The Reputable Breeder



There is no consumer guide to finding your next companion dog.


We are hoping that this article will help you to know what to look for and what you need to ask a breeder to get a healthy, well adjusted puppy.


*  Learn about the breed.  The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club has pages of awesome information. This includes the breed standard. Click the link for the National club and learn all you can. Make sure this is the breed for you and your family. 

* Learn about the Health issues of the Cavalier.  One of the best sites that is strictly devoted to this topic is


   Knowing the health issues of the breed is essential when you are talking to breeders.  You need to know what tests are needed and at what ages. 


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, pedigree research, seminars, and dog showing, where judges evaluate the quality of the dog presented to them and how closely it represents the written standard of the breed.                                  If a litter is raised correctly with all the feeding, cleaning, hours interacting and socializing the puppies it is exhausting. Most Cavaliers are whelped in a home environment.  They are carefully handled for socialization and monitored for health.  Watching for their pick puppies and then if there is an extra one, they want to find a perfect forever home.  Many times that 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.


   In contrast, for the backyard/puppy-mill breeder the dogs are their job and they work that job without regard to the dogs.  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 and obvious lack of socialization of parents and puppies.


* HISTORY    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 grand parents and 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 tools for reputable breeders to assist them in their breeding choices.  There is never a guarantee that a puppy will not be affected by 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 clear over 5 years is a prize and highly regarded!    A reputable breeder will eagerly provide copies of health certificates of each parent and or links to OFA. Cavaliers can also receive a CHIC number if certified results for Heart, Eyes, Patellas and Hips are submitted. CHIC does not include MRI or DNA results.  


   Don't fall for the claims that the puppies are 'health tested' and 'DNA verified". It is the parents that need to be health tested for these hereditary diseases not the puppy who is too young to be diagnosed.  A Cavalier puppy does need to be seen by a Veterinarian at the time of purchase, by YOUR VET. You also should get a full return of your money should something be wrong.  Not a replacement for another ill puppy.  

  The claim "Show prospect - Guaranteed for 5 years" is a gimmick.  This is not a guarantee that the puppy is free of inherited disorders but a guarantee that the seller will replace the 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.

   “Show Quality”- Check to see what the breeder does with their dogs.  Is the Sire or Dam a Champion?  If so, you can tell by the pedigree names. They will read CH xxx xxx. 

   Show line?  How far back is the Champion in the pedigree?  Two Champions does not guarantee a champion, as many show people will attest.   Conversely many Dams never obtain their championships because they are too valuable for breeding. If you are interested in a show dog, go to the 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.  

    Then there is 'Puppies are DNA tested clear'.  There is only one DNA health test for Cavaliers and it is for Dry Eye/Curly Coat and Episodic Falling Syndrome.  It is $140 per set and takes several weeks to get back.  Ask for a copy of the result.

   DNA swabs with AKC are done for parentage. Stud dogs that have sired 7 litters or have more than three in a calendar year and Dams that have whelped 3 or more litters have it done.   DNA can prove parentage, but it is does not prove health.   Also Dams with DNA should be checked to see how many litters they have whelped.   The ACKCSC code of ethics states that a bitch will not whelp more than two litters during any three consecutive heat cycles.  Most reputable breeders breed either once a year or twice in one year then a year off. 


* A good breeder always checks 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 also happy to provide references for themselves and include their Veterinarians.  With the health testing in Cavaliers they will have a Board Certified Cardiologist, Neurologist and Ophthalmologist including their regular veterinarian. 


* HOW MANY BREEDS?  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 have what we call companion breeds such as Cavaliers and their cousins English Toy Spaniels.   Ask how many years they have bred, what breeds and how many dogs they currently have.  Cavaliers are companion dogs and do not thrive well in kennel environments so find out if the dogs live in their home.      


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 friend and see if they have something to hide.  Many will want to bring the dog to you and not allow you to visit them. They may have something to hide. Never buy a Cavalier that is from a Pet Store or where they meet you at a different location or from a broker such as from Ireland.


*  PRICE is not always the determining factor for quality or health.  It can be a good indicator but not always.  Either buy from a reputable breeder that is doing all the health testing and following the MVD and 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.  


*  HOW OLD ARE THE PARENTS?   Half of Cavaliers have Mitral Valve Heart Disease (MVD) by the age of 5 years and nearly all Cavaliers are affected by age 10.  It is the leading cause of death.  This is why the MVD Breeding Protocol was written.




-Every breeding Cavalier should be examined annually by a Board Certified Veterinary Cardiologist.


-Do NOT breed any Cavalier before 2.5 years of age.


-Do NOT breed any Cavalier under the age of 5 years unless

     it’s parents were certified free of MVD after the age of 5.


   As a rule, backyard/puppy-mill breeders cannot afford to wait until a girl is 2.5 years of age to breed.  Excuses 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 that are MVD clear.  Find them!!  Find a breeder that routinely uses stud dogs that are over the age of 5 and still heart clear.


   Remember that the breeding protocols are what all reputable breeders strive for, however, there are occasions where exceptions can be made.  Guidelines have to be weighed. An example would be a girl being bred that is fully tested with older parents but she is 2 and not yet 2.5.  The key is that the dogs are health tested.


*  VISITING THE PUPPIES and the Breeder is a must.  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 transmit disease.  If you have been to a shelter, rescue organization, vet office or in contact with sick animals do not visit the breeder or a  litter of puppies.    Reputable breeders will have you to their homes, introduce you to their dogs and most likely become long time friends.   Many times they may 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 away… run!  An exception to this is the mother that may still be guarding her babies but will normally bark a time or two and ironically still wag her tail at the same time and look for attention.



* HOW OLD SHOULD MY PUPPY BE TO LEAVE THE BREEDER?? About 10- 12 weeks.  Reputable breeders make sure the litter has a Vet wellness visit, some will have the eyes evaluated, de-worming and first shots.   They will be evaluated for specific traits and personalities so they can be matched with the best homes.  Puppies are mostly potty trained, use to sleeping in a crate, traveled in a car, socialized to children and people and occasionally will already walk on a lead.  Socialization between the ages of 8 weeks and 12 weeks is critical.  Puppies learn from their mother and other older dogs doggie manners, play and discipline.  


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


*  Responsible breeders are some of the hardest working individuals ever known.  Most help other breeders, are active in local breed clubs and training programs along with 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 will stay in touch with you for their lifetime, always willing to help and care for your cavalier if you are unable to.  It is all about the puppy… not the sale.





  At minimum the breeder should provide you:


* AKC registration papers.

* 3 generation Pedigree.

* Food and care instructions.

* Copies of any medical records.

* Dams heart exam done by a Board certified Cardiologist with in a year of breeding.

* Hips Dysplasia X-ray report graded by OFA.

* Patella’s (Knees) clearance by a qualified Veterinarian and submitted to OFA.

* Eye Exam clearance done by a Board Certified Ophthalmologist with in a year of breeding.

* DNA test results for Curly Coat / Dry Eye and Episodic Falling Syndrome. Sire and Dam can also be clear by heredity based on their parent’s DNA tests.

* MRI scan results for the dogs past the age of two.


©Westgate Cavaliers 2021