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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


There is great debate about the precise origin of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, also known as the Cav, the Cavalier and the Cavie. However, there is no doubt that small spaniels have existed for many centuries, especially favored by the children of royalty as they were a luxury lap dog bred purely for companionship rather than for work. This is an active, elegant, well-balanced toy breed described as being "very gay and free in action, fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate" by the American Kennel Club official breed standard. A sweet, soft, melting expression is an important breed characteristic, with large, dark, round but not prominent brown eyes.
The Cavalier's personality is one of open friendliness, a love of play and of course a love of lap time with their human companions. This breed is the perfect family dog: naturally well-behaved, large enough to handle romps, small enough to cuddle, completely people-oriented and downright adorable. They are excellent with children and the elderly, and they get along well with other animals. Cavaliers even greet strangers with great joy. This breed thrives so much on human companionship they cannot be left alone for long periods of time, or they will develop nervous, anxious and potentially destructive behaviors.
The Cavalier should stand between 12 and 13 inches at the withers and should weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. These are ideal ranges; slight deviations are permissible. Their moderately long, silky coat should be free from curls, and there should be long feathering on the ears, chest, legs, feet and tail. They should be brushed regularly, and their long floppy ears should be cleaned and checked frequently for signs of infection.

History & Health


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel acquired its name because it was a great favorite of King Charles I of Britain in the 1600s. Only royalty or the very wealthy could afford a dog who did not earn his keep by hunting or chasing varmints. King Charles II also adored this breed, and its popularity in Britain increased until the fall of the House of Stuart. Apparently, the favorite breed of William and Mary was the Pug, and it became quite a liability to be associated with the dogs of King Charles. Queen Victoria owned a Cavalier as a young child, but throughout her life her interest in developing and breeding dogs led to development of the breed known today as the English Toy Spaniel in America and the King Charles Spaniel in the United Kingdom, with a much shorter, flatter face, a domed skull and smaller in stature than the original Cavalier, which all but disappeared. This newer toy spaniel breed apparently developed from crossing Cavaliers with Pugs and the Japanese Chin.
In the early 1920s, an American named Roswell Eldridge visited England and apparently was disappointed to discover that the original King Charles Spaniel which he had admired from afar had effectively been replaced by a smaller, pug-faced dog. He wanted to find a pair of spaniels resembling those he had seen in old paintings and tapestries of the aristocracy. When he was unable to find those dogs, in 1926 he sponsored a contest at the Cruft's dog show offering money prizes of 25 pounds each for the best dog and best bitch of the long-faced "old world type" of toy spaniel. Specifically, the prize was offered to the dog and bitch "as shown in the picture of King Charles II's time, long face, no stop, flat skull, not inclined to be domed and with the spot in the center of the skull." Eldridge ran this contest for five years, drawing ridicule from some and enthusiasm in reviving the original small spaniel from others. In 1927, a dog named Ann's Son was the winner of the 25 pound prize, and in 1928, a breed standard was drawn up using Ann's Son as the model. The monetary prize tempted several other dedicated breeders to focus on bringing back the original type, which became the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that we know today.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was founded in England in 1928. People started breeding bigger, longer-faced dogs and competing with them against the smaller, shorter-faced ones in the same classes. In 1944, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel officially was recognized by the Kennel Club of England as a separate breed. The first Challenge Certificates were awarded in 1946. The Cavalier remains among the most popular breeds in Great Britain today.
According to the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club: "Purists would have us believe that long nosed throwbacks from English Toy Spaniels were the only dogs used in the re-creation of this breed. Breed lore suggests, however, that various Cocker breeds, Papillons and perhaps even the Welsh Springer were used to recapture the desired breed traits."
World War II interrupted the development of the breed when travel to the few stud dogs available was virtually impossible. This led to some intense inbreeding which might be frowned upon today, but which saved this emerging breed at the time.
The first Cavaliers were sent to America in 1952, and in 1956 a breed club was formed. Shortly thereafter, the parent club sought American Kennel Club recognition, but because of the small number of breed representatives in this country they were relegated to the Miscellaneous class. In 1993, The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed and in January 1996, the breed became the 140th breed recognized by the American Kennel Club. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, in the Toy Group, has a loyal and growing following in the United States to this day.


The average life expectancy of the Cavalier is between 10 and 14 years. Breed health concerns may include Chiari-like malformation, hip dysplasia, endocardiosis, patent ductus arteriosus, mitral valve disease, patellar luxation, entropion, distichiasis, keratoconjunctivitis sicca, retinal dysplasia, brachycephalic upper airway syndrome and syringomyelia.

Temperament & Personality


At first glance, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel may look like a dainty breed, (and they do love to be pampered), but further investigation reveals an energetic dog with hunting roots, who loves the outdoors just as much as they love curling up in a lap for a belly rub. The King Charles is a true companion dog – they love to be with people as much as possible and should not be left alone for long periods of time. They make great companions for active, retired seniors who are willing to walk them daily and have a yard for running. Their temperament, energy level and trainability also makes them an ideal choice for the first-time dog owner.

Activity Requirements

Though small, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel loves the outdoors. Daily walks are a must, and they should be allowed to run and stretch their legs a few times per week. They can happily live an an apartment or condominium, as long as a commitment is made to their daily activity requirements. Anxiety is common with this breed, and can be made worse by living a sedentary life.

Hunters of small game can bring their King Charles into the field. They enjoy tracking and chasing, and have energy to spare when they are involved in such tasks.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are naturally well behaved, and training them is a breeze. They love to please, and will do anything for a treat. A gentle hand is required, as they can be a timid breed and don't respond well to harsh treatment. They can be graduated past the basic level into advanced obedience training and agility activities where they often excel.

Behavioral Traits

Separation Anxiety is the most common problem with the King Charles. They are very dependent upon the people they love and hate to be alone. If they live in a house with people who work, a companion animal can keep them from becoming too anxious. Exercise can help, but generally the anxiety is rooted solely in their being left alone and they will bark excessively and chew destructively until someone comes home. The King Charles is best for a two-pet home, families with a stay at home parent, or empty nest retirees.
Because they are natural hunters, the Cavalier King Charles can not be trusted in an open yard or off a leash. If they catch sight of a small animal, they will give chase and won't come home no matter how desperately you yell after them. They have also been known to chase bikes and cars, which can be quite dangerous.
Timidity is common in this breed, and if not kept in check can develop into full blown fearfulness of everything, including their own shadow. It is important that the King Charles be socialized to enjoy new visitors and new experiences – which as puppies they will love. They are easy to travel with and should be exposed to as many new things as possible, as early as possible.

Breed Standard

General Appearance
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an active, graceful, well-balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action; fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate. It is this typical gay temperament, combined with true elegance and royal appearance which are of paramount importance in the breed. Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alteration is essential to breed type.

Size, Proportion, Substance
Size - Height 12 to 13 inches at the withers; weight proportionate to height, between 13 and 18 pounds. A small, well balanced dog within these weights is desirable, but these are ideal heights and weights and slight variations are permissible. Proportion - The body approaches squareness, yet if measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The height from the withers to the elbow is approximately equal to the height from the elbow to the ground. Substance - Bone moderate in proportion to size. Weedy and coarse specimens are to be equally penalized.

Proportionate to size of dog, appearing neither too large nor too small for the body. Expression - The sweet, gentle, melting expression is an important breed characteristic. Eyes - Large, round, but not prominent and set well apart; color a warm, very dark brown; giving a lustrous, limpid look. Rims dark. There should be cushioning under the eyes which contributes to the soft expression. Faults - small, almond-shaped, prominent, or light eyes; white surrounding ring. Ears - Set high, but not close, on top of the head. Leather long with plenty of feathering and wide enough so that when the dog is alert, the ears fan slightly forward to frame the face. Skull - Slightly rounded, but without dome or peak; it should appear flat because of the high placement of the ears. Stop is moderate, neither filled nor deep. Muzzle - Full muzzle slightly tapered. Length from base of stop to tip of nose about 1½ inches. Face well filled below eyes. Any tendency towards snipiness undesirable. Nose pigment uniformly black without flesh marks and nostrils well developed. Lips well developed but not pendulous giving a clean finish. Faults - Sharp or pointed muzzles. Bite - A perfect, regular and complete scissors bite is preferred, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square into the jaws. Faults - undershot bite, weak or crooked teeth, crooked jaws.

Neck, Topline, Body
Neck - Fairly long, without throatiness, well enough muscled to form a slight arch at the crest. Set smoothly into nicely sloping shoulders to give an elegant look. Topline - Level both when moving and standing. Body - Short-coupled with ribs well spring but not barrelled. Chest moderately deep, extending to elbows allowing ample heart room. Slightly less body at the flank than at the last rib, but with no tucked-up appearance. Tail - Well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back, and in constant characteristic motion when the dog is in action. Docking is optional. If docked, no more than one third to be removed.

Shoulders well laid back. Forelegs straight and well under the dog with elbows close to the sides. Pasterns strong and feet compact with well-cushioned pads. Dewclaws may be removed.

The hindquarters construction should come down from a good broad pelvis, moderately muscled; stifles well turned and hocks well let down. The hindlegs when viewed from the rear should parallel each other from hock to heel. Faults - Cow or sickle hocks.

Of moderate length, silky, free from curl. Slight wave permissible. Feathering on ears, chest, legs and tail should be long, and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed. No trimming of the dog is permitted. Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severly penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition. Hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet may be trimmed.

Blenheim - Rich chestnut markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be chestnut and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes and ears, in the center of which may be the lozenge or "Blenheim spot." The lozenge is a unique and desirable, though not essential, characteristic of the Blenheim. Tricolor - Jet black markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be black and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes. Rich tan markings over the eyes, on cheeks, inside ears and on underside of tail. Ruby - Whole-colored rich red. Black and Tan - Jet black with rich, bright tan markings over eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest, legs, and on underside of tail. Faults - Heavy ticking on Blenheims or Tricolors, white marks on Rubies or Black and Tans.

Free moving and elegant in action, with good reach in front and sound, driving rear action. When viewed from the side, the movement exhibits a good length of stride, and viewed from front and rear it is straight and true, resulting from straight-boned fronts and properly made and muscled hindquarters.

Gay, friendly, non-aggressive with no tendency towards nervousness or shyness. Bad temper, shyness, and meanness are not to be tolerated and are to be severely penalized as to effectively remove the specimen from competition.

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Sources: American Kennel Club


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