Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breeders
Considering the serious genetic health defects which afflict the cavalier King Charles spaniel as a breed, it is important to find breeders who take health testing of their breeding stock very seriously. Unfortunately, it is not an easy task for the puppy buyer.
Most cavalier King Charles spaniel breeders in the United States are quick to tell the pet buyer that they are "responsible" or "reputable" or even "ethical" (one calls himself a "code of ethics" breeder), and that they "health test" their cavaliers. However, very few of those breeders fully test their breeding stock for severe genetic disorders and follow responsible breeding health protocols.
As recently as 2009, the chairman of the UK's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club stated: "There are many members who are still not prepared to health check their breeding stock, and of those who do, it would appear that many would not hesitate to breed from affected animals."
In our 40+ years of observing the American CKCS breeding scene, never has there been more information about inherited health problems available to cavalier breeders, and never have there been more Cavalier breeders who either fail to test their breeding stock or ignore the results of those tests.
Dr. Clare Rusbridge, BVMS PhD DipECVN MRCVS, of the Stone Lion Veterinary Centre, Wimbledon, UK, who has devoted many years to the study of genetic diseases in thousands of cavalier King Charles spaniels, stated recently in a report about cavaliers in the Journal of Heredity that "some breeders believe that highlighting health issues may reduce puppy sales and/or compromise their breeding program and thus endanger their livelihood."
An example is the heart mitral valve disease (MVD) breeding protocol. The MVD Breeding Protocol was announced to cavalier breeders in the United States in 1998 and was promptly endorsed by the board of directors of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA, a nationwide registry of cavaliers. Since then, the vast majority of breeders have refused to follow those minimum breeding standards designed to eliminate early-onset MVD in future generations of cavalier King Charles spaniels. Lennart Swenson, M.Sci., the Swedish canine geneticist who devised the MVD breeding protocol, said, "The biggest reason that breeding schemes fail is that breeders don't follow them!" And yet, most of the breeders will insist that they health-test their cavaliers for MVD, a meaningless claim at best.
For example, if a breeder has his 24 month old cavalier examined for MVD, and the dog passes the examination with a murmur-free heart, those results are meaningless for breeding purposes because, under the MVD Breeding Protocol, no cavalier should be bred that young. Also, under the MVD Breeding Protocol, the examining veterinarian must be a board certified cardiologist. Some CKCS breeders have been known to have their dogs' hearts examined and determined to be murmur-free only by their general practitioner veterinarians, and then those breeders falsely claim that their dogs are certified to be free of MVD.
To avoid dealing with breeders who make false claims about their CKCSs, it is important to ask each breeder about the genetic health tests performed on his cavaliers, and about the results of those tests, and insist upon receiving copies of their test reports and test clearance certificates, signed by the examining veterinarians, before considering buying a cavalier from that breeder. We have a webpage of ten questions about these tests, which you may ask each breeder.
You may conclude that any breeder who fails to provide copies of those reports and certificates, or worse yet, who denies that they are important, is a breeder who does not fully health test his Cavaliers.
It is equally important that breeders who do have their cavalier breeding stock tested for genetic disorders also not breed those cavaliers which do not pass those tests. This should be obvious, but there are breeders of CKCSs who test their dogs, find that the dogs failed one or more of the tests, and breed those dogs anyway.
HOW TO FIND A BREEDER
OF CAVALIER KING CHARLES SPANIELS
Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders. Franklin D. McMillan, James A. Serpell, Deborah L. Duffy, Elmabrok Masaoud, Ian R. Dohoo. JAVMA. May 2013;242(10):1359-1363. Quote: "Objective: To compare the owner-reported prevalence of behavioral characteristics in dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores with that of dogs obtained as puppies from noncommercial breeders. Design: Cross-sectional study. Animals: Dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores (n = 413) and breeder-obtained dogs (5,657). Procedures: Behavioral evaluations were obtained from a large convenience sample of current dog owners with the online version of the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire, which uses ordinal scales to rate either the intensity or frequency of the dogs’ behavior. Hierarchic linear and logistic regression models were used to analyze the effects of source of acquisition on behavioral outcomes when various confounding and intervening variables were controlled for. Results: Pet store–derived dogs received significantly less favorable scores than did breeder-obtained dogs on 12 of 14 of the behavioral variables measured; pet store dogs did not score more favorably than breeder dogs in any behavioral category. Compared with dogs obtained as puppies from noncommercial breeders, dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores had significantly greater aggression toward human family members, unfamiliar people, and other dogs; greater fear of other dogs and nonsocial stimuli; and greater separation-related problems and house soiling. Conclusions and Clinical Relevance: Obtaining dogs from pet stores versus noncommercial breeders represented a significant risk factor for the development of a wide range of undesirable behavioral characteristics. Until the causes of the unfavorable differences detected in this group of dogs can be specifically identified and remedied, the authors cannot recommend that puppies be obtained from pet stores."
Behavior Differences in Dogs from Pet Stores Versus Breeders -- Pet store dogs have more psychological problems than dogs from breeders. Stanley Coren. Psychology Today. May 2013.