Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Breed Column
AKC Gazette - June, 2000
I hope that I will not sound pretentious if I comment on so sweeping a topic as the state of the Cavaliers in America today.

Having issued this weak disclaimer, I humbly forge ahead. Five years have passed since the AKC registry was opened for Cavaliers. It has been a time of exhilaration and accomplishment for the breed, and some top-drawer exhibits have finally been seen by the American fancy.

To my eye, there has been a slight turn in the quality that we are seeing in the ring, mostly in the class entry. At recognition, there was a long parade of very good Cavaliers just waiting for their day in the sun. Some were big winners before recognition, and some had not been shown in this country and were held in wait for the day. Many exhibitors had four or five really good ones to bring into the classes one after the other.

Some of these went on to become the top specials, others did their duty merely by showing what a correct Cavalier should be. As they, and the promising youngsters after them, have moved on through the classes, a void has been left that we seem bent on filling, even if that means showing dogs not of the same quality as their predecessors.

Lately, I have seen fine-boned, weedy specimens with deep stops and short noses vying for championship titles. Heavy, plodding exhibits with small eyes and hound lips stand right alongside, awaiting their crown. To rely on judges to withhold ribbons to tell us what belongs in the ring and in our breeding programs is certainly "passing the buck."

One of the inherent responsibilities of being a breeder is ensuring that only the best be used to carry the breed's legacy forward. This translates to showing (and breeding) not what can be finished, but what should be finished. I do not think Cavalier quality has declined. I do feel that we have lowered the bar as far as what we are willing to put in the show ring and the whelping box.

Like a seesaw, push one end down, the other goes up. As class quality has declined, the specials classes are spectacular. There are numerous good ones out there meeting in the Best of Breed ring, and competition is keener than ever. Looking down the line, however, there is often a vast discrepancy between the Best of Breed dog and the Winners Dog and Winners Bitch. Theoretically, all three should possess the merits of a champion.

I have watched as quite a few different breeds have entered this arena, and I know that fluctuation in type and quality is a natural progression. I have no doubt that the quality will reappear, but I prefer to think that we, as breeders and exhibitors, can tip the scales to our advantage by making the right decisions on what we breed and show.

There is no shame in not producing a champion in every litter. More glory belongs to those who realize it and place the pets in good homes. Every show does not have to draw a major entry. Defeating three quality Cavaliers does the breed more good than beating 10 who do not belong there.

As we approach five years in the ring, we must take stock of what we present as being champion quality Cavaliers. The less willing we are to settle for mediocrity, the faster the classes will again fill with the beautiful, tail-wagging, sporting and friendly toy spaniels. All will have flat skulls, large, round, dark eyes and enough nose to make them Cavaliers. All will be sturdy, well proportioned and moderately boned with soft, melting expressions and ever-wagging tails. All will be richly colored and possess an elegant and royal bearing.

The more selective we are about what makes it into the ring, the more prestigious and coveted our champion title becomes. Let's show the world that an American Cavalier champion is indeed representative of the supreme quality demanded by its breed standard.

- John D. Gammon, AKC Parent Club President & Gazette Breed Columnist

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