View Full Version : CAVALIER PUPPY BUYING GUIDE (plus: beware online sellers!)

3rd April 2007, 04:28 PM
Inside Edition, the well known American investigative national news show:


The man profiled in this video is one of the main sources for Irish puppies imported into the US.

Beware puppies sourced from or shipped in from Ireland UNLESS you can verify the breeder is an established show breeder who health tests (IKC registration is NOT enough. It is easy to get IKC registration).

Beware online sellers.

Do your homework very, very carefully before buying online!!

29th July 2008, 12:26 AM
This article is a must-read for everyone trying to find a good breeder by looking online and thinking, "That breeder's website looks really good!" But what does it REALLY say about the breeder? This is a great guide about how backyard breeders, mass breeders, puppy millers and brokers set up websites to try and make themselves look good... but if you know what to look for, you can read between the lines very easily!! They are trying to dupe you -- buyer beware!!

What is in a Website?

Karen Peak
West Wind Dog Training
Will O'Wisp Shelties
Written in 2007
This can be reprinted in total or in part for educational use as long as full credit is given.

The internet has made it very easy for potential dog owners to learn about different breeds and find breeders. Sadly, it has also made it easier for those with less than honorable breeding practices to have an outlet for their puppies. It is easy to be caught up by pictures of adorable puppies and wonderful sounding phrases. For those who opt not to adopt, it may be difficult to determine the quality of the breeder when gazing at those daring faces. Before you hit that email button or grab your phone, stop and look deeper.

When perusing at a breeder's website, there are a few things to look for to help you determine if this is a breeder truly working for the betterment of the breed or just trying to sell puppies. Here is a bunch of red flags to look for:

* Mini/Toy/Teenies/Teacups/Precious Baby dolls – Know your breeds before you start looking at websites or calling breeders. For example, some breeds have Mini and Toy varieties; many do not. There is a Miniature Poodle and a Miniature Schnauzer. There is no mini Sheltie. Shelties should be between 13 and 16 inches at the withers. A 13-inch Sheltie is actually quite small when placed next to a 16-inch dog. No good breeder will intentionally breed undersized dogs. Even in breeds in the "Toy" group, there is no such thing as a teacup. In actuality, "teacups" may be more prone to medical issues. Do a search on the health issues associated with "teacups," it should be more than enough to dissuade you. These dogs are bred to do nothing but appeal to those following in the steps of some ding-a-ling public figure or people who think they need something to shove into a purse.

Karlin's note: There is no such thing as a mini or teacup cavalier and anyone claiming to breed them should be avoided.

* Giant/Enormous/Oversized/Monster – Just as no ethical breeder will intentionally breed undersized dogs, no breeder will intentionally breed dogs over sized. Sadly, many phrases used to describe oversized dogs are used in breeds such as American Pit Bull Terriers, Rottweilers, German Shepherds, etc. Again, know the breed standard. The UKC standard for an American Pit Bull Terrier is males between 35 and 60lbs with weight in proportion to height. Rottweiler males are between 24 to 27 inches at the shoulder and males average about 95 to 135 lbs (in proportion to height and build). These dogs are often being bred just to make money and appeal to the macho/tough image of some people just as teacups are often bred to appeal to those who want a living toy.

* Rare Colors/Rare Coats – A breeder intentionally breeding undesired traits is not breeding ethically. Yes, sometimes breeders will get something not in standard; it just happens, no matter how well a breeder plans, genetics are genetics recessive genes can crop up. Fuzzy Mastiffs, black and tan Labradors, dilute Shelties, white Dobermans, etc can all crop up from time to time. However, a good breeder will not treat them as something rare and special nor will they ask a significantly more amount of money for one. If you see catchwords such as "rare" raise that red flag.

Karlin's note: Beware anyone deliberately selling and breeding chocolate cavaliers or all black cavaliers (or other non standard colours) unless they require them to be neutered and the person is a legitimate show breeder who happens to have these genes in her lines. NO reputable breeder deliberately breeds off-standard colours and those who produce them require them to be neutered. They especially do not charge MORE for such dogs.

* All dogs are heath certified – If you see just this and nothing else, this should be a red flag. A breeder should state what tests have been done and the results for any dog they are breeding be it a male or female. It is up to you to know what tests should be done in the breed at minimum and what tests can be done. For example, if on a Sheltie site you see "genetically cleared for epilepsy" this is a breeder to avoid. As of now, there is no genetic test for this issue. Work is being done on one, but for now, there is no genetic test. A breeder should also be able to show you records of what tests were done and when. Some screenings, like eyes, should be done annually. One of the first things to look for is a list of tests done on the dogs. Never trust a breeder who states they do not health test, as the dogs are healthy or has no known issues. All dogs, even crosses, can inherit health issues. At bare minimum, breeders need to be checking hips, eyes and thyroid. It is vital that regardless of the breed you are looking at that you research the health issues and what can be DNA tested for or at least screened. Look for sites where breeders list what tests were done. Just shots and worming breeding dogs is not enough!

Karlin's note: With cavaliers, avoid any breeder claiming their lines are MVD or SM-free. These conditions are both widespread in all lines, all colours -- to date no line anywhere is believed to be free of the genes for either condition. Watch out for breeders who simply state they 'heart-test' . With cavaliers, you want breeders who cardiologist test (NOT vet-test) their breeding dogs and have the certificates to prove it. Stating lines are SM-symptom free also doesn't mean too much at the moment as the symptoms are easily mistaken for other conditions. Dogs must be MRI'd to show they are SM-clear. Most reputable breeders heart, eye, patella and hip test and increasing numbers MRI. Many in North America report results to OFA where they are publicly available.

* We breed only for loving pets – A good breeder breeds for the betterment of the breed. Along with breeding to the standard and for health and temperament, they will also be proving their dogs deserve to have their genetics passed on. Since competition in many sports is costly and time consuming, not all breeders are involved in all sports; HOWEVER, they should still be producing puppies that CAN go into other events. In every litter there will be puppies not to the standard and these will be sold as pets or performance only dogs. Someone breeding solely for pets is not proving that they are trying to improve a breed. In fact, these breeders are doing damage to breeds in the end to a greater degree than the "show" breeders are.

* We always have cute puppies for you – You cannot always tell a good breeder by how many litters they produce a year. A good breeder breeds first for their needs and the puppies they do not keep or place in other show/performance homes go to carefully chosen pet homes. For some breeders, this may be a litter every two or three years, for others, they may breed several or litters a year. However, if a breeder always has young puppies available, then this is a red flag. Even some breeders who show and test their dogs may breed quantity trying to get quality. Use your gut here.

Karlin's note: Beware breeders who always have 'all four colours' of cavaliers available. This indicates either a puppy mill/farm, or a puppy broker. Avoid people who promise they can get you what you want from a 'friend' who also breeds.

* What breed do you need? We probably have it or can get it – Most good breeders limit themselves to a breed or two, or three. The more breeds bred the harder it is to maintain quality. Some breeders who are also handlers may have quite a few different breeds on the premises but themselves are only actively breeding their own dogs. If you see a site with lots of different breeds, this should be a red flag. This person is probably also a broker. A broker is the intermediary. They either purchase pups for resale to private homes or stores.

* Our dogs are the best – A good breeder knows that there will always be dogs of superior and lesser quality. No breeder has the best dogs out there.

* USDA certified and inspected – Wholesale dog breeders (a.k.a. Puppy Mills) are supposed to be USDA certified. It is no badge of honor nor is it a guarantee of quality and healthy pups. It is the law.

* All puppies guaranteed – Sounds great but how long is the guarantee good? Many health issues can take years to show up so a guarantee of a few days or weeks or even a year is insufficient. A puppy can contract Parvo Virus before leaving the breeder and not show symptoms until he has been in the house for up to a couple weeks. The incubation period is about 4 – 14 days. Other things such as epilepsy may take three to four years to show up. Good breeders will have well written, guarantees for many years, even for life, and be very specific about what the parents have been tested for and what they will do should the offspring inherit an issue. Included in the guarantee/contract should be what will happen to the dog if for some reason, even ten years down the road, you must give the dog up.

* Oodles of Doodles and Uggles - There are many people breeding what are called designer dogs. This is a crossbred dog (most often poodle and something else) being sold as if it were something rare and special. In reality, these are crossbred dogs. A few of the designer dogs being sold are Labrador/Poodle, Golden/Poodle, Shih Tzu/Poodle, Chihuahua/Poodle, Pug/Beagle, Bichon/Poodle, etc. There are many misconceptions regarding crossbred dogs such as they are naturally healthier. A crossbred can inherit many health issues. These designer dogs are nothing special or rare; it is a crossbred intentionally bred for the pet/money making trade. Do not be fooled into thinking such. Why spend sometimes thousands of dollars for a crossbred when you can go to a rescue? How can you tell if a pup is a legitimate breed or not? If you are in the US, check the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, American Rare Breed Association, Canadian Kennel Club and Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) websites. These entities will have the majority of recognized breeds world wide listed amongst them.

* "Cutesy" pictures/Costumed puppy pictures – On far too many sites you can see pictures of puppies barely five weeks old wearing hats, sitting in flower baskets, dressed in bows, etc. These pictures are to do nothing but try to get the viewer to impulse buy. Think of window dressings in department stores or end cap displays at your grocery. They are designed to help increase impulse buys.

* We cater to the stars – The stars go for the newest fad or set that newest fad, often without proper research. They impulse buy, have a huge staff to care for their crew and when the fun wears off, the dog is swapped out for a new one. Catering to the stars is nothing to about. How many stars get their pups from pet shops? Quite a few when you start checking around.

* You found the breeder through a puppy sale/auction site – This may or may not be a red flag. There are people that troll the internet for breeder sites and link them without asking permission. There are sites that contact breeders after a link has been put up and then are slow in taking it down when requested (provided the breeder does not delete the email as spam). However, some breeders intentionally seek out these sites as ways to unload animals. You have to add up various factors. The breeder may not even know someone unethical has added his or her website.

* No indication of what the breeder is doing with their dogs – Does the breeder have lists of titles their dogs have won? Remember, a good breeder is trying to better their dogs and the breed as a whole. You cannot do that without being able to prove your dogs are able to perform/work/show successfully. It is not hard to search to find out if a dog has actually won titles either. If in doubt a small internet search for the dog's name.

* Our dogs are the best – A good breeder knows that there will always be dogs of superior and lesser quality. No breeder has the best dogs out there.

* USDA certified and inspected – Wholesale dog breeders (a.k.a. Puppy Mills) are supposed to be USDA certified. It is no badge of honor nor is it a guarantee of quality and healthy pups. It is the law.

* Registered exclusively with XYZ – In the United States, you want to look for dogs registered with the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club or American Rare Breed Association. Though no registry is perfect, and even the lowest breeder can register if they make the minimum requirements, there have been a glut of less than ethical registries cropping up to cater to those who do not want to meet the requirements, who have lost privileges with other registries, puppy millers, etc. Make certain if you see just letters, that you verify the registry. Some less than ethical ones have used names with the same initials as other registries. Is that A in AKC for American or is it Arthur's Kennel Club?

* All puppies guaranteed – Sounds great but how long is the guarantee good? Many health issues can take years to show up so a guarantee of a few days or weeks or even a year is insufficient. A puppy can contract Parvo Virus before leaving the breeder and not show symptoms until he has been in the house for up to a couple weeks. The incubation period is about 4 – 14 days. Other things such as epilepsy may take three to four years to show up. Good breeders will have well written, guarantees for many years and be very specific about what the parents have been tested for and what they will do should the offspring inherit an issue.

It is easy to be blinded by flashy sites, claims, cute faces, etc. The internet has made it very easy for unscrupulous breeders to lure the unsuspecting buyer in. If you choose the breeder route over rescue, do all you can to ensure the breeder you choose is not in it for just the money.

Please remember; always consider the rescue option when looking for a companion. With too many owners willing to give up a dog as opposed to working through issues, there will always be dogs in need of new homes.

4th September 2008, 12:45 PM
Buying a cavalier puppy
In the wake of the BBC documentary Pedigree Dogs Exposed and Martin Clunes' recent ITV dog programme, cavaliers are (rightfully) under scrutiny. All breeds, and the way they are bred, and their breeders, should always be under scrutiny. I have yet to meet a reputable, health focused breeder who didn't welcome a lengthy discussion of their lines and breeding practice, and who wasn't proud to be able to show health clearances, pedigrees with verified ages, and also openly discuss potential problems they have had in the past and how they have worked to address them.

Pet puppy buyers are increasingly asking two things:

how do I find a good breeder now?
what can I do to help the breed?

What can I do to help cavaliers?
Second question first: you have enormous power to change the current situation for cavaliers and it rests in your pocketbook. YOUR purchase of a pet puppy is what enables the vast majority of breeders to go on breeding and support both their hobby of showing and breeding dogs. Very few breeders can continue without YOUR support. For the responsible, health focused breeder who is doing the testing that helps a sound breeding programme to emerge and continue, the financial support of puppy buyers is also essential.

So choose your breeder wisely, in such a way that also supports a healthy future for the breed. The breeders you chose to support and to not support helps to determine who has a hard time in making sales and who is able to move forward. If a breeder is doing the tests you expect to see done and getting the results you want to see; if a breeder has the attitude and openess you want to see, then work with him or her! That is where your money should go. I cannot stress enough how central puppy sales are to every breeder and how much power YOU have to force change.

How do I find a good breeder now?
Using the same techniques you always have been advised to use: but don't just check websites for statements about testing, or accept a breeder's assurances that they 'test' (testing is often a white lie that means 'my vet checks over my dogs once a year' -- that is NOT good enough!). Look for the PROOF, which means asking to see cardiologist certificates for hearts, MRI grades if you want a breeder who MRI scans for syringomyelia, checking dates of birth for breeding dogs.

Here are some basic guides to read before starting your breeder search:

start with this primer on the main health issues (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=8701) in the breed
next, learn about finding a good breeder (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=11335) of cavaliers
then learn how to decode breeder websites (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=25990)

The two key issues you will want to ask about are the breeder's approach to MVD (mitral valve disease) and SM (syringomyelia).

In a nutshell:

you want parents to each be at least 2.5 years old, and heart clear (no murmurs as verified by a cardiologist, NOT a vet)
you want grandparents to be at least 5 and also cardiologist heart cleared up to age 5, and ideally beyond

How do you do this?

you can learn about MVD and see what an actual cardiologist cert looks like here (http://www.premiercavalierinfosite.com/mitralvalvedisease.htm)
you can verify ages by seeing the dog's registration papers or, if you have the name of the parents, often can find them and their birthdates yourself in the online pedigree databases (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=8896)
you can check some dogs' breeding coefficients (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/showthread.php?t=8897). This tells you how inbred the dog is. Generally you want the least amount of inbreeding and the LOWEST coefficient
you can check at what age the breeder breeds their dogs more generally by using the online databases to look at 'reverse pedigrees' for any breeder's dog. This shows their offspring. Subtract 8 weeks from a dog's birthdate to find when the parents were bred, and check that against their ages.

In a nutshell:

a breeder should be open about answering questions on SM
as with MVD and murmurs, simply having asymptomatic dogs doesn't reveal whether they have SM. They must be MRId (learn how to understand a cavalier MRI here (http://www.premiercavalierinfosite.com/MRI%20Image%20Primer.htm)
if the breeder doesn't MRI, they cannot know the status of their breeding dogs
if they MRI, they should have grading certs and you can ask to see these. If they went to a neurologist who doesn't issue grading certs, you can probably figure out the grade using the table here (http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/breeding/breeding/puppies.html), but ask why they haven't had the scan cert interpreted for a grade.
if they have certs, at least one parent, sire or dam, should be an A graded dog

How do you do this?

be sure you understand what is known about SM and the breeding guidelines, and about what grading certs look like. Read up on these things here (http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/breeding/breeding/puppies.html). Understand that some dogs with syrinxes (SM) can be bred under these recommendations. Also understand that the genes for SM are believed to now be in every line and that 85-90% of CKCS have the skull malformation. No clear lines have been found yet. The issue is not whether a breeder has produced SM offspring, as many very good breeders have, but what they did about that. Responsible breeders do NOT continue to breed dogs that are producing SM puppies and they also do NOT breed dogs that MRI as E or F dogs -- and only warily breed Ds.
avoid breeders who argue that SM is a 'crap shoot' (it is no more a crap shoot than their breeding programmes to produce the head or eye shape they want!). While an AxA mating can possibly produce a puppy with SM (this is high school genetics!) the fact is, there is strong evidence now that AxA matings rarely produce SM offspring and produce the highest number of A offspring, while matings between D, E and F dogs have produced NO A offspring so far and MOSTLY D and F offspring. See paper 1 here (http://sm.cavaliertalk.com/research/london/london06.html).

Things to be wary of:

breeders who claim that their skull shapes mean less chance of SM. There is NO PROOF that skull shapes, either flat or domed, wide or narrow, or nose length, have anything to do with SM incidence. Beware of anyone claiming this alone as the basis of their breeding programme. Unless they have MRId their cavalier they have NO IDEA whether the dog has SM or the malformation simply looking at the shape. ALL cavaliers have a steep downslope at the back of the skull and looking at the outside of a skull is NOT an adequate way to determine internal measurements -- neurologist researchers have had a very hard time even taking internal measurements. A dog's colouring alone can make a skull appear wider, narrower, steeper or shorter. If a breeder is working on skull shape in cavalier lines in conjunction with an active MRI programme and many years of breeding experience with show grade cavaliers, that is a different issue -- discuss the breeder's theories with them to see if you prefer this approach
breeders who say MRIs make no difference. Right now they are the only adequate diagnostic tool for SM. No health-focused breeder would mate two cavaliers with heart murmurs simply because they are not affecting the dog, but this happens regularly right now with SM because breeders have no idea of their dogs' status. Unfortunately SM is a growing, serious, painful problem in the breed and the ONLY way to diagnose right now is an MRI. Breeders may not wish to MRI for a range of reasons -- and discuss this with them -- but that doesn't change the fact that they are then breeding with no awareness of whether their dogs have this condition
breeders who are breeding cavalier crosses as a 'healthier option' and charging for them. There is weak evidence that first generation crosses are somewhat --but not significantly -- healthier -- but the overall breed line health of the parents is obviously more important than whether a dog is a first generation cross. No health focused breeder would have sold a dog on open registration allowing it to be bred. Crossbreed breeders therefore have no idea of the family history behind the dogs they are using for their crosses. Any genetic problem from either side can be passed to the cross offspring - a seemingly healthy parent means NOTHING. No reputable breeder deliberately breeds crossbreeds and charges for them when the pounds and shelters are full of lovable crossbreeds, including scads of cavalier crosses, as 'heathy' as anything a breeder will deliberately produce and charge for. Using crossbreeding to achieve any gain in health is complex, takes many careful generations and is not to be taken lightly: read more here (http://www.ashgi.org/articles/breeding_heresy.htm). Please do not buy crossbreeds. Rescue one, and save a life (http://petfinder.com/), if a cross is what you want!
breeders who say they 'test' but cannot show you the actual certificates you wish to see. As casual breeders become ever more aware of what tests should be done in cavaliers, they make vague references on their websites to dupe buyers they know are too timid to ask for the certs. Be brave and help the breed by asking!
starting to think that just getting any old cavalier puppy is suitable since 'all breeders are causing problems in the breed'. That approach will ensure the demise of the breed to serious health problems and at worst you will be supporting the hell of puppy farm/mill breeding (http://board.cavaliertalk.com/forumdisplay.php?f=55). Take the time to find that health focused breeder. They are out there. They are often the smaller club-registered breeders -- but not always.

Sound difficult? Well, yes, as always, it takes a lot of work to find a good breeder and there usually isn't going to be the instant gratification of a puppy. In most cases, a dog will live with you for at least a decade. They are costly to care for even before you have to deal with any potential health issues. As with any valuable purchase you care about, put your work in BEFORE to best ensure happiness AFTER and for many, many years. :thmbsup: