Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog History, Health And Care

Introduction Of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog

There is great debate about the precise origin of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, also known as the Cav, the Cavalier and the Cavie. However, there is no doubt that small spaniels have existed for many centuries, especially favored by the children of royalty as they were a luxury lap dog bred purely for companionship rather than for work. This is an active, elegant, well-balanced toy breed described as being “very gay and free in action, fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate” by the American Kennel Club official breed standard. A sweet, soft, melting expression is an important breed characteristic, with large, dark, round but not prominent brown eyes.

The Cavalier’s personality is one of open friendliness, a love of play and of course a love of lap time with their human companions. This breed is the perfect family dog: naturally well-behaved, large enough to handle romps, small enough to cuddle, completely people-oriented and downright adorable. They are excellent with children and the elderly, and they get along well with other animals. Cavaliers even greet strangers with great joy. This breed thrives so much on human companionship they cannot be left alone for long periods of time, or they will develop nervous, anxious and potentially destructive behaviors.

The Cavalier should stand between 12 and 13 inches at the withers and should weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. These are ideal ranges; slight deviations are permissible. Their moderately long, silky coat should be free from curls, and there should be long feathering on the ears, chest, legs, feet and tail. They should be brushed regularly, and their long floppy ears should be cleaned and checked frequently for signs of infection.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed Quick Facts

Affection Level4/5
Apartment Friendly5/5
Barking Tendencies3/5
Cat Friendly3/5
Child Friendly4/5
Dog Friendly4/5
Exercise Need3/5
Grooming Needs2/5
Health Issues2/5

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – Appearance & Grooming


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are small, beautiful eyes with a distinctly gentle expression. It is the cushioning under their eyes that creates the uniquely soft look of the face. They have long, feathered ears, silky, often wavy coats and they come in shades of solid ruby, black and tan, tricolor and Blenheim, which is chestnut on a white background. They also sport feathering on their chest, legs and feet. The tail is sometimes docked, but the practice is becoming less frequent, especially in family dogs.

Size and Weight

The Cavalier King Charles stands from 12 to 13 inches at the withers and weights between 13 and 18 pounds. Household male spaniels may weigh as much as 25 pounds, but show dogs should not be that large. They are slightly longer than they are tall, but some may be more square in proportion.

Coat and Color

Cavaliers have medium-length coats that are wavy and silky to the touch, but should never be curly. They sport feathering on the ears, chest, feet, legs and tail. The most common color is Blenheim, which is a rich chestnut on a pearly white background. Blenheims usually have a small dot on their foreheads which is called a lozenge. They also come in tricolor (black on white with tan markings on the face and tail), black and tan and solid ruby.

Grooming Needs

The wavy, silky coat of the Cavalier King Charles may appear to be high-maintenance, but this breed is fairly easy to maintain. They need to be brushed a few times per week to remove loose hair, keep tangles from forming and keep the coat shiny. They only need to be bathed as necessary, but active, outdoorsy Cavaliers will require more frequent bathing than others. They don’t require trimming, but some owners prefer to trim the feet for neatness sake.

The long ears of the Cavalier should be checked weekly for signs of redness or infection. Veterinarians can recommend a solution to use on a weekly basis that will keep harmful bacteria at bay. Weekly brushing of the teeth will keep gums healthy and stop bad breath from forming.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – History and Health


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel acquired its name because it was a great favorite of King Charles I of Britain in the 1600s. Only royalty or the very wealthy could afford a dog who did not earn his keep by hunting or chasing varmints. King Charles II also adored this breed, and its popularity in Britain increased until the fall of the House of Stuart. Apparently, the favorite breed of William and Mary was the Pug, and it became quite a liability to be associated with the dogs of King Charles. Queen Victoria owned a Cavalier as a young child, but throughout her life her interest in developing and breeding dogs led to development of the breed known today as the English Toy Spaniel in America and the King Charles Spaniel in the United Kingdom, with a much shorter, flatter face, a domed skull and smaller in stature than the original Cavalier, which all but disappeared. This newer toy spaniel breed apparently developed from crossing Cavaliers with Pugs and the Japanese Chin.

In the early 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldridge visited England and apparently was disappointed to discover that the original King Charles Spaniel which he had admired from afar had effectively been replaced by a smaller, pug-faced dog. He wanted to find a pair of spaniels resembling those he had seen in old paintings and tapestries of the aristocracy. When he was unable to find those dogs, in 1926 he sponsored a contest at the Cruft’s dog show offering money prizes of 25 pounds each for the best dog and best bitch of the long-faced “old world type” of toy spaniel. Specifically, the prize was offered to the dog and bitch “as shown in the picture of King Charles II’s time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with the spot in the center of the skull.” Eldridge ran this contest for five years, drawing ridicule from some and enthusiasm in reviving the original small spaniel from others. In 1927, a dog named Ann’s Son was the winner of the 25 pound prize, and in 1928, a breed standard was drawn up using Ann’s Son as the model. The monetary prize tempted several other dedicated breeders to focus on bringing back the original type, which became the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we know today.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was founded in England in 1928. People started breeding bigger, longer-faced dogs and competing with them against the smaller, shorter-faced ones in the same classes. In 1944, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel officially was recognized by the Kennel Club of England as a separate breed. The first Challenge Certificates were awarded in 1946. The Cavalier remains among the most popular breeds in Great Britain today.

According to the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club: “Purists would have us believe that long nosed throwbacks from English Toy Spaniels were the only dogs used in the re-creation of this breed. Breed lore suggests, however, that various Cocker breeds, Papillons and perhaps even the Welsh Springer were used to recapture the desired breed traits.”

World War II interrupted the development of the breed when travel to the few stud dogs available was virtually impossible. This led to some intense inbreeding which might be frowned upon today, but which saved this emerging breed at the time.

The first Cavaliers were sent to America in 1952, and in 1956 a breed club was formed. Shortly thereafter, the parent club sought American Kennel Club recognition, but because of the small number of breed representatives in this country they were relegated to the Miscellaneous class. In 1993, The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed and in January 1996, the breed became the 140th breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in the Toy Group, has a loyal and growing following in the United States to this day.


The average life expectancy of the Cavalier is between 10 and 14 years. Breed health concerns may include Chiari-like malformation, hip dysplasia, endocardiosis, patent ductus arteriosus, mitral valve disease, patellar luxation, entropion, distichiasis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, retinal dysplasia, brachycephalic upper airway syndrome and syringomyelia.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel – Temperament & Personality


At first glance, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may look like a dainty breed, (and they do love to be pampered), but further investigation reveals an energetic dog with hunting roots, who loves the outdoors just as much as they love curling up in a lap for a belly rub. The King Charles is a true companion dog – they love to be with people as much as possible and should not be left alone for long periods of time. They make great companions for active, retired seniors who are willing to walk them daily and have a yard for running. Their temperament, energy level and trainability also makes them an ideal choice for the first-time dog owner.

Activity Requirements

Though small, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel loves the outdoors. Daily walks are a must, and they should be allowed to run and stretch their legs a few times per week. They can happily live an an apartment or condominium, as long as a commitment is made to their daily activity requirements. Anxiety is common with this breed, and can be made worse by living a sedentary life.

Hunters of small game can bring their King Charles into the field. They enjoy tracking and chasing, and have energy to spare when they are involved in such tasks.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are naturally well behaved, and training them is a breeze. They love to please, and will do anything for a treat. A gentle hand is required, as they can be a timid breed and don’t respond well to harsh treatment. They can be graduated past the basic level into advanced obedience training and agility activities where they often excel.

Behavioral Traits

Separation Anxiety is the most common problem with the King Charles. They are very dependent upon the people they love and hate to be alone. If they live in a house with people who work, a companion animal can keep them from becoming too anxious. Exercise can help, but generally the anxiety is rooted solely in their being left alone and they will bark excessively and chew destructively until someone comes home. The King Charles is best for a two-pet home, families with a stay at home parent, or empty nest retirees.

Because they are natural hunters, the Cavalier King Charles can not be trusted in an open yard or off a leash. If they catch sight of a small animal, they will give chase and won’t come home no matter how desperately you yell after them. They have also been known to chase bikes and cars, which can be quite dangerous.

Timidity is common in this breed, and if not kept in check can develop into full blown fearfulness of everything, including their own shadow. It is important that the King Charles be socialized to enjoy new visitors and new experiences – which as puppies they will love. They are easy to travel with and should be exposed to as many new things as possible, as early as possible.

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