"Tea cup" is a marketing term used for dogs bred to be smaller than usual for the breed. Made popular by celebrities who have turned them into a fashion statement, tea cups bring premium prices as "designer dogs." Although they display the characteristics of their individual breeds, their tiny size puts them in a class of their own. For example, they're at high risk of injury or death from being stepped on and they suffer health problems that directly result from their smallness. For the protection of dogs and owners alike--undersized dogs have a tendency to nip--tea cups are are not recommended for families with small children.
Tea Cup Maltese
Pure-bred Maltese are non-shedding and are hypoallergenic to most allergic individuals. All tea cups are at risk of health problems because of their size; however, Maltese tea cups weighing less than 4 lbs. are particularly prone to life-threatening conditions--malnourishment, for example, caused by inadequate mouth size. Although smart and eager to please their owners, tea cup Maltese are known to suffer from separation anxiety.
Tea Cup Yorkshire Terrier
Tea cup Yorkshires, like the standard size, shed lightly and need to be groomed a few times a year. As much as they love to be cuddled, they also tend to have an independent streak. Early socialization is recommended to reduce nipping and other aggressive behavior. Yorkshire terriers are notoriously difficult to housebreak, but tea cup owners may be less bothered by accidents than owners of larger dogs.
Tea Cup Chihuahua
Tea cup chihuahuas are perhaps better known than any other kind of tea cup besides the poodle. Chihuahuas are very active dogs. However, they run out of steam quickly and once exhausted are quick to nip. According to TeaCupChihuahua.org, these dogs are prone to health problems like bladder stones, heart and tracheal diseases and arthritis.
Tea Cup Poodle
Poodle is the breed most commonly associated with "tea cup." A tea cup poodle is actually a toy that fails to reach the American Kennel Club (AKC) standard minimum toy size. Like other poodles, tea cups are non-shedding and hypoallergenic to most people. They tend to be very smart and very friendly, but they can also be aggressive unless their "people" establish themselves as the leaders. Tea cup poodles are prone to genetic health issues and diabetes, epilepsy and heart, eye and skin disorders.
Tiny Tea Cup Shih Tzu
According to the American Shih Tzu Club, a member of the AKC, the "imperial" or "tiny tea cup" breed of Shih Tzu is "a myth often used by unethical breeders to create a market for dogs that do not conform to the breed standard." The Club's website notes there is no evidence suggesting the existence of the "imperial" gene tea cup breeders often claim these dogs possess. Rather, tea cup Shih Tzus are runts at high risk of health problems that should be sold as companion dogs that won't be bred.