What is a Reputable & Ethical Breeder - How to find one! 

    There is no 'consumer guide' on finding a quality companion dog.   This is a short guide that I hope will help you on your search and what to ask a breeder to ensure you are getting a healthy and well adjusted puppy. 

 *  Learn about the breed.  The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club has pages of awesome information including the breed standard.  Learn all you can and make sure this is the breed for you and your family.   


*  Learn about the health issues of the Cavalier.  You may go to my short overviews about Healthy Cavalier and Testing.  One of the best sites on the internet that is strictly devoted to Cavalier health is CavalierHealth.org.  

     Knowing the health issues of the Cavalier is essential when you are talking to breeders.  You need to know what tests are needed of the parents and at what ages.  On CavalierHelth.org there is a list of 10 Questions to ask of breeders.   I have a list below too.      


Shop for an Ethical and Reputable breeder that you can trust and build a relationship with.  Don't shop for a puppy! 

  *  A reputable breeder is going to have more questions for you than you do for them.  This may seem rude and totally opposite from any other purchase you have experienced.  To prove that you are 'worthy' to own one of their dogs means that they care.  You will notice in the cavalier world that many breeders say 'adoption' vs 'sale' of a puppy.  

     Understand that a reputable Cavalier breeder that fully health tests, works to support their dogs… their dogs do not support them.  They are breeding for that special puppy to show and better the breed.  Their lives, holidays and vacations are planned around a couple of litters a year.  Countless hours and out of pocket expenses are spent on health testing, pedigrees, research, seminars and dog showing.  They have judges evaluate the quality of their dogs and how closely they represent the written standard of the breed.

     If a litter is raised correctly with all the feeding, cleaning, hours of interaction and socializing… it is exhausting.  Most Cavalier puppies are whelped in a home environment.  They are carefully handled for early socialization and monitored for growth and development.  The breeder is anxiously looking for their pick puppy and if there is an extra, they want the perfect forever home!  Many times the breeder will watch two or three puppies to see which one they are going to ultimately keep.  They are in no rush waiting 12 weeks for the final evaluation and health testing.  

   Most reputable breeders have jobs to support their dogs.  In contrast, the backyard/puppy-mill breeder the 'dogs' are their job and they work that job with little regard to the overall health of the breed.   It means being overly charming, having the 'perfect puppy' for you and aggressively selling you a puppy the moment he/she is weaned to get it out the door.  Things you do not want to see are continuous / multiple litters of different breeds, lack of socialization of parents and puppies and false claims of health statuses.  


  * History and Ancestors of the Puppy:   A reputable breeder will speak more about their adult dogs accomplishments, health and past dogs until most buyers heads spin and you cannot keep up with all the names. They can answer questions about the grand and great-great-great-grandparents and know where they lived, how long and more! 

    Normally unable or unwilling to discuss the health or whereabouts of the parents or grandparents, the backyard / puppy-mill breeder only talks about the puppies available and nothing insightful about the ancestors.   

   * Health Testing:   This will be the main topic for most reputable Cavalier breeders.  Cavaliers have more health issues than most breeds.  Health testing provides the tools for reputable breeders to assist them in their breeding choices.  Keep in mind there is never a guarantee that a puppy will not be affected with a problem later in life just like with humans.  However, the risks are greatly reduced when not breeding affected dogs. 

     A clean health tested Cavalier over the age of 2.5 years that also has parents that are health tested and MVD Heart clear and MRI scanned clear of CM/SM over the age of 5-7.5 years of age is a prize and highly regarded.  A reputable breeder will eagerly provide copies of health certificates of each parent and or links to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFFA).  Just as with my website each dog has a link to OFFA to see their tests.  Cavaliers can receive a CHIC number if certified results for Heart, Eyes, Patellas and Hips are submitted.  CHIC does not include DNA or MRI scans for CM/SM at this time.     


                DO NOT FALL FOR THE CLAIMS: 


   First it is the PARENTS that need to be health tested for hereditary diseases… not the puppies! Yes, a Cavalier puppy does need to be seen by Veterinarian at the time of purchase, by YOUR VET.  You also should have a contract that shows a full return of your money should something be wrong.  Not another replacement puppy from the same lines.    

* Puppies are DNA tested CLEAR: 

      There is only one DNA health test and it is for Dry Eye / Curly Coat and Episodic Falling Syndrome.  It is $140 per test and takes several weeks to get back from the UK and is used for Breeders to test dogs for these three genetic disorders prior to being bred.  The certificate below is what you want to see for BOTH parents OR ALL 4 Grandparents.  


DNA swabs by AKC are done for parentage.  Stud dogs that have sired 7 or more litters and Dams that have whelped 3 or more litters must have a DNA to prove parentage of puppies if needed.  This does NOT  prove health.  The ACKCSC code of ethics states that a bitch will not whelp more than two litters in any three consecutive heat cycles.  Most reputable breeders either breed once a year or twice in one year with a complete year off.  Ask how many litters the dam has had.  The certificate below is an AKC DNA certificate and is NOT a substitute for the DE/CC/EFS shown above.    


*  The claim "GUARANTEED FOR 5 YEARS" is a gimmick.  

      This is not a guarantee that the puppy is free of inherited disorders, but a warrantee that the seller will replace a dog if or when it happens.  Read the fine print: 'if the puppy develops  "x" the breeder will take your puppy back and replace it with a new puppy.  Seriously??  You will give up your dearest family member in its time of need because it has an inherited disorder and get a replacement?  Do you think they will take care of your beloved friend?  I don't believe so.  That is what the seller is banking on and why they take the chance that you will refuse.   


     Check to see if the breeder actively shows their dogs.  Is the Sire and Dam AKC or CKCSC Champions?  You can easily look them up on AKC or a certified pedigree will read CH xx xx.  


     See how far back the CH Champion is in the pedigree.  Two champions bred together does not guarantee championship offspring and a championship does not represent a healthy dog, only a dog that is health tested is proven healthy. 

   If you are interested in a  show dog, go to the dog shows, meet breeders and watch all the dogs and decide on a particular look or line and get to know that breeder.  You will not find a show prospect on the internet.   


   Ask how many years the perspective breeder has been breeding, and what breeds they have available.   Most reputable breeders have one or two breeds.  It takes years to become an expert in a particular breed.  Some have a large and a small breed or many will have what we call companion breeds such as the Cavalier and their cousin the English Toy Spaniel.  

    The Backyard / puppy mill breeder will normally have multiple breeds and will hide the fact with separate web sites for each breed.  Make google your fiend and see if they have something to hide.  Many will want to bring the 'new puppy' to you and not allow you to visit them. 

   NEVER buy a Cavalier that is from a Pet Store, where you meet the breeder at a different location or from a broker such as from Cavaliers flown in from Ireland.    


     Is not a determining factor for quality or health.  It can be a good indicator, but not always.  Buy from a Reputable breeder that is doing all the health testing (see the list below or on CavalierHealth.org) and following the Heart MVD and CM/SM breeding protocols or get a Cavalier through your local rescue.  

   DO NOT reward backyard / puppy mill breeders with purchasing inexpensive untested dogs that may cost you in medical bills and heartache later on.    


    Both Parents should be a minimum of 2 years of age.  Preferably 2.5 and heart clear.    The MVD Breeding protocol is that no Cavalier is to be bred before the age of 2.5 and that it should be cleared by a Board Certified Cardiologist.  OFFA requires that the dog be a minimum of 2 years of age for hips to be certified.  

    It is estimated that 50% of Cavaliers have Mitral Valve Heart Disease (MVD) by the age of 5 years and nearly all are affected by age 10.  Therefore it is ideal if the mother is over 2.5 and the sire is over 5 and heart clear.  Ask or research the grand parents too! 

   As a rule, the backyard / puppy-mill breeders cannot afford to wait until a girl is 2.5 years of age to breed.  Excuse range from they have the best puppies on their second season or they will simply lie about the age of the parents.  If either parent is under the age of 2, go elsewhere.   There are breeders with Cavaliers living to 10, 12 and 15 years old that are MVD clear.  Find them!!  Find the breeder that routinely uses stud dogs that are over the age of 5 and still heart clear with long lived ancestors. 

   Remember that breeding protocols are what all reputable breeders strive for, however there are occasions where exceptions are made.  Guidelines have to be weighed. 

The MVD Protocol  

1.   Every breeding Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be examined annually by a board certified veterinarian Cardiologist. 

2.   Do not breed any Cavalier who is diagnosed with an MVD murmur under the age of 5 years.

3.  Do not breed any CKCS before age 2.5 years.

4.   Do not breed any Cavalier under the age of 5 years, unless its parents' hearts were free of MVD murmurs by age 5 years.

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   Do understand that many reputable breeders will not allow potential puppy buyers to their homes until the puppies have reached a certain age.  Be responsible and do not visit multiple breeders where you could unknowingly transmit disease.  If you have been to a shelter, rescue organization, vet office or in contact with a sick animal… do not visit the breeder or a young litter of puppies.  

   Reputable breeders will have you to their homes, introduce you to their dogs and most likely become long time friends.  Often they will offer to meet you someplace in common or at a dog show to introduce you to some of their other dogs until the puppies have reached their 'can have visitors age'. 

  When there, view all the dogs and their living area.  If the dogs are dirty, crowded, isolated or if any are fearful and aggressive…don't walk way… RUN!  An exception to this is the mother that may still be guarding her babies.  Cavaliers have the instinct to bark but ironically are wagging their tails and looking for attention. 


10-12 Weeks of age.  Cavaliers are slow to mature and should not leave home or their mother until 12 weeks of age.  

 Reputable breeders make sure that the litter has had 

8-10 Week Eye Exam by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist

10-12 Week Vet wellness visit including a cardiology check

Dewormed and fecal exam at the veterinarian. 

First set of shots

    The litter will be evaluated for specific traits and personalities so they can be matched to the best homes.  Puppies should be well on their way to being potty trained, use to sleeping in a crate, traveled in a car, socialized to children and people.   Socialization between the ages of 8-12 weeks is critical.  Puppies learn from their mother  doggie manners, play and discipline.

   The backyard / puppy-mill breeders cannot afford to feed and care for puppies past weaning.  They need them sold quickly.  This time of socialization can never be made up again and accounts for many psychological behavioral and training issues as adults.  


    A reputable breeder will normally check your references.  Expect that they will call a friend, family member or your Veterinarian.  They will be interested in visiting you at your home.  They will want to meet the entire family and see your home in action.  They are prepared to provide references of other puppy owners and Veterinarians.  With the heath testing in Cavaliers they will have a list of  Board Certified Cardiologist, Neurologist, Ophthalmologist and a regular GP Vet.  


  These are some of the hardest working individuals ever known.  Most help other breeders, are active in local breed clubs, training progress along with breed rescue.  Most participate in dog showing and many handle their own dogs.  Their puppies are gifts that are wrapped in love and resemble the hard work of years of health testing and accomplishments.  The adoption process from a responsible breeder is something that you will never forget because you will have a constant reminder each day of all their hard work.  

  They will match you with the perfect companion and stay in touch with you for their lifetime.  Always willing to help and care for your cavalier if you are unable to.  To them it is all about the puppy… not the sale.  



SAMPLE TEST to see how many RED FLAGS can you spot in the following add.  This was a real add that I pulled from Puppy find on the internet.  If you can't find them all please go to our the page 10 Health Questions you should ask a breeder

©  Linda Baird & Woody Goode 2015