Cavalier King Charles Spaniels 101

Blenheim Cavalier

If you've been searching for a dog that's small, affectionate and sporty, check out Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

The History of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Reported to have been the favorite hunting and companion dogs of England's King Charles II, the Cavalier has been celebrated in fine art for centuries. Today's Cavalier is a descendant of those royal dogs, and sports the longer muzzle of the old style specimens. For a time, a shorter muzzled version of the breed became quite popular, but thanks to American Roswell Eldridge, the original type was recovered. Eldridge achieved this by offering a cash prize at Cruft's dog show to anyone who exhibited dogs with the original style muzzle.

The breed achieved American Kennel Club recognition in 1996.

General Description


Cavaliers are a small yet elegant breed with heavier bone than the average Toy dog. This gives them a sturdy appearance and their structure serves them well in the field. The typical Cavalier stands about twelve inches tall at the shoulder, and weighs between twelve and eighteen pounds. Weight and frame should be proportionate to avoid obesity. This breed has a particularly sweet and warm expression regardless of the color pattern, with a muzzle less than two inches long and a fairly flat head. The ears are long and should provide a frame for the face.

The tail is moderately long and carried level with the body when moving. Docking is permissible according to American Kennel Club standards, but no more than one third of the original length should be removed.


The Cavalier's coat is one of the breed's most distinguishing characteristics. The hair is moderately long, and most specimens display a slight wave. The furnishings on the chest and ears are slightly longer, and the feet, legs and tail are heavily feathered.

This breed typically comes in four color variations.

  • Ruby: Dogs of this color are a solid red.
  • Blenheim: This is a pattern of chestnut red on white. The face should be well marked with the red encircling both eyes and covering the ears. An even white blaze should separate the eyes and ears. A small circular patch of chestnut is desirable in the center of the blaze. This is the Blenheim spot that gives the pattern its name.
  • Black and tan: An overall rich black coat is highlighted by tan markings on the cheeks, above the eyes and on the chest, legs and bottom of the tail.
  • Tricolor: This pattern is similar to the black and tan, but it's set on a white background with a distinct white blaze similar to that of the Blenheim.

Personality and Training

Cavalier king charles spaniel

This Spaniel is typically happy and eager to please. The breed is very affectionate and always ready to join in on your activities. Cavaliers also love to take part in field sports. They are rarely aggressive, but they do have fearless characters so you're not likely to ever meet a shy or anxious Cavalier. These dogs are good at taking life as it comes and make relatively good companions for people of all ages. They also tend to get along well with other dogs and sometimes even with cats, but they should be watched closely around smaller pets like birds and rodents because their hunting instincts may come into play.

As for training, there isn't much you can't teach these dogs. House training and basic obedience are achieved with general ease. Most of these dogs also learn tricks very quickly. If anything, Cavaliers may be a bit too smart for their own good, and they'll use that intelligence to figure out how to get just about anything they want, so loving guidance and early training are needed to establish fair boundaries.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do require a bit of grooming to keep in good shape. A daily brushing will remove loose hair and tangles, especially around the ears and feathering on the legs. A monthly bath will be sufficient in city living situations, but the undercarriage may need bathing more frequently in males. Be sure to do a thorough check for ticks and fleas if you work your dog in the field.

You will need to pay special attention to the ears, keeping the hair plucked from the canals and providing a weekly ear washing. Likewise, the hair between the pads is also prone to matting and should be kept trimmed to avoid overgrowth. Trim the nails every two weeks or more as needed.

Exercise and Health

The Cavalier is less sedentary than many Toy breeds and requires a good daily walk to stay fit in mind and body. A walk of roughly two to three city blocks will help burn off excess energy and provide sensory stimulation to help stave off boredom.

Black and tan Cavalier pup

Overall, most Cavaliers live ten to twelve years with proper diet and exercise. However, the breed is not without its health challenges.

  • Prone to obesity, the weight of these dogs must be monitored or else they face the risk of:

They are also susceptible to:

  • Ear infections: These are generally brought on by a wealth of ear hair and long ear flaps that block air flow through the canals.
  • Eye disease: These include cataracts, entropian and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).
  • Congenital deafness
  • Heat exhaustion

For More Info

Be sure to visit CKCS Club USA and Cavalier Rescue USA.

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniels 101