One of the first questions breeders ask prospective Cavalier owners is whether they are looking for a “pet or show” puppy. Some typical responses are: “I don't know; I just want a pretty one;” “I really want a pet, but we might like to have a litter or two so the children can experience birth, or so I can get a second Cavalier free;” and “What's the difference?”
“I don't know; I just want a pretty one.”
Markings greatly affect a dog's expression, that “melting” Cavalier look. While markings do play a part in distinguishing a “show” puppy from a “pet,” they are by no means the only difference between them. A pretty face is not all Cavaliers need to win over a show judge!
If it's a pretty face you're after, and you do not want to show or breed, let the breeder know. A Cavalier puppy with a lovely face and less than ideal topline, cowhocks, straight stifles, gay tail, or single testicle will fit your bill perfectly. Gay tails, cowhocks, and so on are important to judges and breeders, but they will make little difference to you. They do not affect the health of the dog, and you will still have the adorable Cavalier face and personality.
“I really want a pet, but we might like to have a litter or two so the children can experience birth, or so I can get a second Cavalier free.”
Because not all Cavalier breeders are experts in public relations, you may find that the breeder's response to this borders on rudeness. The reason for this is very valid - the breeder has probably devoted many years and more dollars than he or she would ever want to count trying to breed a Cavalier that is as close to the breed standard as possible. He or she may have seen a valuable beloved bitch die whelping a litter. (One breeder has been quoted as saying, “Are you willing for your children to experience death too?”)
You could buy another quality puppy for what you may spend in stud fee and vet bills, to say nothing of the risk of losing the Cavalier you already have. Good owners do not grow on trees. How many of us have the appropriate physical setup, the financial means, to say nothing of the emotional stamina, to keep a litter of puppies for a minimum of ten weeks, perhaps as long as six to nine months, and maybe even forever? Most Cavalier breeders owned Cavaliers for years, first as pets, then as show dogs, before they attempted breeding a litter. It is not something to be undertaken lightly!
“What's the difference?”
One of the first differences you will discover is price. Prices for puppies vary, depending on the puppy, the breeder, and where the breeder is located. Puppies may sell for as little as one thousand or as much as three thousand dollars or more.
What is it about puppies that justifies such a wide price range? A variety of characteristics make the difference, but simply put, it is how close a puppy comes to being the “perfect Cavalier,” according to the Breed Standard. This Standard is lengthy and detailed. A breeder spends many years participating in shows and training his or her eye to be able to see these differences and should be able to articulate these differences to you, even if you cannot see them yourself.
Most people do not want to wait for a year or more to find a puppy. Finding a show puppy can easily take that long or longer. The percentage of show puppies in any litter is very small; many litters have no show quality puppies. If a breeder tells you that all their puppies are show quality, or that they are expecting a show quality litter soon, contact another breeder! It would be a very rare litter that would have all show quality puppies, and no breeder can know ahead of time exactly what a breeding is going to produce.
Buying a show puppy is a little like betting on a horse in the Derby and about as risky! You can choose your breeder carefully, know the blood lines are sound, and still not end up with a winner. Perhaps the term “show quality” is a misnomer; “show potential” might be more apt. The breeder is making an educated guess. Some qualities, such as serious mismarks, may be obvious early on, but puppies change in the most annoyingly unpredictable ways. Anyway you look at it, acquiring a puppy to show is a gamble with no guarantees. We strongly recommend anyone buying a show quality puppy deal only with a breeder who shows on a regular basis. How can someone who rarely, if ever, shows have any idea what a show quality adult dog is, let alone a show quality puppy!
“Male or Female?”
The second question asked of potential Cavalier owners is whether they want a male or a female. In the past, most pet buyers wanted a male. They did not want to be bothered with a female's seasons, and they were convinced that spaying would make her fat and lethargic. Many buyers have become aware that spaying does not change a female, and many now prefer females. They are convinced that males are not as affectionate as females, cannot be housebroken, and if neutered, will become fat and lethargic!
Males and females are equally affectionate, both possessing the true Cavalier temperament. How successfully they are housebroken depends on your consistency and perseverance. Neutering and spaying do not in anyway change a Cavalier's personality, weight, or energy level, only its sex drive. The sex drive in a Cavalier is strong; your angel-faced little lady will become a brazen hussy when in season, and your perfect gentleman, a satyr! An accidental mating with the neighbor's black Lab can result in twelve very odd puppies for whom you must find homes. The CKCSC, USA believes that responsible owners who do not breed their Cavaliers will spay or neuter them. (Spayed and neutered dogs may still be shown.)
All Cavaliers- pet and show, male and female- should have the same temperament: “gay” fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate.” In the end, this is why we choose to make Cavaliers part of our lives. The most “perfect” specimen (to look at) in the world wouldn't be worth the price of dog food without these special qualities.