Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a smaller version of spaniel, often referred to as a toy version of spaniel.  The breed is an active sporting dog whose primary purpose is that of a devoted companion and lap dog.  He is directly descended from a variety of toy spaniels that can be frequently seen in painted works of famous artists such as Van Dyck and Titian.

King Charles II was quite found of his small spaniels and was often seen with several at all times.  So fond was he that he ordered by decree that all spaniels, then referred to as King Charles Spaniel, be allowed in all public places, including Parliament.  As the pug breed became more popular inEnglandin later years, he was incorporated into the spaniels.  This created a toy spaniel (known as the English toy spaniel) with a shorter muzzle and flatter face.  Breeders in the 1900s began to want to return the small spaniel to how he once resembled in paintings with a longer muzzle, and a quest was begun! This spaniel they produced with the slightly longer muzzle became distinct from the English toy spaniel and became known as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Physical Characteristics

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small spaniel at only about a foot tall and 13-18 pounds in weight.  He should be well balanced in the body and free in his movement.  This makes him wonderful for tasks such as agility.

His coat is silky to the touch and can have a slight wave to it but not curly.  He has feathering that is longer on his ears, tail, and legs, but no trimming is required. He comes in four different color variations: ruby (which is a rich, deep red color), Blenheim (red and white), tricolor (red, black and white), and black and tan.

Unlike the spaniel he is often confused with, the English toy spaniel, he does not have a flat face and shortened muzzle.  This is one of the biggest differences between the two breeds.


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a very affectionate, loving, people-person dog.  He loves to be with his family, and he is excellent with all ages of people from children to elderly.  He is patient which makes him a good little buddy, and he loves lying in laps.  This can make him an ideal dog for therapy work and overall companionship.

The breed is extremely outgoing.  They regard all people they meet as longtime friends.  This attitude also permeates into their relationships with other dogs and animals.  They crave the companionship of other animals, and it is highly recommended to have another dog or cat to keep him company.

As a sporting spaniel breed, he can have far more interest in small animals or birds, so this can pose some challenges if these are members of the same household.  It is often suggested that an owner have a fenced yard or keep the dog on leash in unfenced areas as the breed will still chase after small animals that might be seen due to their hunting instinct.


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a delightful companion and is easily trained.  He enjoys being with his person and learning new skills.  He is often viewed in performance events such as agility.

His devotion to his family makes him easy to train as he is eager to attempt to please his owner. He enjoys playing games and is easily motivated by food or toys.

One primary challenge of training is his high degree of social nature.  He will approach all strange people and dogs in the hopes of making a friend.  Care should be taken, especially as a small puppy, with handling and around larger dogs.  Owners will also need to work on the dog listening in distracted or busy locations with people nearby so that he listens even when the chance for a pet from someone else is near by.

Shedding & Grooming

Because of the silky texture of this coat, the breed does require weekly brushing and combing.  His hair can tangle easily if not given this weekly maintenance.  He has a natural coat that doesn’t require any trimming, but often it is suggested that the hair on the bottom of the feet (on the pad) should be trimmed to avoid tangles between the foot pads.  He does shed, but weekly brushing will reduce the light shedding.

Care should be taken to routinely check his ears and clean when necessary to avoid possible ear infections.  Additionally, routine nail trims and tooth brushing should be done.

Frequent bathing is not necessary except when dirty so to avoid drying out his skin and coat.

Health & Life Expectancy

The average life expectancy for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is about 9-14 years.  He is afflicted with a number of health issues.  This is likely due to the fact that the breed is not very genetically diverse and is derived primarily from very few dogs.  Common health issues include:

  • Heart problems, likely the #1 cause of death.  Mitral Valve Disease is the most prevalent.
  • Syringomyelia
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patellas
  • Eye issues like cataracts and retinal dysplasia
  • Episodic falling
  • Idiopathic asymptomatic thrombocytopenia
  • Dry eye
  • Congenital deafness
  • Ear disorders like Primary Secretory Otitis Media

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