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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles SpanielThe Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small breed of dog usually considered one of the toy dog breeds. It is a small spaniel with substantial silky coat of moderate length, often with a mild wave, and long ears. Four colors are recognized. The breed originated in the 20th century, though has its roots in the older King Charles Spaniel of the Restoration. This breed was loved by King Charles the second of England. He passed a law that they were allowed in parliament.

The Cavalier (along with the Pug) is perhaps the largest toy breed: though clearly a lap dog, fully-grown adults tend to fill one rather amply. It is nonetheless quite small for a spaniel, with fully-grown Cavaliers roughly comparable in size to adolescents of more conventional spaniel breeds. Breed standards call for a height between 29 and 33 cm (12–13 inches) with a proportionate weight between 4.5 and 8.5 kg (10 and 18 lb). Unlike most other spaniels, the Cavalier has a full-length tail well-feathered with long hair, which is typically carried aloft when walking.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniel appearance

Build: Small, balanced
Weight: 13-20 pounds (5-8 kg.)
Height: 12-13 inches (30-33 cm.)
Coat: Silky, sometimes with a slight waviness, should not cut
Color: Blenheim, tricolor, ruby, or black & tan
Head: Proportionate to body
Teeth: Scissors bite
Eyes: Large, round, but not prominent and set well apart; color a warm, very dark brown; giving a lustrous, limpid look, with dark rims and cushioning under eyes contributing to the soft expression.
Ears: Set high, but not close, on top of the head, with leather long with plenty of feathering
Tail: Well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back
Limbs: Parallel
Feet: Compact with well-cushioned pads
Life span: Median 9-14 years


The breed naturally grows a substantial silky coat of moderate length. Breed standards call for it to be free from curl, with a slight wave permissible. In adulthood, Cavaliers grow lengthy feathering on their ears, chest, legs, feet and tail; breed standards demand this be kept long, with the feathering on the feet cited as a particularly important feature of the breed.

A cavalier's coat may be beautiful, but, because it can be long, it is very important to keep it well groomed. This can be done by yourself, or you can hire a professional groomer. If the coat is not properly cared for, the dog will shed quite a bit. A lot of people don't like when a dog sheds but if you want to be responsible you have to groom it daily! Daily brushing is recommended to ensure that the coat does not get matted and that foreign objects, such as grass and sticks, do not become entangled in the feathering. It also should not be bathed more than twice a week otherwise it may cause skin irritation. Fur on the feet and on the hind legs should be trimmed regularly. In hot climates, the ears should be thinned.


The breed has four recognized colors:

  • Blenheim (rich chestnut on pearly white background)
  • Tricolor (black and white with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, resembling eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail)
  • Black and Tan (black with tan markings)
  • Ruby (rich reddish-brown all over)

Parti-colors are the colors that include white: Blenheim and Tricolor. Whole-colors have no white: Black and Tan, and Ruby. The Blenheim is the most common color.


The breed is highly affectionate, and some have called the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel "the ultimate lap dog" or the "love sponge" of dogs. Most dogs of the breed are playful, extremely patient and eager to please. As such, dogs of the breed are usually good with children and other dogs. A well-socialized Cavalier will not be shy about socializing with much larger dogs. (However, on occasion, this tendency can be dangerous, as many cavaliers will presume all other dogs to be equally friendly, and may attempt to greet and play with aggressive dogs.) Cavaliers will adapt quickly to almost any environment, family, and location. Their ability to bond with larger and smaller dogs make them ideal in houses with more than one breed of dog. Cavaliers are great with children to seniors making them a very versatile dog. The breed is most comfortable in areas with a temperature of 30-85 degrees Fahrenheit.

PersonalityCavalier King Charles Spaniel Dog Breed

The extremely social nature of the Cavalier KC Spaniel means that they require almost constant companionship from humans or other dogs, and are not suited to spending long periods of time on their own. This breed is the friendliest of the toy group. It is important for Cavaliers to have a hand-reared puppy hood to ensure security and friendliness. If bought as mature dogs, they may not be playful or social towards humans.

Some Cavaliers have been known to exhibit traits in common with cats, such as perching in high places (the tops of couches, the highest pillow, etc), cleaning their own paws and can also show some birding qualities. Cavaliers have been seen to catch small birds in mid-flight that are flying too close to the ground. Such behavior is a result of their earlier use as a hunting dog, and as such, they can develop habits that predispose them to chase small animals such as chipmunks, squirrels, birds etc. Because of this, it is recommended that care should be taken when walking a Cavalier off-leash, as they can single-mindedly chase a butterfly or squirrel onto a busy road or other dangerous situation without regard for their own safety if not properly trained. The one downside to the Cavalier is that they have a poor sense of direction, it is highly recommended that when out they be on a leash.


Cavaliers can suffer from a number of severe genetic defects. Unfortunately, two possible genetic conditions, mitral valve disease and syringomyelia, can be both severe and very common. It is very important to buy from a reputable hobby breeder who screens all their breeding dogs for these conditions. Consider using the reputable breeder-referral services offered by the national club(s) in your country. You may consider seeking a breeder who MRI screens dogs for syringomyelia (although this is as yet an extremely expensive--around $700-2000 US dollars--and uncommon test; some Cavalier clubs in the US are currently exploring the possibility of lower-cost MRI group clinics for breeders), to reduce the chance the puppy will have the defects described below. Breeders who breed for health willingly supply heart, hip, eye and patella clearances for their breeding dogs, and responsible breeders choose pairings to try to reduce the incidence of all these defects in the breed. Also the cavalier king charles spaniel can suffer from heart problems. Due to the large size of the Cavalier's ears and eyes, they are prone to infections. It is most important to find a reputable breeder who tests their dogs yearly for the following health defects, to ensure the owner they are getting a puppy with a healthy background.

More Info on the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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