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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

All about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Diet
Lifespan 9-14 years
Weight 5.9-8.2 kg
Height 30-33 cm
Temperament Loving, gentle, cheerful
Common colours

What are Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's like?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are cheerful and companionable canines that make pup-ular pets. They might look almost identical to King Charles Spaniels, but Cavaliers are a distinct breed. CKCS or Cavaliers are small enough to live anywhere and loving enough to live with anyone, it’s no wonder they’re consistently in the top 20 most pup-ular breeds in the UK.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Breed Overview

Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels are paw-sitively charming little dogs and are the largest breed within the toy category. Packed full of love and cheer, they’re indiscriminate with all that affection too, and they will shower it on anyone they meet, not just the people they live with.

They’re sociable little dogs and will live with other dogs and pets well. It makes them paw-some family pets, as well as su-paw sweet companions for anyone on their own.

These pups love to lounge and would spend all day every day snuggled with their human. Although they love to spend hours cuddling, they aren’t lazybones. These pups have enthusiasm and energy still, so you should expect daily walks and plenty of playtime. There is a glimmer of sporting spaniel hidden beneath that regal appearance too, so they might try chasing birds and squirrels!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels require a moderate amount of grooming, but they’re otherwise fairly easy to keep and train because they’re reasonably smart and eager to please! Sadly, these cuddly canines are prone to a fair few health problems, so you need to research their needs particularly in later life.

The history of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a breed is fairly modern, only emerging in the middle of the 20th century. They are very closely related to King Charles Spaniels.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels emerged as a distinct breed from King Charles Spaniel after a man called Roswell Eldridge offered a £25 prize for anyone who could breed a dog that looked like the toy spaniels in old artwork, paw-ticuarly the spaniels that King Charles II kept. That money wasn’t something to be sniffed at, it’s worth more than £1500 now, and there was a prize for the best boy and best girl.

The King Charles Spaniel in Eldridge’s time was very different to the original toy spaniels kept by their namesake, King Charles. This is because in the Victorian era they had been bred with pup-ular toy dogs like Pugs to create a snub-nosed breed with big, round eyes and highly domed heads that suited the fashion of the time. These dogs still exist today as King Charles Spaniels. However, they were a far cry from the spaniels seen in historical paintings.

Black, white and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Eldridge was desperate for a King Charles Spaniel that looked just like the dogs painted with King Charles II, with flatter heads and longer snouts than the modern King Charles Spaniel. Only a few breeders took up the challenge. It is believed that the now-extinct Toy Trawler Spaniel was crossbred with King Charles Spaniels to create a dog that matched Eldridge’s description.

By 1928 a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed club was formed and a breed standard created. Sadly, Eldridge passed away before this all took place, and the prize was won posthumously.

By 1945, the Kennel Club recognised the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as it’s own breed, distinct from the King Charles Spaniel. The new breed dwindled following the Second World War, but was revived and shot to pup-ularity and has stayed a firm favourite breed in the UK ever since.

What’s in a name…

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and their close cousins, the King Charles Spaniel, are both named after King Charles II. The breed existed prior to his reign, but this king was barking mad about these teeny toy spaniels. He not only bred them, he was allegedly always accompanied by at least three spaniels at any time! King Charles took the pups absolutely everywhere with him, including parliament.

Supposedly, the dogs also bear the name because their ears resemble the king’s curly wigs. They do say dogs start to look like their owners!

As for the Cavalier part of their name, it comes from the term “Cavalier” which was used to denote Royalist supporters for King Charles I and his son Charles II.

Where did toy spaniels come from?

The shared ancestry of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and King Charles Spaniels has a long but uncertain history. They are descended from Toy Spaniels that were a favourite of royalty during the Renaissance and Restoration periods some 400 years ago.

These pooches were paw-ticular favourites of aristocratic ladies and often appear in paw-traits with their owners. With such a charming paw-sonality and regal looks, it’s no wonder they were so sought after.

But beyond their images in old paintings, not much is known about the breed. They’ve clearly existed for centuries, but what breeds they are descended from and where in the world they originated are unclear.

Where are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels from?

It depends on how far back you’d like to go. The modern Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed emerged in England in the 20th century.

However, the ancestors of the breed have been around for centuries. It’s believed that they were originally from Asia and were introduced in Europe by merchants travelling with the spice trade. The theory is that these older dogs could be related to breeds like the Pekingese or the Japanese Chin.

What were Cavalier King Charles Spaniels bred for?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were bred to be companion animals.

Historically, these pooches were pup-ular with aristocrats who used them like furry hot water bottles to warm their laps and feet. It meant that the dog had to be happy to spend hours lying on their owner to keep them warm. Supposedly, they also helped to reduce fleabites in their humans, as the fleas were attracted to the pooch and fed off them instead. (Poor pup!)

There have been a few instances where Cavaliers have been used for hunting, which is usually associated with larger spaniel breeds.

In the 18th century, the Duke of Marlborough bred King Charles type spaniels and used to take them hunting to flush and retrieve game. This Duke’s dedication to these small spaniels has left a lasting impact, as “Blenheim” colour dogs (chestnut and white) are named after his estate Blenheim Palace.

Red and chestnut Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Nowadays, you won’t find a Cavalier working in the field. These pups are serious snugglers and they take their job as lap-warmers and companions su-paw seriously. That being said, some pups still make appearances in doggy sports like obedience and agility.

Key Statistics

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are usually around a foot tall, and their bodies are slightly longer than they are tall. Females can be smaller than males, but there’s not a huge difference between them.

Here’s a chart of the key statistics of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

MaleFemale
Size:Small (Toy)Small (Toy)
Average Height (Withers):30-33 cm30-33 cm
Average Weight:5.9-8.2 kg5.9-8.2 kg
Lifespan:9-14 years9-14 years
Coat:MediumMedium
Hypoallergenic:NoNo
Sheds:YesYes

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel facts

Spotted with love

Some Cavaliers have a small spot of colour on their foreheads known as a Blenheim spot. Much like the chestnut and white dogs being called “Blenheim” colour, it’s linked back to Blenheim Palace and the Duke of Marlborough.

The story goes that the Duke was away at war and it was the eve of a great battle. His worried wife sought comfort from their pregnant Cavalier King Charles Spaniel the day before the battle. She spent the night stroking the dog’s head and resting her thumb there.

The puppies were born the next day and each bore a little red spot like a thumbprint on their foreheads where the Duchess’ thumb had pressed on the mother dog’s head. That same day, the news broke that the battle had been won and the Duke had survived.

Almost extinct

Although the breed was recognised in 1945, by the end of WW2 only 6 Cavalier King Charles Spaniels had survived. Every Cavalier that exists today can trace their pedigree[2] back to these 6 individual dogs.

Royal favourites

Although they are best known as the canine companion to Charles II, many monarchs kept the toy spaniels from which Cavaliers are descended from. Queen Elizabeth I had one as a comforter to warm her hands. Her cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, was accompanied to her execution by her beloved fur-iend.

The poor pup was supposedly found amongst her petticoats after she had been beheaded! Queen Victoria was also a big fan of these dinky dogs and she even left her coronation early to go and give her beloved spaniel “Dash” a bath.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppies

When are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels fully grown?

Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should reach their adult height by their first birthday, and their adult weight at around 18 months old. However, most puppies aren’t considered fully grown and mentally mature until they are 2 years old.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels easy to train?

Yes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are reasonably easy to train because they are of average intelligence and are eager to please. They are sensitive dogs, so you must be gentle and don’t try any harsh corrections.

Cavs are often greedy little hounds, so a food reward will win them over time and again. But most im-paw-tently, they thrive on human attention and people-pleasing, so they’re usually enthusiastic to learn and happy to obey.

Tri-colour Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy

Given their small size, they can take a little while to house train. When you only have a little bladder, you can’t hold it in long! It shouldn’t be a huge challenge though, and these dogs are considered suitable for first-time puppy paw-rents.

You can read our tips on how to toilet train your puppy.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel names

Given their royal lovers and regal appearance, it can be very tempting to fashion a fanciful name for your pooch. Otherwise, something as bubbly and cheerful as they are makes a paw-fect fit. If you’re stuck trying to think of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel names, try browsing these 1000 girl dog names and 1000 boy dog names.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel temperament

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are famous for their affectionate and adoring personality. Their humans are their whole world, and they positively thrive on human company. They are generally very gentle, quiet, and docile dogs too, so they won’t go looking for trouble.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s temperament is sociable and cheerful, and these little spaniels aren’t known for showing aggression to humans, dogs, or other animals. Their gentle and social nature means they’re always happy to make new fur-iends. In fact, the breed standard marks them as “non-aggressive”, so it’s one pooch you can be reasonably confident is sound, friendly, and affectionate. Individual personalities, experiences, and upbringing will still affect a dog’s character, but it’s just in this dog’s genes to be a big softie.

These pups are vivacious and happy little critters and they can even be characterised by a constantly-wagging tail. A bubbly Cavalier will be eager to explore and might practically bounce as they head out on walkies. As the breed standard says, they should still be “sporting”, so your pooch should still be active and potentially have a prey drive despite being a companion breed.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel temperament is also described as “absolutely fearless”, which is apt. They’re not “fearless” because they are assertive or bold, because they’re neither.

Cavs are fearless because they are typically unphased and approach everything and everyone with curiosity, joy and enthusiasm.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels good family pets?

Yes, usually Cavalier King Charles Spaniels make paw-some family pets. They are docile and gentle by nature, and pretty sociable, so they get on well with children and other pets pretty well.

In fact, they are eager to love anyone and anything they share their home with. They are also reasonably easy to train and are suitable for novice dog owners, so they make a good first dog for the right home.

Cavaliers are adaptable and happy to live in an apartment without a garden as long as they get good daily walks. It means they can live anywhere and with almost anyone, which is what makes them such super family dogs.

Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels bark a lot?

It does vary on the individual dog but usually, Cavaliers are a quiet and unassuming breed. However, some individual pups can be prone to barking at anything out of the ordinary.

These dogs are prone to separation anxiety, and a lonely dog is more likely to bark or howl. But generally, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel shouldn’t bark an awful lot.

Can a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel be left alone?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels don’t deal with loneliness well. They are bred to be companions after all, so they are hard-wired to want to spend the day with their owner and in physical contact with them.

This means time without their humans is particularly hard for Cavaliers and they are prone to separation anxiety.

With proper training, you should be able to leave your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel alone for a few hours. But these dogs thrive on human company, so you’ll still need to spend a lot of time cuddling and playing with them.

Appearance

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels look like a miniature spaniel with large, round, dark eyes and long, floppy ears. They have the same gentle, melting expression as other spaniels like the Cocker, which means they have a constant doe-eyed look which adds to their cute appeal.

They have a short snout and a shallow stop. This defined snout is an im-paw-tent feature, as it is what differentiates them from the King Charles Spaniel. Another trait of the Cavalier is a flat skull between their ears, so they should not have a highly rounded or domed forehead.

Their face should also be well-filled with well-developed lips so they have a very sweet round face. Everything about this dog is meant to look sweet and soft.

Speaking of which, their fur should be soft, silky, glossy. They have a medium-length coat with an abundance of long feathers on the legs, chest, and tail which gives them a regal appearance. Like other spaniels, they have high-set, pendulous ears that are covered in curls.

Black and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Although categorised as a toy dog, Cavaliers shouldn’t look frail or fragile. They should just look like a small spaniel. Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be moderately boned, well-built, with a level back, and have enough muscle to give them plenty of drive as if they were a sporting dog and not a lapdog!

In general, there are few dogs that look as elegant and adorable as a Cavalier, and fewer still that appear so regal without an aloof air. But there’s nothing high and mighty about this pup, they really are as cuddly and cute in character as they are in looks.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel colours

There are only four colours of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, ranging from solid red to tri-colour.

The standard Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Colours are:

Red (Ruby)Chestnut and white (Blenheim)
Black and tanBlack, tan, and white (Tri-colour)

It is sometimes possible for red puppies and black and tan puppies to have small white markings, which are considered undesirable for show dogs. They don’t make the slightest bit of difference if your pooch is a pet though, they’ll just be a little more unique looking!

Some dogs might have a small spot of colour on their heads called a “Blenheim spot”. It’s about the size of a thumbprint. There’s a cute myth about the origin of this adorable marking, and we talked about it previously in the “Cavalier King Charles Spaniel facts”. So scroll back up if you missed it!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel vs King Charles Spaniel

These two breeds share ancestry and look remarkably similar, but there are a few giveaways as to whether a pup is a Cavalier or not.

A Cavalier will have a longer, more defined snout and muzzle. Meanwhile, a King Charles Spaniel is almost pug-like with a squashed and brachycephalic face.

A King Charles’s skull is also highly rounded with a domed forehead, while a Cavalier has a flat skull between their ears. Plus, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is also slightly bigger and leggier.

How long do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels live for?

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lifespan is between 9 and 14 years. Cavaliers are a somewhat short-lived breed, mostly because of the prevalence of heart disease.

Heart disease is the greatest cause of death for these diminutive spaniels. Their average life expectancy is 9.7 years, which is less than average for dogs.

You can expect that your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel might be around for a decade, but some individuals do buck the trend and make it into their teens.

A quality lifestyle with lots of activity and a healthy diet should help to maximise your pup’s health and lifespan, and good breeding and genetics play an im-paw-tent role in the health and longevity of your dog.

How much exercise do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels need?

Despite their small size, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels still need a moderate amount of exercise. They should have an hour of exercise per day, preferably split into two 30 minute walks.

Some Cavaliers are happy with fewer walkies, but to keep your pup happy, healthy, and stimulated they should be on the move for about 45-60 minutes.

Black, white and tan Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a surprising amount of energy for a toy dog but only have little legs so they don’t have the endurance of bigger spaniels, so they probably can’t go hiking.

What problems do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to genetic heart disease as well as the common problems that often plague most small breeds, such as luxating patella.

Some of the health problems Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have are:

  • Heart mitral valve disease (MVD)
  • Other heart conditions
  • Skin conditions
  • UTI (Specifically Xanthinuria)
  • Gum disease & dental problems
  • Ear infections
  • Dry eye
  • Obesity
  • Episodic falling

Heart conditions & mitral valve disease

Although an estimated 10% of dogs will develop some kind of heart disease in their lifetime, it is more likely for a smaller dog to be affected. Out of those small dogs, sadly, the Cavalier is one of the worst affected.

The most common cause of death among Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is mitral valve disease. It’s estimated that more than half of all CKCS will have mitral valve disease by the time they are 5 years old, and it’s almost guaranteed a dog of 10 years or older will develop the condition. Meanwhile, heart murmurs are also very common in Cavaliers, and in one study it was found to be the most common condition affecting the breed. (30.9% of all dogs were affected.)

Skin conditions

After heart problems, dermatological issues were the most common range of problems for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Some skin disorders are just common among all dogs. They can be caused by internal factors such as a food allergy or nutritional deficiency, or external factors such as pollen. There are a host of different skin problems that can affect any dog, such as dermatitis, pyoderma and just general sensitive skin.

UTIs

UTIs are common in all dogs, and it’s often caused by bacteria entering the urine tract. However, a rare disorder called Xanthinuria is slightly more common in Cavaliers than most breeds of dog. Xanthinuria is another recessive, genetic disorder that leads a dog to create too much Xanthine, which can form crystals and build up and form bladder and kidney stones.

Dental problems

Dental problems are pretty common in all dogs, especially toy breeds, and Cavaliers are no exception. Because of their small size their teeth can become overcrowded and make problems like gum disease more likely.

Dogs in this country tend to have poor oral hygiene anyway, with an estimated 80% of dogs having periodontal disease before they’re 2 years old. This can be caused by poor diet and lack of proper teeth cleaning.

Cleaning your dog’s teeth regularly will help to prevent all kinds of dental issues from bad breath to gum disease. You can also feed them a raw meaty bone to help clean their teeth naturally.

Ear infections

Just like bigger spaniel breeds like the Cocker and the Springer Spaniels, Cavaliers are prone to ear infections because of their long, hairy ears. Ear infections are a relatively common condition in all dogs but the dark, warm ears of a spaniel are more at risk. Make sure you check and clean your dog’s ears regularly as part of your grooming regime.

Chestnut and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Eye problems

Cavs are prone to dry eye, which affects about 11% of the breed and causes their eyes to become inflamed, burning, and sore because they are unable to produce enough tears. It can sometimes lead to scarring on their eye. Symptoms include dull, dry eyes with sticky discharge, rubbing their eyes, blinking more often than usual, infections, and ulcers.

Sadly, there is no cure for dry eye. The condition can be managed with medication, and management will need to continue for the rest of the dog’s life. It’s im-paw-tent your dog has their eyes checked regularly to ensure no problems are developing.

There are other eye problems that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to, including corneal dystrophy and cherry eye.

Obesity

Despite being relatively active for a toy breed, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are prone to obesity. Over half of all dogs in the UK are overweight or obese, and it has a huge impact on the health of your pooch. Specifically, it makes them more prone to secondary conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, which is a huge problem for your Cavalier who is already very likely to have heart problems.

Obesity also shortens a dog’s lifespan considerably, with obese pups living an average of 2 years less than dogs of a healthy weight. Keeping your pooch a healthy weight is one of the best ways to prevent health problems, cut vet visits and cost, and ensure your pooch has the best chance of living a long life.

Episodic Falling

Episodic Falling (EF) is a neurological disorder caused by a recessive gene that exclusively affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

With the conditions, dog’s suffer from episodes where their muscles become rigid and stiff, causing them to stand stock-still in a “deer stalker” position, or collapse. This stiffening is known as “progressive hypertonicity” in vet speak. These episodes happen in times of high stress and exertion, usually moments of excitement, stress, or after exercise. Luckily, the condition doesn’t seem to affect the lifespan of the dog or have any other symptoms other than collapse and stiffness. It isn’t a muscular disorder so your pooch should still be active and able-bodied.

EF tends to emerge when a puppy is about 4-7 months old. Mild cases usually stabilise by the time they reach 1 year old. Persistent and more severe cases may affect the dog for much longer, or for their life, but therapy tends to greatly improve the condition.

Less than 4% of dogs are affected by EF, but dogs carriers are more common and it is estimated that around 13% of the pup-ulation carry the gene that causes EF. Strangely, whole colours Cavs are significantly more likely to carry the gene than parti-colour pups. Breeding Cavaliers and puppies should be DNA tested for EF, and it is part of the DNA testing scheme for the breed endorsed by the Kennel Club.

Grooming a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The grooming needs of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel don’t differ much from those of any other spaniel. You should brush them with a comb at least once a week to make sure there are no tangles or mats in their feathers, but more often is even better.

If you plan on showing your dog you won’t want to trim their feathers. If their feathers are left untrimmed, you need to brush them every other day. Most pet Cavaliers have their feathers trimmed so they require less brushing.

You will need to trim the fur between your pup’s paw pads regularly because it can grow out and splay their pads or cover them, making it difficult for your pooch to gain traction.

Admittedly, most dogs aren’t fond of their feet being trimmed and can find it ticklish, but it’s in their interest so it has to be done. As with any breed of dog, you will also need to routinely trim your pooch’s claws.

If you start introducing trimming and grooming during your puppy’s socialisation period, they should grow up used to it all and grooming becomes less stressful for you and the dog. You can also use counter-conditioning to teach them grooming is a pleasant experience.

Tri-colour Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Bathtime can be less regular, and you can wash your dog anywhere between once a month or once every three months. You only need to wash them if they’re very dirty or getting smelly! Bathing less often is usually better because washing your dog too often can strip the oils from their skin and fur and make them more likely to develop skin problems.

To keep them clean in between baths, just towel your dog off after walkies. It’s usually enough to keep them clean. Their cushioned paws and feathers are sponges when it comes to water and muck, so towelling them is a good habit. You can also spot clean your doggy dirt magnet with a little warm water to clean off any mud.

As well as bathing and brushing, you should clean your dog’s teeth regularly. It’s im-paw-tent that all dogs have good oral hygiene, and they should have their teeth brushed at least once a week but ideally every other day.

Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniel shed?

Yes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a double-coated breed and shed a moderate amount year-round, so you’ll always find some stray hairs around the house or on your clothes. Regular grooming will help to minimise shedding because the dead fur will come off on the brush and not on the furniture.

They do shed a little more seasonally, so twice a year they will moult their undercoat ready for summer, or to grow a thicker one for winter. You can use a shedding rake to help strip some of this dead fur out. You could also ask your groomer to help strip the coat out while they give your dog a haircut.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels hypoallergenic?

No, Cavaliers are not hypoallergenic. However, no dog is 100% hypoallergenic as they all drop drool, dander, and fur that can trigger allergies. Some breeds and crosses like the Cockapoo just shed significantly less and are less likely to pup-set sensitivities. If you’re besotted with these bonny little spaniels but have allergies, you’re best trying to meet some to see if they trigger your allergies or not.

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