Ruby cavalier puppy
Cavalier Topics  Showing  Training

My path to Showing Dogs – By Kristen Kelley Owner/Breeder/Handler Kelley Cavaliers

My beginning

 When I was very young I knew my passion was animals. I spent most of my time saving animals off of the streets. My aunt, at the time worked for a doggie day care in Milwaukee where I spent a lot of time playing and learning how to train animals. That’s when I met my first Cavalier. Her name was Lexi and she was a small Blenheim (Red and White). I instantly wanted to know more about Cavaliers. On my 7th birthday my aunt gave me a dog encyclopedia so I could learn more about Cavaliers and other breeds. This is when my true passion came out. I learned that not only did I love Cavaliers but that all dog breeds are fun and interesting. I became obsessed with learning new breeds and what makes that breed different from the rest. My grandma was a dog breeder for Samoyeds, and we became very close.  I used to look at video/pictures of her dogs shows all the time. Sadly, she passed on before I was able to show my own dog. The rest of the family was not supportive of my love for animals and I had to learn how to do most of this on my own.

When I turned 18 I knew I that wanted to work with animals but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to approach it yet. There are many different avenues you can go with animals but none of them seemed to fit me completely, so I joined the Army. Unfortunately I fell 60 feet in a training test and it cut my military career short. I began working as a vet tech after being discharged from the military because I knew that I still wanted to work with animals. I loved the job but something still wasn’t right. I was looked down upon for loving purebred dogs by my coworkers and customers. I wanted a place where I could be accepted for what I loved and to use the knowledge I did have in purebred dogs.

One day I had a patient at the vet hospital invite me to go to dog show practice on a Wednesday night at the Racine Kennel Club. I had always wanted to learn how to do it. I had watched Westminster every year and my grandma in dog shows.  I was very nervous to go but once I went, it changed my life. I was suddenly where I had been looking to be.

I was surrounded by people who not only had an unbelievable love for their animals but they had so much knowledge that I just wanted to learn more.


At the time I did not have a show dog, so I often  practiced on my little boy Cavalier, 


Black and Tan Cavalier in a chair

At the Racine Kennel Club they taught me how to show, how to perform agility, tips and tricks for the show ring and how to generally maintain and care for a show dog/breeding dog.

Most clubs have a day of the week that they do a show class. All you have to do is show up on that night and they usually have a small fee, of about 5 dollars, for each dog that you bring.


Ruby cavalier puppyAfter many years of planning and waiting I finally got my show and breeding dogs. My boy is a Ruby named Blue Moon’s Winning Combination Treasure “Morty” and my girl is a Blenheim named Blue Moons Xenia “Lexi”. (Yes, I did name my girl after the first cavalier that I saw!)

Blen Cavalier


Now is when my true learning began. You can read and research your whole life, like I did, but nothing prepares you for actually being there. You find out things that work for you and things that don’t in the ring. I finally was living my dream of being the owner/breeder/handler of Kelley Cavaliers.




The show ring

Dogs cannot start earning points toward their championship title until they are 6 months old. Even though you can show at 6 months, the dog is usually not mature enough at that point to win any big titles yet. For a dog to be considered a champion they have to earn 15 points total. There is a maximum of 5 points that your dog can earn from each show. Because some breeds have high numbers and other breeds have low numbers, the amount of points you win could vary per show depending on how many dogs are registered for each breed.

Ruby Cavalier stacked on a grooming table


When you read the description of Cavaliers in the AKC hand book it says

Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alterations is essential to breed type.”

When I got into Cavaliers I thought that meant hardly any grooming was needed. I was completely wrong. They are supposed to come into the ring looking ungroomed but groomed. There are a lot of sprays and bathing rituals that you have perform before a show.

Head Shot of Ruby Cavalier

My routine starts the night before and 3 hours in the morning before the show starts. Which means I am up by 4 A.M. on dog show days to make sure my dogs are ready to go. But with that being said, a dog show is not a beauty contest. I cannot stress this enough. When the dogs are in the ring, yes, they judge the coat and quality, but they are mostly judging the structure of the dog. They are looking at the bone they feel down the back to feel the top line. They check the hips for alignment and much more. They are evaluating breeding stock to see if this dog has sound health from visuals for breeding.

It is a very competitive sport and to me there isn’t a better sport that you can be involved in with your dog. The bond you create while working y with your dog in dog shows is something special. If you weren’t a crazy dog person before dog shows they will definitely turn you into one. The feeling you get when the judge points to you for the first time is something you will never forget and your dog knows just as much as you do when you win.

My breeder/mentor told me something that has stuck with me. She told me you only breed to better the breed. If you feel you are not bettering the breed, then stop.”

I took that message to heart and I don’t want to just better the breed. I want to better the outlook of breeders. I breed only to the best health dogs I can find which costs me more but it’s worth it. I do all health testing on my own dogs and feed natural food and supplements to help with their health.

Ruby cavalier in show ring with lady


I want to change the gap between breeders, shelters, groomers and vets. We all have the same mission and that’s to save and love dogs.

Right now there is a pretty big line between them all and my goal is to bring us all a little closer together. I hope you can all join me on this journey to make cavaliers healthier and reduce the amount in shelters.

  1. Joie Mader 6 years ago

    Beautiful story!!

  2. Susan Hanson 4 years ago

    I love the Passion that you have for the Cavalier King Charles spaniel I had a female Tri color that I love and adored I did all the health research before I purchased her she did pass away a year and a 1/2 ago from bladder cancer tore my heart out I am looking to purchase a female bleniem and you are an excellent breeder if you can give me some information on purchasing a female bleniem I would greatly appreciate it

  3. Maribeth Melnik 4 years ago

    Great story. I love all dogs but after experiencing the love of a Cavalier I am devoted to doing my part to improving the breed so others can experience them. I also have experienced negativity from our vet clinic for breeding pure bred dogs. It saddens me as we are such ethical loving breeders.

  4. We just purchased a cavalier and we love him! Very easy to love

  5. Bernard Boone 4 years ago

    My wife brought me a dog.and I’m so in love with him. His name is Harlem, he’s from New York .

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