A dog breed with royalty in his name? You know he’s gotta be good! But don’t let the regal roots and AKC Toy Group status fool you… Sure, he loves being treated like a king (aka, getting snuggles and belly rubs). But he also enjoys an adventure!
The Cavalier isn’t picky so long as he’s with you!
Which is something King Charles II clearly appreciated. It’s said he never went anywhere without at least three of his namesake Cavaliers in tow!
Well, there’s a lot more King-Charles-canine gossip where that came from.
From the Renaissance times, toy spaniels were highly prized among European royalty. So it’s no surprise that King Charles II was attracted to these types of dogs, as well.
In particular, Charles II favored a black and tan variety of spaniel. Which of course later came to be known as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
So why is the breed named after King Charles II?
Well, for one, he very clearly loved these dogs. So much that he took them everywhere he went, as you already know.
But more than just liking the breed, Charles II was actually quite OBSESSED with these dogs.
Rumor has it that King Charles II was much more concerned with breeding and caring for his precious Cavalier King Charles Spaniels than he was with actually ruling England.
Don’t get me wrong, dogs are great. But a king’s top priority should probably be running his nation. But of course that’s just my opinion.
Either way, his obsession with these toy spaniels lives on in the breed’s name to this day.
Despite the breed’s long history in England, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is relatively new to the United States. The first Cavalier was introduced in 1956, but the breed as a whole wasn’t recognized by the AKC until 1995.
Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Good Family Dogs?
Yes, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are great family dogs!
In fact, they thrive in a family. To them, the bigger the family, the more laps to sit on and kids to play with!
That’s right: the Cavalier is an expert at loving children. Despite being a lap dog, this breed loves to play and learn tricks, so older kids are definitely a go.
As for younger children, you’ll just need to make sure that your Cavalier is handled appropriately. Cavalier puppies are especially small and can be easily hurt by well-intentioned toddlers.
As for living situations, the Cavalier is adaptable. Of course he’d love a yard to romp around in. But the breed is known for being a good apartment dog assuming he gets a daily walk and some playtime.
While owning a Cavalier can be rewarding for the whole family, it’s important to understand how to care for the breed before bringing one home.
As with any dog, Cavaliers have a few basic needs that you’ll have to provide for. These include nutrition, grooming, exercise, training, and health.
And lots of lap snuggles and attention!
Cavaliers need a balanced diet of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals to stay healthy.
Of course the amount of food this breed needs is determined by activity level, metabolism, age, and overall health.
But as a general rule, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should eat between ½ to 1 cup of high-quality dog food each day.
You should feed your pup twice daily on a schedule, dividing his daily portion into two meals. Don’t leave food out for your dog all the time as this doesn’t allow you to watch how much he is eating.
For further reference, you should check out the guide listed on your dog’s food bag. You may also want to talk to your veterinarian about exactly how much your individual dog should be eating.
Again, several factors affect feeding amounts, and each individual dog is different. But these tips should give you a good starting point.
Grooming a Cavalier isn’t too difficult, but it does require a fairly regular routine.
For starters, you’ll need to brush or comb your pup at least three to four times a week. You should pay extra attention to the feathered hair on your dog’s ears and legs. These areas are prone to matting, so you’ll want to gently comb out any tangles on a regular basis.
The breed is an average shedder, but tends to shed more in the spring and fall. More frequent brushing during these times of the year will help control the extra fur.
Cavaliers don’t require any special clipping to maintain their fancy looks. But some owners do opt to tidy up their pup with a quick trim every so often. It’s up to you!
One thing that isn’t optional, however, are your dog’s paw pads. You’ll need to trim the hair in between your pup’s pads to help him maintain traction. Otherwise he’ll be constantly sliding around on your hardwood floors!
Beyond that, the Cavalier will need the grooming care required by all breeds:
- Brush his teeth at least once a week to keep him healthy.
- Trim his nails.
- Bathe him when he gets dirty.
- And check the ears regularly for signs of irritation or infection.
That last bullet point, ear-checking, is especially important with Cavaliers. Those floppy ears are super cute, but they are more prone to infection since air can’t circulate as well in the ear canal.
Just something to keep in mind!
The Cavalier King Charles is fairly adaptable when it comes to exercise needs, as he will generally match his own activity level to yours.
Still, every dog needs some form of exercise, and the Cavalier is no exception!
The breed will benefit from a daily walk as well as some indoor and outdoor playtime. So grab a ball and play fetch, clip on a leash and go for a stroll, or just send your dog and kids into the yard to tire each other out.
While every Cavalier loves some good ol’ physical activity, you’ll need to make sure your pup doesn’t get too tired. Cavaliers have a shorter nose than other breeds, so they are more prone to overheating.
To avoid issues, provide cold water and shade when outdoors and avoid walking your Cavalier during the hottest parts of the day.
Training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is fairly easy, compared to other breeds. This breed is very eager to please and learns quickly.
Positive reinforcement training works wonders with this breed. Cavaliers love getting rewarded with affection (as well as treats), so use that to your advantage.
Keep in mind that the breed does not respond well to harsh punishment, so you’ll want to make training a good experience for your pup. Otherwise, you could end up with a dog that is simply too afraid to take action.
With proper training, though, the Cavalier will make an excellent pet and even therapy dog. The breed also excels in various canine sports, including obedience and agility.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Issues
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan between 9 and 14 years of age.
Still, Cavaliers are prone to certain conditions and diseases:
- Patella luxation
- Hip dysplasia
- Ear infections
- Mitral valve heart disease
- Syringomyelia (a neurological condition)
- Episodic falling
- Dry eye
- Retinal dysplasia
- Progressive retinal atrophy
Things to Know Before Getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
1. The Very Attached Family Dog
We already know that the Cavalier is an excellent family dog, so what more is there to say?
Well, you should probably know that the Cavalier is not the type of dog to pick a favorite family member. He’s the type that will love every member of the family with enthusiasm.
So try not to be too jealous if your Cavalier ditches you for a bit and instead decides to follow around someone else in the family. He’s just spreading the puppy-dog love!
2. Separation Anxiety
But all that love and doggy cuteness is going to cost you.
Since Cavaliers live to love their people, they tend to get very depressed and anxious when left alone. This separation anxiety can also lead to other issues, such as excessive barking and destructive behaviors. Not to mention a very lonely and sad dog.
That considered, you should only get a Cavalier if you live in a home where at least one person is home most of the day. So if you stay home with the kids, work from home, or are retired then the Cavalier is definitely a dog to consider.
Otherwise, you may want to look at some other breeds.
3. Everybody’s Best Friend
Being family-oriented isn’t the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s only trait. He’s also stranger-oriented, dog-oriented, cat-oriented…
I think you get the idea.
Basically this dog is an all-around lover of just about anything that breathes. (Okay, except for the occasional squirrel or enticing-looking bird). But really. The Cavalier loves everybody.
He generally does very well with other dogs, cats, and even other types of pets when introduced properly. So if you’re thinking about making a Cavalier part of your multi-pet home, then chances are you’re in for some success.
As for new people, he will probably make friends before you can even introduce yourself. So don’t be surprised if new acquaintances know your dog by name weeks before they’ve learned yours!
4. Not a Backyard Only Dog
I hope it goes without saying, but I’d better make it clear anyways: the Cavalier was never meant to live alone out in the yard.
Remember that bit about separation anxiety? Yeah, not good. So please be prepared to let your Cavalier live inside alongside you like the real family member he is.
Also, keep in mind the breed’s tendency to overheat. Just another reason to not leave him in the yard for extended periods of time.
While the house needs to be your Cavalier’s permanent home, your pooch will definitely love some good ol’ backyard time every now and then.
If you’re lucky enough to have a fenced yard, take advantage of it. Go out and play ball with your pup or let him run around and smell things for a bit. He’ll be grateful for the opportunity to expend some of his energy.
5. Not a Great Watch Dog
Since your Cavalier wants to make best friends with everybody he meets, he clearly won’t make the best watch dog.
Sure, he’ll bark when the doorbell rings or when he sees the postman through the window. But his watch dog abilities end about there. After you’ve let the new person in, he’ll be all tail wags and tongue slurps.
That is, unless your pup is a tad on the shy side. In which case there may be a few seconds’ delay before his will-you-be-my-friend dance begins.
But even still, not great watch dog material.
6. An Easily Distracted Dog
Remember how I said Cavaliers love everything except squirrels and birds?
Well, I lied.
Cavaliers love squirrels and birds. They love them quite a lot, actually. Specifically when they get to chase them.
Don’t get me wrong–the Cavalier is a people-pleaser. But he also suffers from a fairly short attention span and a desire to run after things.
One minute, he could be nicely heeling by your side as you walk around the park. The next, he could be off chasing after that pesky little squirrel.
So make sure you’re prepared for such situations. Because your Cavalier will get distracted and could take off without a moment’s notice.
Sounds scary, but it doesn’t have to be with the proper precautions. Just be sure to always keep your pup leashed in unfenced areas.
7. Mr. Popular
Perhaps it’s his dashing good looks or his affectionate and sweet personality, but the Cavalier is very popular in the United States.
In fact, he ranks in the top 20. So if you’re looking to get a Cavalier, then welcome to the club! Chances are there’s several hundred other future owners across the United States also wanting this sweet pup. And there’s already who-knows-how-many people snuggling up with their little Cavalier buddy right now.
So keep doing your research, and if he seems like a good fit for you, then don’t be afraid to join the party!
After all, the Cavalier’s in the top 20 for a reason.
8. The Wiggle Monster
If you’ve ever seen a Cavalier happily curled up in his owner’s lap, you might assume that he doesn’t have a wiggly bone in his body.
But guess again!
When meeting new people, wanting to go on a walk, or greeting you after the whole five minutes it took you to take out the trash–this dog is gonna wiggle. And he’s gonna wiggle real hard, too!
Sure, his tail will wag. That’s a given. But chances are his entire behind is going to be dancing around, too.
And his ears. Don’t forget about those. Because they’re going to be whipping around at a hundred miles an hour as he wiggles with excitement!
Here’s a small sample of what the famous Cavalier happy wiggle looks like:
If you plan on feeding wet food or giving your pup an extra messy snack, then you’ll want to invest in a snood.
A snood–it’s a stretchy bit of cloth that’s basically shaped like a donut. It goes around the dog’s head to cover up and hold those long silky ears in place.
Yeah, I would be too–it’s hard to explain. Just check out the video:
It looks a bit silly (aka, adorable). But trust me. You’re probably going to want one.
Or at the very least, you’ll want to gently tie up your dog’s ears with a scrunchy during mealtimes.
Another alternative is the Spaniel bowl, which is designed to keep your pup’s ears from dangling around in the bowel’s contents.
Either route you take, you’re going to want to give it some thought. Because adorable feathered ears aren’t nearly as adorable when they’re caked in last night’s dinner.
10. Grinch Feet
Okay, here goes. Somebody’s gotta say it:
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have Grinch feet.
But don’t worry–their paws aren’t green (unless your pup romped through freshly cut grass)…
And they’re not smelly or gross (unless your pup stepped in a tad bit of doggy doo-doo)…
And they don’t mean that your precious pup is a grump that hates holidays!
Phew. Well, now that that’s all cleared up, what are Grinch feet?
Simply said, they’re paws that look twice as long thanks to the tufts of hair growing on the tops of your dog’s feet.
They’re adorable in a little-kid-wearing-mommy’s-shoes sort of way. And they’re part of the AKC show standard for the breed.
So don’t hate on those cute, funny-looking, fuzzy Grinch feet!
Though, of course, if you prefer neatly trimmed paws that don’t get quite so tangled and messy, you’re welcome to de-Grinch your pup.
A quick trim and a regular touch up around the paws will do the trick. The choice is yours really, so long as you don’t plan on showing your Cavalier in the ring.
11. What Are My Color Options?
When it comes to Cavalier King Charles coat color options, you’ve got exactly four to choose from:
- Black and tan,
- And ruby.
All are quite regal and very adorable, so you can’t go wrong no matter which color of pup you pick.