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Belonging to the 'toy' category of dogs, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a popular choice as a small companion dog. As the smallest of the Spaniel breed, but at the larger end of the spectrum for a toy dog, it can still fit comfortably into the lap of most adults - a place which it does like to be! A gregarious and adaptable little dog, this is a breed who will slot comfortably into most lives and families, being good with both other dogs, animals and children.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel today is the direct descendent of Toy Spaniels commonly represented in paintings in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. They were a particular favourite of well bred ladies in Tudor times and valued as a 'comforter' usually placed on the lap on carriage journeys to help them keep warm. It was under the Stewart reign they were blessed with the name 'King Charles' Spaniels. It is thought that some interbreeding with pugs took place to develop the smaller face, domed head and pronounced eyes. Falling out of popularity for a while to other small breeds, they regained a solid following during the reign of Queen Victoria, when a group of enthusiasts started to breed to select for a smaller and shorter face representative of the modern dog we know now. In 1958 the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel club was founded where the breed standard was developed which remains today. Since then, this little dog has retained its place in the hearts of people who love them and remains a popular choice as a small companion dog.
Average height to withers: Both males and females between 12-13 inches
Average weight: Both male and female between 5-8kg.
Usually showing beautiful markings, including a characteristic spot on the forehead in some dogs, the Cavalier King Charles comes in varied colours, the main ones being 'Blenheim', (named after Blenheim Palace) in a striking chestnut and iridescent white colour way, black and tan, ruby which is an all over rich chestnut colour and tri colour (black, chestnut and white). In all dogs, however, the coat is silky and smooth and of a moderate length. Breed standards state that the coat should be free from curl, although a slight wave is allowed. Feathering can grow on their ears, feet, legs and tail with the feathering on the feet a particularly pronounced aspect of this dogs breed's features. The main feature of this breeds face is its soulful eyes which should not protrude too much, but are enhanced by a 'cushion' under them with the ears set relatively high on the head. The back should be straight and level with a short body straight into a delightful tail which will wag, as does most Spaniels, virtually without ceasing.
An undemanding little dog, this is a breed that will adapt to all lifestyles with little fuss. Very affectionate and very playful, it makes for a great companion as they are generally excellent with children and other dogs of all sizes. They are not suited a guarding type of dogs being affable to all they meet, however, they are extremely loyal to their owner and will bark to alert of stranger approaching their house. Of average intelligence, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lacks the high drive and trainability of its larger Spaniels cousins but that is not to say by any means that it is a breed which is un-trainable and indeed, some do very well in agility and obedience tests and shows. They are versatile and naturally very curious dogs yet are easy going and love nothing more than a cuddle and fuss on a warm lap. That said, they do have a certain amount of energy and generally enjoy a good run and play, especially with their favorite toy.
A healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can live up to the age of 15, however, they are prone to a number of genetic conditions and as a breed show the highest incidence of Mitral Valve Disease (MVD) in which the Mitral Valve of the heart does not close correctly when pumping out blood. This can manifest as such symptoms as palpitations, shortness of breath, pulmonary oedema and heart failure. Reputable breeders of this dog will take care to only breed from older dogs who have displayed no signs of this disease in an effort to eradicate it.
Another condition they are prone to is name 'luxating patella' (kneecap) which is caused by a defect in the limb. It is characterised when the kneecap moves or slips out of position and is a relatively common condition in smaller and toy breeds of dogs. Depending on the severity of the condition, surgery may be needed to correct it but helping the dog up/down stairs and into the car can help relieve unnecessary pressure on the joint.
In addition, it is estimated that almost half of this breed have a low platelet count in their blood which aids clotting should the dog cut itself. They are also rather prone to hereditary eye conditions including cataracts and a condition known as 'dry eye' which affects the tear ducts and reducing the production of tears needed to keep the eyes healthy. They also have a tendency to put on weight easily.
Grooming should take place at least once a week, if not more to ensure the smooth, glossy coat remains in healthy condition. It is also worth trimming back the feathers and hair between the toes which can become very unruly left untended. This dog will be happy with 40-60 minutes exercise a day but can do a lot more when required.