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Soon-to-be new Cavalier owner


New member
Hi, my husband and I had expressed interest to a breeder in adopting one of their 3.5 month old Cavalier pups, a darling little boy. When we went to meet the litter, we absolutely loved him, and he immediately seemed to take to us, too. But we were pretty well equally smitten with one of his sisters, and she with us, as well. Both pups are so sweet, happy, playful and affectionate, and have quite different personalities. They are nearly housetrained already, with only rare mistakes. (I'm sure the adjustment to a new home will result in accidents, too.) So we are now torn, adoring both pups, trying to decide whether to adopt the boy or the girl, and wondering if we might be completely mad to consider adopting both...?! We understand that Cavaliers do benefit from the company of another dog. We have not had Cavaliers before, but over the years have raised two family dogs from the age of 8 weeks (younger than these pups, so we did the housetraining)--although not both at the same time! I am able to be home full time which I hope will help. We would love to have thoughts and advice from any and all experienced Cavalier owners regarding the pros and cons of choosing a boy or a girl, or of adopting two pups who are littermates. Many thanks--
Hi and welcome! What an exciting time for you!

I'd agree with the common view that 'girls love you but the boys are in love with you' -- I've always found the boys super-affectionate (in most breeds actually!) but of course this varies per dog. I don't really think there's much difference except that females require more careful guarding until of age to be spayed, ideally after a second heat. The thinking has changed on when to neuter and evidence suggests not doing it at 9 months or especially not at 6. Two littermates can be fun but TBH are not ideal. I've had littermates before and what tends to happen is even while really loving, they noticeably (and by contrast with the many many singletons I've had) bond very closely together and to a lesser degree with their humans. One can also be very dominating of the other, something not noticeable sometimes until in old age, when one passes away. Also, they require considerably more work because you will have to work to give them time alone and training and walks separately as well as together, as they can otherwise grow so dependent on each other that they get separation anxiety and also, don't get a chance to learn as well, or just well. They need separate housetraining too, which is a huge amount of work for the first few months with puppies, and if there are no older resident dogs to model this, it's even more work.

Now that said it can be great fun to have two pups of course! In the past decade+, we had two Pyrenean Mountain Dog (Great Pyrenees) siblings (not by intent, it was the particular circumstances) and we worked hard to do things separately with them as well as together. They adored each other and having the two (alongside the cavaliers and at the time, a Newfie and a GSD) all seemed no problem at all. BUT it's really now in retrospect, and now that we have had a new singleton Pyrenean pup over the past year, that I can see how much closer the relationship is between us and Finn, the new boy, and how much more focused he has been for training and so on. I'd personally never choose siblings again though I wouldn't say I regret having done so at the time. But I've longer perspective now and would agree with the view of most professional trainers and behaviourists that it's better to have a singleton and to add another dog when the resident dog is at least a year, ideally at least 18 months old, and fully trained and has benefitted from all that time of your focused attention to develop and learn. Hope that helps! There's no wrong decision here though. Oh the one other thing I'd add is: I'd not get two siblings again, as if one ends up with a health issue it is far more likely the sibling will too, and managing two together is tough. We lost our sibling Pyreneans to bone cancer, one quite young, and the specialist said she immediately suspected it in the second dog when she developed symptoms, because her brother had had it. Cavaliers sadly have a LOT of potential genetic illnesses and ideally I'd always go for unrelated dogs of different lineage, from fully health testing breeders (hearts, MRI, eyes, patellas, DNA tested for the things that can be tested for etc but especially MRI and heart tested parents).
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Thank you so much, Karlin, for your kind and extremely helpful response. This is all great advice, and I appreciate the links. You must have had a very busyhousehold, with two Great Pyranees pups + all their "siblings"! I hadn't thought of the genetic component, and the potential heartbreak, with adopting littermates. I think we've decided that adopting two pups right now would not be a wise choice, that we wouldn't be able to offer each pup enough of our focused energy and attention. So a singleton it is. I'll post a photo of our new baby, once we've finally chosen and brought him/her home! Honestly I can hardly wait...!
It's all very personal and there's really no right or wrong. But from having had many dogs, mostly cavaliers, over the past 20 years, I've concluded from experience that the advice to think carefully about adopting siblings is generally correct. When I had siblings I couldn't really see the this as clearly as I could afterwards. Interestingly, our Newfie girl was one of a pair of sibling sisters who had been through 5 homes by the time they were 10 months, as they bonded so closely and were so big and powerful that they just ran riot and were extremely difficult to control. Now, careful management and focused training with each separately from the start would likely have avoided all that, but when we first brought Sophie home she was an absolute handful and so exuberant and easily overexcited. The rescue rightly rehomed them separately as very few homes could have done all the remedial training and management and 130lbs of exuberance can be a real risk to children or anyone unstable on their feet. It was an exhausting few weeks as she settled, but now she's a big dote, very calm and sweet. But she was a real education! PS yes please do introduce your new addition once you have him or her!!
Despite the temptation to adopt two pups, we have adopted the dear little Blenheim boy who had first won our hearts! We've named him Rufus, which means "red-haired". He is a sweetheart. Pictures to follow soon...
I do have some questions that I'd really appreciate experienced views on. First, what is the best food for a Cavalier, and what health needs should be taken into account when choosing? What is the optimal age for neutering a male Cavalier? What is the best brand of harness for a Cavalier?
Many thanks!
'Best food' is always a big debate! I generally recommend a puppy food designed for small breeds and would avoid anything with pea or other legume proteins as there's some evidence these are causing some heart issues in dogs ('grain free' dog foods often have these proteins though not always, so be cautious with 'grain free'). I've had dogs do fine on all sorts of foods but much can depend on the individual. I like a good quality mid-range food. I also like to supplement the dry (within their daily calorie count!) by mixing in a good quality wet food or something like a scrambled egg (cooled of course), a little cooked mince or shredded chicken, a tinned sardine (NOT the oil which adds calories and generally, unwanted results at the other end... :sneaky: ).

On neutering: opinions on this have changed. Some vets now often do NOT recommend neutering males until much later than old advice (which was around 6-9 months) or at all, as they can benefit in several ways by remaining intact (whereas female cavaliers have the single highest rate of the potentially fatal womb infection, pyometra, so it's best to neuter). I don't neuter most of my males now -- I used to be an absolute advocate for 6 months, then 9 months, but new research convinced me not to. I find they are perfectly manageable, even with a group of intact males in the house. But that isn't everyone's preference of course, in which case I'd wait til they are fully adult in hormone terms and bone growth is complete. I'll see if I can find some info on this. With females, I'd only spay after 1st or second heat, generally age 2 ish. Keep in mind that owners need to be very responsible with intact pets especially never allowing intact males to roam etc.

HOWEVER.... re-looking at the study I was thinking of, in a big study done at UC Davis vet school, CKCS were one of the breeds where neutering age (or neutering for males) didn't seem to matter but I'd still wait til around 18-24 months and adult age. There was a small risk (2%) of cancers in intact male CKCS. This is info on the study: https://www.ucdavis.edu/news/when-should-you-neuter-your-dog-avoid-health-risks

And the summary on CKCS in the study:

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel​

The study population was 51 intact males, 72 neutered males, 87 intact females, and 76 spayed females, for a sample size of 286 cases. For males and females left intact, the occurrences of one or more joint disorders were just 4 and 1 percent, respectively, and for both sexes neutering was not associated with any increase in this measure. The occurrences of cancers in intact males were 2 percent and zero for intact females. For both sexes neutering was not associated with any increase in this measure. The occurrence of MC in females left intact was zero. The occurrence of PYO was 2 percent in intact females. There was no occurrence of UI in spayed females. Lacking a noticeable occurrence of increased joint disorders or cancers in neutered males or females, those wishing to neuter should decide on the appropriate age.
NB that this is a relatively small study group and a major UK study a few years back on ALL UK vet insurance records over a significant period indicates a very high rate of pyometra in female cavaliers, around 40%. :shreek: