Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Resource

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


A small sporting spaniel that gained popularity in the 17th century, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel fell out of favor after the reign of Britain’s King Charles II. The original Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was bred as a companion dog to fit nicely on the laps of princes and in the arms of the aristocracy. The cheery Charles II, known as the Cavalier King, included his much-loved gentle spaniels in his formal portraits. The toy spaniel breeds changed over time, but in the 1920s a renewed interest redefined the classic Cavalier.

The Cavalier today is gentle, affectionate and playful. Known for gentle interaction with the elderly as well as with children, the Cavalier is also generally good with other animals. Moderately easy to train, sensitive, and eager to interact, the Cavalier makes a good therapy dog.

Cavaliers also make great family pets and unlike most toy breeds, they’re sturdy enough to roughhouse with so long as the play is supervised. A Cavalier is typically friendly to family and outsiders alike; he wasn’t bred to guard or protect. He may bark to alert you to a knock at the door, but then he’ll likely welcome the visitor in to play.

The Cavalier is adaptable to living in small quarters, as long as he’s provided plenty of human contact and daily walks. Because the breed is so people-oriented, Cavaliers are best suited to a home where someone is around. If that’s not possible, a pair of Cavaliers will keep each other company until their laps arrive home from work or school. They are so charming that there is a chance you will want more than one, even if you are at home all day.

About Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Should I get a Cavalier?

Terrific for a person who:

      Enjoy lots of cuddle time.
      Have children and other animals.
    Want to certify a dog for therapy visits.

Think twice if you’re a person who:

      Hopes for a dog with a keen “stranger danger” sense .
      Expects a high-intensity working relationship with the dog.
    Wants a dog that’s almost as independent as a cat.

King Charles Spaniel Dog Care

A Cavalier sheds, but not excessively. Weekly brushing and combing is needed. A bath now and then will maintain the silky coat.

The Cavlier King Charles Spaniel Standard Look

The Cavalier measures up to 13 inches at the shoulder and weighs up to 18 pounds. The Cavalier’s long and silky coat may be white with chestnut markings, all red, tricolor or black and tan.

Possible Cavalier Health Concerns

Heart conditions, especially Mitral Valve Disease.

Cavalier King Charles Fun

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel coloring page>>


Simply Cavalier

By Marry Sorensen

Super Bowl Sunday holds a special place in Chris Susen’s heart. But when this 6-foot-3-inch former jock from St. Paul, Minn., talks about the day, he barely remembers the game. A doe-eyed pup with fuzzy ears and a wagging tail stole the show at his big game party, where 15 of Susen’s college buddies each bigger and brawnier than the next had gathered to yell at the television, eat pizza and party.

The culprit: 10-week-old Colette, a tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her crime: being irresistible. The game-eclipsing moment: when, despite efforts to keep her away, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dragged a full cup of beer to a guest so she could play with the cup. (She only spilled a little.)

“Colette was just having a blast,” Susen says of his now 9-month-old dog. “She was a very small dog and these were very big men. They’d pick her up and, no matter what, her tail would be constantly wagging.”

A tail in perpetual motion is signature Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. As are those big, expressive, melt-your-heart eyes and ears that beg to be stroked. Few can resist a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, and that’s good, because the average Cavalier lives for attention and has never met a person it didn’t like.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s agreeable temperament didn’t develop by accident. For hundreds of years, these dogs were bred for no other reason than to serve as companions, royal bed-warmers and even hot-water bottles. Early Toy Spaniels, the assumed forebears of today’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, appeared in paintings and tapestries as early as the 15th century.

What’s in a Name?

This dog breed’s tongue-twister name honors its close ties with King Charles II known as Cavalier King Charles who reputedly took his Cavaliers with him everywhere during his reign from 1660 to 1685. “There are wonderful stories of diarists at the time who spoke of the noisome, smelly dogs that were constantly surrounding the king,” says Martha Guimond, a breeder in Green Lane, Pa., and member of the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club. “He was more interested in his dogs than he was in affairs of state,” they wrote. That’s exactly what you have: a dog breed that is devoted to the people it is around. It’s 400 years of dogs not bred to do anything except be with you.”

Changes in fashion inspired by a fascination with all things Oriental nearly caused the Cavalier to become extinct during the late Victorian and Edwardian eras in England. It wasn’t until 1926 when an American named Roswell Eldridge went to Great Britain looking for examples of the Cavalier that interest in the dog resurfaced (he offered cash prizes for the best examples). The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club formed in England in 1928; its American counterpart was founded in 1956.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s energy often surprises owners who assume companionable means docile pillow-warmer. With its sporting Spaniel background, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel remains an active dog breed capable of joining its owner for laps around the park as easily as for lap time on the couch. And lookout around birds and squirrels. “They will chase something that flies and runs,” Guimond says.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels excel at obedience, agility and tracking, and their sweet yet hardy nature makes them ideal therapy and assistance dogs, says says Dawn Glaser-Falk, a breeder and obedience instructor in Princeton, Minn.  Glaser-Falk founded the assistance-dog group Paws for People and competes with her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the show ring, obedience circuit, tracking field and agility course. Her dogs also swim and cross-country ski with her. “A lot of us describe them as Golden Retrievers in a little body because of the variety of things they like,” she says.

When Susan Adams, a veteran breeder in Glen Rock, Pa., and breed club rescue coordinator, placed a dog with a woman who taught severely handicapped children, she got another lesson in the versatility and beauty of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. “She brought the dog to school each day to work with the children,” Adams says. “The dog took to one autistic child. One afternoon the teacher called the parents and said, ‘You have to come see this.’ The boy was interacting with the dog and he was laughing. No one had ever heard him laugh before. To me, that typifies what this dog breed is about.”

Adopt a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and you’ll soon feel you have a new friend at home, one who tunes into your emotions and comforts you when you are down or plays when you are up. The rest of your family will find the same. “This is not a one-man dog,” Guimond says. “Cavaliers usually love everyone in the family.”

Don’t expect a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to sleep in the corner on a rug while you carry on with your busy life. It will be happiest in the middle of any activity, even if that means riding along in its crate while you run errands. “This isn’t a toy you take out on occasion, then put up on a shelf,” Adams says. “You really have to want to live with this dog and make it part of your life. This is a dog breed that sleeps on your bed, sits on your lap when you watch television, goes for a hike with you, hops in the car for a ride when you take the kids to get ice cream. And you give it part of the ice cream cone.”

Of course, you want to watch your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s waistline closely. This dog breed has inherited the Spaniel propensity for putting on excess weight. “They look at you with those big eyes,” Adams says. “The next thing you know you are giving them treats that they shouldn’t have and then the dogs start looking like sausages on legs.”

Generally quiet and well-mannered, a bored Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, like any other dog breed, may dig, chew, jump or get into other mischief. “As angelic as they are, they are still dogs and will let instinct overcome them sometimes,” Glaser-Falk says.

A Cavalier with access to a fenced yard and a playmate will generally exercise itself. Short of this scenario, a daily walk and a little playtime satisfy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s exercise needs. The Cavalier’s field-dog nose and toy-dog trusting nature mean owners need a containment system to prevent the dog from running off.

Grooming the Cavalier is simple: Bathe and brush regularly, especially the long silky hair of the ears, legs, chest and tail that tends to gather debris. Keep the ear canal clean and dry to avoid infection and trim excess hair between the toes to keep your dog comfortable.

You can easily train most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Praise and food highly motivate them. Because they are very sensitive, don’t use negative training, Guimond says. “What these dogs want is your praise. The biggest punishment you can give a Cavalier is to withdraw your attention and affection.”

Because of their small size, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies must be protected from young children and other pets that may play too rough, but grown dogs thrive on companionship of all kinds. With no human lap to crawl into, several Cavaliers are likely to pile up on top of each other for a nap.

Glaser-Falk raised her three children, Nick, Brett and Coree Mueller (now 18, 16 and 13, respectively) with Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and the dogs and kids always had a good relationship, she says. In fact, when Glaser-Falk twisted her ankle before a recent conformation show, her daughter Coree, who had never handled a dog in a show ring, stepped in and won a Best of Opposite her first time out.

Cavaliers tend to do well in the show ring, Guimond sayssays, with several Best of Shows awarded in recent years. “They don’t do as well as, say, Toy Poodles because they are a natural dog and don’t have the showiness of the cut,” she says. “We present our dogs in a totally natural way; in other words, we don’t [pose] them and make them look like statues. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed standard says, ‘The tail should be in characteristic motion at all times.’ It should be wagging. They should go around the ring looking happy, maybe not as fabulous and statuesque as the Poodles, but that’s what the Cavalier is.”

Heart-Wrenching Issue

After researching the breed, Susen nearly didn’t adopt Colette. The reason: mitrovalve disease, a heart-murmur condition affecting nearly all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that is responsible for its relatively short life expectancy of 9 to 11 years, though some may live to 14.

While research continues and reputable breeders struggle to purge the disease, progress is slow. “Probably 99 percent of Cavaliers will have a heart murmur by the time they are 10,” Adams says. “Statistically, close to 50 percent will have it by the time they are 4 to 5 years old. It’s in every line; it’s in every color. It’s equally divided between the male Cavaliers and the female Cavaliers. Anybody who tells you their dogs do not have murmurs has either not been in this dog breed or is not telling the truth. It’s a fact of life.”

Murmurs affect each dog differently. Some live normal lives while others die in weeks. “There isn’t any degree of predictability as to when it appears and what the severity of the disease will be,” Adams says. Her 12 1/2 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel developed a severe murmur at the age of 7 but remains active and medication free. “He bounces around with no problem,” Adams says. “Knock on wood, he’s going to do this for long time. On the other hand, I had one drop dead at the age of 4.”

Occasional incidences of hip dysplasia and retinal dysplasia (an eye condition that generally does not affect vision but mandates a dog not be bred) occur. As in most small dog breeds, patellar subluxation (knee dislocation) can be a problem.

With the shroud of heart disease ever in the background, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners live in the moment with their “love dogs.” Susen is determined to enjoy Colette and her Cavalier ways.

“They are addictive,” he says. “The love these dogs imbue upon their owners is fantastic. It’s contagious. I can come home from a terrible day at work where all I want to do is sit and stew, and one look at Colette and I forget everything I was upset about.”

Come winter and the next National Football League extravaganza, Susen might have to forget turning on the TV, too. Colette will be there, basking in the attention of friends and family, and Hoover, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy who will soon join the family, will be at his show-stopping cutest. Go, team!

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Breed Details

Country of Origin:
Small Dog Breed
Blenheim (rich chestnut markings on a clear, pearly white ground), tricolor (jet black markings on a clear pearly white ground), ruby (solid rich red), or black and tan.

Moderate length, silky, free from curl. Feathering on ears, chest, legs and tail.


Monthly grooming. Brush two to three times weekly, more often in shedding season.

Life Expectancy:
9 to 11 years.
AKC Group:
Toy Group
UKC Group:
12 to 13 inches at the withers
13 to 18 pounds
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