Once a dog intended to warm the laps of nobles, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel remains an elegant and regal member of the toy group.
Cavaliers took their name from King Charles II’s passion for this breed. The king often took his toy spaniels to court, and his dogs lived a life of luxury at his castle.
Other notable owners include the first Duke of Marlborough and Mary, Queen of Scots. The latter is said to have used her Cavalier as a makeshift heating pad during long carriage rides, giving rise to the term ‘lap dog.’
However, these happy pups are more than simply lap dogs. Dog owners love this sweet, gentle breed for its playful, tender nature.
This popular breed makes excellent companions, even for first-time dog owners.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel vs. King Charles Spaniel: Similar but different
These English toy spaniels are often mistaken for each other, but the American Kennel Club recognizes them as two separate breeds.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and King Charles Spaniel share many resemblances but some notable differences, mainly in their size. Cavaliers are one of the largest members of the toy dog group.
You can see the two dog breeds compared in the table below:
|King Charles Spaniel||Cavalier King Charles Spaniel|
|Origin and ancestry||Previously known as the English Toy Spaniel, first seen in England in the 1500s||Created by cross-breeding King Charles Spaniels and pugs. Became its own breed in the 1920s.|
|Size||8 to 14 pounds, 9-11 inches tall||13 to 18 pounds, 12-13 inches tall|
|Appearance||Dome-shaped head with a flat, upturned nose that meets the skull, mouth slightly underneath the nose, and tail usually docked.||Between ears, the skull is flat, longer nose, and the mouth has a straight bite; this ail is usually left natural.|
|Color||Black and white with tan, tricolor, red and white, or Blenheim, ruby||Same as King Charles Spaniel|
|Behavior||Affectionate, gentle, reserved||Friendly, affectionate, and more active than the King Charles Spaniel|
|Life expectancy||10-16 years||9-14 years|
The British Kennel Club recognized Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as a separate breed in 1945. In the United States, however, this was not the case.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club was started in response to a Cavalier owner’s inability to register her dog in the states. The American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1996.
Despite their origin in the United Kingdom, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are among the most popular dogs in the United States. There’s a reason for that beyond its adorable appearance, the dogs make great companions.
These toy spaniels get along well with kids and other dogs. They also tend to get along well with cats. Generally, they do not like to be left alone and truly thrive in the company of others. They are friendly, playful, and affectionate. Because of their friendliness to strangers, they don’t make excellent guard dogs.
Cavaliers are known for being great therapy dogs, however. They also do well in apartment living. This makes them popular with older owners.
Outside, keep the dogs on a leash to keep them from chasing other animals due to their nature as hunters.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel care
While Cavaliers are lap dogs, they are also a sporting breed, so they do require a moderate amount of exercise. They should get around 60 minutes of exercise per day.
This toy breed enjoys walks and playing a game of frisbee or fetch. After their busy time, they are happy, loafing around on the couch.
Brush Cavaliers at least once every few days to maintain their long coats and prevent them from getting matted. Use a comb or slick brush to remove tangles. After removing tangles, use a bristle brush to ensure their signature shiny coat.
Their fur tends to attract a lot of dust and allergens, so bathe your dog once a week.
Their long coats come in several colors, including Blenheim (red and white), black and tan, tricolor, and ruby.
Cavaliers are known for being relatively easy to train. They are eager to please their owners. For this reason, they can be therapy dogs or compete in agility.
The dogs are easiest to train during the early months of their lives. They are very food motivated and respond well to training using rewards.
On the other hand, because of their playful nature, they can get distracted and might not always stay focused on their training.
Most Cavaliers live well into old age. But according to the American Kennel Club, many are prone to several health conditions, primarily mitral valve heart disease. Mitral valve heart disease is caused by the deterioration of one of the valves in the heart and can lead to heart failure. It affects up to half of all Cavaliers after age 5.
That’s why the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club has issued stringent breeding protocols. Sadly, not all breeders follow these protocols, hence the very prevalent genetic health problems in the breed.
There is no cure for mitral valve heart disease, but there are medications that can slow its progression and give Cavaliers a higher quality of life. Other health concerns for Cavaliers include:
- Eye conditions, such as cataracts
- Ear infections
- Hip dysplasia: caused by a hip socket not covering the upper thighbone, leading to a dislocated hip joint
- Syringomyelia: a disorder in which fluid-filled cysts affect the brain and spine
Owners should discuss potential health concerns with their vet. Regular check-ups help ensure their good health.
What to know before you buy
Be aware of their potential medical problems. Mitral valve heart disease is said to affect a majority of the breed. Understandably, not everyone would want to get a dog with health conditions. If you decide to adopt a Cavalier, educate yourself first.
If you are buying a dog from a breeder, ask for genetic testing certificates and clearances to minimize the risk of your Cavalier being sick.
Cavaliers do shed, especially in the Spring after they shed their Winter fluff.
They do not like to be left alone. Since they are very social, they experience separation anxiety more than other dogs. Because of this, they might not be an excellent choice for single people or those who work outside the home.
Understand the amount of weekly maintenance grooming can take.
Buying Cavaliers can be expensive. If you buy one, expect to spend $1,800 to $3,500. Adopting a Cavalier is much more cost-effective.
Groups such as Cavalier Rescue USA offer adoptions for $150 to $800, depending on the necessary testing before adopting the dog. However, looking into another breed might be a good idea if the price motivates you.
No dog is perfect. And many Cavalier owners wouldn’t want to own another breed. Ultimately, what matters is what you want in a dog and why you want to get one.
Where to adopt
If you are interested in adopting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, it’s essential to find a reputable rescue group that specializes in rescuing Cavaliers.
There are many nationwide rescue groups. A great option is Cavalier Rescue USA, which has cavaliers available for adoption in every state. You can also use this list from Cavalier Health, which has national and local groups.
Alana Redmond is a content writer who specializes in law and consumer safety. She also works with Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC, a Kentucky-based law firm specializing in dog bite injuries.