The Teacup Australian Shepherd – A Controversial Breed
The Teacup Australian Shepherd is a very controversial breed, the main point of contention being that of trying to establish just what breed of dog it actually is. In the late 1960s, a breeder decided to begin a program with goal to breed smaller versions of the standard Australian Shepherd, commonly known as the “Aussie.” Since Aussies do not always come in a uniform size, the program was initiated by selecting smaller members of the breed. Other breeders joined in, breeding smaller and smaller dogs until the eventual result was the “mini Aussie.”
From Standard to Mini
Efforts were made to keep the breed pure, apparently with some success, although there have been some disagreements on that issue. In any event, the mini Aussie was similar in nearly all respects to its larger, standard-size cousin, with the only real difference being that of size.
From Mini to Toy
The next logical step, at least where size was concerned, was to go even smaller and produce a toy version of the dog. It was at this point that things began to become confusing. To begin with, not all canine organizations recognized the mini Aussie as being more than a smaller Aussie. Since all of the breeding was done in America, there was a movement to have the name of the dog changed to the “miniature American Shepherd.” This was apparently OK with a number of breeders, since the original goal was not one of sustaining the original breed but that of developing a new one.
Still, many breeders and canine organizations stuck with the name mini Aussie, while others called these smaller dogs miniature American Shepherds and still others used entirely different names. The American Kennel Club is in the process designating the miniature American Shepherd as a distinct breed, but hasn’t yet done so.
With the advent of the toy version, things began to change more dramatically. First of all, the toy Aussie is supposed to be smaller than the mini Aussie. This is true in most cases, but not in all cases. These dogs do not all have identical builds, in that some are more slender and others have a slightly heavier build. What that means is that some toy Aussies are actually a bit larger than their mini counterparts, which could make entering the two types in a show somewhat tricky as, for all practical purposes, they would seem to be the same breed.
The toy, however, is different. It is no longer a working dog, as is the case with the mini Aussie. Most mini Australian Shepherds can be used as herding dogs, just as the standard size dogs are used. The toy, however, is not well suited as a working dog, which may be partly due to excessive inbreeding. It is, however, still an active little dog.
From Toy to Teacup
The teacup Australian Shepherd is truly a small dog. It is definitely not a working dog. A mini Aussie will usually weigh between 15 and 35 lbs, while a toy Aussie can weigh from 8 to nearly 20 lbs, so, as noted earlier, there is some overlap in size. A teacup Aussie usually weighs somewhere between 4 and 8 lbs. The mini stands between 13″ and 18″ at the shoulder, the toy between 10″ and 14″ and the teacup has a height of between 8″ and 10″. By comparison, the standard-sized Shepherd stands between 18″ and 23″ at the shoulders, at least according to AKC standards.
Changes in the Breeds
Neither the teacup nor the toy are exact, but merely smaller replicas of the Australian Shepherd or the mini Aussie. There are definite differences in conformation, largely in terms of the shape of the head. There are a few other differences as well, but the teacup and the toy could definitely be looked upon as distinct breeds. While the mini Aussie is often referred to as either a miniature North American Shepherd or a miniature North American Australian Shepherd, the teacup is generally referred to as a teacup Australian Shepherd.
The standard-sized breed is actually not native to Australia at all, but came to that country from the Basque area in Europe, an area that includes parts of France and Spain. The breed was introduced into the United States by Basque shepherds who had immigrated to this country from Australia. In a few short years, the breed was being called by any number of names, including the New Mexican Shepherd and the California Shepherd.
Changes in Temperament
Insofar as the teacup is concerned, if it is going to be considered a new and separate canine breed, it is definitely American. Owners and breeders alike still refer to it as a teacup Australian Shepherd, though. This smallest of the Aussies tends to be a little more high-strung and yappy than either the mini or standard Aussie. It is also more prone to fear-biting than its larger relatives, which, although quite active dogs, have an easy disposition and a rather laid back temperament.
The toy and teacup varieties are known for having certain health issues which are not normally found in their larger cousins. It is believed this is partly due to inbreeding and partly due to the fact that, when attempting to use smaller dogs to produce a smaller breed, breeders sometimes select dogs that are smaller due in part to the fact that they are less healthy than normal.
Want a Teacup? – Pick out the Smallest Toy
Not too many breeders seem to specialize in this very smallest of the Aussie family. They instead breed minis or toys. Teacups come into the picture when it is apparent that some of the puppies aren’t going to grow up quite large enough to fit into the toy category, so they are naturally sold as teacup varieties. This would tend to make this very smallest of the breed somewhat scarce, although they generally aren’t prohibitively expensive. They do appear to make nice pets for the most part. They do need daily exercise, although not as much as their larger cousins, and they are definitely cute.