View Full Version : Getting a Cavalier for the 1st time, 3 month old or 9-12 month old?

28th April 2015, 08:39 PM
Hi, I've been researching Cavaliers for awhile and read a lot of websites. I have found a breeder who does all the tests including DNA and MRI. Along the way, I've met some extremely rude and unethical breeders and almost gave up. I'm so glad I stuck it out; this site helped me stay on the right track.

After talking to a lot of breeders, reading Dunbar's book, Moffat's book and Coile's book, I've arrived at the conclusion that I should pursue an older puppy. I have no puppy experience and also have a child under 5.

My breeder, who I click with and like in every way, disagrees. She says her 12 week old puppies are 90% potty trained when they leave because they start before 4 weeks, and are crate trained for a week before going home and most sleep thru the night by the time they go home.

I trust her, and I'm sure she's not trying to mislead me. I just think she's speaking as someone with tons of experience and maybe doesn't remember what it was like with her very first puppy.

So, my 2 questions:
1) Do you think, based on your experiences, that the difference between a lazy breeder's untrained puppies and a dedicated breeder's puppies is so huge that the dedicated breeder's puppies could be at the point that they are nearly housetrained and crate trained at 12 weeks? I'm also concerned about dealing with the chewing/nipping/teething stages and with an older puppy, I wouldn't need to deal with that.

2) How can I explain to her that I don't feel prepared to deal with a young puppy without coming off as the worst potential dog owner on earth? I want it to go well for the puppy but don't necessarily feel 100% confident that I won't screw it up.

Thank you all!

Super Princess
3rd June 2015, 08:31 PM
First of all. Good for you for taking the time to really find a breeder with all the appropriate testing. That is by far most important thing.

I had never had a puppy of my own either. Family ones sure. Where dad did the majority of training and care taking.
But one of my own never. And I tell you there were nights before I brought Maggie home that I tossed and turned. Wondering if I could do this.

But I brought home my wiggly 8 week old puppy.

There are people and websites and most importantly your breeder to help you along.

My breeder and I are still in touch relatively well. Facebook and email.
Any issues or concerns she's there to help me through.

It's totally up to you. What you feel comfortable with. It might be harder to find an older puppy(I don't know maybe not)

But I think you'll be just fine either way.

I never had any difficulties with Maggie in the early days. And wouldn't trade those first few weeks for the world :)

3rd June 2015, 10:09 PM
Most people get hung u on wanting that tiny puppy. So, good for you making the more sensible decision. That said. 12 weeks old is not super concerning for me, even for a beginner, there's the potty training and the chewing at that age.

Both of my cavaliers (one now dead from SM), I got at 12 weeks old. Guinness was from a backyard breeder and hadn't the slightest clue about anything (he was play biting pretty viciously, didn't want to potty outside, and was convinced I was planning to kill and eat him. We started in a 6 week puppy training class which he absolutely excelled at, he's still with me, and is an absolute darling to have around. My other cavalier, Thistle, came from a much more highly regarded breeder- at 12 weeks old she had the gentlest play bite imaginable, knew all about pee pads (although used math mats interchangeably- can't fault her logic though), was well on her way to being potty trained, and knew that she was the princess of everything, she also knew how to climb over baby gates, and cried if she couldn't see anyone. She had to be put down due to SM, but was a little joy to have around.

I imagine your new puppy will start out more like Thistle (and hopefully end up more like Guinness). So don't feel that you need to hold out for an older puppy, by 12 weeks old a puppy can really be reasonably mature (with supervision). I like to get puppies at younger ages, as they are more "followers" at that point and usually don't have too many of their own ideas. But, Cavaliers are so agreeable they don't really go through a rebellious stage in my experience.

I strongly recommend getting into a training class (or private lessons) with a certified trainer in your area. The trainer will be able to answer any questions you have (about behaviour), and can help you succeed very easily in obtaining to a happy, well-trained dog. That will make a bigger difference in the long run than getting a dog who is a few months older, poorly socialised older pups can extremely difficult to discourage from nipping, it's much easier to teach when they are younger.

So, don't worry too much. Let your breeder know that you are a little nervous about taking a puppy. If she is nearby she may know of a trainer to recommend. But I would say, be brave, take the puppy, yes, they can be easy and already somewhat trained at that age.

4th June 2015, 05:53 AM
Thank you both, I really appreciate real life experiences. It does seem to be a very long wait to get an older puppy. Those can't even be predicted, so who knows how long I'd be waiting. It seems my breeder has quite a long wait list, so I'm just reading and gathering supplies (shopping for toys, yay!) to help me pass the time.

4th June 2015, 08:39 PM
Here's my two cents....

Go for the older puppy. I have two japanese chin who I got at about 7 month of age. They were still cute and puppy like, but were fully trained. Regardless, I felt that I missed out on the puppy stage, so I got Bosco, my CKC, at 12 weeks. It was soooo much harder to train him, despite the fact that the breeder said he was 90% potty trained, and I was an experienced dog owner. Plus, in my opinion, Cavs take a little longer to potty train. Bosco was not 100% reliable until about one year. Not entirely his fault (I'll take part of the blame), but still....

So, if you want things a little easier, a slightly older 6- 9 months, pup might be for you. I can say with certainty that given the choice, I would vote for older.


4th June 2015, 11:29 PM
I'd vote for the older puppy. We got Bentley at 10 weeks, had never had an "inside" dog, and I'm sure did everything wrong. The months of potty training, chewing up furniture, etc, were hard but totally worth it. I'd still rather get a puppy who was already through with a lot of that behavior. Bentley is now 4.5 years old and perfect. Whatever we did wrong turned out OK after all!

6th June 2015, 01:49 AM

I think there is some ambiguity in your post. My interpretation is that based on Ian Dunbar's book you think you should get an older puppy but the breeder does not have and is likely insinuating that she isn't planning to have one anytime soon. But perhaps I am wrong on that. If you have the choice between a young puppy and an older puppy, I'd take the older puppy. If you have a breeder who health tests including MRIs, but who only has a young puppy to offer, I'd take the young puppy from healthy parents.

12th June 2015, 12:13 PM
Hello! I'm new here and this is actually my first post but as I was browsing I felt like I really wanted to reply to your thread. I hope me reply doesn't end up too long but I can really relate to your situation. I was where you are now over a year ago. I couldn't decide between an older or younger puppy and made a few mistakes that I learned from during this time. We originally weren't set on owning a Cavalier and we just looking for a puppy we thought we'd enjoy. I found a mix puppy in May of last year and brought her home. Now, just like you, I'd never owned a puppy before and had two children, 4 and 7 years old. It went horribly! She was high-energy, intense, combative, dominant, and terrorized my kids to where my 4 year old wouldn't walk on the floor if she was awake. After consulting with a trainer and worrying myself to death, I finally made the decision that our home was not the right place for her. She needed someone with experience so she went back to the woman who we got her from. A couple months later we found another sweet mix puppy who was 10 months old. He was so sweet and gentle.......and housebroken! He had some issues that we saw right away but counted them as something expected with the big change in his life. As time went on, the pup displayed more and more issues.....he hadn't been socialized properly. Severe separation anxiety, barked and howled at every new person/sound/dog/object. As much as we liked him we could not accommodate his needs in our situation so he went back to where he came from. At this point I felt like I had failed and become that dog owner that everyone hates.....the one who takes a dog home and can't truly commit. I set the idea aside and contented myself to just daydream about having a pup in our lives. Then, after months and months of reading and tossing around the idea with my husband we thought maybe a Cavalier would fit us best. The happy, gentle, loving nature is what I wanted though I hadn't been expecting to choose a smaller breed dog. When we went to choose the puppy we liked at 5 weeks I knew the minute I picked up our boy that he was it. He had a very "go with the flow" laid back, content and happy nature.......well, as much of it as you can see at 5 weeks old. He came home with us a week ago at just under 9 weeks old and I am so relieved that he's our boy! He has a very affectionate personality, a soft mouth, and an openness to everyone that we didn't get to experience with our other two. He's just what we needed. So, to wrap up my novel here, from my experience, I would choose a younger puppy. Yes, it's like having a newborn all over again and I find my inexperience has made me fumble a few times (our pup is very forgiving though) but you will be able to raise them in the way that you need to. The pup will be completely socialized with your kiddos and you can work to make sure issues like resource-guarding, dominance problems and separation anxiety don't stick in your pup. They are so easily influenced at this young age. Good luck! And sorry again for the long read to whoever has stuck it out. ;)

15th June 2015, 02:14 PM
I found a mix puppy in May of last year and brought her home. A couple months later we found another sweet mix puppy who was 10 months old. ;)

Hi -

I'm curious. What was the mix of the first two pups? Was the third pup a CKC? Cavaliers are known for their very gentle dispositions and easy going friendly nature. It could have been the breed, rather than the age of your pup that made the difference.

Your children are young and I'm sure they love having a new little puppy. Just be sure you monitor the kids and the pup, since puppies need rest and down time too.

Post a picture when you get a chance. Lots of luck!


15th June 2015, 07:59 PM
Hi -

I'm curious. What was the mix of the first two pups? Was the third pup a CKC? Cavaliers are known for their very gentle dispositions and easy going friendly nature. It could have been the breed, rather than the age of your pup that made the difference.

Your children are young and I'm sure they love having a new little puppy. Just be sure you monitor the kids and the pup, since puppies need rest and down time too.

Post a picture when you get a chance. Lots of luck!


The first puppy was a Beagle/Rottweiler mix and she seemed to really take on the Beagle side with her intensity. She was even tracking at 8 weeks old! The second guy (10 month old) was a three way cross of Newfoundland/Lab/Border Collie. He had the sweet, gentle, loving nature of the Newfie but hadn't been socialized well his first ten months. He really struggled with separation anxiety and new sounds, too. I guess my point in mentioning my two examples is that, first, choose the puppy that has the right temperament. We are a moderately active family but the first pup needed a more intense workout/training than my inexperienced self could give her. Second, if you do choose an older puppy make sure that the home they came from dedicated time and attention into proper socialization and training. I overlooked some red flags on the second puppy because he had the sweet, gentle nature I was looking for.

After narrowing down the breed we wanted this time I also considered adopting an older Cavalier but decided I didn't want to chance bringing them into our life if they had issues that I wasn't able to deal with. Someday, when I am more confident and experienced I would like to do rescue/fostering. Right now we just need the right pup to be a happy family member. Luckily, we picked just the right breed and boy for us!

I understand a lot of people worry about small puppies and kids but my kiddos are great with him. Ready to snuggle with him when it's nap time and play when it's play time. I'm always supervising them though.

I was able to upload a pic for my avatar but I'm not sure how to post a picture otherwise?

Kate H
15th June 2015, 10:11 PM
Hi SunshineBird

Welcome to the forum! I'd just like to add two comments to Joan's post. One is, insure your Cavalier puppy! However careful you were to get a health tested puppy, Cavaliers have a lot of potential ailments and don't come with health guarantees - and can be very expensive. The other thing is, with young children like yours, however good and gentle your dog is with them, never leave children and dog together unsupervised. This is for the dog's sake as much as for the children's! Young children can treat small, cute dogs the same way they treat their stuffed toys, and any dog pushed into a corner with an uncomprehending child getting into his space and perhaps accidentally hurting him, may snap in sheer desperation.

I expect you know all this already - but anyway, enjoy your puppy!

Kate and Ruby (a 6-year-old Blenheim rescue)