Many families prefer to adopt from a local shelter or rescue, but quite often it's impossible to find Cavaliers or low shedding small dogs because they are rarely surrendered. When that option has been exhausted, you have to start the search for a breeder.
Maybe you know exactly what type of dog you want down the the exact size, sex and color - or maybe you're just beginning your search and narrowing between similar breeds such as Cavachons and Cavapoos. While you are choosing your breed, it's equally important (if not more important) to decide what type of BREEDER you are looking for. Many people will say they want a "reputable breeder" or an "ethical breeder" without really knowing what that means or how to really figure out what type of breeder you've contacted. Hopefully you've also learned that price alone is not an indicator (we've seen lots of poorly bred dogs sold to unsuspecting buyers for the same price or more than well bred dogs). We hope this post will help you figure out what type of breeder you're looking for.
While we know there are exceptions to every rule, the majority of breeders fall squarely in to these three categories:
Consumers have become increasingly aware that the best puppies come from reputable breeders whose dogs are part of the family. Most people are not morally comfortable purchasing a dog from a puppy mill or puppy store, not only because the puppy is not properly socialized before purchase, but also because of the deplorable breedings and health conditions in which the parents are forced to live. Similarly, the idea of dogs left alone in large kennels has become unattractive. This leaves reputable breeders in a predicament as to how to make sure their animals have the best possible lives while also maintaining diversity and high standards for their breeding program. One solution many breeders rely on is the use of Guardian Homes.
Simply put, a Guardian Home is the placement of a male or female dog that will be used to breed in the home of someone other than the breeder. This helps the breeder accomplish several goals:
For Guardian Families, this is a great way to enjoy a pick of the litter puppy without the price. These programs often offer retirees, those who can't afford the purebred dog of their dreams or families who just love puppies a chance to experience the joys of breeding without all of the costs, liabilities and hassles of puppy sales. Think you might make a good Guardian Home? Here are some requirements most reputable breeders will have:
Another reminder, if you are in love with hybrids then a Guardian Home program will likely not be an option. Many people forget that to breed F1 hybrids the breeder owns the purebred parents and sells the hybrids. For example, as much as we LOVE LOVE LOVE our Cavachons we don't keep them in our breeding program - only purebred Cavaliers and purebred Bichons are used in our program and therefore those are the types of dogs placed in Guardian Homes.
We hope this post has explained more about the opportunity to serve as a Guardian Home. If you have an interest in learning more about our Charleston based Guardian Home program, please complete the online application.
This blog post will cover why it's so important to purchase a puppy from a breeder who does DNA tests on their breeding stock and what to look for when provided a copy. We will cover in a future post why you might consider DNA testing your own dog, especially if you rescued, purchased from a puppy store or bought a puppy without researching the breeder.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is prone to numerous health conditions, many of them both financially and personally devastating for their owners. Years ago, we didn't have DNA testing available to help us identify dogs that were at risk for passing on serious genetic defects. Today, that's not the case and therefore any reputable breeder will be able to discuss with you the role that DNA plays in their breeding program and provide you with testing results. Before discussing specific genetic conditions that impact this breed we want to cover the basics of understanding whether a dog is at genetically clear (healthy), a carrier (healthy but can pass on the disease to puppies) or affected (unhealthy and will pass on the disease).
CLEAR - This is the gold standard. This is a dog who is clear of any genetic defects. This means they are not personally at risk and do not carry any genes for genetic defect that can be passed on to their puppies.
CARRIER - A carrier is a dog who carries one (1) gene for a genetic defect. Because they only carry one gene for this defect it will not affect them (they will never develop the defect) but they can pass it on to their puppies. Some consumers mistakenly believe that carriers should not be bred but this is not case. Carriers can safely be bred but only to a dog who is clear for that defect. If we removed all carriers from our breeding pool we would encounter other problems with inbreeding. Two carriers should not be bred.
AFFECTED - A dog who is at risk (or affected) is a dog who carries 2 copies of the gene for a trait and therefore is at risk for the disease. Although not ideal, this dog can still be bred to a dog who is clear as they will produce a litter of carriers. That being said, you do not want to purchase a dog who is affected for a genetic condition as that dog will likely become symptomatic of that condition. If your breeder doesn't test genetically then you will have no way of knowing what you are getting.
This digram helps illustrate the breeding of clear, carriers and affected dogs.
Now that you have an understanding of clear, carrier and affected you need to know what genetic tests are important for this breed. At a minimum, a reputable breeder should be testing for the following:
CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIEL -
To see a sample Embark DNA report, please check out this post where we provide a report from one of our dogs.
A few final words for those looking for a hybrid puppy (Cavachon or Cavapoo). First, be very wary of the hybrid breeder who claims they don't need to DNA test their dogs because crossing two breeds will eliminate the genetic disorders. This is false. This breeder is either being deceptive or has just shown their ignorance. For example Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) which is a devastating neurological disorder that doesn't appear until a dog is older (and his/her puppies have already been sold). This disease is similar to ALS or Lou Gehrig's in humans. This disease also appears in both poodles and Cavaliers; therefore, a hybrid breeder who is not testing both parents for the common disease(s) is setting up puppy owners for heartbreak.
Secondly, this is where the difference between a F1 puppy and an F2 puppy is really important. With F1 puppies many of the diseases can be eliminated if they are not a common disease; however, with F2 puppies you bring the disease possibility back. This often confuses people so here is an example:
F1 Cavapoos - A purebred Cavalier Spaniel is crossed with a purebred Poodle. The Cavalier Spaniel is affected for DM. The Bichon is clear for DM. As you can see from the chart above, 100% of their offspring will be a carrier for DM. They will not have the disease but they will pass it on to their hybrid offspring.
F2 - An uneducated breeder has two F1 Cavapoos. Both were from a situation similar to the above and carry for DM but don't show signs of the disease. The breeder doesn't DNA test because they are breeding hybrids and were told it isn't necessary or is trying to increase profits by not testing. They breed these dogs together and again referring to the chart above more than 50% of their puppies will inherit and be affected by this disease. The new owner is clueless and feels confident in this breeder because they received a one-year health guarantee for a condition that will not appear for 7+ more years.
DNA testing alone does not make a reputable breeder. There are other breed specific heart, hip, eye and related tests that should be performed and provided. For more information on those tests, please see our posts on the OFA as a part of your puppy search.
If you would like to learn more about DNA testing your dog before breeding or to uncover any potential health risks, we highly recommend Embark as they handle all of our DNA testing and are a paid advertiser of our educational content. Please review this post that provides Embark discounts and a copy of an Embark report.
TThe OFA - or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals is a fantastic organization that can really help you in your puppy search. Whether you are searching for a healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel or a related hybrid, don't neglect to check the OFA for information on your puppies parents. Here's what you need to know:
OFA VERSUS AKC - WHO DOES WHAT? - There is a huge difference between the AKC and the OFA. The AKC is the American Kennel Club. This organization is responsible for keeping the registry of purebred dogs in the United States. The fact that a dog is registered with the AKC means nothing more than the fact that it was born of two purebred dogs who are also registered. While purebred parents is important (even in hybrids as the point is an intentional cross of two purebred dogs), it is not an indicator of health, solid DNA or anything else. In fact, there are many AKC registered dogs that are the result of overbreeding, are unhealthy and who don't meet the breed standard as recognized by the organization.
On the other hand, the OFA is now the repository for both DNA and medical testing of dogs. Although initially this only applied to orthopedic type testing (hips, patellas), they have expanded their mission “to improve the health and well-being of companion animals through a reduction in the incidence of genetic disease.”
HOW CAN I USE THE OFA IN MY PUPPY SEARCH? - In order to use the OFA to search your potential puppies genetic and medical history, you first need the full name or registry number for both parents. Anyone selling purebred Cavaliers will have this readily available. Those breeding F1 Cavachons and Cavapoos may also be able to provide you with this information. Registry numbers can also be pulled from AKC pedigrees, as can full names. If your Cavalier breeder refuses to provide you this information, this is a potential red flag. If a hybrid breeder doesn't have the information, it's worth a conversation to make sure they are DNA testing their breeding stock as well as having them screened for health issues such as hearts, hips, eyes and patellas.
Once you have the information, proceed to www.ofa.org and follow the instructions below:
We hope this post was helpful in explaining how the OFA can be a great resource for anyone looking to invest in a properly bred puppy. In future posts, we will break down both DNA and OFA testing results by Cavalier, Cavachon and Cavapoo as well. Please feel free to email us if you have any questions on the search for your perfect pet.
While the internet is an amazing tool, it's actually made the process of finding the perfect puppy incredibly challenging. A decade ago, most of us would open the local classifieds and search in the animal section for a puppy that interested us. Today, and virtually overnight, anyone can put up a website and look like a reputable breeder. The introduction of DNA tests, shipping with flight nannies and designer dogs makes picking a puppy often feel overwhelming. There are simply too many options. So, how do you make the right choice? Here are our suggestions:
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