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How to Find a Cavalier – Spice Rack Cavaliers

How to Find a Cavalier

Looking for a healthy, well-adjusted Cavalier?
Please read this first.

Hobby/Show Breeders are the people who are breeding to the AKC/CKCSC published breed standard. They will affiliate themselves with the local and/or local breed clubs. These clubs have stringent ethical guidelines that breeders must agree to. Most of these people live by the code of ethics and a love of the breed. They breed for the superior qualities they are trying to perpetuate in the Cavalier and these qualities, as well as the health of the dogs they are breeding, are of paramount importance to them. They do not always have a litter available but when they do they try to get the very best homes possible for the puppies they are not going to keep. When you contact one of these breeders you may be asked many questions. These breeders will be interested in the well-being of the dog for the remainder of its life – not in a controlling or unpleasant way but concerned about how your puppy is doing, how your puppy is developing, any health or behavioral concerns that may arise…. They will also be responsible to that puppy for its entire life in the event you can not do so for a myriad reasons. But, do not stop here either. Continue on with the next set of questions or requirements for a breeder to be choosen by you.

You only want to work with a breeder that has done the health testing on the sires and dams of puppies you are looking into purchasing. Required tests are stimulated by both valid clubs for cavaliers meaning and The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals oversees most health testing and you can research a dogs testing and results by going to their website (  The easiest way to research a dog, is by AKC number or the CHIC number.  Keep in mind you are researching the parents of a puppy and not the puppy or litter you are looking into purchasing.  The breeder may also have more recent testing done that is not on the website for a few reasons but the breeder should be able to provide you a copy of the testing and results.  Be sure to SEE the certification of the testing either on the OFA website, their website or be able to provide you a copy of the testing and results – do not just take their word that they were performed. One of the classic excuses poor quality breeders say is “oh…I can’t find them…I will get them to you…” or whatever other excuses not to be transparent about the dog’s health certificates.

You may contact several breeders before you find one that you are comfortable with and want to work with. Reputable breeders are comfortable with this. They will frequently refer potential puppy buyers to other qualified breeders, especially if asked to recommend someone that might have puppies when they do not. This is also a sign of a breeder who is more concerned about people finding good breeders rather than just assuring they do not lose the sale (a sure sign that someone is in it for the wrong reason).

Please, do not use the “shotgun” approach to puppy buying. This is part of what keeps the bad breeders in business allowing poorly bred dogs to continue being bred. If you do so, you are part of the problem and why we have so many poor and unhealthy purebreeds currently. Another poor excuse I hear is “…oh…I just couldn’t leave the puppy in those terrible conditions…” But, all you have done is encourage ensured that person will continue breeding after all, you just gave the ultimate reward – $$$$. Why would they stop? Perhaps not intentially, you have just become the reason they keep doing what they are doing and the problem exists. True, you may have helped that puppy but harmed many many others that come after it and those specific dogs will continue to be bred.

Check with your local AKC/CKCSC Cavalier Breed Specialty Club for a list of these breeders in your area as well as the national clubs but still do your work. They are a great place to start but these lists are NOT a card blanche approval by the clubs.

Health Testing

Currently, health testing is evolving quickly especially with DNA testing. Commonly accepted screening and DNA testing will be changing as we learn things and testing improves. There are lots of recent DNA tests being offered of late and we are learning which are of value and which are not as well as how to interpret them. Be leary of a person offering all sort of DNA testing trying to giving you a false sense of security.

DE/CC/EF. These are valid DNA tests that have been around for decades. The letters stand for Dry Eye, Curly Coat and Episodic Falling. Any reputable breeder should be able to prove that a puppy you are looking at will not be affected by these conditions.

You want to review the CHIC information/testing before going to see the puppies. Depending on the results, you may need to see a copy of the certificate. It is easy to say they have been done but if the breeder can not show you copies and/or you can not find evidence of them on the OFA web-site, ASSUME THEY DO NOT EXIST. Many dogs will have CHIC numbers that are published on the breeders website but not all. I know many intelligent people who were told the health test were done but the breeder was never able to and never did give them the copies (translation–they were not done or results were not ideal). These people know that once you see the puppy and are excited about bringing home a puppy, you will overlook the issue.

The appropriate parent club health tests for Cavaliers are as follows:

  • HEART–Mitral valve disease is a common concern in the breed. Hearts should tested yearly by a board-certified specialist (not a general practitioner). The ideal is to have a depth of history – meaning there will also be current information on the grandparent as well, or even further back. But, that can be challenging – (1) once a dog is no longer being breed, most people will not continue to do the testing due to expense and inconvenience, (2) unless the breeder owns the dog, he or she does not have control of whether the testing is done or not, and (3) many people will not report the finding when it a heart murmur leaving it an unknown – is the dog no longer being done or is it not being reported because it has a heart murmur?  For these reasons, it is invaluable to work with a breeder who you trust to be doing the best possible to breed healthy hearts. Talk to other breeders…we tend to know who is doing things well and who is not. Some Cavalier owners also know who is doing things will but that can be hit and miss.
  • EYES–Sire and dam should also be done yearly (CERF – Canine Eye Registration Foundation) by a canine opthamologist (It is also acceptable to do every second year especially if the breeder knows the lines they are working with). Most opthamologists will report ANY finding. Some of the findings are more important than others. Some potentially less important findings are categorized as “breeder option diagnosis” meaning the finding is reported and it is up the breeder how to use that finding. An example is distichia which is miss-placed eyelashes. They may or may not cause problems but will and should always be noted on the report. Good breeders will factor this information into choosing to breed a dog and, if so, which dog to breed to.
  • PATELLAE & HIPS–Hips and patellae (kneecaps) should be checked by a veterinarian before breeding. Hips are radiographed and sent to OFA (Orthopedic Foundation of America) for certification. They are given a score from best to worst as follows: Excellent, good, fair, borderline, or dysplastic from mild, moderate or severe. Dogs must be 2 yrs old before OFA will rate the hips – sometimes “preliminaries” are occasionally reviewed without scores before the dog is 2. Patellae are palpated and results should be sent to OFA which also keeps a database of patella certifications which are classified as normal up to a grade 4 luxation. Each side is graded independently. There is zero reason to breed a dog without passing patellas.
  • CHIC Certification–This acronym stands for Canine Health Information Center. AKC and OFA awards a CHIC certification and number when a dog has completed all the testing required, regardless what the results of the tests are. Each breed’s AKC parent club decides on what those tests should be.