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Purebred dogs are being ‘bred to death’ for

desirable traits required of show dogs

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The consequences of breeding to meet show
breed specific physical feature standards
ironically result in many prize-winning
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that are 
also some of the sickest. 

It is not unusual for King Charles Cavaliers
to win competitions despite suffering from
MVD or the serious brain and spinal
​condition syringomyelia.

What further compounds this problem that
breeders breed show winning dogs regardless
if they are sick or not and receive a lot of

money doing so. When a male dog wins numerous championships, for instance,

he is often bred widely, a practice known

as popular sire syndrome, and his genes, 

healthy or not, then are spread like wildfire throughout the breed. 

As a result, purebred dogs not only have increased incidences of inherited diseases but also heightened  health issues due to their

bodily frames and shapes.

For almost 4,000 years people have been breeding dogs for certain traits—whether it be a physique 
ideal for hunting pests like badgers or a temperament suitable for companionship. 

Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations

have set standards defining what each breed should look like. 

We refer to this as the "Barbie Look"

RSPCA chief vet Mark Evans was interviewed and he said : "The welfare and quality of life of many 
pedigree dogs is seriously compromised by established breeding practices for appearance, driven 
primarily by the rules and requirements of competitive dog showing and pedigree dog registration."

But the vast number of modern breeds—and the roots of their genetically caused problems--
came about over the past two centuries, as dog shows became popular and people began 
selectively inbreeding the animals to have specific physical features. 

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CKC and AKC Breed Stand Requirements

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General Appearance
An active, graceful, well-balanced dog,
very gay, and free in action.

Fearless and sporting in character yet at the
same time gentle and affectionate.

Height 30-33 cm (12-13 inches).
Weight proportionate to height 5 – 8 kg
(12-18 lbs.).

Slight variations permissible. A small, well-balanced dog well between these heights and weights is desirable. 

Overall type and quality should not be sacrificed for size alone. A weedy
specimen is to be ​penalized as severely as a coarse one.



Long, silky and free from curl, though a
slight wave is permissible.

Feathering on ears, legs and tail should
be long, and the feathering on the feet is
a feature of the breed.

It is common and permissible for bitches to
carry less coat than dogs.

No trimming, scissoring, clipping or artificial
colouring is allowed and this should
​be severely penalized

Colour - Blenheim


Bright chestnut red markings well broken up on
a pearly white ground. The red on the head
must extend around the eyes as well as
down over the ears.

A pure white muzzle is preferred.

​​There must be a distinct white blaze between the eyes. Between the ears may be the lozenge or spot
unique to the Blenheim, which is a highly desirable, but not essential, characteristic.

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Colour - Tricolour


Jet black markings well broken up on a
pearly white ground.

The black on the head must extend around the
eyes as well as down over the ears.

There must be a distinct white blaze between the eyes.

A pure white muzzle is preferred.

Rich tan markings appear over the eyes, on cheeks,
inside ears, under the tail and around the vent.

Tan should appear inside the legs where
​it is adjacent to black.

Colour - Ruby

Whole-coloured rich red.

​White marks are undesirable.

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Colour - Black and Tan

​Jet black with rich tan markings over the eyes, on cheeks and muzzle, 

inside the ears, on throat and chest,

on forelegs from knees to toes,

on the inside of the hind legs 

also extending from hocks to

toes, on the underside of the tail

and surrounding the vent.

White marks are

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Almost flat between the ears, without dome. Stop moderate. Length 

from base of stop to tip of nose

about 1-1/2 inches (4 cm.).


Nostrils should be well developed

and the pigment black. Lack of

stop or too deep a stop are

to be penalized equally.

Muzzle should taper slightly to the nose. Lips well covering and well cushioned but not hound-like.
There should be cushioning beneath the eyes, which contributes much to the sweet, gentle expression characteristic of the breed.

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Teeth strong and even, meeting in a scissors bite. Level and undershot mouths are to be
discouraged. However, a slightly undershot bite in an otherwise well balanced head with

the correct sweet expression should not be penalized in favour of a scissors or

level bite with a plain head or hard expression.


Eyes should be large, round and set well apart. Colour should be a warm dark brown, giving a lustrous, limpid look. Eye rims should be dark.
Small, light or bulging eyes, or a white ring surrounding the iris are very undesirable.


Ears are set high, but not close to

the top of the head. Leather long

with plenty of silky feathering, and 

wide enough so that when the

dog is alert, ​the ears fan slightly forward to frame the face.

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Hind legs moderately muscled, well
angulated at the stifles.

Hocks relatively short and at right angle to the ground when standing.

Hind legs should parallel each other from hock to heel with no

tendency to long, cow

or sickle hocks.



Forelegs straight and set well under the dog. Bone moderate.

Elbows close to the sides.

Shoulders well laid back.

Pasterns strong and feet compact, well-feathered and with well-cushioned pads.

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Set on so as to be carried level with the back.

Tail should be in constant motion

while​ the dog is moving.

Docking is optional, leaving 2/3 of the tail and the tail must

balance the body.

A white tip must be left on the 

tails of both Blenheims

and Tricolours.



Free moving and elegant with good reach in front and sound drive from the rear.

Head carried slightly forward

on the move.

Back level and tail carried straight behind as an extension of the

line of the back

Good length of stride from the side.

​Front and rear should move straight and true.

The Cavalier should be moved on a loose ​lead and never “strung up.”

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Canadian Kennel Club Official Breed Standard Faults 

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault, and the seriousness
with which the fault should be regarded should be in proportion to its degree.

• Nervousness, shyness and aggression in adults.

• Trimming, scissoring or artificial colouring.

• Lack of a white blaze in Blenheim or Tricolour.

• White marks on Ruby or Black and Tan.

• Small, light or bulging eyes, or a white rim around the iris.
• Long, cow or sickle hocks.

• Tail carried well above the topline.


Colours other than the four above.

Clown faces (white around one or both eyes or white ears.)

Tricolours and Black and Tans lacking tan markings.


Now I don't know about you but the list above has my mind spinning and the lyrics of "I'm a Barbie Girl, in a Barbie world" swirling around in my head.

Ummm no pressure on looking perfect.

​Keep reading it gets better.

Physical traits required by the Kennel Club's breed standards, such as short faces, wrinkling, screw-tails and dwarfism etc... have inherent health problems.

Other problems occur because of exaggerations bred into dogs by breeders trying to win rosettes/ribbons. 

Dogs suffering from genetic illness are not prevented from competing in dog shows and have gone on to win "best in breed",

despite their poor health.

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 Now I don't know about you but the idea of a dog that may have serious health issues but "Looks perfect" ​being able to win "Best in Breed" is completely absurd to me. That should NEVER happen in my opinion.

There are many reasons why we are not into the "Show Dog" world and the information above
outlines much of it. I believe that looking ahead at the future of of the Cavalier King Charles
​Spaniel that it important to put health first when breeding. 

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