View Full Version : My First Cav! : Trying to Choose, Too Much Info-What to look for?!

25th July 2010, 07:47 PM
Hey everyone,

I'm currently embarking on my search for my first Cavalier..I've done all the background research, met adults, talked to owners, read everything I could get my hands on, etc., and am sure that this is the right breed for me :).

The problem is, I know that every puppy is not the same, and the only thing I keep hearing that stays relatively the same is that it's important to choose a puppy that fits your family and your lifestyle..I just have no idea what to look for!

I met a litter of seven week old puppies, from a small breeder who has papers, only breeds his dogs once, maybe twice a year, and both the mother and father were not only on site, but mingled with the puppies, and were extremely wonderful dogs- sweet, calm, intelligent and very attached to their people- including the couple's eighteen month old son (you know how kids can be with dogs). But, while the puppies were absolutely beautiful and sweet (though the girls were a bit into biting my toes, lol) I didn't really feel a strong pull towards any of them.

In addition to that, I performed the few things that I have been told by all the owners I spoke with- I gently touched their faces, their ears, their little bellies, their paws (including squeezing VERY gently and touching between their toes). They were very tolerant until I got to the last test: when you flip them onto their backs and basically hold them like a baby. They all, every one of them, fought it.

The thing is, I was told that if the puppy fights being on their back like that, that means that they're going to be a 'dominant' dog..But, the truth is, I am so, so lost..
There is so much info out there, and it all conflicts and is vague and leaves me even more confused..

I'm lost! What things should I do to determine whether a puppy is 'right' for my family, for me, for our lifestyle?? I was looking for that 'falling in love with a puppy' experience..is that unrealistic?

I hope that, if any of you have words of wisdom, you'll pass them on. I'd certainly appreciate any help!

Thanks so much!! >^.^<

25th July 2010, 09:06 PM
hi ya,

this is just my personal opinion but that falling in love with a puppy feeling is not always the best sign that you've chosen the best dog for you. to me that is just a sign that you've got swept up in the moment and lost all sense of what you should be looking for. so well done for keeping a strong head (im putty in any puppys paws and i know that is my flaw :rolleyes:)

as for the flipping a puppy on its back like a baby, i dont know of any puppy that would like that. you are a stranger and not only that, they are up off the ground and uncertain. i would say, seeing a puppy lie on his/her back on the ground purely of her/his own choice is a better indication of a submissive pup.

i think you need to ask yourself whether you want an extremely energetic pup or a more laid back one? the more out going pups will be the feisty ones (hence my bentley :D) but that doesnt mean that when you get them home their personalitys wont change a bit

however a pup will grow up however you let them, so bare in mind that the pup you see at the breeders may not be the same pup you encounter a few months down the line as they change so much due to their surroundings and up bringings.

to be honest, im always of the mind set that the pup will turn out however you treat it. so i always look for health, then persoanlity and then let my heart take over :rolleyes: x

25th July 2010, 09:57 PM
I agree -- flipping a puppy on its back would cause many puppies to fight to have that stopped just as they would be uncomfortable, so don't worry about this -- this is really a personality test best done in a quite narrow age timeframe by trainers, not something the average person can generally do with any helpful level of understanding what they are seeing. Also for your own happiness and your future dog's :) , try to forget the notions of 'dominance' and 'dominant puppies'. I think an 8 week old puppy puppy is probably no more about to display dominance than a 6 month old baby :). And dominance itself as a concept (in the way people generally understand it to mean a dog that thinks it runs the home it is in and bosses around its owners) has been discredited for quite a while. See:



Hopefully those will make you feel a bit better about not having to worry about assessing this in a little puppy. :flwr:

I think really the point at which to start is to find a reputable, health focused breeder -- as an excellent breeder will help place the right puppy with you and give you excellent advice on your first puppy as well as lifetime support. This should not be left to you having to flip over puppies (indeed I am surprised a breeder allowed a buyer to do this). The breeder should have seen your uncertainty and confusion as well!

Instead, you can be assured a good breeder would have had a long talk with you well before you came to see the litter, about what you want in an adult dog, your lifestyle, your home situation, your activity levels, whether there are kids (and wanted to meet same) -- and then that would give them a good idea of which of the litter's puppies would fit your situation. Such an approach is really the norm for a reputable breeder. :thmbsup: Most good breeders tend to choose the puppy for the family -- no one knows the puppies and their personalities better than the breeder; and generally they have a waiting list so have an idea where each puppy is likely to go.

Second: when seeking a pedigree dog breeder, I cannot stress enough that seeing the puppy's parents is not nearly as important as knowing the proper health tests for the breed, seeing the actual certificates and dates when such tests were done, asking the breeder about the health profile of the dogs, researching the breeder's lines, etc. I'd be a bit worried by breeders who have both parents (this is not too common amongst reputable breeders, who do not tend to breed their own dogs to each other -- most won't generally have the stud dog around the house but there are exceptions of course) and say they only breed a litter or maybe two as this sounds like a backyard breeder looking to make money off pet breeding, if there was no testing done and no discussion with you about the breed's health issues and what they do to address them. Perhaps this is a wrong reading but just the overall picture sounds a bit odd as reputable breeders would have taken such a different approach. On the other hand I know you were giving us a brief version of events so maybe far more was discussed and you have seen MRI certs, heart certs, eye tests, hip scores etc?

If you are considering this wonderful breed it is really important to be aware of the two serious and unfortunately, fairly widespread health issues and to understand what to expect breeders to be doing to work to address them. Getting a puppy from someone doing no health testing at all is far more likely to saddle you with health bills and a health-compromised dog.

The basics for finding a good breeder are noted in a few places. There's a general guide here:


And this post from Margaret C's blog here, who was for many many years on the UK Cavalier Club committee and the club's health representative: http://www.cavaliertalk.com/forums/entry.php?103-Buying-a-cavalier-puppy

There's also information at:


As for falling in love with a puppy -- I think it depends on the person. I think many people would probably love *any* puppy :lol: -- they are hard to resist. But I don't think anything earth shattering should happen that makes you feel any given puppy is 'the one'. Each is an individual that takes time to get to know. It is more important that you are sure you definitely want a dog -- and to just be sure that maybe in meeting the actual puppies you realised that this may not actually be something you are sure you are enthusiastic about? Not everyone finds they love dogs! If you felt really ambivalent, maybe that in itself is something to consider. But if it was more a matter of not feeling you could choose, that's different.

Hope that helps! You are right, there's so much information out there but it is important to make sure you focus on the stuff that matters -- finding a health focused, reputable breeder with real breed expertise.

By the way the single best resource I can recommend for getting a puppy is the two books here, Before you Get Your Puppy, and After You Get Your Puppy -- two free book downloads:


26th July 2010, 02:01 AM
I just wanted to say "hi", seeing as we're both in the same boat heading out on a first Cavalier puppy search! I've gotten a lot of good help here :) .

26th July 2010, 06:13 AM
We didn't have too scientific or elaborate a selection process ourselves, when we picked Skippy out of his litter. He came from a litter of 6, 4 girls and 2 boys, and since we knew we wanted a boy, it was either him or his brother. When we first went to see them when they were 6 weeks old, his brother was definitely more rambunctious. Skippy was more shy, following his mama around and only coming close to us to investigate after a while. That was one of the main reasons why we eventually picked Skippy over his brother, because we wanted a dog that didn't feel he needed to be 'Braveheart' all the time.

http://img441.imageshack.us/img441/3263/53908821.jpg (http://img441.imageshack.us/i/53908821.jpg/)

26th July 2010, 08:00 AM
I'd say it probably took at least a week before I really started to love guinness. Not through any fault of his own, just needed to get used to him. Strangely enough the fondest memory of him from when I first got him was I took him out for his morning potty break, then left him in his bed in the living room while I went to shower. When I came back he had been ill on my new hand tufted wool rug, then walked through it several times tracking little poopy paw prints everywhere. Just as I was wondering whether I should bathe him or clean the carpet first, he looked me right in the eye and scratched his ear with his dirty foot. So he had his bath first. I don't know why, but "the poopy paw incident" always makes me laugh, it just highlights how absolutely incapable he was of caring for himself at that age.

Good luck with your puppy search, cavaliers are the sweetest, most loving dogs imaginable; owning one is truly a joy.

26th July 2010, 09:54 AM
With my first cavalier,there was a choice between two.I chose the most outgoing one and also because I preferred the look of her to her less well marked sister.She was hell bent on removing her breeder's toes at every opportunity!I also chose her based on her pedigree.
The second one was chosen based on health testing,I had about four hours with her and during that time there was plenty of opportunity to see if she was the right one.
I knew within 20 mins that she'd fit in just fine.
Sometimes it's better if you're not given such a choice within a litter,iIf it's a pet you want,it's so much easier to discuss what you want in advance with a breeder and allow them to offer you what they think will suit.
If I had seen the complete litter and be given a choice of perhaps four or five I'd never have been able to make up my mind back then.
Both my cavaliers are very different in looks and personality,but I love them both to bits for the different aspect of their character .

26th July 2010, 11:26 AM
I've taken a long time thinking about a cavalier puppy too, and I would advise health first, then go from there,it doesn't guarantee everything, but it is a good start.
Then you can think about either boy or girl, which colour you would prefer, the breeder can help you with picking out a more laid back pup than others.To be honest I wouldn't worry about flipping a pup on it's back, I don't think any pup would like that.
When I got my cocker spaniel pup years ago I knew he was the one, but when I went for Charlie there wasn't the same rush (OH loved him on sight!) but he was home bred, excellant hip scores and well cared for, everything I was looking for and is a fabulous family pet.
Good luck

heather r
26th July 2010, 08:41 PM
Agree with others who said pick for health first , pup, parents, grandparents, then for particular pup. We didn't have choice on pup as breeder chose but we had choice of breeder because of health of pup's parents and grandparents. Honestly I was a bit afraid of our Abigail since she was only 4 pounds at 10 weeks and she seemed so tiny.

She has turned into a delight and I only wish I had named her Lola. Remember the song "Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets"? That fits Abigail to a tee:razz::luv:

Heather R

1st August 2010, 08:16 PM
Hey Everyone!

I wanted to thank you all for your responses- they were incredibly helpful, and really put me at ease..

And I have an announcement! In a few weeks, I will be bringing home a beautiful Blenheim girl from a breeder who's dogs are absolutely clear on the health screening, have wonderful temperaments, and are registered, --all of the important things are backed up with papers which we will receive a copy of, and the girl- along with the rest of her litter- is incredibly healthy and growing fast! (And dreaming, since she fell right to sleep on me one of the times I held her).

I couldn't be more excited!! Now to find out all that info about puppy care, getting her used to stuff, etc...I know some of it but I'm a bit rusty, so, the quest for information begins again!!

Thank you again!!!!!!

1st August 2010, 10:18 PM
I posted a reply to your intro which basically just notes what you should be expecting to have seen with 'health clearances' -- this is really critical. If the breeder has them as noted, then you are very fortunate to have found someone with available puppies so quickly and it will be wonderful to get your new girl home! :D

Just be very, very careful and very sure -- there are a lot of duplicitous breeders out there, especially those focusing primarily or solely on the pet market, and they can be very deceptive with people who don't know what *exactly* they should be seeing in terms of health clearances (eg cardiologist, NEVER only vet heart certs (generally meaningless), from within a year of the breeding, cardio clearances for all four grandparents at age 5 as well; at least one of the parents should have a grade A on an MRI cert and both parents should be scanned if at all possible (I would not take a puppy myself otherwise); ophthomologist clearances on eyes, and hip scores. I'd want to know the dog had good patellas as well. Both parents should be at LEAST 2.5 years old, both with parents at LEAST age 5. (those are the most basic requirements of the MVD protocol :thmbsup:). You want to see the physical pieces of paper. www.roycroftcavaliers.com has images of what certs look like as does www.cavaliercampaign.com.

It is actually a bit unusual for a breeder to have both parents -- most would tend to only have the mother, and will then expand their gene pool and bring in a stud dog from outside. There are of course exceptions -- but having both parents can often be a sign of a breeder who is turning out litters for the pet market, with no proper testing and mediocre breeding stock to start with. So given that this person has both parents, you would want to be especially meticulous on making sure the health clearances are meaningful and actually exist (eg you can see them and know what you should be looking for). If not -- I'd back out of the arrangement and I can give you the name of a very good east coast breeder contact who no doubt can steer you in the best direction. :)

There are some good questions to ask any breeder (and what to expect in reply) HERE (http://www.phouka.com/dogs//bdr_questions.html).

2nd August 2010, 03:38 PM

Hey Everyone!

I wanted to thank you all for your responses- they were incredibly helpful, and really put me at ease..

And I have an announcement! In a few weeks, I will be bringing home a beautiful Blenheim girl from a breeder who's dogs are absolutely clear on the health screening, have wonderful temperaments, and are registered, --all of the important things are backed up with papers which we will receive a copy of, and the girl- along with the rest of her litter- is incredibly healthy and growing fast! (And dreaming, since she fell right to sleep on me one of the times I held her).

I couldn't be more excited!! Now to find out all that info about puppy care, getting her used to stuff, etc...I know some of it but I'm a bit rusty, so, the quest for information begins again!!

Thank you again!!!!!!