I thought a review of the last twelve months would be a good idea. A lot of my blogs these days are often just photographic, as these are quick an easy to put up. Occasionally though for those who have just found us, and also not forgetting for those who have been bumping around on this journey for sometime, it's good to have a bit more of a closer look at what we have done, what we are achieving, and what we hope to do and achieve in the future.
Two weeks before last Christmas Blottie gave birth to ten pups. This litter was the bringing together of our two crossbreed lines with the Cavalier, with the pups being 5/8 Cavalier, 1/4 Brittany and 1/8 Poodle (miniature). Let's though go back to the conception of this litter, as a discussion on Reddit I published about on the blog Just giving some other poor bugger a rest about me as a breeder, questioned my breeding decisions, because I changed the dog I used on Blottie at the last minute, AlokFluff says, "I am worried about the fact that they seem to be breeding dogs that are already crosses of two different sets of breeds together, and that they apparently changed their mind last minute about who the sire of their last litter should be without much of an explanation." This person also questions me not doing waiting lists saying, "Also that they don't do waiting lists. I really don't like how they don't let you visit until they have a litter, because 'time wasters' apparently. No good breeder I know waits until the puppies are already 4 weeks to start looking for homes for them." Waiting lists are no way a sign of a good breeder, I know more bad breeders doing waiting lists, than good breeders. Yes, it is partly the "time waster" thing, but if they had cared to read on and look around my blog, they would understand, that firstly we are now in a place where we are breeding for ourselves, not for keyboard warriors of Reddit.
After breeding Cavaliers for thirty years not on a grand scale, just to breed back for yourself. With the advent of the internet things changed rapidly from selling dogs most of the time locally, to being able to have a worldwide audience/market. The internet has made it very easy to sell and buy dogs, which has and is being catastrophic for their welfare. When I first did a crossbreed litter with the Poodle, and on advertising that litter on the internet, and the public literally bit my hand off to buy them from me. People not only in the UK, but from across the globe. I could of sold the litter ten times over at least. I was sorely tempted to go down the commercial dog breeding avenue. The prices of cavapoos and the demand being greater than supply, I would of probably paid off our mortgage by now. For a few years we bred the most we had ever done, breeding an average of four litters a year over a three year period. Before that I would be breeding a litter a year at most. I soon realized though that breeding at such a level for any great length of time, it was becoming less enjoyable and something had to give, and that ultimately would be care. I would have to relinquish breeding bitches and dogs, once they passed being able to breed from. I have re-homed a few older dogs over the years, it is never easy and there is a feeling of guilt which does pass a bit with the joy you see them give to their new family, and the care and love they get in return. To dog breed on a commercial scale for profit, you have to be really hard nosed. If I was doing this for profit I would of stuck with churning out Cavapoos. That's where the real money is at the moment, and for every one person who comes to me inquiring about a Cavapoo doing their research and obviously taking great care, I will get three that buying a puppy is akin to buying a pair of scatter cushions for themselves. Sometimes I do really despair of us humans, and it can be reflected in my reply to some, for the best part I bite my tongue.
When I first crossed with the Poodle it was to see how this could help with the health issues. I did my research about the Poodle, and the back history of the Cavalier implies that the Poodle is in their DNA hiding with the trawler spaniel who although of unknown ancestry with the coat type is thought to have a bit of Poodle in there, and there is also another breed thought to be an ancestor of the Cavalier, the English Water Spaniel, also thought with it's curly coat to of had Poodle ancestry. The Poodle and toy spaniel were favorites of the European Royal courts overlapping in times of popularity, it would not be to big a jump of imagination that there were a few clandestine meetings of the two. So doing my research the Poodle is not such an outlandish choice. The first cross produces a very sweet Teddy bear type dog, placed very much between the two breeds, but the amazing thing happens when you cross the first cross back to a Cavalier, you start to see the Trawler and English Water spaniel, even the Phalène and Kooikerhondje can be glimpsed, but mostly you get a small spaniel type that gets mistaken for actually being a pure Cavalier. Which makes me consider there were more than just a few clandestine meetings of these two back in the day, and the Poodle is a good choice to lengthen the muzzle, tighten up the facial features and really improve eye anatomy of the Cavalier, giving a far more functional and elegant look to the spaniel head.
Back to not doing waiting lists. My main reason for not doing waiting lists is pressure. The dark side of waiting lists. When we had a litter on the ground with a waiting list, it starts. The barrage of emails saying how they like a certain pup, and hope they get that one. I've even been offered extra money on more than one occasion to get further up the waiting list. I don't want that sort of pressure, when I am waiting and watching yet to choose the puppy/puppies I wish to keep back from a litter. I just can't be bide with it. I breed dogs because I get a great joy from it. I did not follow the commercial route paved with the promise of a mortgage paid off and holidays in the sun, because it would of brought me little joy, and I now do what I do for the purpose I first set out to do with crossbreeding in the first place, breeding a healthier little spaniel. People invariable who get dogs from me often have contacted me months, even years before they get a puppy from me and have been prepared to wait without any guarantee just hope.
Blottie and changing over her partner at the last moment. Well, there is a bit of a tale there. Now with the first cross with the Brittany we achieved something we have been unable to do with using the Poodle, both Blottie and her sister Bumble have no Chiari-like Malformation (CM) MRI results arrive. This was a brilliant result, finally no CM. It's really hard to covey in words how it felt finally opening an envelope from the BVA, and getting a CM 0 result, two CM 0 results. Let's just say it was an emotional moment for me. I had begun to ritualize opening these envelopes, so I can prepare for disappointment, and they have until that moment ( I can't lie) been a disappointment. I had though not prepared for success and I was surprised by how much it took me. Going forward the plan has been to breed CM clear crossbreeds back to Cavaliers, and as worldwide scans indicate at least 95% of Cavaliers have CM Twelve years of chiari-like malformation and syringomyelia scanning.
Breeding CM clear crossbreeds to Cavaliers with CM we think is the only way to improve this problem in the breed. We have already proved that you can breed CM free dogs, when one of the parents has CM. My first plan was to breed both crossed lines down to 3/4 Cavalier and then bring them together. The Poodle line although improving muzzle length, eye anatomy and generally gives better anatomy of the front of the skull, has not though stopped CM, but with the improvement of the anatomy at the front of the skull. The statistical chance of developing Syringomyelia (SM) should be lessened. Each generation trying to put a little bit more Cavalier in the mix without taking a step back is going to take some out of and back in the box thinking and breeding. I had thought about using Ernest first as last, but decided that I would stick with the original plan of using his pure Cavalier Dad, Toby (which on paper is the higher risk strategy) with Blottie to hope to keep the improvement gained with the Brittany, but sometimes your dogs have other ideas and Blottie made the decision of who she was going to have puppies with, not me.
Yep, it was not my choice. Blottie on being presented with Toby as a possible mate, turned her nose up at him, and no way was he getting first dabs at her eggs, unless of course I restrained her, basically letting Toby rape her. On the other hand she was only to happy to make sweet nothings with Ernest. I have witnessed this behaviour a few times in animals, with horses and dogs. That's why when breeding you should have an "A" plan, and a "B" plan. Most pure dog breeders stick rigidly to an "A" plan, the female is mated with the male whether she wants to or not. The breeding has been chosen on paper, and it's going to happen. We take a more holistic approach to dog breeding, I've been witness to a forced mating. I don't think allowing a bitch a bit of choice, when I had actually explained in blogs I could potentially use Ernest instead of Toby, as a real concern. I would be more concerned about a breeder who has only one dog in mind, and is going to do a mating whatever. Blottie producing ten healthy little spaniel pups, pretty much seals the deal that the right choice was made. So there you have it, Blottie chose Ernest.
So two weeks before last Christmas, Blottie and Ernest's ten pups arrived a beautiful litter of pups that Blottie gave birth to naturally, and although Ernest is only black and white, he does carry the tricoloured gene of his Dad, Toby. So in the litter we had three colours Blenheim (orange and white), black and white, and tricoloured.
Blottie was an amazing mother (as her mother, and Grandmother before her were) and coped wonderfully with such a big litter, especially as also a first time Mum. Those first weeks of life, the temperament of the Mum is so important. The more laid back she is as a mother, from experience the more laid back the pups will be. We kept just Teagol from this litter, and nine families took on her litter siblings. Nearly a year old I have watched Teagol grow in to a beautiful small type spaniel dog, and with updates regularly arriving for her litter siblings and her sister Ginty coming to stay with us this summertime. With thanks to these families, I have been able to watch her nine litter siblings also grow, some a bit smaller than her, some the same size as her, and some a bit bigger than her, but all beautiful young spaniel dogs.
Part two, we will look at the coupling of Bumble and Ernest. Part three, the coupling of Treacle and Casper. Culminating with part four, where are we, and where do we go from here, when I find time to write it up of course.
“The greatest pleasure of a dog is that you may make a fool of yourself with him, and not only will he not scold you,but he will make a fool of himself, too.”
― Samuel Butler
Me with Bumble and Blottie, waiting patiently to be unleashed, November 2018
Hello, I am Jane, you might of guessed, I love dogs. We are situated in the North Devon countryside, England, United Kingdom. Our home is occupied by my husband, David, our children, pack of dogs and me.