A Teacup Cocker Spaniel is a tiny version of the cute Cocker Spaniel.
American and English Cocker Spaniels can be scaled down by crossbreeding, deliberately selecting for dwarfism, or breeding successive generations from runt puppies.
But all of these methods have drawbacks and some can even be dangerous for puppies’ health.
Your Teacup Cocker Spaniel
The large, soulful eyes and super soft ears of the Cocker Spaniel combine with a playful personality to make these medium sized dogs a popular choice.
English Cocker Spaniels are a little larger than American Cockers, but the collective weight range is 20-34 pounds, with a collective size range of 13.5-17 inches tall. Both of these dogs have a wide range of possible coat colors.
So, what’s the attraction of a smaller version of either of these two types of Cocker Spaniel, and how would breeders go about achieving this goal?
The Appeal Of The Teacup Cocker Spaniel
Small dogs are cute.
Many people who aren’t even dedicated dog lovers will love seeing a tiny puppy.
And what could be better than having a dog who stays puppy sized its entire life?
From a practical point of view, having a small dog does bring certain advantages. They cost less to feed, often don’t need a lot of exercise, and don’t take up much space if you live in an apartment.
You might also see teacup Cocker Spaniels being advertised as miniature Cocker Spaniels.
While small breeds are undeniably cute, they do often suffer from health problems including heart issues, which you might not see in a larger dog.
This disadvantage is a serious consideration, and one that you’ll have to carefully think through before bringing a puppy home.
Where Do Teacup Cocker Spaniels Come From?
You might be wondering exactly how breeders go about creating a smaller version of an existing breed.
There are three main methods used:
- mixing with a smaller breed
- introducing a dwarfism gene
- breeding from smaller Spaniels and runts.
Each of these has possible health implications for the puppies.
This means that it’s important to know what these mean, and speak to any breeder to find out which method they favor.
Mixing With A Smaller Breed
When trying to create a miniature dog, one option breeders have is to cross with another, smaller breed of dog.
These crosses result in the following mixed breeds.
Crossing a Cocker Spaniel with a Miniature Poodle creates one of the most popular Cocker Spaniel mixes: the Cockapoo.
These small dogs are fun loving, and the low-shedding coat of some Cockapoos can be an advantage for people with allergies.
As with any mixed breed, they can inherit a range of conditions which also affect the parent breeds.
This mixed breed involves crossing two types of Spaniel, the Cocker and the Cavalier King Charles. The Cockalier is gentle, and easy to train.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to some serious health issues, including syringomyelia. This inherited condition is a result of their skull shape, and can be painful.
A recent study found that 70% of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels within their research group showed signs of syringomyelia.
The Corkie is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel, and Yorkshire Terrier.
They need regular grooming, thanks to their long coat.
The wilful nature of the Yorkshire Terrier can make this cross a little harder to train than a purebred Cocker Spaniel.
If you want to find out more about these mixed breeds, and others, head on over to our review of Cocker Spaniel mixes.
You might be concerned that this option would affect the pedigree status of any resulting puppies. Any puppy bred this way will be a crossbreed, not a pedigree.
But bear in mind that the American Kennel Club does not endorse, register, or recognize any ‘teacup’ breed, either.
Introducing The Dwarfism Gene
Another option that is open to breeders looking to create a teacup Cocker Spaniel is to add the dwarfism gene.
This gene is often found in breeds, including the Dachshund and Corgi. One thing these breeds have in common is their short legs.
The gene for dwarfism acts to make the dog’s legs shorter, rather than shrinking the whole body. This process is called osteochondrodysplasia, or achondroplasia. It’s considered a spinal defect.
Cocker Spaniels have also been shown to inherit hypochondroplasia, which a form of short-limbed dwarfism. As yet, there’s no genetic test for this.
Breeders who choose to use this method run the risk of subjecting any resulting puppies to a range of serious health issues. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Pain in the legs and spine
- Enlarged skull and joints
- Spinal deviation
- Abnormal bone development
- Bowing of the forelegs
- Crooked teeth and misaligned jaws
- Stunted growth
Teacup Cocker Spaniels that have been bred using this technique may well require a significant level of veterinary care in order to monitor and manage problems they might develop as a result.
Breeding From Runts
The final technique which can be used to create a teacup Cocker Spaniel involves breeding runts from different litters together.
Runt is the term used to describe the smallest puppies within a litter. These pups usually end up being smaller than their siblings when fully grown.
By breeding two runts together, the aim is that their puppies will be smaller still. But it can take multiple generations of puppies before any noticeable difference can be seen.
An advantage of this technique is that the puppies will still be pedigree Cocker Spaniels. Remember, though, that the AKC doesn’t recognize teacup breeds.
A disadvantage is that this method carries extra health risks. Often, the runts used for breeding may not be the healthiest dogs. If breeders are selecting for size, rather than the overall health of each dog, the risk of the puppies developing health conditions is higher.
While each of these techniques can result in smaller puppies, they all involve a level of compromise in relation to the lifelong health of the dogs.
Is A Teacup Cocker Spaniel Right For Me?
That’s a question you need to consider carefully before you decide to invest money in bringing your tiny pup home.
Cocker Spaniels are prone to a few health concerns which you need to take into account. These can include:
- Ear infections
- Dental problems
- Hip dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Adult-onset neuropathy
- Familial nephropathy
If a breeder of teacup Cocker Spaniels decides to prioritize size over health issues, there is a risk that they will be breeding from dogs with some of the conditions mentioned above.
This is something you’ll need to discuss very closely with them.
As well as the health concerns outlined above, some teacup Cocker Spaniels may have other health issues too. If they have been bred by crossing with another breed, including those with the dwarfism gene, then you’ll need to take into account any inherited health conditions for that breed as well.
The Best Home For A Teacup Cocker Spaniel
Teacup Cocker Spaniels will be happiest in a home where they can spend most of their time with their owners.
While they only need a moderate amount of exercise, they don’t enjoy being left alone for long periods of time.
Teacup Cocker Spaniels are prone to obesity, so the amount of food needs to be watched. They will need small amounts frequently, though, as teacup dogs can be prone to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar.
They need a lot of grooming to keep their long coat in tip-top condition.
This breed may not be the best option for families with small children.
Some studies have shown that English Cocker Spaniels exhibit impulsive aggression more frequently than other breeds. This appears to be a genetic trait, so it’s important to meet both parent dogs. Coat color and sex has also been shown to play a part. Male golden coated dogs exhibited the most dominant-aggressive behavior.
Finding A Teacup Cocker Spaniel
Some unscrupulous breeders find that labeling their puppies as ‘teacup’ makes them appear more attractive, and as a result they can charge higher prices.
In fact, this term is really just a ploy. Remember that there’s no such thing as a recognized ‘teacup’ breed of any type of dog.
We suggest making your primary focus the temperament and health of any Cocker Spaniel puppies you’re looking at.
It’s essential that you speak to any breeders about which health tests the parent dogs have undergone. They should be happy to talk you through any results, as well as show you the certification.
Our recommendation would be to instead select a breeder who produces standard sized Cocker Spaniels, within the weight recommendations set by the breed standard.
Another option is to look into adopting a teacup Cocker Spaniel. This way, you can still get the type of dog you want, without having to worry about finding a reputable breeder.
What’s your opinion on teacup dogs? Let us know in the comments!
If you want to read more about miniature breeds, take a look at the miniature Whippet!
References And Resources
- Parker et al. 2011. Prevalence of asymptomatic syringomyelia in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Veterinary Record.
- Davidson et al. 2007. Genetic cause of autosomal recessive hereditary nephropathy in the English Cocker Spaniel. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine.
- Parker and Glynn. 2012. Myxomatous mitral valve disease in dogs: Does size matter? Journal of Veterinary Cardiology.
- Amat et al. 2009. Aggressive behaviour in the English Cocker Spaniel. Journal of Veterinary Behavior.
- Guisado et al. 2006. Heritability of dominant-aggressive behaviour in English Cocker Spaniels. Applied Animal Behavior Science.
- Downs et al. 2014. Genetic screening for PRA associated mutations in multiple dog breeds shows that PRA is heterogeneous within and between breeds. Veterinary Opthalmology.
- Breur, et al. 2011. The Musculoskeletal System. Small Animal Pediatrics. Science Direct Topic: Osteochondrodysplasia.
- Bone Deformity and Dwarfism in Dogs. PetMD.
- American Spaniel Club Breed Health Statement. The American Spaniel Club, Inc.
- American Kennel Club