We’ve talked on the blog before about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and Cocker Spaniels, but today it’s all about the adorable Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. This family of dogs make for very cheerful and adorable companions, but I do wonder why it is I haven’t seen very many King Charles Spaniels running around. After all, just take a look at that beautiful coat! And once you start learning more about this breed, you’ll come to the same realization that I have: that this breed has got to be one of the most perfect combinations of friendliness and lower energy levels that I have ever heard of. But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit. Here’s what you need to know about this week’s breed of the week.
To no one’s surprise, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was originally bred in England, and it’s a shockingly young breed. The breed that we know today is considered to have been developed in the 19th century, sometime around 1882 – that’s not long at all in the grand scheme of things. The reason for this breed’s development? Bird hunting. The breed was developed to flush out birds and make them fly into the air so that hunters could shoot them – making them the perfect companion for wealthy Victorian men of the era. It’s an interesting change from the norm that we often see with smaller dogs, who were often bred as companions for ladies. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is definitely man’s best friend, with his mind solely occupied on when the next hunt can be.
The breed didn’t show up in America until the Great Depression era, but didn’t really gain any notoriety at all until the 1970s. It was then that a few more of the breed were imported to the States. Today, the breed is rare, and could even face extinction eventually if more attention isn’t given to it. In fact, of all 157 breeds recognized by the AKC, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ranks at number 154 for popularity. It’s a shame considering the many great features this dog has.
Like other, more popular spaniels, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a small dog. It stands between 13 and 15 inches tall, and weighs around 35 to 45 pounds. These dogs have a slightly goofy, elongated body, almost like a wiener dog, with very short legs that keep them low to the ground. Their coat, however, is a thing of beauty. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have very abundant coats that are straight and hang down in silky strands over their body. They do have fringes of hair at the tail, legs, chest, and belly, very similar to an Irish Setter. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels often come in a white and liver coloring, though they can be other colors as well. Their long, hairy ears are very similar to a Cocker Spaniel’s, while their snouts are a little less dainty than most Spaniels. All in all, this dog is an interesting hybrid that appears simultaneously elegant and a bit goofy.
It’s in the personality department that a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel really shines, and this is why I think it’s a shame that this breed isn’t more popular. Let me just list off all the things that a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel tends to be:
They tend to be great at adjusting to small living spaces, such as an apartment. Unless they are in a hunting situation, or are playing with you, they are famously laid back and low energy. They don’t need a ton of exercise or training to be calm and kind hearted. They love being with their human, and are extremely friendly with strangers. They can tolerate hot weather just fine, and they love playing with other dogs as well.
They don’t tend to drool, and they experience only a moderate amount of shedding. These are incredibly smart dogs, and they don’t get sick often. They love to play when you’re in the mood. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are not prone to wandering off, and although they are bred to hunt birds, their overall prey drive is not very strong. Your pet gerbil will be just fine in the company of one of these dogs.
All in all, how could anyone not love a dog like that? The few downsides I could find regarding the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel include the fact that these dogs do bark when provoked – such as when a squirrel runs by the window. Additionally, while they don’t need much training at all to be great dogs, you may have trouble teaching a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel any complicated tricks. They are very smart, but they don’t tend to have the drive necessary to be highly trainable.
To sum it all up? This is a friendly, cheerful dog that is just as happy lounging on the couch with you as he is going outside to play. These dogs are not very fast (meaning they’ll be easy to catch if they do sight a bird and run off), and their sweet and silly appearance seems to be mirrored by their personalities. I can’t think of a better description for a dog, especially for a new dog owner.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels live between 11 and 14 years, a typical average for a small breed dog. Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do tend to have very healthy track records, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t prone to certain disorders. One of the big things to watch for with any dog that has floppy, hairy ears, is ear infections. A regular check of the ears for redness or a bad smell is necessary to keep these dogs healthy. Other health concerns that a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel could experience include:
- Pulmonic Stenosis: This is a heart disease in which a dog’s heart valves are too narrow to allow proper blood flow. It can lead to heart failure, but it can be treated through everything from monitoring to medication to surgery.
- Patent DuctusArteriosis: This is another heart disease that causes blood to flow into the lungs. This can cause difficulty breathing, fainting, dizzy spells, coughing, heart failure, heart murmurs, and heart collapse. This can be very easily fixed with surgery.
- Intervertebral Disc Disease: Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are often prone to back problems due to their body shape. IVDD is a condition in which a spinal disc herniates and puts pressure on the spinal cord. This can be caused by a lot of things: jumping off furniture, being picked up incorrectly, falling, or just being born with this condition. It can be very painful for the dog, and lead to various stages of paralysis. Medications, physical therapy, and surgery are all options for treatment.
- Hip Dysplasia: Like all small breeds, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is prone to weak hip joints. About 42% of all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have this condition, but it typically does not hinder their daily lives.
In order to take good care of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you only need about 20 minutes of exercise time every day. A quick walk around the block or a run through the back yard is really all these dogs need. That’s a big plus for anyone with a busy life who still wants to have a dog. These dogs do like long walks and hikes, but remember that they are pretty slow. They won’t be good running buddies – just ambling walk buddies. These dogs are mostly made for living inside with their people. In fact, the best care you can provide a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is lots and lots of time together indoors. They don’t do well being left alone too long. A safe yard that is fenced in where a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can keep an eye on birds and squirrels will make them very happy.
Like most dogs, it’s recommended for Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to eat twice per day, and to eat high-quality dry dog food. How much to feed your Cavalier King Charles highly depends on how active they are. If you go on long walks every day together, you’ll need to feed a little bit more than you will a Cavalier King Charles that only gets a quick walk every day. Be sure you are not overfeeding a Cavalier King Charles, as they do tend to get overweight very quickly. If it looks like your Cavalier King Charles is starting to gain too much weight, you’ll need to cut back on the food. You should be able to see their waist when you look down at the dog from overhead.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are generally very good dogs, but if you want to train them to respond to specific or special commands, you’ll need to be patient and consistent – these dogs can be stubborn when it comes to training. I highly recommend a clicker training method for these dogs, because too many treats can pack on the pounds quickly for these dogs.
Grooming is very important for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They don’t tend to shed too much, but they will start to spread loose hair if you don’t do a daily brush. They don’t tend to need much trimming or cutting, but brushing their coat is important. You’ll want to have a slicker brush handy for loose hairs, and you may also want to trim the hair around their feet to keep them a little tidier. If you get your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel as a puppy, it’s a good idea to play with their feet often to get them used to this sensation. Nail trims should also be done as needed to keep them healthy and to protect yourself and your furniture from scratches.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do need regular ear checks for good health. Once a week, lift the ears to check for redness or bad smells. You should also be sure to dry the ears thoroughly after bathing or being caught in the rain. Dental care is also important. Brushing the teeth at least a couple of times per week is very important for keeping your dog healthy overall. You can do this very quickly and easily with a finger toothbrush as long as your dog is used to you caring for his teeth.
Kids and Other Pets
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known for being extremely friendly with both kids and other pets. Unlike Cocker Spaniels, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels don’t seem to have the same tendency to snap at small children. These dogs are cheerful, playful, and ready to go with the flow. Because of their tendency to have back issues, it’s important to watch younger children with a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and be sure they don’t pick them up around the stomach.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are known for being good with all types of pets, even cats, but it may be a good idea to not mix a Cavalier King Charles with pet birds. They were bred specifically to hunt and bark at birds, after all. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can be a little bit bossy with other pets if they weren’t well socialized after birth, so do be careful to introduce a puppy to other dogs frequently to avoid this concern.
The Final Word
At the end of the day, I think it’s a shame that this breed is not more popular among the American public. Everything that I’ve read suggests that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a great dog – friendly, relaxed, easy to care for, not prone to too many health issues, and adaptable to many living situations. They are small enough to work for apartment dwellers, as long as you can put a stop to the barking habit early. They have an interesting history that makes them stand out from the crowd, and they have an average lifespan so you don’t have to worry about them leaving too soon. Add that to their cute appearance, and this is a great dog for families and single people alike. If I was in the market for a small dog, I don’t doubt that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel would be at the top of my list.