Cavalier King Charles Spaniels combine the gentle attentiveness of a toy breed with the athleticism of a sporting spaniel. Originating from the Renaissance time, they are named after King Charles II. The name Cavalier is a nod to the monarchist party that supported the beheading of Charles I during the civil war.
The first Cavaliers were sent to America in 1952. Because of the small numbers, the AKC referred the Cavaliers to the Miscellaneous class. In 1993, The American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed and on January 1, 1996 the breed became the 140th AKC recognized breed.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Appearance
Cavaliers are 12 to 13 inches tall and weigh between 13 and 18 pounds with a slightly longer body. Their coat is a silky, richly-colored coat that can be one of four distinct varieties: Blenheim (chestnut markings on a white background), Tricolor (black markings on a white background), Black and Tan (black with tan markings), and Ruby (a rich red). The coat requires daily brushing to keep the soft, silky fur from tangling. Knotted hair on the dog’s feet and between the toes makes it hard for the Cavalier to walk, especially on slick surfaces. An occasional, no more than once a month, bath will help to keep him in beautiful condition. Cavaliers enjoy grooming sessions which increases their bond with their owner and they also provides an opportunity for the owner to inspect the dog’s body for new or unusual bumps or other issues that need to be addressed.
The life expectancy for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is 12 to 15 years. The Cavalier is a happy, gentle dog, not at all aggressive with either dogs or man. They love to be in a lap. He is obedient and very trainable. In addition to being a well-mannered household pet, the Cavalier also excels as a therapy, obedience, and agility dog.
Some less desirable behavior includes, loving to lick and loving to chase moving objects, especially birds; they can get along with cats when they are raised with them, but some have a strong prey drive and will chase cats. Cavaliers can be manipulative when they want food. It’s near impossible to curb these behaviors so you will need to find a way to work around them, such as always keeping the dog on a leash in areas with traffic and hardening your heart when your Cavalier wants to share your human food.
Cavaliers generally love kids and do well in families with older children who will throw a ball for them, teach them tricks or just hang out with them. Because of their small size, though, Cavaliers must be protected from clumsy toddlers who might fall on them or too forcefully pet them.
They do not like to be left alone and they will shadow their owner’s movements throughout the day. The ideal home is one with a stay-at-home parent, work-at-home spouse, or retired couple. They can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if they are bored, untrained, or unsupervised.
Caring for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Next, we’ll go into how you should care for a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
The Cavalier should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior). Some Cavaliers are prone to becoming overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. If you choose to give your dog treats, do so in moderation. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. A vet is the best resource for any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.
Although the Cavalier was bred to be a beloved lap dog, he originated from sporting dogs and does enjoy moderate exercise and outdoor activities including playing fetch. He will happily go on walks with his owner and also performs well in a number of canine sports, but he’s just as glad to stay on the sofa all day. Cavaliers should not be allowed off leash because they retain scenting and hunting instincts, and they may not come when called if they’ve found an interesting trail to follow or a creature to pursue. A fenced yard is best for Cavaliers.
The Cavalier is very eager to please their human. They are smart and train easily, and Cavaliers excel in a number of canine sports including obedience, rally, and agility. With their sweet nature they also make fantastic therapy dogs. As with all breeds, early socialization and puppy training classes help young Cavaliers to learn good manners and to be comfortable with a wide variety of people and situations. Start training early to avoid the stubbornness of adolescent Cavaliers. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques, especially when food rewards are offered, but harsh words will cause them to stop trying or even to hide.
Most Cavaliers live comfortably into their teen years; however, there are several health issues that Cavaliers are prone to:
- Certain eye conditions including juvenile cataracts and dry eye. Dry eye is most common in senior dogs.
- Patella Luxation when one or both kneecaps are unstable
- Hip Dysplasia which is where the ball and socket of the joints do not fit properly
- Middle Ear Infections
- Mitral Valve Heart Disease: A defect of the mitral valve, located between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart
- Syringomyelia: A neurological condition where there is a congenital bone deformity in which the rear part of the skull is too small
- Glue Ear: Commonly mistaken for syringomyelia, glue ear occurs when a mucus plug forms within the middle ear cavity of one or both ears
The ears should be checked weekly for signs of infection; they can be cleaned with cotton balls or a soft cloth. Never use cotton swabs because they can damage the ear canal. Nails should be trimmed at least once a month, as overgrown nails can cause pain and structural problems. Teeth should be cleaned a couple of times a week. Gum disease can lead to heart, liver, and kidney problems so keeping them in good health is imperative.