I don’t have any puppies available. I am planning one or possibly two litters later this year.
Grab some coffee and start reading, though, because I can help answer some of the most common questions, especially...
-How Much Are They?
The current nationwide average for quality Cavalier puppies from verified health-tested parents on a spay/neuter contract is about $3000.00 to $4000.00. There are reasons why they are so pricey; honestly, they're very expensive to responsibly produce. I totally sympathize with the "sticker shock" aspect--but good breeders really are fortunate if they break even on a litter. I often don’t. Any good breeder will have done all the (correct, genuine, and verifiable) health tests on the parents, they've gone to the shows to ensure good breed type and pretty dogs, they've done the pre-breeding checks for mom, they've paid a $2000 breeding fee plus national/international overnight FedEx, done all the progesterone tests, and (likely) a TCI or surgical AI... and then they get anywhere from no puppies (all too common) to (average) 1-3 puppies. And...the list goes on once they're born. Possible cesareans ($$$), health checks, vaccines, microchips, registrations, and so forth. And, this is assuming all goes well with no post-whelping complications for mom or the puppies.
OK, so who is making a profit? Easy: the many, many backyard breeders now operating. They do little to nothing but put two Cavaliers together, take non-refundable deposits, and as soon as those puppies are 8-9 weeks old, they’re out the door without a second thought. Often these days they’re very homey-looking Mom and Pop outfits, and some of them may be genuinely nice people—but they don’t have the first clue about the history of the breed, the overall health concerns and considerations, the various family trees worldwide, or why any of this is even important. I recently saw some some new breeders that are marketing Cavaliers on their web pages and Facebook: they have no health background other than a couple dogs passing one or two tests recently and they literally do not even know what the four proper colors of Cavaliers are—they posted information from another breed in error. One admitted they did not know what SM was. This is typical these days and should rightfully scare the PANTS off you if you’re looking for a puppy.
There is nothing wrong with making a profit on an endeavor, but when it becomes someone’s sole motivation, tread carefully.
It's important to realize that with the surging popularity Cavaliers are experiencing, there are now many backyard "breeders" and commercial "breeders" (and I use that term very loosely). In fact, I'd say MOST, if not all, of the so-called "breeders" who actually advertise online fall into that category. There’s a big difference between a breeder’s general-info website like this one and a site or social media page where you can actually place a deposit or pay for a puppy outright, like a new pair of shoes. Their prices are usually well in the ballpark of what an ethical breeder would ask, and the overall welfare of the breed and the puppies they sell aren't even on their radar. Please TAKE YOUR TIME to find a reputable breeder. I served on the Board of a regional shelter and have seen firsthand what happens when people impulsively get the wrong dog from the wrong person...the pet is invariably the one who loses, and the new owners suffer too.
-I want a female tricolor.
(Wait! So do I!)
There really isn't any difference in temperament between male and female Cavaliers...if anything, the males are even sweeter. By deciding you'll only settle for one sex or one color, you may be shutting yourself off from a great dog.
-I don't want to show. Why buy from a breeder who shows?
Easy: most breeders who actively show are producing puppies that are carefully bred for health as well as the correct look. Even puppies that never see a show ring are typically well socialized, sound, pretty examples of the breed. Backyard breeders and commercial mills base all their decisions on obtaining profit and are neither knowledgeable about nor concerned with ongoing health studies or education, correct conformation, soundness or the long-term health or well being of the puppies they sell, or the feelings or concerns of the new family. They are usually not available as a resource after the sale. I've heard breeders like myself sometimes get disparagingly referred to as "snob" breeders--if being rigorous about testing my dogs and just as rigorous about determining where my puppies go makes me a snob--well, I'm fine with that. I love my dogs and puppies and I need to be able to sleep at night.
-What about things like Mitral Valve Disease or Syringomyelia?
I care very much about the overall wellness and longevity of my dogs and puppies, and have always voluntarily participated in routinely testing my dogs via board-certified specialists...all of the good breeders I know around the US and Canada do the same. You should know that many breeders don’t always submit their annual test info once they have it: the OFA does charge a fee to publicly list this info and many good breeders may or may not appear online there, but can always show you the hard copies in their home, which are easily verifiable. So, ask to see those results.
The current worldwide MVD protocol states:
Every breeding Cavalier should examined annually by a board certified veterinary cardiologist.
Do NOT breed ANY Cavalier who is diagnosed with an MVD murmur under the age of 5 years.
Do not breed any Cavalier (males included) before age 2.5 years.
Do not breed any Cavalier under the age of 5 years unless the parents’ hearts were free of MVD at age 5. If the parents’ health status is unknown or the parents are not yet 5 years old, do not breed.
Ask how old your potential puppy’s parents are. Ask how old the grandparents are. Ask to see the cardiac certifications for all of them. Often the grandparents will have murmurs…but they should have at least made it cardiac-clear to age 5 (the full 60 months).
Several of us Houston Cavalier folks got an email a few years ago asking whether we had any puppies available, and--extraordinarily--telling us in the same inquiry that if the writer successfully purchased a puppy from us and it EVER had any health issues during its entire lifetime, the writer intended to sue for expenses, damages, and even pain and suffering...well. That was a first. I'll address the notion generally by saying this. No good breeder ever wants their dogs, or any dogs they sell, to ever suffer from any debilitating issues. We all love our dogs, and in my case especially, I sell so few puppies that the people who have gotten our dogs over the years have almost all become good friends. I don't want them to go through heartbreak, either. I do as much as I possibly can before ever producing a litter to learn as much as I can about what is in the woodwork in the dogs' pedigrees, and by knowing what I can about the dogs and people involved. (And: there's the second-biggest reason for dealing with an ethical, knowledgeable breeder, with the first being that any good breeder will be around as long as you have your dog in case you need help or advice.) Having said that, even with all this, health-testing is invaluable, but it is, despite our best efforts, just a tool and not infallible.
Sometimes, despite everything, dogs--and I'm not being flippant--get sick. It's frustrating and sad, but it's the truth. No puppy is born with a crystal ball or manual telling us what's going to happen years down the road, any more than human babies are. Statistically, dogs from good breeders have as clear a path for life as we can possibly provide for them...but, just as with our own health, there are no iron-clad guarantees! I wanted to tell the writer that they were buying a living being, not a toaster.
-Are there any other options for getting a Cavalier?
Yes. We have two very well-run national non-profit rescues for Cavaliers: the Cavalier Rescue Trust and Cavalier Rescue USA. Adoption fees are reasonable, and foster families and volunteers are always needed and welcomed. Also, many good breeders will occasionally have an older puppy or dog available for various reasons, so it's worth asking.
If you made it this far, thank you: it’s a lot of information to unpack, but I’m trying to give you the tools you need to find a healthy puppy! Cavaliers are wonderful...if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them my way.