I think for ANY breeder to be a good breeder of cavaliers, given all the quite serious health issues that threaten this breed's future right now, then Irish breeders north and south really must start doing:
* cardiac tests
* following the guidelines to only breed from heart clear dogs who are 5, or from heart-clear dogs at 2.5 IF both parents are heart clear still at 5 (this is standard across the world for cavalier breeders and sadly ireland, one of the original homes of the breed, has not followed much less encouraged these very basic guidelines for trying to reduce the incidence of early death from heart failure. :cry:
*hip scoring and patellas
These, as Bruce and other breeders on the board will confirm, are the basic, standard tests good breeders worldwide do, and indeed many of the major national breed clubs require them of breeders.
The average lifespan of a cavalier right now is only 7-10 years (the same as giant breeds which are known to have very shortened lifespans due to size). It should be more like 13-14 years for a toy breed! Half of all cavaliers will have a heart murmur and the beginning of serious heart disease by age *5*. This is why it is so important for those entrusted with the responsibility of breeding to heart test in particular. Heart disease became endemic to the breed because of casual breeding and it can successfully be bred away from but only if breeders make a commitment to improving heart health. I have seen friends shattered by the suffering and early death of their loved cavaliers at only age 6 or 7 in this country. This should not still be happening anymore as a regular occurence in Ireland but it is.
SM is another issue too where the Irish breed club to my knowledge is neither discussing nor informing breeders of its level of seriousness. At the very least, I'd hope that the breed clubs will be a source of information so that breeders can consider the issues and make informed decisions on how they wish to proceed at this time, even if they do not themselves issue any guidelines or recommendations.
The UK clubs give a lot of support to breeders around MVD and testing and they have low cost heart clinics at many of the shows. I'd like to see the same happening here.
The standard recommendation from all the breed clubs in the US is not to buy a puppy from a breeder who cannot show you the heart certificates for parents and grandparents of a litter, and other health certs as well. I'd like to see the Irish club follow suit -- not least because all breeders are supposed to breed for the improvement of the breed; but without heart testing, this cannot be possible with cavaliers unless the full heart history and longevity going back many generations for each dog is known to the breeder.
What I hope is that anyone who comes to this board and considers taking on the responsibility of the future of the breed -- which is what every cavalier breeder does, because he or she makes the decision on which genes will be considered good enough to be sent out into further generations of cavaliers -- will find support, information on best practice, inspiration and the enthusiasm to give these dogs a real future through careful and health-conscious breeding.