Size matters – at least, if we are talking about how small or big our living space is to provide a comfortable and safe sanctuary to our canine companions. This explains why there is a constant demand for smaller versions of small dogs in the market, such as the adorable, yet controversial Teacup Shih Tzu.
As always, when choosing a dog to be a permanent part of our home, we need to prioritize the pup’s welfare before ours. The dog’s size, energy level, temperament, as well as coat condition are just some important considerations before we commit to a certain dog breed.
Can the dog thrive in apartment living? Does this dog require a daily walk in the park or playtime in the yard? Do you live in a house with a fenced yard? Do you live with small kids, other dogs, and animals? Can the dog live comfortably in a hot climate?
The list goes on and on, but the point is – dog ownership is a lifelong commitment. So, we need to make sure that our lifestyle, and living conditions, are compatible with the dog’s unique demands and requirements.
With their long silky coat, playful personalities, big adorable eyes, and tiny size, it’s not a surprise how Shih Tzus managed to be the favorite lap dogs of pet lovers across the globe for thousands of years. Also, despite their tiny size, these charming pups are brave and protective of their owners.
Hence, it’s understandable why dog enthusiasts and first-time pet parents who are living in small apartments have their eyes and hearts set on Teacup Shih Tzus.
Also, while these teacup dogs are lively and playful, they are nevertheless extremely small dogs – so, they can run around your apartment all they want without bumping into things easily.
So, stick around until the end of this article if you want to learn more about miniature Shih Tzus, where to find reputable breeders of these tiny dogs, and whether or not, they are the right dog for you and your family.
Breed At A Glance:
Size: 4 to 8 inches tall
Weight: 5 to 8 pounds
Energy Level: High energy
Lifespan: 10 to 12 years
The phrase “Teacup Shih Tzu” does not specifically relate to a separate dog breed. Teacup Shih Tzus are simply undersized standard Shih Tzu breeds that are smaller than the adult Shih Tzu's lower normal size restrictions. They often measure less than 8 inches and weigh less than 8 pounds.
The term was created by breeders and marketers to increase sales by giving this tiny version of the Shih Tzu dog breed a catchy and appealing moniker. These Shih Tzus are also referred to as “mini,” “toy,” “imperial,” etc.
While some of these unique tiny Shih Tzu breeds develop naturally and weigh around 8 pounds, breeders can also create a greater number of them through a variety of techniques.
History and Origin
The first Shih Tzus originated in China and belonged to Chinese royalty. They were probably developed by cross breeding Tibetan breeds like the Lhasa Apso and Pekingese.
The Shih Tzu has been around for generations, but it wasn't until the 1930s that it started to spread outside of China. Since then, it has become one of the most well-known breeds of toy dogs.
The origin of the teacup Shih Tzu dog breed is unclear, but it first appeared in recent decades as smaller dogs became more and more popular.
And as mentioned earlier, the tiny Teacup Shih Tzu does not fall into a separate breed. Both the American Kennel Club (AKC), and the American Shih Tzu Club consider them as Shih Tzu dogs that are smaller than AKC’s breed standard. Nonetheless, they belong to the same breed.
Therefore, even though the Teacup Shih Tzu is theoretically the same dog and can be registered, they don't exactly meet the breed standard set forth by the AKC.
Whatever name they go by—Imperial Shih Tzu, Teacup, or Miniature—they all refer to the same thing. In other words, they are just miniature Shih Tzus, or smaller versions of the loyal, loving, and energetic Lion Dog.
How Do Breeders Produce Teacup Shih Tzu Puppies?
There are three primary methods used to produce below standard-size dogs like a teacup Shih Tzu puppy. These are through selective breeding, crossbreeding, and the use of genetics. The genetic route can be removed from these options since this method is done by introducing the chondrodystrophic gene.
This gene stops the growth of the long bones, which results in dwarfism in dogs. Shih Tzus already have this gene. Hence, there is no need to introduce it to their system. So, this leaves us with only two options in producing teacup Imperial Shih Tzu puppies – and these are through crossbreeding and selective breeding.
This is accomplished by breeding a standard Shih Tzu dog with a smaller dog breed. Puppies from the ensuing litter might be smaller than average in size. However, the chances of producing a teacup or undersized Shih Tzu are entirely dependent on luck.
The main disadvantage of this approach is that the appearance and behavior of the puppies are completely random.
They might acquire none, some, or all of the Shih Tzu's physical traits, as well as none, some, or all of the breed's personality traits. Whatever characteristics the puppies acquire, they will never behave or appear exactly like a Shih Tzu.
However, as long as healthy parents are used for breeding, this is the best approach to producing a healthy teacup Shih Tzu.
With this method, runts from small dog puppy litters are repeatedly bred to produce a much smaller puppy in the subsequent litters. The tiniest puppy in a litter is known as a runt.
Breeders will mate a male runt from one litter with a female runt from another litter to produce a smaller pup. Like their parents, the offspring will most likely be smaller than average.
Breeders will then breed the runts from these smaller litters to produce even smaller dogs. The process is repeated until the desired dog size is achieved.
The biggest issue with this approach is that, due to an underlying health issue, the runt of a litter is typically smaller than its siblings. The pup could be born with a cardiac condition, an issue with another organ, or a bone or joint issue.
Whatever it is, it will be handed down to the next generation along with any health problems the other parent experiences, which will make the issue worse. The following generation will then inherit these problems, which will further aggravate them, and so on.
An adult Shih Tzu stands between 9 and 10.5 inches tall at the shoulder, and it ranges in weight from 9 to 16 pounds.
A teacup Shih Tzu, on the other hand, usually weighs below 8 pounds and stands no more than 8 inches from the shoulder.
The structure of a teacup Shih Tzu is comparable to that of a standard Shih Tzu, with the same round head, big eyes, and puppy-like body even at maturity. They also have long bodies and small legs like all other variants of the Shih Tzu breed.
They have a lengthy double coat that, if untrimmed, will eventually reach the floor. Their hair is mostly packed up off their faces, keeping it out of their eyes.
Miniature Shih Tzus are commonly seen in different coat colors and patterns, such as black, white, blue, silver, brindle, gold, red, liver, or any combination of these.
Related Post: Dog Foods for Older Small Dogs with Few Teeth
The hair of Shih Tzus can grow down to the floor, which makes grooming more challenging. However, since teacup Shih Tzus are not qualified to join dog shows, you don’t need to grow your pup’s hair until it reaches the ground.
With the exception, of course, if it’s the look that you are aiming to achieve for your dog. If not, then, trimming your dog’s long coat can help in making his hair more manageable, and with a lesser effort on your part.
If you decide to let your dog’s hair grow to the ground, you would have to continuously brush his hair throughout the day to keep it healthy.
If that sounds like too much work, think about shaving off a few inches from your dog's coat. Most Shih Tzu owners prefer the puppy cut, not only because it is easier to maintain, but also because it looks fantastic on these miniature dogs.
In addition to this, a lot of trimming is needed for the rapidly growing coat, the area around the eyes, the inside of the ears, the anus, and the genital region. Additionally, regular nail cutting is necessary.
The good news is that, while Teacup Shih Tzus have long glamorous hair, they don't shed a lot. Nonetheless, you should still be prepared to clean dead hairs on your sofa because your pup will still drop some now and then.
Personality & Temperament
Shih Tzus in general, including the teacup kind, are bred only as companion animals. Thus, they are lovable, gregarious, and cheerful tiny dogs. These small fluffy dogs also enjoy sitting on laps.
Teacup Shih Tzus make ideal family pets because they get along well with other animals and young children. Children should be watched when playing with this tiny puppy, though, since they can easily be harmed or killed unintentionally because of their small size.
Also, while Shih Tzu means “Little Lion,” these tiny puppies don’t exhibit a hint of fierceness at all. The teacup Shih Tzus, however, are known as exceptionally brave tiny dogs since despite being playful, kind, and adorable, they also stand up to defend their owner and themselves in times of danger.
The Shih Tzu is also endearing, wise, and joyful. In other words, they are excellent pets for just about everyone looking for a loyal and devoted canine companion. They are also affectionate, happy, and friendly, and they can be so attached to their human family members.
They can be prone to separation anxiety, which is a drawback of their devoted nature. When they are separated from their humans, they become anxious. Dogs with separation anxiety may pee or poop inside the house, chew on objects, bark, pace, or whine.
To assist your pet in overcoming this, you need to be constant, patient, and composed during training. Giving her praise and prizes will help him learn, and earn fantastic outcomes in his behavior.
Common Health Issues
The teacup Shih Tzu can be vulnerable to all of the health issues that a Shih Tzu of normal size may have. On top of all the health problems brought by being a tiny dog and brachycephalic breed, these undersized dogs can also suffer from other conditions as a result of their small size and the breeding practice that was used by the breeders.
As a general rule, the smaller a dog is, the more likely it is to have some health issues along the way. For instance, a Shih Tzu weighing eight pounds is likely to have typical health issues. However, a three-pound dog is likely to have one or more diseases. And this is simply because it is ethically wrong and dangerous to intentionally breed dogs under five founds.
Extremely little canines are likely to live shorter lives. Shih Tzus typically have a life expectancy of 10 to 16 years. However, a smaller breed of dog that is intentionally bred to be even smaller may live much less.
There is a considerable likelihood that two underweight dogs that are bred together may result in offspring with even more severe health problems. Some of the health issues that these little dogs may experience over their lifetimes include:
- Heart disease
- Liver shunts
- Calcium deficiency
- Dental and gum problems
- Back problems
- Fragile bones
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Patellar luxation
How to Care for Teacup Shih Tzu Dogs
Exercise & Living Conditions
Shih Tzus are highly spirited dogs. They enjoy playing, exploring, and running around. However, due to their small size, they can accomplish most of their daily exercise requirements by simply running around the house.
To keep them content and healthy, you can take them for a 20-minute walk each day, or you can simply play a few rounds of ball with them in your backyard.
They thrive in homes or apartments because of their diminutive stature. This dog doesn't want to spend the entire day outside and running around a huge rice field or farm.
Additionally, teacup Shih Tzus are much more sensitive to extreme temperatures. Avoid taking the dog outside in the middle of the day and early afternoon on hot summer days and during heat waves when temperatures are at their highest. Instead, take him for walks and exercise early in the morning or late at night.
If you have air conditioning inside, use it to keep your dog cool; otherwise, put his bed in a cool, shaded area with lots of airflows. Consider purchasing a raised bed if you reside in an extremely hot climate so that cooling air can flow underneath.
When it's cold outside, wrap your pup in a fleece or waterproof jacket and booties before taking them on walks. Provide more blankets and position his bed in a comfortable location away from drafty areas.
Diet & Nutrition
Teacup Shih Tzus need a sizable number of foods high in protein, such as chicken, turkey, fish, and eggs, so they can grow steadily and healthily. Some of the good sources of carbs that you can add to your dog's diet are potatoes, barley, and rice.
In general, a full-grown teacup Shih Tzu should receive roughly 1/32 of food per pound of body weight while a puppy should receive 1/16 of food per pound of body weight. Puppies need more calories for proper growth and they are also typically more active than adults.
For the first seven months, it is advised that a teacup Shih Tzu be fed four times daily; after this time, it is better to feed them twice a day.
Because the teacup Shih Tzu is highly prone to obesity, it is crucial to keep track of how frequently you are feeding your dog. If you want to prevent your pup from getting fat, don't give him unrestricted access to food.
Training a teacup Shih Tzu can be difficult. That’s why it is important to start early. By doing this, you'll be less likely to have to clean up after him every time he causes a mess in the apartment while simultaneously giving your dog the benefit of having a loving and content owner.
You can try to incorporate a short training session during your daily walk or play. The earlier you begin teaching the puppy some fundamental manners, the sooner he will start to regard you as the pack leader and put all of his trust in you.
What to Look For
Standard Shih Tzu is a popular dog breed, so, it won’t really be hard to find reputable breeders online or near you.
However, it’s not the same case for smaller puppies or teacup versions. Due to the demand for these tiny dogs, there’s a chance that you may come across disreputable breeders who are intentionally breeding extremely tiny dogs for profit.
These teacup Shih Tzu breeders may or may not offer puppies from their teacup Shih Tzu litter at a cheaper price, just so they can easily sell the pups and start over again with a new batch of even smaller puppies.
At first, it may sound like you are getting a good deal, but the truth is you are not. Chances are you will be spending more on vet bills, medicines, and other essentials because of the pup’s health condition.
And it doesn’t stop there because you’ll also have to endure the stress of caring for a sickly pup and the pain of seeing him deteriorate each day.
It’s definitely not worth gambling your financial, physical, and mental health in exchange for a few dollars.
Also, by doing your research, and carefully choosing responsible breeders, you can help in eradicating puppy mills that are run by breeders that implement unethical breeding practices.
Now, once you found a reputable breeder, don’t hesitate to ask him about the pup’s vaccination, and health records. It’s best if you can personally visit his place, so you can also check the health and condition of the parents and the other puppies.
Moreover, if there are any problems, responsible breeders will want you to stay in touch, and if you can't keep the dog, they'll be willing to take it back right away.
For their list of recommended breeders, contact the AKC or the American Shih Tzu Club. You can ask them for the phone numbers and addresses of reliable breeders in your area.
To ensure that your new puppy is well-behaved and adjusted, make sure to socialize him and begin training as soon as you bring him home.
You can expect to pay more than you would for standard Shih Tzus. Pricing for a healthy teacup Shih Tzu can be $2,000 or $3,000. Be extra careful that some backyard breeders may extort you, and charge you as much as $6,000.
So, should you get a teacup Shih Tzu? Well, who can resist the beauty and cuteness of these tiny dogs, after all? Just remember that because of their size, and the possible breeding practice that was used by the breeders, not all miniature Shih Tzus are healthy dogs. So, you need to be extra careful in finding a responsible breeder.
On the plus side, if you locate a reputable breeder or adopt a healthy puppy, you will have a kind, amiable, devoted, and fearless cute family pet for many years to come.
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