When shopping for a home, it's about location, location, location. When shopping for a pup, it's about breeder, breeder, breeder! Dogs are living creatures that will hopefully be with us for 10 - 15 years. Therefore your choice of where to purchase your future family companion is extremely important, ranking right up there with the choice of your significant other or partner. It is well worth investing some time now to be sure you are working with a reputable, responsible breeder who breeds healthy, happy dogs.
How Do You Identify A Responsible Breeder?
Good breeders do not breed to make money. They do not sell their puppies to the first person that shows up with cash in hand. They do not knowingly sell even one puppy to a pet shop, broker, or middle man for resale. Breeders who show and breed with concern for the Cavalier can pay thousands of dollars just to get a female pregnant, which does not take into account vet visits, puppy care and feeding, or any c-sections. When one considers that Cavaliers have an average litter of 3-4 puppies, the gain is not great. Review the topics listed below and look for a breeder who, at a minimum, does the following:
- Keeps dogs in the home as part of the family, not outside in kennel runs.
- Has adult dogs who appear happy and healthy, are excited to meet new people, and do not shy away from visitors.
- Shows you where the dogs spend most of their time, which should be a clean, well-maintained area.
- Encourages you to spend time with the puppy’s parents (at a minimum, the puppy’s mother) when you visit.
- Does not allow the puppy to leave its mother or the litter before 10 to 12 weeks of age, preferably.
- Only breeds one or two types of dogs and is knowledgeable about the desired characteristics of the breed, such as size, proportion, coat, color, and temperament.
- Has a strong relationship with a local veterinarian. Explains the puppy’s medical history and what vaccinations your new puppy will need.
- Explains in detail the potential genetic problems inherent in Cavaliers and provides documentation through organizations such as the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) that the puppy’s parents and grandparents have been tested to ensure that they are free of these genetic problems.
- Offers guidance for caring and training your puppy and is available for assistance after you take your puppy home.
- Recommends that you promptly take your puppy to your veterinarian for an exam. The responsible breeder’s veterinarian will have already examined your puppy.
- Is willing to provide references from other families who have purchased puppies if you ask.
- Feeds high quality, premium brand pet food.
- Does not always have puppies available.
- Is actively involved with local, state, and National clubs that specialize in the specific breed. Good breeders may compete with their dogs in conformation (which judge how closely dogs match their breed standard), obedience trials (which judge how well dogs perform specific sets of tasks on command), or tracking and agility trials.
- Encourages multiple visits and wants your entire family to meet the puppy.
- Provides you with a written agreement, contract, and/or health guarantee and allows plenty of time for you to read it thoroughly.
- Explain why you want a dog.
- Explain who in your family will be responsible for the puppy’s daily care and attend training classes, where the dog will spend most of his/her time, and what rules have been decided upon for the puppy -- for example, whether or not the dog will be allowed on the furniture.
- Provide a veterinary reference.
- Provide proof from your landlord or condominium board that you are allowed to have a dog.
- Sign a contract that you will spay or neuter the dog unless you will be actively involved in showing him/her. (Applies to show quality dogs only.)
- Sign a contract stating that you will return the dog to the breeder should you be unable to keep the dog at any point in the dog’s life.
How Do You Find A Responsible Breeder?
CKCSC, USA Website
The website (www.ckcsc.org) for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (CKCSC, USA) provides a list of breeders (Breeders List). Although this is not a comprehensive list of every breeder who is a member of the CKCSC, USA, any breeder on this list is a member in good standing of CKCSC, USA. As such, they must abide by a stringent Code of Ethics, even though they may not meet all of your standards for a breeder. Among other requirements, breeders who are members of the CKCSC, USA (whether or not they are on the Breeders List) must follow certain breeding practices and provide specific written documentation with each puppy.
The website also has a Puppy and Adult Referral. Breeders listed here may not be listed on the Breeders List, but they are also members in good standing of the CKCSC, USA and are required to abide by the club’s Code of Ethics.
At the same time, take a look at the Open Health Registry for lists of dogs and their health status and the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) website (www.caninehealthinfo.org/search.html). Both sites list dogs that meet certain minimum health test standards.
Begin with the local Breeders on these lists. If they have no available puppies, start branching out to nearby states. It is better that you deal with breeders from afar, as long as they conform to the recommendations in this document, than some unknown, irresponsible backyard breeder, puppy mill, pet store, middleman, or broker nearby.
Friends, Local Breed Clubs, Dog Shows
You can also find reputable breeders by asking for referrals from trusted friends, contacting local breed clubs, or visiting dog shows.
Lastly, the internet is another source for lists of breeders. However, this is extremely risky. If you choose to look on the Internet for a breeder, you MUST read Slick Websites Can Fool You and follow those guidelines.