I think many Cavaliers still have a hunting instinct. Tess certainly does. If I say "squirrel" and open the back door, she's out of the house like a shot. And she was frantic when we brought home parakeets years ago... Could not understand why "those things" were inside the house and she couldn't have them. LOL And when we got a mouse, she knew long before we saw any droppings... and she helped us get rid of it too. My two Goldens on the other hand, are only moderately interested in squirrels... it's Tess who sees them and starts barking up a storm.
A friend of mine trained one of her Cavaliers to work as a gundog, doing the spaniel job of picking up shot game. A shooting friend made a disparaging remark about Cavaliers being useless toy dogs and Dawn thought 'I'll show him' and six months later she had a working gundog. Another friend does working trials with one of her Cavaliers (as well as her Bearded Collies), which includes jumps, scales, tracking, search and retrieve. Cavaliers have good brains, but because they're small a lot of people don't bother to train them - just as they don't bother to walk them because they think they get enough exercise in the garden.
Kate, Oliver and Aled
You are so right. I think they are a smart breed and doing things like rally, agility and other things are very fulfilling, I have heard.
I do agree with Karlin about some just not having the personality (those bred to be hunting dogs). I feel sorry for my brother in law because he has not found a good one. Forest is a big baby and has the sweetest personality but he has NO interest in hunting. He went to some big camp where dogs spend months training. I don't think he lasted a month. No matter how much training my brother did, forest just has a different personality (sleeping in the bed with my nephew and he is huge).
Sadly, the lab they had before had hip displysia at a very young age. My aunt has done a couple breedings in 20 years. All her puppies go to people she knows. Her last litter, I could not help to mention to my mom that I hope she had their hips tested and factors in their health :). It does not matter to me even if they are my family. I was glad to hear that she did.