Also known as the King Charles Spaniel or the “Charlie,” the English Toy Spaniel is a lovable, gentle dog developed for companionship. Ranked at number 135 of 193 in AKC’s popularity list, this dog isn’t well known among the toy breeds.
Though popularized in Europe through King Charles II’s enjoyment of these dogs, the English Toy Spaniel’s origins can actually be traced back to East Asia. Over the decades, many different types of dog were bred into the English Toy Spaniel line, including pugs and small hunting dogs. Though they keep some hunting instinct, the English Toy Spaniel is primarily a dog to relax and snuggle with, great for relaxed lifestyles and senior citizens.
English Toy Spaniel APPEARANCE
This breed is not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, which is bred to be larger with a longer nose. The English Toy Spaniel has a height of 9 to 11 inches and a weight of 8 to 15 pounds. Because of interbreeding with pugs in this breed’s past, the English Toy Spaniel has a shorter nose and more domed skull shape than other spaniels.
The English Toy Spaniel has a long coat with a mild curl, making this breed prone to matting around the face and feet. Regular brushing at least twice a week is recommended. You may want to trim around the legs and ears to keep the English Toy Spaniel neat and easier to brush. In addition, Charlies shed seasonally, blowing out large amounts of fur at a time. An owner has to be comfortable with frequent grooming in order to maintain this breed’s coat.
Generally friendly and relaxed, English Toy Spaniels aren’t difficult dogs to care for, but they do have some serious issues with separation anxiety. They take a while to warm up to strangers, and prefer the company of a single individual. Since Charlies are prone to serious attachment to one person, being apart from their favorite owner can be highly stressful for the dog.
The English Toy Spaniel makes for an alright family dog, though not the best. This is in part due to the breed’s single-person attachment style, but Charlies may also struggle to interact well with smaller kids. Their sensitive nature makes them bad candidates for children who are just learning how to respect animals, and this could lead to defensive growling or even biting.
English Toy Spaniels do tend to get along well with other pets, however. Socialization with dogs and cats at an early age is a good idea, but this breed doesn’t usually have any problems adapting to other pets. English Toy Spaniels are not prone to aggression, and much of the time, any bad behavior can be traced back to medical issues or high stress.
This breed often makes for good travel companions, as English Toy Spaniels are usually calm and content sitting on laps and riding in cars. However, temperament is not the only factor to take into consideration for travel with Charlies. Unfortunately, most English Toy Spaniels are bred to have short noses, and travel by plane can result in breathing problems and even death from their brachycephalic facial structure.
English Toy Spaniel has a moderate life expectancy, about 10 to 12 years. Though this is a small breed, lifespan is usually shortened by inherited heart and breathing issues.
CARING FOR AN ENGLISH TOY SPANIEL
Caring for an English Toy Spaniel is relatively easy, though special consideration should be taken with the health of this breed.
Nutrition for English Toy Spaniels doesn’t come with any particularly large caveats, though they’re more sensitive to digestive upsets than other dog breeds. Since this is a small breed without much athleticism, make sure to feed an appropriate amount of food to avoid obesity. Feed a high-quality dog food targeted at the individual dog’s age and health and use treats sparingly.
Since small breeds like the English Toy Spaniel grow quickly as puppies, make sure to get a food formulated for small dogs. Make sure not to add calcium to a Charlie’s diet, however, as excess calcium can cause joint issues in puppies. Diet should be made up of mostly fat and protein.
English Toy Spaniels are perfectly content being lapdogs, and only need a mild amount of exercise to stay healthy and happy. The mixture of hunting dog in this breed’s past means that they’ll still enjoy daily walks or play in yards, however. Be careful when walking Charlies outside; because of this breed’s shortened snout, hot or overly humid weather can impact their breathing. These dogs don’t have overly warm fur either, and may not do well for long periods of time in the cold. Make sure not to leave an English Toy Spaniel outside in extreme temperatures for too long.
As for training, the English Toy Spaniel isn’t particularly difficult nor easy to teach. This breed is relatively quiet and complacent, with a moderate intelligence level and a modest tendency for barking. Though it’s a good idea to teach all dogs basic commands to prevent issues later in life, the English Toy Spaniel doesn’t thrive on learning like some breeds do.
That taken into account, Charlies are decently trainable and will be happy to listen to their favorite owner with a small range of commands. Because the English Toy Spaniel grows so attached to certain people and doesn’t enjoy separation, it will take well to commands that have to do with staying or walking by that person’s side.
Health is the biggest issue that the English Toy Spaniel faces as a breed. Genetic eye and heart problems in particular are present in the history of these dogs. It’s important to ask breeders for genetic screenings including a cardiac exam, ophthalmologist evaluation, and a test for luxating patellae to make sure that care is being taken with puppies. Unfortunately, breeding for a certain appearance rather than for health was a major trend in the 1800s, so the English Toy Spaniel faces several issues that breeders today are working to mitigate. However, with the right precautions taken, your Charlie can live a generally healthy life.
Health issues that English Toy Spaniels are more prone to include: tooth loss, obesity, cleft palate, hernias, entropion and distichiasis (eyelid issues), PRA (gradual onset of blindness), hydrocephalus (fluid in the skull), sensitivity to anesthesia, cataracts, glaucoma, hip and elbow dysplasia, PDA (heart duct issue) or mitral valve disease.
Because of the health concerns in this breed, it’s extremely important to never get a puppy without genetic testing certification from the breeder. Brushing your Charlie’s teeth at 1-3 times weekly may also help prevent tooth and gum disease, which can set in early for these dogs. Since English Toy Spaniels have long, floppy ears, you may need to give them weekly cleaning and ensure to dry them off quickly after play in water or snow.