There are some trends in dog breeding that should never have been dreamed up. One that falls firmly into this box is teacup puppies.
There’s no official definition of teacups and no dog registries recognise them but loosely they’re small dogs that are bred to be smaller than their breed’s average weight and size. Commonly bred teacups include Yorkshire Terriers, Pomeranians, Poodles, French Bulldogs, Maltese, Miniature Schnauzers and more. They are hugely popular on social media and tap into the current Zeitgeist of worshiping everything cute. And their appearance is cute if, like most humans, you react to baby-like features, large eyes, snub-noses and toy-sized bodies. Human brains are programmed to be attracted to these visual triggers. We want to take care of anything looking like a baby.
But appearances are deceptive, as the lives that teacups are able to live are far from adorable, they are in fact seriously compromised.
Teacups are fragile dogs who have difficulty doing the things that normal-sized dogs do. Things like playing, walking and breathing all pose problems. Teacups are so small that their frail bodies are prone to bone fractures, joint dislocations, digestive problems, liver shunts and much more. They are high maintenance animals with shortened lifespans and restricted lives.
Breeders produce teacups by deliberately breeding the runts of litters together, and/or underfeeding, creating dogs who are unnaturally small. They are not, by any accepted measure, healthy dogs. One thing they are is expensive, both in purchase price and veterinary costs. They are also highly marketable and make breeders easy money despite the cost to the dog’s health. Promoted as dogs that can fit into purses and carried around, the hype around teacups attracts premium prices, aided by the popularisation of these unnaturally small dogs by celebrities like Paris Hilton. Whenever there are rises in dog trends, puppy mills and bad breeders are quick to pounce and cash in. Whatever the advertising says, and breeders claim, teacup puppies are being bred for one purpose only: to make money.
Also described as ‘micro’, ‘imperial’, ‘toy-sized’, other terms sellers use to tap into the mindset of potential buyers include ‘babies’, ‘precious’, ‘highly desirable’, ‘rare’, ‘sought after’ and almost never with words associated with healthy, active, normal dogs. Welfare organisations condemn the breeding of teacups and yet the puppy buying public still seek out miniaturised dogs who will never live like dogs deserve to. Being carried in a purse with little chance of hanging out with other dogs is not what dogs want to do, however hard the marketing hype tries to persuade us it is. Dogs are social animals, they need to be on the ground, socialising for large parts of their lives, and not risking injury just by doing so. Despite their minuscule size, teacup dogs are still dogs and being unable to live as such is a sad reality.
If people wish to live with small dogs, there are plenty of healthy small breeds who are perfectly capable of running, playing and living normal doggy lives.
Chihuahuas are the smallest recognised breed and fill animal shelters waiting to be adopted. Nobody needs to pay premium prices for dogs who are badly bred, born to suffer and produced only because they make a lot of easy money for those breeding and selling them.
Janetta Harvey is a writer and commentator on the international puppy breeding industry. She’s author of three books: Saving Susie-Belle and Saving One More for adults and her latest, Saving Maya for young readers. All are based on the lives of her dogs, rescued from large scale breeding facilities. Janetta is a strong advocate for pet adoption, especially seniors and her writing promotes this to all ages.
Janetta lives with her husband Michel, and their three dogs in England and France.
www.janettaharvey.com | Twitter: https://twitter.com/SusieBSchnauzer | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Susie-Belle-Schnauzer-705830289434936 | Instagram: https://instagram.com/sassyschnauzersisters/