Over the years, people have either emailed or called me with all sorts of questions, looking for information on a breed, which they consider adding to their families. Here is a sample of these questions and my answers. Please bear in mind that the answers are my personal experience, my personal opinion or my personal knowledge. I do not claim to be the expert, but after 30 plus years of breeding pedigree dogs, I think that I have learnt something. The questions and answers below are only in reference to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Shih Tzu. Some answers apply to both breeds, others are breed-specific.
Are these dogs good with children?
As far as I am aware, the Cavalier is rated among the top breeds for children. Cavaliers are a completely non-aggressive, non-hyper, non shy, but exceptionally loving breed and make wonderful pets for children of almost all ages as well as for adults of all ages. I have placed puppies with families, who had young children (below 5 years) and as long as the parents explained to their children, that the puppy is much younger than they are, much easier hurt than an older and bigger dog, and that this puppy needs all their love, care and affection, these puppies and children lived very happily with each other.
Shih Tzu, however, can be a bit more difficult with children, mostly depending on how the puppy has been raised, if the puppy has been well socialized and if in the background of the puppy are any temperament issues. I do not place, as a general rule, any Shih Tzu puppy with small children (below the age of 5 years).
Are these dogs easy to house train?
All puppies raised from a very young age by the breeder to potty in designated areas should not be difficult to house train, provided the new owners make efforts to watch the body language of their puppy, and immediately react, if they notice any sign of pending elimination. Of course, if the new owner leaves the puppy to its own devices, that puppy will give up after a while, trying to let the owner know that it must ‘go potty’ and will just eliminate wherever it might find itself, inside or outside.
Please remember that this is NOT the fault of the puppy, but that of the owner. In other words, it depends mostly on the new owner how easy the puppy is to house train. The groundwork has been done by the breeder!
Crate training, what do you think?
I personally crate train all my dogs and puppies. Simple reason is that house training is made easier, if I cannot watch the puppy at some time. Dogs and puppies usually will not soil their ‘cave’ and will also try and avoid soiling their crates. Reasons why I use crates are: this way, I can make sure each dog gets as much to eat as it needs, not one eats more than it should; in the crate the dog or puppy is safe while I cannot watch it. Furthermore, dogs love to be in a ‘cave’ and usually take very easily to being crated. Of course, I never use a crate as punishment.
Do these dogs get along with other dogs, cats, animals?
Over the years I have found that my dogs get on very well indeed with any other animal, as long as they are introduced properly and the other animal is a non-aggressive one. I have cats, other dogs, including some pretty big German Shepherd dogs as guard dogs, I have rabbits – my Cavaliers would love to chase these – I have parrots, which the dogs are simply fascinated with, smaller birds, which I have to keep away from the dogs, if I don’t want to lose them, and a tame Opossum, which the dogs regard as a strange cat.
I would not leave a Cavalier alone with a rabbit or gerbil or similar; after all the Cavalier is a breed which will hunt, given half a chance, and it will possibly kill. One of my old girls is an expert squirrel hunter and killer. A Shih Tzu I would trust more to not kill a small animal, but at the same time, that Shih Tzu might exhaust that same small animal by chasing it and trying to play with it.
Do these dogs need a lot of grooming?
Here, the reply is divided. A Cavalier is a ‘wash & wear’ dog, no major grooming is required. The fur of a Cavalier is never shaved, sculptured or trimmed in any form. The dog is washed, dried, nails clipped, the feathering combed out, the ears combed out and the Cavalier is ready to go.
However, if we are talking Shih Tzu hair care, that is a totally different story. As from a very young age, a Shih Tzu puppy has to get used to laying fairly still on a raised surface, having its hair (correct, a Shih Tzu has hair, not fur!) combed, brushed, banded, braided and more. If the owner of a Shih Tzu puppy decides not to teach that puppy from a young age on that he is the master, and that the puppy does what is expected of it, that same owner will have his hands full once the puppy gets older and needs daily grooming. I start teaching my Shih Tzu puppies as of about 10 weeks of age that they need to hold still and let me comb and brush them for about 5 minutes at a time. When they are 6 months old, they will lay still on a grooming table for as long as I need them to stay there, while I groom them.
I would say that a Shih Tzu is a labor intensive dog, especially if it is in full coat. Daily coat care is a must and regular weekly bathing is a good idea. If the dog is cut down, then regular visits to the groomer, additionally to regular in-home grooming is necessary.
What about the health of the dogs? Do they have any major issues?
Like all other dog breeds, both Shih Tzu and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have health issues, which are either breed specific or which other breeds have as well. Hip dysplasia (HD) is usually an issue with much bigger dogs, however, Cavaliers can get HD, which is considered a hereditary issue. Both breeds can have eye issues, for which a responsible breeder tests (CERF testing) adults and puppies alike. Heart issues like MVD can appear in both breeds as can patella (knees) issues. Please bear in mind, that even if you purchase a puppy from a conscientious breeder, who does all testing that is advisable, you are buying a living ‘creature’, and as such, there is really no way even the best breeder can guarantee that your puppy will never end up with any health issues. All this breeder can do is make sure that the breeding stock your puppy comes from, has been tested for generations and that the breeding program this breeder has, eliminates such dogs, which carry health issues that should not be passed on to the next generation.
Some breeders, like myself, will give a ‘health guarantee’ for a certain length of time, simply because I feel that it is my ‘duty’ to replace a dog, which dies too early because of a health issue, which may not have been foreseeable, or avoidable, but appeared anyway in my carefully selected and tested breeding stock. After all, the reputation of a breeder manifests itself with the breeder’s ethics.
For a health guarantee, what should I look for?
As said above, there is really no ‘Health’ guarantee. What it SHOULD be is the breeder taking some form of action if there is something seriously wrong with the puppy you purchased, within a certain time frame. The one thing I would personally pay attention to is that you get something in writing addressing the issue of “What Happens If”. And of course, you want something in writing stating that you do NOT have to return the original puppy in order to get assistance or a replacement puppy from your breeder. Let’s face it, who would return a ‘child’ which is sick?
Do these dogs need a lot of exercise?
Both breeds of dogs love to go for a walk, or a run on the beach. They do not need LOTS of exercise, but they do like some on a daily basis. A good run around a garden or a walk with the master is fine. Both breeds enjoy the company of their humans tremendously and rather do what their masters do than play or run on their own in a yard.
Are they expensive to feed? And what kind of food should I use?
Expensive to feed depends on what kind of food you select. Usually the breeder will give you his or her recommendation of what to feed and how much when you pick up your puppy. You can then add to or change that food, depending on what you want your puppy to eat.
It is difficult to give an exact amount of money that it will cost to feed either a Cavalier or a Shih Tzu, but if you are concerned about food costs, maybe you should get a bird instead of a dog? To feed cheap food will backfire eventually with skin problems, digestive problems and weight problems, to name just a few possibilities.
How expensive are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels?
That depends very much on who you get your puppy from. Let me put it this way, if you intend just to get any Cavalier or are price shopping in order to be able to say you also own a Cavalier, no matter where it comes from, what its pedigree background is, how it grew up, how it was kept with its siblings and parents while it was growing up and what its temperament will be like when grown up, no matter what health tests have been done on the ancestors behind this puppy, then you could go to a backyard breeder, a sub-standard breeder, a commercial breeder or a pet store and get your Cavalier there. You will pay less – perhaps much less – for this puppy than you would pay for a puppy from a responsible, ethical and conscientious breeder, who takes pride in the health and conformation to breed standard and temperament of his or her dogs and puppies. But you also would eventually see and notice the difference between a puppy from such an (undesirable) source and a puppy from a reputable breeder. A puppy from a reputable breeder comes with a price, because it is expensive to do breeding correctly. And this puppy from such a breeder will also come with lifelong personal support and help contrary to the backyard breeder, sub-standard commercial, commercial breeder or pet store puppy, which is just sold for a fast buck.
To give you a ball part figure for a puppy from a responsible, ethical, conscientious breeder, who is usually also a member of at least one National Club (CKCSC, USA, Inc. or AKC KCSC) and perhaps of several regional breed clubs or international clubs, and who can prove by showing you the relevant paperwork, that health tests have been carried out on parents and grandparents etc - you can expect to pay between $1,300 and $2,000 for a Cavalier puppy from such a breeder, maybe sometimes more. If you think that is a lot of money, you are correct! It is, but look what you are paying for – and do remember, one always gets what one pays for!
How expensive are Shih Tzu?
Answer: That depends very much on who you get your puppy from. Let me put it this way, if you intend just to get any Shih Tzu no matter where it comes from, what its pedigree background is, how it grew up, how it was kept with its siblings and parents while it was growing up and what its temperament will be like when grown up, no matter what health tests have been done on the ancestors behind this puppy, then you could go to a backyard breeder, a commercial breeder, a sub-standard commercial breeder or a pet store and get your Shih Tzu there. You will pay less – perhaps much less – for this puppy than you would pay for a puppy from a responsible, ethical and conscientious breeder, who takes pride in the health and conformation to breed standard and temperament of his or her dogs and puppies. But you also would eventually see and notice the difference between a puppy from such an (undesirable) source and a puppy from a reputable breeder. A puppy from a reputable breeder comes with a price, because it is expensive to do breeding correctly. And this puppy from such a breeder will also come with lifelong personal support and help contrary to the backyard breeder, commercial breeder or pet store puppy, which is just sold for a fast buck. To give you a ball part figure for a puppy from a responsible, ethical, conscientious breeder, who is also a member of at least one National Club (ASTC = American Shih Tzu Club) and perhaps of several regional breed clubs, and who can prove by showing you the relevant paperwork, that health tests have been carried out on parents and grandparents etc, - you can expect to pay between 500 and $1,000 for a Shih Tzu puppy from such a breeder, maybe sometimes more. If you think that is a lot of money, you are correct! It is, but look what you are paying for – and do remember, one always gets what one pays for!
There are lots more questions and answers possible.
If I can be of any help by answering yours, please email me at GabrieleGP@bellsouth.net