Seeking out “designer” cross-bred dogs has grown extremely popular among prospective dog owners over the past 30 or so years. One such breed combination that has been skyrocketing in popularity since it was created in the early 2000s is the Cava-Tzu, a cross between a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and a Shih Tzu.
- 1 What is the Cava-Tzu?
- 2 Is a Cava-Tzu the Right Pup for You?
- 3 Cava-Tzu Health and Care
- 4 The Basics of Grooming
- 5 Essential Grooming Products and Accessories
- 6 Training and Exercising your Cava-Tzu
- 7 Dietary and Feeding Guidelines
- 8 Summary and Next Steps
- 9 Finding a Cava Tzu
- 10 Most Popular Names for the Cava-Tzu
- 11 Male Names:
- 12 Female Names:
- 13 Are you a current owner or a prospective owner of a Cava Tzu? Please share your experiences or ask questions here!
What is the Cava-Tzu?
While the Cava-Tzu only came into existence in the past 20 years, both its parent breeds have royal roots going back centuries.
The history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel began in 17th century England, as it is named after King Charles I. Charles ruled from 1600-1649 and was known for being surrounded by his beloved and sweet-natured Spaniels. When Queen Victoria came into power centuries later, she bred her own variation of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (it was bred with the Japanese Chin and Pug to create flatter faces and a more domed skull). In the early twentieth century an effort was made to reproduce the original breed standard from Charles I’s era. In 1944, a satisfactory breed standard was finally accepted by the Kennel Club of England.
The Shih Tzu, whose name means “little lion,” has Tibetan and Chinese ancestry that dates all the way back to 800 BC. This little lapdog was known as an ideal royal companion for centuries, gracing the laps of multiple Chinese emperors. Though they can be feisty and spirited, the Shih Tzus were bred exclusively as loving companions to follow their owners devotedly from room to room. Like the Spaniel, Shih Tzus were not bred with the intention of putting the dogs to work in any capacity.
The Cava-Tzu is a “designer” breed (combining two established breeds with the intention of maximizing the positive physical and personality qualities of both, and hopefully reducing the negative qualities and health risks of both as well). As such, the Cava-Tzu cannot be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), but both its parent breeds are long-standing members of the AKC; the Shih Tzu was recognized as a part of the AKC’s “toy” group in 1969 and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel joined the same group in 1995, though the Spaniel had already been recognized by the Kennel Club of England several years earlier.
Adult Cava-Tzus (both male and female) weigh between 10 and16 lbs. and can vary in height between 9 and 16 inches. As is typical of smaller dogs, the average lifespan for the Cava-Tzu is longer than the average for larger dogs, ranging between 10 and 15 years.
While there is significant variation amongst individual Cava-Tzus (depending on which parent’s genes are dominant in a particular litter or individual pup), their appearance contains aspects of both parents: the Cava-Tzu has a round face with focused dark eyes, floppy ears, and a curled tail.
The Cava-Tzu’s eyes are brown and their noses black, almost without exception. A Cava-Tzu pup’s coat could be several different colors, including white, black, brown, and ruby, and often a combination of two of these colors. While their fur is straight, it is medium length and dense and does require a good deal of grooming to maintain its healthy shine. They often have the long, feathered ears of their Spaniel heritage.
Is a Cava-Tzu the Right Pup for You?
Cava-Tzus are intelligent and eager to please, which makes them easy to train. They are loyal and affectionate, constantly ready to shower their humans with love and attention. That being said, they often jump, play, and then snuggle. They can be ideal for those who don’t want (or don’t have the capacity to care for) a dog who is “on” and full of energy at all times.
Having inherited the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s sweet and easy-going nature as well as the Shi Tzu’s cuddling and attention-loving tendencies, the Cava-Tzu is well-suited for a family with children. They are also fairly calm and self-sufficient when left alone for long periods of time. Since they are such compact dogs who don’t need an enormous amount of exercise to stay healthy, they can be ideal for apartment-dwellers, those who work long hours, first-time dog owners, and senior citizens.
In many ways the Cava-Tzu is an excellent candidate for a therapy dog or support animal: it is trainable, even-keeled, universally affectionate, and soft-spoken. However, because the Cava-Tzu is typically friendly to all it encounters and only barks minimally and quietly, it is a less-than-ideal guard dog.
Cava-Tzu Health and Care
As with all dog breeds, it’s important to keep up regular vet checks (every six months is recommended) and stay up to date on your dog’s shots. Though Cava-Tzus don’t need miles-long walks or hours running around a dog park, they do need some movement and exercise to maintain muscle tone and keep them at a healthy weight. This lack of physical exercise also means they should be kept on a nutritionally dense food and fed regularly 2-3 times per day instead of left to graze all day long.
A few major health issues to be on the lookout for with the Cava-Tzu are Mitral Valve Disease (a condition involving the malfunction of valves in the heart) and Syringomyelia (the growth of fluid-filled cysts along the spinal cord). Both can be identified and addressed by regular visits to the vet (every month for the first year of life, then every six months for the rest of the dog’s life). To a lesser extent, one should also watch out for eye problems, hip dysplasia, patellar luxation (AKA: dislocated knees), and Brachycephalic Syndrome (a condition related to the flattened face of the Cava-Tzu in which the shape of the palate can interfere with and obstruct airways).
Cava-Tzus can also be prone to dental issues, so it is important to either regularly brush their teeth or ensure they have access to dental toys and treats to maintain oral health.
When it comes to spaying or neutering your pup, your choice depends on whether you want to breed your dog later in life. It is recommended you wait until a puppy has reached sexual maturity (around 8 months of age) to avoid complications with healthy hormones while the pup is growing.
The Basics of Grooming
While their shedding is minimal, Cava-Tzus are not hypoallergenic (unlike their cousin designer breed combining a Shih Tzu and Poodle: the Shih Poo).
The Cava-Tzu’s fur coat is not terribly high maintenance compared to many other breeds, but it will definitely require a commitment to regular grooming. Though a Cava-Tzu’s coat often looks feathery and textured (like its Cavalier King Charles Spaniel parent) its fur is straight. Its coat is medium in length, but extremely dense.
The Cava-Tzu needs to be brushed at least twice a week and will need its longer feathers to be trimmed on a regular basis (how regularly will depend in part on personal styling choices). Cava-Tzus only need to be bathed on an as-needs basis and should always be bathed with a gentle shampoo that maintains their natural skin oils.
Like all puppies, Cava-Tzu puppies have extra soft puppy fur. Even though they may not seem to need it right away, it would be wise to start the ritual of brushing as early as possible so the puppy gets used to the sensation and routine of brushing before it becomes nonnegotiably necessary.
Essential Grooming Products and Accessories
To healthfully maintain your Cava-Tzu’s coat, you will need a pin brush, a slicker brush, and scissors. Using both types of brushes will assist in thoroughly detangling the thick layers of the dog’s coat during recommended bi-weekly brushing sessions. Cava-Tzus will also need their longer, feathery hairs (especially on their heads, ears, and tails) to be trimmed with scissors from time to time.
You will also need to buy dog nail clippers to keep Cava-Tzus’ nails at a healthy length (and to keep them from accidentally scraping you!). This is especially important since Cava-Tzus tend to spend more time inside with their humans than outside walking over rough terrain that would file their nails naturally. Human nail clippers will not work; it is important when cutting your Cava-Tzus nails for avoid the quick, the soft, sensitive base of their nails, and dog nail clippers are designed specifically for this purpose.
As mentioned above, it is also important when bathing your Cava-Tzu to use a gentle shampoo that does not strip their skin of its natural oils.
Training and Exercising your Cava-Tzu
When it comes to training a Cava-Tzu, their Shih Tzu focus and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel sweetness make them relatively easy to train. Of course, like with all puppies, Cava-Tzus need plenty of consistent repetition to learn rules and commands successfully.
Since they are so eager to please their humans, rewards and lots of verbal praise and affection go a long way toward maintaining learning motivation. This goes for tricks and tasks (e.g. come, sit, down, stay) as well as rules (how and when to go to the bathroom, when and whether jumping or chewing is acceptable, etc.). Given their high intelligence, these pups would be great candidates for obedience classes.
Cava-Tzus don’t typically need or want long walks (although the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel needs more exercise than the Shih Tzu does, so the amount of exercise a given Cava-Tzu needs depends on which parent’s genes are more prominent in that individual).
On average, an adult Cava-Tzu should thrive with around 40 minutes of activity each day, and around 6 miles walked over the course of an entire week. Of course, this will vary by individual dog. Many Cava-Tzus receive sufficient exercise running around the inside of their home or fenced-in yard.
When taking Cava-Tzus for walks, it’s important to be mindful that this breed does not handle heat as well as it handles the cold. On especially hot days, it would probably be better to keep you Cava-Tzu inside or panting in the shade.
Cava-Tzus may beg to be picked up while on long walks, and their cute round eyes and compact size make it tempting to do so. However, this breed does put on weight with extreme ease, so practice discipline in making sure your Cava-Tzu does get enough regular movement to maintain a healthy weight and muscle tone.
Dietary and Feeding Guidelines
Due to the lack of need (and capacity for) strenuous regular exercise, it is important not to overfeed your Cava-Tzu. This breed puts on weight very easily. It’s highly recommended to feed a Cava-Tzu measured portions at 2-3 regular times throughout the day, rather than leaving a whole day’s portion out all day for the pup to graze.
Be sure to choose a dog food brand that is nutritionally dense so that your pup doesn’t feel a need to overeat to feel satisfied. Most food brands have suggestions for portion sizes based on age and activity level. As a general rule, if your dog’s ribs visibly stick out, you are underfeeding him or her, and if you run your hands along your dog’s sides and can’t feel the ribcage, you are overfeeding him or her.
Summary and Next Steps
In summary, the Cava-Tzu combines the very best of the regal breeds Shih Tzu and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into a compact, adorable, intelligent and affectionate bundle. The Cava-Tzu is easy to train and suitable for households with children, small houses or apartments, and households that are unable to provide constant attention, but is not suitable as a guard dog.
The Cava-Tzu’s coat is not hypoallergenic and does require regular grooming. Cava-Tzus have a tendency to put on weight easily, so their food intake should be monitored and regular movement should be encouraged.
Consistent visits to and communication with a veterinarian will keep any potential health risks in check and help your Cava-Tzu live the long and healthy life he or she deserves.
Finding a Cava Tzu
It is unlikely (though of course not impossible) you will find a designer breed such as the Cava- Tzu in an animal shelter. At any rate, a shelter is not the ideal place to look if your heart is set on a Cava-Tzu. There are breeders located all across the world eager to pair you with tiny Cava-Tzu puppies.
While of course the price will vary greatly from breeder to breeder, most puppies go for around $2,500, give or take a few hundred dollars.
No matter how great a deal you may seem to find, please remember to exercise caution when selecting a breeder to support. Ask for recommendations or references, and even insist on seeing the property on which the breeder is keeping the puppies and their parents; do what you can to avoid support puppy mills that do not treat either their breeding adults or their puppies with the care and respect they deserve.
When planning financially, remember to take into account the costs of bedding or a crate, brushes and clippers, dog shampoo, a collar and leash, toys, treats, regular vet visits, and regular feeding (this cost will depend on the food brand you select).
Most Popular Names for the Cava-Tzu
While of course naming your dog is a deeply personal endeavor, a few popular names for Cava-Tzus are listed below as a resource and inspiration:
Other Similar or Comparable Designer Dog Breeds
- Shihpoo (Shih Tzu + Poodle)
- Puggle (Pug + Beagle)
- Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever + Poodle)
- Golden Doodle (Golden Retriever + Poodle)
- Yorki Poo (Yorkshire Terrier + Poodle)