A particularly prominent characteristic differentiates the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel from the King Charles Spaniel: the length of its nose. Both breeds are named after the kings Charles I and Charles II, who were big spaniel fans. To this very day, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has lost none of its original charm.
Graceful “long nose”
The size makes the difference, with compact “Cavaliers” primarily differing from King Charles Spaniels due to their larger nose and altogether taller and heavier build, reaching up to a maximum of 8kg. Thanks to its graceful appearance and gentle expression, the Cavalier in name takes its looks from the attractive Britons. The highly positioned lop ears are long and very furry. The long, silky fur comes in four colours: black-tan, red, white-tan and tricolour. Wavy fur is permitted, but not curly.
Ancestors with royal fans
Toy Spaniels have been popular society dogs for the European nobility for centuries and were bred from hunting spaniels. The two British kings Charles I (1600-1649) and his son Charles II (1630-1685) were the godfathers of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and were followed at every turn by their beloved spaniels. They can be admired in numerous paintings from this time period and works of art even transmit their fondness of children. For instance, the painter Anthonis van Dyck's work “The Children of Charles I” eternalised not just the royal offspring, but also two spaniels that very closely resemble today's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The ancestors of the breed also enjoyed greater popularity with the ladies of the nobility as society and lapdogs. When the King Charles Spaniel breed was entered in the British Kennel Club stud book for the first time in 1892, the dogs had shorter noses in comparison to their ancestors, since most breeders had crossed them with shorter-nosed breeds like pugs due to the fashion trends at the time. In 1926, the long-nosed spaniel experienced a renaissance, since the American Roswell Eldridge made out to search for spaniels belonging to the old type. At an exhibition, he offered more prize money for a long-nosed spaniel. The most famous winner of this henceforth annual competition was Ann's Son, who came in first place from 1928 to 1930. This multiple award-winning male is considered the founding father of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed, which was added to the Kennel Club's stud book as an independent breed in 1945.
A true Cavalier's character
The breed truly lives up to its name, since little Cavaliers are always benign and friendly. They get on wonderfully with children and other pets, are socially compatible with dogs and affectionate when it comes to “their” people. The hunting dog inheritance does become evident at times and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can hunt mice, but they are mainly easy to retrieve. In this sense, the breed is easy to train, smart and never jumpy. They don't have a tendency to bark much and therefore don't make particularly ambitious guard dogs.
Health is no fluke
A disease that exclusively affects Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is neurologically-based episodic falling syndrome, EFS for short. This entails the dog suffering from exertion or stress with muscle cramps, which can lead to immobility and accidents. The cramps don't usually cause pain and can be treated – however, they are frequently confused with epilepsy. Dry eye syndrome tends to affect Cavalier King Charles Spaniels more often and involves chronic dryness of the eyes, which requires constant treatment to prevent the cornea from becoming inflamed. Curly coat syndrome often emerges too only amongst dogs suffering from dry eye syndrome shortly after they are born, manifesting itself in the form of extremely curly fur, which is later followed by fatty and painfully inflamed skin. Unfortunately affected animals more often than not have to be put down. Since there are now DNA tests for hereditary diseases, most can be excluded through targeted selection. The breed can also be affected by heart disease and neurologically-based syringomyelia (SM). A good breeder is the best prevention to avoid hereditary diseases. The dog owner then has a robust Cavalier King Charles Spaniel that generally only requires one annual check-up and injections and that can live to the age of 15 years.
Meat-rich diet preferred
Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's digestive system is ideally geared for processing meat. With this in mind, you should ensure that meat is the main ingredient when purchasing food, regardless of whether it be wet, dry or both. There are even special “Cavalier King Charles” foods in specialist stores with a biscuit size adapted to the breed, but you should mainly take care to ensure an appropriate food composition. Grain should feature in as small a quantity as possible or not at all. If you have bought a puppy from a responsible breeder, they will generally give a small supply of the food the puppy is used to. You should definitely still use this for a time and when you wish to change to a different food, the transition needs to be cautious and carried out in several stages, with you gradually mixing more and more of the new food into the current one. This means you avoid reactions like diarrhoea and stomach upsets. Even with adult dogs, changing the food should always be carried out on a step-by-step basis. Up to the age of 10 months, you can give your Cavalier puppy food – ideally three or four portions per day. Adult dogs receive their daily intake in two portions. Due to the long lop ears, a deep and narrow dog bowl is recommended so that they don't always end up in the food. Bear in mind that treats also contain calories and only give them out in moderation so that your dog keeps in shape. For dental hygiene, dried chew products from specialist stores, raw beef or special dental care snacks are suitable. Some dog owners get their puppies used to regularly having their teeth cleaned with a special toothpaste.
Grooming: brush strokes for wellbeing
You should ideally get your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel used to daily grooming, where you brush its fur to prevent felting and knotting. The areas behind the ears and under the axilla are particularly susceptible. Every few days you should do an extra touch-up with a comb. Owners don't need to plan in visits to dog groomers, since the breed doesn't need to be trimmed. These dogs are not averse to muddy puddles though, so when they do get so dirty that brushing alone isn't enough, you can wash them with a mild dog shampoo. From spring to autumn, you should also keep an eye out for potential uninvited guests turning up in your pet's fur and make sure to remove them, for instance with tick tweezers. Check your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's ears on a daily basis to remove little twigs or other “souvenirs” from the fur. Due to the lop ears, they can develop inflammations quicker, since these are brought upon by the warm and humid environment. You can find special ear cleaners for your long-eared friend in specialist stores. If necessary, clean the eyes too with a special cleaning solution and flannel. If the fur between the paw pads becomes too long, you can easily cut it back, which is recommended above all in winter.
Training a little dog with big charm
The greatest challenge when it comes to consistently training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is probably resisting its wide eyes. If you can manage this, you've already overcome the biggest obstacle, since this eager-to-learn breed is also very suitable for beginners. A dog school with puppy play groups is a big asset for all puppies. Young dogs don't just have the opportunity to frolic around together, but also learn how to handle different situations and are socialised with other dogs coming in a wide range of sizes. This is a fantastic foundation for raising a calm, even-tempered and friendly dog.
Small but versatile: activity for a Cavalier
Despite their size, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are sporty dogs that love to be on the move with you. This makes them unsuitable for couch potatoes. They love long walks and frolicking around with other dogs – even males are socially inclined. A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should definitely have regular contact with fellow canines, since an excellent social life is important for its well-being. They are always up for fun and games – be it ball or search games or practising little tricks, they're in the thick of it! Many lively Cavaliers also find agility sports for small dogs great fun. They can generally pass companion dog tests without any issues.
Is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel right for me?
These canine Cavaliers are ideal companions for all dog lovers searching for a reliable and friendly pet – a true Cavalier. They are well suited to beginners, since they are easy to train and very friendly to humans and animals. Whether for families or singletons or young or older people, the breed is at its happiest when it can spend enough time with its beloved “human pack”. This also entails a bit of daily exercise and activity, since despite their size, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels love to be out and about in the great outdoors. If their needs are met, they also feel at ease in city apartments. Friendly and outgoing spaniels love children. If your offspring are gently introduced to respectful contact with their canine housemate, there's nothing in the way of a strong friendship between child(ren) and dog developing. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel also quickly becomes friends with animals already living in the home.
When you consider whether a little Cavalier should move in with you, ideally plan in advance who will take of the dog when you go on holiday or should you end up sick, or check whether you can potentially take them with you on trips away. Due to their compact stature and friendly nature, this could be a good opportunity to go on a journey of discovery together with your pet. Also find out in advance about the costs entailed, ranging from the purchase price to basic equipment (dog bed, blanket, lead, collar, chest harness, car insurance, bowls, brush and toys). Plan the regular outgoings for veterinary check-ups including injections, dog tax and dog liability insurance, and of course for a long-term species-appropriate diet.
How to find your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Once you have chosen a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to be your new housemate, you have already made a good decision – now it's time to find a reliable breeder. Unfortunately when it comes to selling “pedigree puppies”, there are some alleged “breeders” at work that sell dogs without a pedigree certificate, healthcare provision or sufficient socialisation in order to make a profit. The losers in this business are both the puppies themselves and the parent animals, on whom you will often not even set eyes because they are not housed or socialised appropriately. The puppies are often ill and instead of a true Cavalier, you end up with a dog of dubious origins that can come with some hidden surprises in terms of both behaviour and health. Don't buy out of pity with such breeders, because demand determines supply.
When buying a puppy, make sure both that the little one appears healthy and anxiety-free and also that you meet the parent animals, who should come across as lively and even-tempered. A responsible breeder is open to questions regarding the breed and individual and demonstrable healthcare provision for their animals. From their perspective, they will find out if you can offer their charge a good home, by grilling you to a certain extent about your plans for dog ownership. Along with the pedigree certificate, there will naturally also be evidence of past injections and deworming treatments. It's generally only possible to start searching for puppies over 4 weeks in age, since beforehand they are susceptible to imported illnesses. In addition, this would prove stressful for the mother who wishes to protect her babies.
Would you prefer to offer an elderly Cavalier King Charles Spaniel a new home? Since the breed is so popular – around 1,000 officially registered little Cavaliers are born each year in Germany alone – there are always dogs looking for a new home for numerous reasons. If they can't be found in the local animal home, it's worth looking online, where “spaniel in need” associations present their charges. In part there are even organisations specialising in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, but they might also introduce you to the odd mongrel or two who would love a new home.