Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed: Facts, Temperament & Care Info

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel offers the best of both worlds: a small-sized lapdog who’s content to snuggle beside you and a sporty spaniel who’s happy to romp and play. The prized pet of British royals, Cavaliers have been painted by the Old Masters for centuries—and it’s no wonder, with their big soulful round eyes, long silky ears and sweet expression. One look and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel just might steal your heart and never let it go.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Facts

Cavaliers have been around since the days of Queen Elizabeth I when they were known as toy spaniels, thanks to their petite size (the average Cavalier King Charles Spaniel weight is typically between 13 and 18 pounds).

  • Breed Group: Toy
  • Height: 12-13 inches
  • Weight: 13-18 pounds
  • Life Span: 12-15 years
  • Coat: Moderately long, silky and straight
  • Color: Black and tan, black and white, ruby and Blenheim (chestnut red and white)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Characteristics

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breed History

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a rich history that dates back to the 1500s. Back then, they were known as comforter spaniels, serving as companions and furry bed warmers for the ladies in Queen Elizabeth I’s court. They got their official name from another royal, Charles I, who loved these dogs so much he was criticized for caring more for his spaniels than his kingdom.

Fast-forward to the mid-1800s when devotees of the breed began to cross them with Pugs for a slightly different look (a shorter muzzle and a domed forehead). That was the standard until the 1920s, when a rich American offered cash to the breeders who could create puppies that looked like the original, longer-muzzled dogs. These dogs became the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels we know (and love) today.

These delightful dogs came to the U.S. in the 1950s and now are 18th on the American Kennel Club’s list of most popular dogs. As such, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies aren’t an inexpensive breed. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s price can typically range from $2,000 to $3,500.

Of course, you don’t have to go through a Cavalier King Charles breeder to become a pet parent to one of these adorable floofs—although you can find some through the American Kennel Club (AKC). You can also adopt from a dedicated Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescue group, like American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Rescue Trust, or by keeping an eye out of the breed at your local animal shelter organization.

What Does a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Look Like?

What’s not to love about this bundle of cuteness? Start with a Cavalier’s adorable little mug. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have large, brown, round eyes with a sweet, melting expression. They also sport long, silky ears with lots of fringe and that are wide enough to frame their cute little faces.

That ear fringe (called feathering) is a prominent feature of Cavaliers; they have it on the chest, legs and paws, too. These feathery fringes are part of all these spaniels’ coats, which can be long, silky and straight (some coats may have a bit of a wave). They also have compact, graceful bodies, with deep chests and elegant necks. Their long, feathery tails wag happily when Cavalier King Charles Spaniels see their beloved people.

Finally, there are four Cavalier King Charles Spaniel colors to note: Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have red fur all over their bodies, while black and tan Cavaliers sport a combo of the two hues. There are also black and white Cavaliers (who also boast tan markings). And last but not least, there are Blenheims which are white and chestnut red.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Temperament

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is bred to be a lap dog and excels at that job. They are often the happiest when in someone’s lap. These dogs stay puppyish (in a good way) throughout their lives, and usually love anyone and everyone they meet. Overall, this breed’s temperament tends to be trusting, friendly, loving and playful. They don’t make great watchdogs because they view everyone they meet as a potential friend, but it’s more than worth the trade-off to have such charming companions.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels often follow you around as you go about your day, and they fare best if they can be with you most of the time. This is not the best breed for people who work long hours and can only spend time with a dog in the evenings. They are good with children but must be monitored around young tots, as this pup’s small size makes it easy for a toddler to accidentally hurt them.

Keeping Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Healthy: 4 Issues to Watch Out For

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are at higher-than-average risk for several health problems, some of which can be minimized or prevented through wise breeding decisions. If you’re considering adding a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to your family, choose a reputable breeder who makes breeding decisions based on the dogs’ welfare, or, if you choose to adopt, be sure to get as much medical history on the dog as the rescue organization is able to provide.

Here are some common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel health issues to watch out for:

Neurologic Problems

Cavaliers are at risk for the birth defects syringomyelia, which affects the spinal cord, and caudal occipital malformation, in which the skull is malformed. Both can cause pain and neurologic dysfunction. Screening is recommended, though not required by the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club.

Eye Problems

Cataracts, an abnormal cloudiness to the eye’s lens that makes it hard to see, frequently affect Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, and sometimes at a young age, and retinal dysplasia can cause varying degrees of vision loss, depending on its severity. Corneal dystrophy (a haziness to the outer, normally clear layer of the eye) can also occur.

The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club requires that dogs have their eyes routinely examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with the results reported to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).

Orthopedic Conditions

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are at relatively high risk for hip dysplasia, a degenerative condition affecting one or both hips that leads to arthritis over time. Patellar luxation (a kneecap that slips out of its normal groove) also is quite common in the breed. Tests for hip dysplasia and patellar luxation with results submitted to the OFA are required by the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club.

Heart Disease

Mitral valve dysplasia is a common form of heart disease in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Thickening of the leaflets of the heart’s mitral valve leads to a murmur and sometimes congestive heart failure. Screening for mitral valve dysplasia is required by the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club and must be reported to the OFA or American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Registry of Cardiac Health (ARCH).

Caring for Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Like all dogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels require routine care, but special attention needs to be paid to a few of their distinctive characteristics. With the proper care, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s life span can typically reach an average of 12-15 years.

Grooming

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels generally only need baths every month or so, unless they get into something that makes them especially dirty or smelly.

While Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do shed, it’s not excessive and you can help minimize hair around your home with regular (weekly or so) brushing. A gentle, coated-tip brush like the ConairPRO Dog Slicker Soft Slicker Brush works well in most cases. Pay special attention to the longer hair around the ears, belly, legs and tail to prevent mats.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels require regular nail and tooth care. Trim nails as needed with a nail clipper that includes a safety mechanism to prevent you from cutting nails to short (try the Millers Forge Nail Clipper With Safety Stop). Teeth should be brushed daily (learn how here!). The Virbac C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Dog Kit has everything you need as it includes both a dog-friendly toothbrush and toothpaste.

Nutrition

An appropriate Cavalier King Charles Spaniel weight is around 13-18 pounds, and these dogs do have a tendency to become overweight. A good diet is important for weight maintenance and to provide the nutrition needed to keep these dogs healthy and happy. If your dog struggles to stay slim, look for nutritionally complete and balanced foods that are less calorie dense like Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Healthy Weight Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food.

How much food to feed Cavalier King Charles Spaniels depends on their caloric needs, which a veterinarian can help you establish based on your pet’s age, size, activity level and other factors. Then, you’ll need to feed the right amount of your dog’s food to meet those caloric needs, making sure to factor in treats.

There are also breed-specific dog foods available for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Royal Canin Cavalier King Charles Puppy Dry Dog Food is designed for pups under 10 months of age. At that point, most dogs can be switched to Royal Canin Cavalier King Charles Adult Dry Dog Food. It’s important to note, however, that every dog is unique so your veterinarian can help you determine the best dog food for each Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Exercise

For many pet parents, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels provide an ideal blend of lap dog and exercise companion. Due to their small size, daily leash walks are generally all they need. However, they often enjoy more exercise. Just remember that these pups still are spaniels and impulsively will chase birds or other potential prey right into the street. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep them on a fixed-length leash at all times.

Training Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels sometimes are described as stubborn, but they actually are quite smart and trainable. They don’t respond well to harsh words or punishment—they will tend to run and hide—but are quick to learn through positive reinforcement.

Using tiny shreds of Stella & Chewy's Carnivore Crunch or another easy-to-cut-up treat, you can teach your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to sit, lie down, come when called and more. Since Cavalier King Charles Spaniels thrive on attention, many will happily do tricks for praise and petting once they’ve learned what to do, so you can fade out the treats fairly quickly in most cases.

Some people complain that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are hard to housetrain, but if you follow good housetraining practices—like keeping a regular schedule, giving praise when your pup goes in the right place and never punishing the dog for accidents—you should find your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can quickly learn where and when to potty. Simply give them gentle, kind guidance and time to get there!

Learn more about how to housetrain a dog here.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels typically love everyone—dogs, kids and grownups alike. Calm, gentle and loving, they are the perfect family dog and are just as happy to play or go for a stroll as they are to cuddle up next to you while you watch TV or turn in for the night.

Read more:

By: Dr. Jennifer Coates, DVM; Irith Bloom, CPDT-KSA, CDBC; Linda Rodgers

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