easier to control. However, the organization also cautions that many toy breeds are too delicate to safely navigate a household full of boisterous kids and do better in a quieter and more peaceful environment. These issues will be magnified with teacup puppies, which are bred to be the smallest of the lot.
Teacup and Toy Size
Breeders can never guarantee the adult size of puppies they market as "teacup," which is one of the reasons reputable, registered breeders don’t use the term. However, many toy breeds range from 3 to 7 pounds when full grown, including the Pomeranian, Maltese and Yorkie. The Chihuahua is 6 pounds or less. So a healthy dog could affectionately be called a teacup if he’s on the low end of the official scale, but many dogs sold as teacup can be expected to end up even smaller than that and weigh in at only 2 pounds or so.
A tiny puppy being marketed as a teacup might be premature or a runt, which is the smallest and weakest animal in the litter. He also could be bred from a long line of runts, which can bring future health issues such as problems with the heart, digestive and respiratory systems, blindness, soft spots on the skull and more. Any "teacup" puppy is also going to be frailer and more prone to breaking bones than a larger, stronger dog -- and when accidents do occur, smaller dogs take longer to heal. Because of this, it's very risky to allow a child to hold or play with a teacup puppy.
Kids and Tiny Puppies
Dog owners can vote through the AKC on whether they find certain breeds to be good with kids, and toy breeds tend to get a 45 to 75 percent approval rating. Lower ratings can be for two reasons:
- The dog breed is too delicate to withstand roughhousing, dropping and other accidents that can occur with kids.
- The dog breed is skittish and easily frightened by loud noises and fast movements and may cower and bite.
So, considering whether to give your child a teacup puppy requires looking at both sides of the equation: Will the puppy be safe from injuries or stress, and will the child be safe from bites and scratches? Older children are more likely to respect the needs of a small puppy than younger tots and will also be more careful and less rambunctious around him.
At the same time, small dogs that are introduced to kids as puppies are more likely to get used to them than those who first meet children when they're older. Some miniature puppies might get along great with kids, but the behavior, temperament and habits of both the child and the puppy need to be taken into consideration before these two are allowed to be playmates.
Kids should never be allowed to play with small puppies unsupervised and should sit quietly on the floor when they do interact with the pup. Rough games like tug-of-war or wrestling are just asking for trouble and should always be avoided.