Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

cavalier king charles

In the world of canine royalty, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel reigns with a gentle demeanor and expressive, soulful eyes. This breed combines the regal grace of a bygone era with the warmth and affection one desires in a furry companion.

General Info About the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, often simply called the Cavalier, is a toy breed esteemed for its elegant appearance and affectionate nature. As one of the larger toy breeds, they are adaptable and fit comfortably into various living situations, from city apartments to country homes.

History and Origins of the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has a history that intertwines with British royalty, tracing back to the aristocratic circles of 17th century England. This breed’s story is one of a beloved companion dog that has endured through centuries.

Renaissance Roots

Toy spaniels similar to the Cavalier can be seen in paintings by famous artists such as Titian and Gainsborough, dating back to the Renaissance. These spaniels were a symbol of luxury and status among European nobility.

Royal Namesake

The breed takes its name from King Charles II of England, who was so taken with his toy spaniels that the breed became an integral part of his royal image. The dogs were known for their small size, beautiful coats, and gentle natures, often found warming the laps of ladies in waiting.

The Victorian Influence

During the Victorian era, the appearance of the toy spaniels began to change. Breeders favored a shorter snout, and the King Charles Spaniels of the time started to diverge from the “old type” that had been so popular.

A Breeder’s Vision

In the 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldridge offered prize money at the Crufts Dog Show in London to any breeder who could produce “Blenheim” spaniels of the “old world” type. His vision was to revive the longer-nosed spaniels of King Charles II’s era.

The Emergence of the Cavalier

Eldridge’s initiative led to the development of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as distinct from the King Charles Spaniel (known in the U.S. as the English Toy Spaniel). The Cavalier was bred to be a larger dog than its King Charles cousin, with a longer snout, a distinct skull shape, and a less pronounced stop.

Breed Recognition

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was recognized as a separate breed by the Kennel Club in the UK in 1945. The breed gained recognition from the American Kennel Club much later, in 1995.

Today, the Cavalier is cherished for its sweet disposition, its elegant appearance reminiscent of its royal ancestors, and its status as a versatile family companion. While they no longer sit on the thrones of monarchs, they certainly reign over the hearts of their owners.


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Size Characteristics of the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is classified as a toy breed due to its small size, which is one of its defining characteristics. Here’s a detailed look at the size attributes of the Cavalier:


Cavaliers stand at about 12 to 13 inches tall at the withers, which is the highest point of the shoulder blades. This height makes them one of the largest in the toy breed category, allowing them to be sturdy companions while still being comfortably lap-sized.


A healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel typically weighs between 13 to 18 pounds. The breed’s standard emphasizes that Cavaliers should be free from any tendency to obesity, as excess weight can lead to health problems.


The Cavalier is slightly longer than tall, giving them a well-balanced and graceful appearance. Their body is compact with a level topline and a good spring of rib, which provides enough space for heart and lung development.

Bone Structure

While Cavaliers are small, they should not appear fragile or dainty. They have moderate bone structure for their size, providing a frame that is proportional and supports an active lifestyle without the heaviness that could hinder their movement.


Cavaliers are often described as having an elegant yet sporty appearance, with a smooth gait that showcases their noble and sporting heritage. They possess a natural, undocked tail that is set high and carried happily, adding to their balanced and proportionate look.

In comparison to similar breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is larger than breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier or the Chihuahua but smaller than the Cocker Spaniel, which is part of the sporting group. Their size is a perfect blend that allows them to be both active companions and suitable for living in smaller spaces.

Overall, the Cavalier’s size characteristics make them ideal pets for those seeking the personality and heart of a larger dog in a smaller, more manageable package. Their adaptable size contributes to their popularity as family pets and companions for individuals of all ages.


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Temperament of the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is celebrated for its affectionate and gentle temperament. These dogs are adaptable, sociable, and eager to please, making them excellent companions for a wide range of individuals and families.

Affectionate Nature

Cavaliers are renowned for their loving and sweet dispositions. They thrive on human interaction and enjoy being part of the family. Their affectionate nature often leads them to seek out laps or a cozy spot next to their owners.


This breed is typically very sociable and gets along well with other dogs and household pets. They tend to be friendly with strangers, which, while wonderful for social settings, means they do not make particularly good guard dogs.

Interaction with Children

Cavaliers are known to be good with children, showing patience and a kind demeanor. However, as with any breed, interactions between dogs and young children should always be supervised to ensure the safety of both the child and the dog.

Temperament and Activity Level

While Cavaliers are not as high energy as some other breeds, they do possess a playful side and enjoy regular play sessions, walks, and activities. They match their activity level to that of their family but will happily go on adventures or settle down for a quiet evening at home.


While they can be independent at times, Cavaliers are more often than not eager to be involved in activities with their owners. They may suffer from separation anxiety if left alone for long periods and are happiest when they can be part of the daily routine.


Cavaliers adapt well to different living environments and lifestyles. They can live happily in apartments or large homes with yards as long as they receive enough attention and exercise.

Overall, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s temperament is one of its most appealing traits. They are well-suited to many types of homes, including those with other pets and children. Their friendly, affectionate nature makes them a joy to have as part of the family, and their adaptability means they are comfortable in a wide range of settings and situations.


Cavaliers are eager to please and respond well to positive reinforcement training methods. They are intelligent and, with gentle and consistent training, can excel in obedience and agility.

The Cavalier’s desire to please and intelligence makes them quite trainable. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques such as treats and praise. Their sensitivity to tone of voice means that harsh training methods are not effective and can be damaging.


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Exercise Requirements and Energy Level

Cavaliers have a moderate energy level. They enjoy a good romp outdoors but are equally happy to cuddle on the couch. A daily walk and some playtime are generally sufficient to meet their exercise needs.

Grooming Requirements of the Breed

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are adorned with a beautiful, flowing coat that requires regular maintenance. Here’s an overview of their grooming needs:

Coat Care

Cavaliers have a medium-length coat that is silky and can be slightly wavy. They do not have an undercoat, which typically means less shedding and grooming than double-coated breeds. However, they still require regular brushing—at least several times a week—to prevent mats and tangles, especially in the feathering on the ears, chest, legs, and tail.


Bathing should be done every 4-6 weeks or as needed, depending on the dog’s lifestyle. Use a gentle dog shampoo to keep their skin and coat clean and healthy. It’s essential to rinse thoroughly to prevent any residue that could cause skin irritation.

Hair Trimming

While the Cavalier does not require extensive trimming, some owners opt for occasional grooming to tidy up the feathering and to keep the fur around the paws and sanitary areas short. This not only helps to keep the dog clean but can prevent matting in these areas.

Nail Care

Regular nail trims are necessary to keep the Cavalier comfortable and prevent problems with walking. If you can hear nails clicking on the floor, it’s a sign that they are too long and should be trimmed.

Ear Care

The long ears of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are prone to collecting dirt and can be susceptible to infections. Regular cleaning with a vet-approved solution can help prevent issues. It’s also advisable to check for and gently remove any excess hair in the ear canal that could trap moisture or dirt.

Dental Hygiene

Good oral care is crucial for Cavaliers, as they are prone to dental issues. Regular brushing with canine toothpaste and routine dental check-ups with a veterinarian are recommended. Dental chews and specific diets can also help maintain oral health.

Eye Care

Cavaliers often have weepy eyes, which can cause staining on the fur. Keeping the area clean and dry can prevent the development of tear stains. A soft, damp cloth can be used to gently wipe the area.

Professional Grooming

Some owners may choose to take their Cavaliers to a professional groomer every few months for a thorough grooming session, which can include a bath, hair trimming, ear cleaning, and anal gland expression.

In summary, while Cavaliers are not the most high-maintenance breed when it comes to grooming, their coat does require regular care to keep it in good condition. A consistent grooming routine will not only keep your Cavalier looking its best but will also provide an opportunity to check for any signs of health issues and to strengthen the bond between you and your pet.


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Health Issues of the Breed

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a generally healthy breed but, like all breeds, they have predispositions to certain health issues. Being aware of these can help owners and potential buyers make informed decisions and provide the best care for these dogs.

Mitral Valve Disease (MVD)

MVD is the most common health issue in Cavaliers and affects the heart. It’s a condition where the mitral valve degenerates, leading to a heart murmur and, potentially, heart failure. It’s particularly prevalent in this breed and can occur at a young age.

Syringomyelia (SM)

SM is a serious condition that occurs when a dog’s skull is too small for their brain, causing fluid-filled cavities within the spinal cord near the brain. It can be extremely painful and may cause scratching at the neck, sensitivity, and changes in gait.

Hip Dysplasia

While more common in larger breeds, hip dysplasia can also affect Cavaliers. This condition is characterized by a malformation in the hip joint, leading to pain, arthritis, and mobility issues.

Patellar Luxation

This condition involves the dislocation of the kneecap, which can be painful and may require surgical intervention. It’s relatively common in small breeds, including Cavaliers.

Eye Conditions

Cavaliers are prone to various eye issues, including cataracts, which can lead to blindness if not treated, and Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (dry eye), a condition that reduces tear production and can lead to eye infections if not managed properly.

Ear Problems

Their long ears can lead to reduced air circulation, which makes ear infections a common issue. Regular cleaning and monitoring are important.

Dental Problems

Due to their small mouths, Cavaliers often have crowded teeth that can lead to dental disease. Good dental hygiene practices are essential for preventing tartar buildup and subsequent problems.

Neurological Disorders

Some Cavaliers may suffer from episodic falling, a condition that causes temporary muscle rigidity and collapse, although the dog remains conscious.

Allergies and Skin Conditions

Cavaliers can have sensitive skin that may react to certain allergens, leading to dermatitis and other skin issues.

Weight Management

Obesity can be a concern, as Cavaliers will happily overeat if given the chance. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for preventing joint problems and ensuring overall health.

Regular health screenings, a balanced diet, and routine vet check-ups are vital for catching and managing these conditions early. Reputable breeders should test for genetic predispositions to these health issues and only breed from the healthiest dogs to reduce the likelihood of these problems in puppies. With proper care, Cavaliers can enjoy a life expectancy of around 12 to 15 years.


cavalier king charles


Notable Dogs From the Breed

One of the most famous Cavalier King Charles Spaniels was Rex, who belonged to President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Comparable Breeds

Comparable breeds include the English Toy Spaniel, which shares a similar history and appearance, and the Papillon, which is also a friendly and intelligent toy breed.

General Summary of the Breed

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a breed characterized by its grace, affection, and lively spirit. Their adaptable nature makes them suitable for various owners, from singles seeking companionship to families with children. Cavaliers bring a touch of elegance to the everyday and joy to those who cherish their sweet and endearing ways.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, often simply called the Cavalier, is a toy breed esteemed for its elegant appearance and affectionate nature. As one of the larger toy breeds, they are adaptable and fit comfortably into various living situations, from city apartments to country homes.

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