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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel once a companion and hunting dog back in the time of King Charles I and II of England. Almost lost then saved and revived to become a treasured dog today in the top 20 of America's favorite dogs.

Here is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel at a Glance
Name Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Other Names Ruby Spaniel, Blenheim Spaniel
Nicknames Cav, Cavie, Cavalier
Origin Originally England, later revived by an American breeder
Average size Small
Average weight 13 to 18 pounds
Average height 12 to 13 inches
Life span 9 to 15 years
Coat type Medium, silky, wavy, feathering
Hypoallergenic No
Color Blenheim, Tricolor, Black and Tan, Ruby
Popularity 18th on the AKC list
Intelligence Very good – quite an intelligent dog
Tolerance to heat Moderate – coat means it cannot handle very warm climates
Tolerance to cold Good – coat means it can handle some levels of cold
Shedding It sheds an average to high amount so there will be hair around the home
Drooling Low – this is not a dog known to be a drooler
Obesity Prone to obesity – food and exercise need to be monitored
Grooming/brushing Moderate needs – will need brushing at least three times a week
Barking Occasional – it is not a constant yappy dog but does bark
Exercise needs Fairly active – will need daily walks
Trainability Very good – fairly easy dog to train
Friendliness Excellent – it is a very friendly dog
Good first dog Excellent – easy dog to care for and train so great option for a first time owner
Good family pet Excellent – it thrives in a family environment
Good with children Excellent – it gets on very well with children, will play and be loving
Good with other dogs Excellent – with socialization it loves meeting and playing with other dogs
Good with other pets Very good – with socialization it can get along well with other pets, it has an average prey drive
Good with strangers Excellent – it is very happy with strangers and sees them as new best friends
Good apartment dog Excellent – its size means it is ideal for apartment living
Handles alone time well Low – It is not a dog that can be left alone for long periods, may suffer from separation anxiety
Health issues Generally fairly healthy but can have heart problems and joint problems
Medical expenses $435 a year including pet insurance and basic care
Food expenses $70 a year assuming it is on a dry food diet and including treats
Miscellaneous expenses $195 which will include dog toys, training and a license
Average annual expense $700 as a base line figure
Cost to purchase $1800
Biting Statistics Attacks doing bodily harm: 1 Maimings: 1 Child victims: 0 Deaths: 0

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s Beginnings

The origins of this dog also known as the Blenheim go back to the early 1700s. King Charles type red and white spaniels were used when the rich went out to do hunting on horseback. The name Blenheim comes from the first duke of Marlborough and his estate called Blenheim. Its origins come from 16th century toy spaniels.

At that time in England the toy spaniels were royal favorites. Nary Queen of Scots took her toy spaniel with her to her beheading. Charles I and Charles II, after whom the breed as named eventually, loved them so much they never went anywhere without them. Charles II even decreed that they could go anywhere in public including the Houses of Parliament.

But with his death the popularity of this dog went down as other dogs like the Pug became more favored. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was bred with other dogs elsewhere, but could be found still at Blenheim estate. Most toy spaniels no longer looked as they once did.

New Lease on Life

While attempts were made at the turn of the 20th century to try and recreate the original King Charles Spaniel they were not that successful. Then in the 1920s an American, Roswell Eldridge offered a monetary reward as a prize for the best in the show (Crufts) Blenheim Spaniel male and female for 5 years. He specified wanting ones that looked like the old dogs from Charles II times. While some breeders did not approve and Eldridge actually died before seeing the plan through, some breeders approved and carried on his work. In 1928 the Cavalier's first club in England was formed.

This club created the first standard for what they called then the King Charles Spaniel, Cavalier type. However the second world war set back the attempts at reviving the breed as a lot of the breeding stock were killed. From 60 dogs the stock went down to just 3. After the war there were 6 dogs who could be used for breeding. It was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1945.

In America in the 1950s Mrs Sally Lyons Brown fell in love with the breed and imported what she could. She and a group of enthusiasts created the Cavalier King Charles Club USA in 1954. However they did not look for membership in the AKC as they felt their strict ethic code prevented them. Another club called the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was formed in 1994 with the intention of getting recognition from the AKC. In 1995 this recognition was achieved.

The Dog You See Today

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is often still confused with the English Toy Spaniel (which in the UK is actually called the King Charles Spaniel, adding to the confusion). A Cavalier is a small dog and should weigh 13 to 18 pounds and stand 12 to 13 inches tall. It has feathering around the legs, tail, ears and feet, a medium length silky coat that is wavy or straight and a natural tail.

The key differences between the two breeds are the size and the facial features. The Cavalier is larger than the King Charles which only weighs between 9 and 12 pounds. The Cavalier also has higher set ears, a flat skull and a longer muzzle. The King Charles has lower set ears, a domed skull and a shorter muzzle.

There are four colors that are recognized these being Blenheim (white background with chestnut colored markings), black and tan (black background with tan markings), Ruby (chestnut all over) and finally Tricolor (black and white with markings that are tan colored).

The Inner Cavalier King Charles Spaniel


The Cav is a very affectionate, happy and playful dog. It is eager to please and adapts to most environments and owner. It has average to above average intelligence and is quite a curious dog. But it also likes to cuddle and makes a great lap dog. As it can be active it does will in agility and obedience dog shows. With its gentle and sweet nature it is also a good therapy dog.


Cavs love strangers and are very friendly. For that reason it is not the best watchdog. It loves to receive attention and range from being quiet to quite rambunctious in terms of personality. It is lively and outgoing and will bark occasionally. It loves to be around people and have company and is not going to be happy being left alone all day. It can suffer from separation anxiety which will involve barking, digging and other destructive behavior.

If not well raised and trained it can develop small dog syndrome where it thinks it is the pack leader. This can also lead to behavior problems. Treat it as a treasured dog not a spoiled baby!

Living with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Training requirements

This is a moderately easy dog to train so in terms of speed while not the fastest dog to train it is certainly not the hardest or slowest. It is eager to please which helps a great deal. With some positive training techniques like use praise, treats and rewards to encourage it you will have a gradual success.

Make sure it knows you are the boss so that you avoid problems with small dog syndrome. Early training and socialization are a key part of its upbringing. It will be a better dog for it and you will certainly be a happier owner.

How active is the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

The Cavalier is small enough to happily live in an apartment as long as it still gets exercise each day outside. It does not require a yard but one is a bonus. When indoors it is moderately active with its play time so some of its physical and mental needs will be met there. It will also need at least a couple of walks a day on a leash. If not on a leash it could easily run in front of a car chasing a small animals or something moving.

It would also benefit from occasional trips to places where it can safely go off leash to run free. Dog parks would also offer it chances to socialize. Just remember to only let it off leash in a safe area.

Caring for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Grooming needs

This is a fairly easy dog to groom and care for. It sheds an average to above average amount so you will need to clean up hair around the home and can expect to see it on clothing sometimes. Brush its coat about 3 times a week and that will keep it healthy looking as well as keep up with some of the loose hair. Where there is feathering it can get tangled easily so those areas especially may need some gentle combing. Just give it a bath as it needs one so that its natural oils are not harmed by bathing too often.

The hair between its paws should be trimmed now and then and its ears wiped and checked for infection once a week. Its teeth need to be brushed st least twice a week to prevent dental problems. Its nails will also need to be clipped if it does not wear them down naturally. Since dog nails have live vessels this may be something to leave to a groomer who knows what they are doing.

Feeding time

Depending on its metabolism, size, activity levels and so on the Cav will likely need ½ to 1 cup of high quality dry dog food a day. It should be divided into at least two meals. Better quality food is more nutritious and better for it. If you are opting to feed either a raw meat diet or canned food you may want to cover its head and ears or it can get food in its hair.

How they get on with kids and other animals

Cavaliers get on very well with children and other dogs and can even get on well with other pets too. It will happily play with children and is affectionate towards them. It is better with older children than smaller ones, as the young ones can be less than careful and as a small dog it can get hurt more easily than others.

It is not shy around other dogs usually, socialization will help its interactions in places like the dog park. Another dog also makes a great companion for it, for times when you leave the house. With other pets it can be socialized and trained to get on well with them but it does have old hunting instincts and it may chase smaller animals like pet birds, rabbits and hamsters.

What Might Go Wrong

Health Concerns

While it is a generally healthy dog there are certain health issues it can be more prone to. Issues common to the Cav include heart problems (the top cause of death) hip dysplasia, SM, patella luxation and eye problems. Because all Cavs today can be traced back to those surviving 6 dogs in the 1940s there is a greater risk of inheritable diseases. Cavs can also be affected by ear problems which is common to all spaniels.

Biting Statistics


When looking at reports of dog attacks on people over the last 34 years the Cavalier can be found linked to 1 attacks. That attacks was on an adult and was a maiming meaning that permanent scarring, disfigurement or loss of limb occurred. Over such a long time period this puts this breed in the bottom 30% of dog attacks against people. It is not a dog likely to be aggressive or cause harm. It is worth pointing out too that the reported attack was actually a case of a Cavalier running out into a man riding his bicycle and the injuries were from the resulting fall.

You Pup’s Price Tag

A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is not the cheapest dog to buy, setting you back at around $1800. You can adopt or get a rescue for less, though you are more likely to have an adult dog than a puppy should you go that route. Rescues can cost anywhere from $50 to $200 and you can also have initial medical expenses like shots and spaying taken care of then too. Should you opt for something a bit more special or look at using higher end breeders you could pay upwards of $3,500.

There will be initial medical costs if they are not taken care of by the breeder. Shots, blood tests, deworming, a check up and micro chipping. These come to about $70. It will need to be spayed if its a girl or neutered if it is a boy which is another $190.

Non-medical initial costs will also have to be covered. You will need a collar and leash, bowls, crate and carrier. There may be a few other miscellaneous items needed. This will come to at least $100, probably more again depending on brand names and such.

Then there are annual costs for owning a dog of this size. It will need to be trained which is something you can do yourself or look to schools for. As a starting figure this will be $120, more advanced training or more professional help will move that figure higher. It will also need a license for about $20 a year.

In terms of food and treats prices could vary depending on whether you are feeding just dry and again what brands you use. At least its size means it does not eat as much as larger dogs so that will keep the cost down a bit. You can expect costs starting at $70 a year.

Medical expenses for basics like pet insurance, check ups, vaccinations, heartworm prevention and flea prevention come to around $435 a year.

Overall each year you can expect expenses for this dog to start at $700.


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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great companion and loves to be a lap dog and cuddle. But it also has an active side to it so when not being adored and fussed over it is going to want to spend time playing and going outside. It often still retains hunting instincts and will try to chase smaller animals so it is very important to keep it leashed when it is not safely contained in a home or yard.

It is a dog with a great personalty and is well suited to be a companion to the elderly, families, couples or really anyone who will love it and raise it well. Once the favorite of Kings and Queens it is now a firm favorite amongst us everyday modern day commoners!

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