The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the best of two doggy worlds. He is a mixture of pretty toy dogs bred for companionship, mixed with the energetic demeanor of sporting Spaniels. His sweet character and friendly nature have lent him to be a firm family favorite. Over the last decade, he has found himself in the top 20 favorite dog breeds consistently ranked by the AKC.
This breed is also known as the Comfort Cavalier, the Cavie, the Cav, and just the Cavalier. Originally founded in Britain, this breed goes all the way back to the 17th century. This breed is an excellent family companion, hence their “Comfort Cavalier” nickname.
The good news about the Cavie, is that they will get along with most families. They do well in families with children, or without. They are also great in multi-pet households. But there are a several breed traits you’ll need to be aware of before you can fully say that this breed is the perfect fit for your family. Let’s jump in!
The breed’s history has been full of ups and downs. He originates from across the pond in England and has been around for centuries. The Toy Spaniel is the forefather of the breed, and he was adored by royalty. It is said that Mary Queen of Scots was accompanied by her Toy Spaniel to her beheading in the 16th century. In the 17th century, King Charles II was never without a Toy Spaniel. He was more interested in breeding Toy Spaniels than he was ruling his country.
When Charles II’s reign came to a sticky end, so did the Toy Spaniels reputation. Very few existed in the Victoria era. The remaining few were bred with the new favorite dog type, Asian flat-faced breeds. This created what we now know today as the English Toy Spaniel. But some fanciers of the breed wanted to bring the old Toy Spaniel back to life.
An American man called Roswell Eldridge offered a cash prize to British breeders who could reproduce Spaniels of the old world. The rich reward incentivized breeders and Spaniels who looked similar to those back in King Charles II’s day. And they were named the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. He became popular in America after the HBO TV series’ Sex and the City’ and has been a popular family companion dog ever since.
The Cav is one of the sweetest dog breeds that you’ll ever meet. He is so gentle and loving that many describe him as sickly sweet. This is ideal for those owners looking for a companion-dependant dog breed. With this guy around, you’ll never be alone.
If you are looking for a more independent pooch, this guy is not the one for you. He hates to be left alone for any amount of time. Most Cavs suffer from separation anxiety. So this is something to consider if you plan to leave him for longer than a few hours most days. He is a very sensitive dog who doesn’t take well to change either.
Every opportunity he gets, he’ll be on your lap quicker than you can say, King Charles. Thanks to his small size, he’ll fit on your lap perfectly. He’s cool enough for the kids, cuddly enough for the grandparents, and perfect for everyone else in between.
Everyone has the potential to be the Cav’s new best friend. He’ll bark out of excitement if you have visitors, making him a great alarm bell. Similar to a Golden Retriever or Cocker Spaniel, the Cav isn’t a great guard dog. Your pup may be more likely to lick intruders to death!
Another one of his appeals is his versatility, and he is adaptable to almost all types of family. As long as his basic needs are met and he is kept company, he’s happy to do whatever you want to do. Want to chill? He’s more than willing. Chore time? He’ll grab the bucket. Or maybe it’s time to get off your butt and play? Show him the toys, and he’s there.
Size & Appearance
This is a small-sized dog breed. The Cavalier weighs between 13 and 18 pounds and measures between 12 to 13 inches. He is one of the largest dog breeds in the toy group but one of the smallest Spaniel breeds. He is surprisingly muscular and square under his lush coat, but again, that’s the sporting Spaniel influence.
His breed standard describes him as gay in temperament, with true elegance and royal appearance. His eyes are large, round, and dark in color. The Cav’s ears are set high on his head and are long so that they fall below his jawline. His tail is carried high and in constant motion when walking, which contributes to his jolly character. Overall, he is proportionately shaped.
Coat & Colors
This breed has a medium-length coat that is silky and soft to the touch. It is straight, but a slight wave is found in many. There is usually feathering hair on his ears, neck, legs, and tail, which is longer than the rest of his coat. If you have a show Cavalier Spaniel, the only part of his coat allowed to be trimmed is the hair between his toes around his pads.
He has a double-layered coat that keeps him warm in the winter and regulates his temperature in the summer months. He is an average shedder, but he will shed slightly more during the shedding seasons. We’ll discuss his grooming needs further on, but his grooming schedule isn’t too much trouble.
He has the choice of four coat colors, which are black and tan, black and white, blenheim and ruby. The most popular color is blenheim, which is a rich chestnut color on a pearly white coat base. Blenheim was the preferred color of King Charles II, named after his residence at Blenheim Palace. And the intense breeding of this color has led to it being the most popular. Many Blenheims have a thumb-sized chestnut spot on the top of the forehead, referred to as a lozenge.
Expect a laid back pup that’s very adaptable to your lifestyle. Meaning, he could quite happily lay on the sofa with you all day if that’s what you want to do. Equally, he could spend a few hours exercising outdoors if you are more active. He generally needs 30 minutes of exercise a day to stay stimulated and healthy. A stroll around the neighborhood will do, as would intense games of fetch.
This is a great appeal of his, which makes him suitable for almost all kinds of families. From young adventurous couples to retired individuals with little interest in leaving their homes except for a walk around the block. If you aren’t up for a lot of exercise that day, invest in a few dog toys to keep his brain stimulated at home. He is a huge fan of yummy treats, so a treat-dispensing puzzle toy will be a big hit.
This breed is well suited to apartment living, and his calmness in the home lends him well to this lifestyle. The Spaniel in him would appreciate access to a yard, but this is not a necessity compared to some other dog breeds. If he does have access to a yard, it needs to be secured. Not only will he chase visiting yard animals such as cats and birds. But he also has no street smarts at all! Wandering off in search of friends or food can lead him to trouble.
His calm nature means that he is ideal for families with young children. He is sweet and gentle, and small enough not to knock them over, but sturdy enough to withstand their excitable play. Always supervise children and dogs when together and teach kids how to handle dogs. But overall, you can be sure they will get along well.
He will also get on well with other dogs if socialized well. Generally, he has a moderately low prey drive, which means that he can probably live with other animals, such as cats. However, if the Spaniel in him is strong, he may have a higher prey drive, which means he might not be able to live with other non-canine animals. This is something to be judged on a case by case basis. If you are looking to invite him into your multi-pet household, be sure to discuss this with your breeder.
This breed is extremely intelligent and clever. His eagerness to please his master makes him a trainable dog. This makes him ideal for first-time dog owners. The positive reinforcement method is the best way to train him. He is a sensitive pooch, and he will respond much better to reward and positive praise, rather than shouting. Too much shouting and he will sulk and avoid you completely. The Cav is easy to leash train, and will usually do quite well on walks while equipped with a smaller dog harness to fit their petite frame.
Just like all dogs, he might have an off-day where all he wants to do is eat and lay around. And the last thing on his mind is a training session. But for him to grow into the polite and pleasant pooch that we all know and love, you need to be persistent with his training. Especially when he is a pup. Yummy treats will be his motivation, so if he ignores your attempts to train him, whip out his favorite chow.
One of the most important parts of the training process is socialization. Not only will it teach him how to behave with other dogs, but it will also transform him into a confident dog. Some Cavs are sensitive, which can turn into shyness if you do not build his confidence. Mix him with as many dogs as you can, of all shapes and sizes.
The Cavalier is a very needy and companion dependent dog. Cavs are likely to suffer from separation anxiety. It’s important to leave him alone as a pup so that he gets used to spending time in his own company. Consider crate training your Cav with a crate that’s made for anxious dogs. This will give him his own space and calm his anxiety.
This breed has an expected lifespan of 12 to 15 years. Just like all purebred dogs, he is more prone to certain health conditions more so than others. Below are the most common health conditions that are likely to affect the breed. This list is not exhaustive, but it is a great place to start.
Hip dysplasia: Hip dysplasia occurs when the hip socket doesn’t form properly due to uneven bone growth. This inconsistent growth causes increased wear and tear, which eventually leads to mobility problems and painful joints. This usually requires surgery in later life.
Patellar luxation: The patellar is the anatomical term for the knee, and luxation, in this case, essentially means dislocation. The kneecap floats in and out of place during movement, which is painful. This is common in small dog breeds.
Eye conditions: They are prone to a variety of eye concerns. The most common conditions to affect the breed is keratoconjunctivitis sicca, which is dry eye. And progressive retinal atrophy.
Cardiac conditions: The most common concern is mitral valve disease. Affected dogs develop a heart murmur. Over time, the valve thickens and causes reverse blood flow back into the heart. This reduces the heart’s efficiency and eventually leads to heart failure.
Syringomyelia: This is a complex neurological disorder where fluid-filled cavities develop in the spinal cord. This is painful and debilitating and can only be diagnosed with an MRI scan. If you notice that your pooch is scratching his neck or jolting for no reason, this could be a sign that he has it.
Expect your Cav to consume approximately one cup of food every day. This will be dependent on how much exercise your Cavalier does. Because if he likes to laze on his butt for most of the day, he might not need as much. Always follow the package instructions. As a puppy with a little mouth, you will need to feed him a puppy food formulated for small breeds.
A high-quality kibble is the best diet to feed your Spaniel. Not only does it offer a well-balanced diet that meets all of his nutritional needs. But it is also crunchy and can help to break down the buildup of plaque on his teeth. Some Cavalier Spaniels are known to be fussy with their food. If you find him turning his nose up at dried kibble, try adding a little warm water or low-sodium meat broth to release the flavors.
Many Cavs are greedy dogs. They will happily eat until they literally can’t fit anything else inside them. This means that you need to keep a close eye on his food intake. If he is looking too porky, or the scales flash red, you need to do two things. Firstly, switch him to a weight management kibble that contains fewer calories and fats. And exercise him more. Being overweight is linked to poor health, so you need to take it seriously.
The grooming routine for this breed is relatively simple. He will need brushing with a comb or slick brusher two to three times a week. This is to ensure that his medium-length waves and feathering fur do not become tangled. It will also help to remove dead hair, dirt and keep him looking pretty. During the shedding seasons, which is in the late fall and spring months, you should brush him three to four times a week. This will help tease out the dander and molted hair and help you manage his shedding better.
He is a relatively clean dog, and you only need to bathe him as necessary. Between 8 to 12 weeks is the ideal amount. Never wash him more frequently than this. Otherwise, you risk damaging his natural coat oils. When shampooing him, use a specific doggy shampoo that is made with natural ingredients so that it is gentle on his skin.
As he isn’t as active as other dogs, you should clip his nails as they will not wear down naturally. The general rule of thumb is that if you can hear them tapping on the floor, they are too long. Additionally, his smaller mouth increases the chance of poor dental health. So you should clean his teeth weekly with a doggy-specific toothpaste to keep periodontal diseases at bay.
Breeders & Puppy Costs
The Cav has always been popular in America. This means that you should not have to travel too far to find a reputable and trustworthy breeder. There is likely to be a waiting list, but a healthy and happy Cavalier is worth waiting for. The average price of a puppy falls somewhere in the region of $1,200 and up from a reputable breeder.
Always work with a breeder who is experienced and talks you through the process. If they keep in touch during the pregnancy and are always on hand to answer any queries you have, they are likely to be a trustworthy breeder. They will invite you to meet the puppies, as well as the parents. They will also provide health certificates too, as well as aftercare. A great place to start is the AKC’s list of registered Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breeders.
A puppy mill will have little to no interest in the health of the puppies they sell. Instead, they will lure you in with lower prices or claim to have rare pups to command an extortionate price. Pressurized sales, no communication, and not allowing you to meet the puppies and parents in person are top signs of irresponsible breeders.
Cavs are not just for Christmas. He is for a decade of Christmases and more. This means that not only do you need to factor in the other initial puppy costs, such as beds, crates, and toys. But you also need to factor in a lifetime worth of expenses, including expensive insurance and medical care.
Rescues & Shelters
If you are thinking about rescuing, you have a few options. The first is to visit your local rescue shelters. It might be hard to believe that there are many of these gorgeous pups up for adoption, but you might be surprised. Speak to the staff who will be happy to help you, or they may know of one in a nearby shelter.
If not, there are also Cavalier breed dedicated shelters that focus solely on rehoming these special dogs. The Cavalier Rescue and the Cavalier Rescue USA websites are both great sites that list adoptable dogs. As well as listing other contact details and information pages that might be of use to you in your rescue journey. Not only can rescues save money, but you’ll be saving a life at the same time. You may even consider adopting a popular Cav mix, like a Cavapoo, which mixes the Poodle and the Cav. After adopting, use our guide to help pick an appropriate name.
As Family Pets
- Cavs are a very adaptable dog who can live with most types of families.
- He is content relaxing all day, or happy and adventure for a few hours.
- He only needs 30 minutes of exercise a day to be happy and healthy.
- The Comfort Cavalier hates to be left alone.
- This means they should be with families that are home most of the day.
- He is very affectionate and cuddly.
- They are also friendly and sociable with strangers.
- He can live with young children.
- The Cav gets along well with other dogs, and probably other pets too.
- He is intelligent and obedient, so he is great for first-time dog owners.
- He is suited to apartment living, but needs space due to their want to “wander.”
- This breed will eat you out of house and home, so keep food locked away.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a versatile dog breed whose number one goal is to please his humans. Whether you are a young family looking for your first dog. Or you are a retired couple looking for canine companionship. This guy fits most bills. All he needs is the basic canine things, plus lots of love and continuous company. But, we will say, if you aren’t a fan of needy dogs, this is not the canine for you.
But, if you have lots of love to give, he will fill that doggy shaped gap in your life. Happy to do whatever you want, you really couldn’t ask for more in a family pet. He’s sweet, he’s soft, he’s fun, and he’s full of love. It’s easy to see why generations of the royal family fell in love with him, and we bet our bottom dollar that you will too.
Jean Ann Lehman
April 27, 2021 at 1:45 pm
We’ve had 2 Cavies. Our first was a ruby male. He lived for 13 years(Taron Romulus). Then we had a black & tan female(Lily Grace). She lived for 10 years. They are definitely prone to heart problems but they are the most loving breed on this earth. They love everyone! Such an incredibly sweet breed!
April 27, 2021 at 7:08 pm
Sounds like you've had some Amazing dogs, Jean! Thanks for stopping by to comment!