Often confused for their Cavalier cousins the King Charles Spaniel is a breed in its own right with many distinct differences between the two dogs. They are true aristocrats of the dog world always cheerful and extremely affectionate by nature which in short means they are renowned for being devoted and loyal companions to their owners.
The King Charles Spaniel in a nutshell is adorable looking and makes for a great choice as a family pet or companion thanks to their kind and placid natures. The downside is that they shed a lot of hair and have quite high maintenance coats but anyone looking to share a home with an extremely loyal and proud canine companion would not go far wrong by choosing to do so with a King Charles Spaniel.
The actual origins of the King Charles Spaniel remain a bit of a mystery and nobody really knows how the breed first came about although they are thought to be related to their Cavalier cousins. There are records of the breed that date back to the 1500s a time when King Charles Spaniels were known as "comforters and gentle spaniels" by ladies of the court during the reign of Elizabeth I. Not only were these little dogs perfect hand warmers but they also sat under a lady's skirt keeping their feet warm too.
In the very early days it is thought that King Charles Spaniels had red and white coats which were typical of spaniels that were imported to England from Italy but they could also have black and white coats which reflected the coat colours of the Holland Spaniel. Dogs could have curly solid black coats as depicted in many works of art too. At the time these spaniels were quite different to the King Charles we see today and looked much more like Papillons with drop ears having longer and more pointed muzzles too. Their legs as well as their ears were well feathered and their tails were long and nicely feathered unlike the dogs we see today.
It is thought that these little spaniels were crossed with others that were around in the day although a lot of interbreeding probably went on too which over time bred changes into the breed. King Charles I was a firm fan having several that he kept at court. King Charles II was also a breed enthusiast and he gave his name to these little spaniels a record of which was kept in the diaries of Samuel Pepys.
Over time more breeds were introduced into the mix one of which it is thought was the Springer Spaniel a breed that back in the day was a much smaller dog than we see today. The first time a "Ruby" coated King Charles Spaniel was recorded was in 1828 when through selective breeding the colour came about. Tricoloured dogs were created by crossing Blenheim coated spaniels to black and tans. It was not until the mid-1800s that spaniels with shorter muzzles were first recorded. These spaniels also had very silky coats and feathered ears. There are those people who think the shorter noses came about by crossing the spaniels with the Japanese Chin or the Pug.
However they were also just as popular in Europe where toy spaniels were bred to be as small as possible. They were originally bred to be gundogs but they were spoilt and pampered by their noble owners who treasured these spaniels for their good looks sweet natures and the fact they were so small they could easily be carried around.
Sadly the Second World War saw a serious decline in breed numbers but thankfully a few dedicated breeders kept some of their breeding stock and saved the King Charles Spaniel from vanishing altogether while others had their breeding stock put to sleep. Most spaniels we see today can trace their ancestry back to these very dogs because of the war.
Today the King Charles Spaniel is not as popular as their Cavalier cousins with only a small number of puppies being registered every year with the Kennel Club here in the UK as compared to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. With this said fans of the King Charles know that sharing a home with one of these loyal and affectionate dogs is a real pleasure and they would not choose to share their lives with any other breed.
Height at the withers: Males 23 – 28 cm Females 23 – 28 cm
Average weight: Males 3.6 – 6.4 kg Females 3.6 – 6.4 kg
King Charles Spaniels are neat compact little dogs that boast a quite distinctive dome shape to their heads. They do resemble their Cavalier cousins in that they share the same coat colours but other than that these two dogs are quite different and boast very different breed standards.
Their heads are nicely proportioned in relation to the rest of their body with a short muzzle and black up-turned nose. Charlies have a well-defined stop and wide deep muzzle and neat lower jaw that completes their facial looks off nicely. Their eyes are large and dark in colour being set wide apart on a dog's head. They are renowned for their kind and appealing expression. Ears are long and well feathered being set low and hanging neatly flat to a dog's cheeks. The King Charles boasts having a slightly undershot jaw but this should never be exaggerated.
Their necks are medium in length and dogs hold them slightly arched which adds to their proud and noble look. Forequarters are nicely developed and dogs have short straight legs and well laid-back shoulders. A Charlie's chest is deep and wide their backs are level and short in length. Hindquarters are nicely muscled and back legs strong and straight. Their feet are very cat-like well padded compact with nice feathering. Tails are nicely feathered and dogs carry them straight never over their back.
When it comes to a King Charles Spaniel's coat it is very like that of their Cavalier cousins being silky long and straight although a slight wave is permissible under their breed standard although a dog's coat should never be curly. Their legs ears and tails boast profuse feathering adding to their overall appeal. The accepted breed colours for Kennel Club registration are as follows:
It is worth noting that some King Charles Spaniels are born with naturally bobbed tails and are a variety of the breed.
When a King Charles Spaniel moves they do so with an active free-moving and elegant gait with a lot of drive in their hindquarters. Spaniels must be sound when they move at all paces.
The Kennel Club frowns on any exaggerations or departures from the breed standard and would judge the faults on how much they affect a dog's overall health and wellbeing as well as their ability to perform.
Males should have both testicles fully descended into their scrotums and it is worth noting that a dog can be a little lighter or heavier as well as slightly taller or shorter than set out in the Kennel Club breed standard which is given as a guideline only.
There is nothing a King Charles Spaniel likes more than feeling part of a family apart and snuggling up to their owners for a cuddle which makes them the perfect "lap dog" but one that enjoys going out for lots of walks too. They are a great choice for families with children all thanks to their very kind and placid natures.
They are quite low energy characters unlike many of their spaniel cousins although their "hunting" instinct has not vanished altogether which means introducing a King Charles to new pets must be done carefully. These dogs thrive on human contact and do not do well when left to their own devices for long periods of time which could result in dogs developing some unwanted behavioural issues which includes separation anxiety excessive barking and destructiveness around the home.
They are not a good choice for people who spend a lot of time out of the house but for people who work from home the King Charles would be the perfect companion. They are generally friendly towards people they don't know all thanks to their outgoing affectionate personalities. The King Charles loves to please and is always eager to learn new things especially if there is a treat at the end of it.
Although not high energy dogs they do like to chase things which means back gardens need good secure fencing and when out on a walk through a park or in the countryside it’s best to keep a King Charles on a lead or their instinct might get the better of them and run off after something they’ve spotted in the distance.
King Charles Spaniels are the perfect choice for first time dog owners because they are so amenable and people-oriented loving nothing more than to please and to entertain their families. They are particularly good with young children and older people too. However they hate being left on their own so are better suited to households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out.
Although King Charles Spaniels are very social by nature they do have a high prey drive and will happily take off after an animal they spot in the distance or one that tries to run away. As such it is safer to keep a dog on the lead when they are being walked near livestock or wild animals because their instinct might get the better of them.
King Charles Spaniels have a very playful side to their natures and love to entertain and be entertained. They are known to be a little mischievous when the mood takes them and being so clever they quickly learn how to get their own way.
King Charles Spaniels are highly adaptable dogs and providing they are given enough daily physical exercise combined with as much mental stimulation to prevent boredom from setting in they are just as happy living in an apartment in town as they are living in a house in the country.
King Charles Spaniels form strong ties with their families and dogs are never very happy when they find themselves left on their own for longer periods of time. As previously mentioned they are better suited to people who either work from home or in households where one person stays at home when everyone else is out so they are never alone for any length of time which could see a dog suffering from separation anxiety. This can lead to them being destructive around the home which is a dog's way of relieving any stress they are feeling and a way to keep themselves entertained.
Some King Charles Spaniels like the sound of their own voices a little too much which is something that needs to be gently nipped in the bud when a dog is still young being careful not to frighten them bearing in mind that like many spaniel breeds they are ultra-sensitive by nature. Others will only bark when there are strangers about or when something they don't like is going on in their surroundings.
Some King Charles Spaniels like swimming and will take to the water whenever they can more especially when the weather is hot. However if anyone who owns a dog that does not like water should never force them to go in because it would just end up scaring them. With this said because they have such short muzzles they can have trouble breathing when they are swimming so a dog must always be supervised when they are in the water. Care should also be taken when walking a King Charles Spaniel off the lead anywhere near more dangerous watercourses just in case a dog decides to leap in and then needs rescuing because they can't get out of the water on their own. It’s important to thoroughly dry a dog’s ears once they’ve been in the water to prevent an ear infection from taking hold.
King Charles Spaniels are not natural watchdogs although this is not to say a dog would not be quick off the mark to let an owner know when there are strangers about although they would rarely do this aggressively preferring to keep their distance and bark to alert an owner.
The King Charles Spaniel is thought to be an intelligent dog so when it comes to training they are very receptive to learning new things. However it pays to take them along to obedience classes when they are still young so they learn the "rules". These dogs like to learn new things and are always ready and eager to please which in short means they excel at obedience training once the foundations have been correctly laid and a dog is given the right sort of direction and handling.
King Charles Spaniels puppies are incredibly cute and it is all too easy to let them get away with things. However they are also very smart and learn new things quickly which includes the good and the bad. As such owners need to start out as they mean to go on by teaching a puppy what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. The first commands a puppy should be taught are as follows:
King Charles Spaniels are known to be very good around children as such they are good choice as a family pet. However like many other breeds they do not like it when play gets too boisterous and they really don't like to be handled roughly. Whenever the kids and a dog get together it's best to keep an eye on things to make sure things stay friendly and calm which basically means adult supervision is needed at all times.
When it comes to other pets in a household if a King Charles has been bought up with them they are generally tolerant of them. However introductions to new pets and other animals must be done carefully to ensure things remain calm. The same can be said for any strange dogs or cats a King Charles might encounter.
The average life expectancy of a King Charles Spaniel is between 10 and 16 years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Sadly the King Charles is known to suffer from quite a few serious hereditary and congenital health issues which can potentially shorten their life spans considerably. It's worth knowing about these disorders if you plan to share your home with one of these delightful characters. The health issues most seen in the breed include the following:
The King Charles Spaniel is also sensitive to anaesthetic which vets are aware of and which can make sedating a dog problematic for them should a dog need to undergo any sort of invasive surgery or treatment.
King Charles Spaniel puppies would have been given their initial vaccinations before being sold but it is up to their new owners to make sure they have their follow-up shots in a timely manner with the vaccination schedule for puppies being as follows:
There has been a lot of discussion about the need for dogs to have boosters. As such it's best to talk to a vet before making a final decision on whether a dog should continue to have annual vaccinations which are known as boosters.
A lot of vets these days recommend waiting until dogs are slightly older before spaying and neutering them which means they are more mature before undergoing the procedures. As such they advise neutering males and spaying females when they are between the ages of 6 to 9 months old and sometimes even when a dog is 12 months old.
Other vets recommend spaying and neutering dogs when they are 6 months old but never any earlier unless for medical reasons. With this said many breeds are different and it is always advisable to discuss things with a vet and then follow their advice on when a dog should be spayed or neutered.
Some King Charles Spaniels gain weight after they have been spayed or neutered and it's important to keep an eye on a dog's waistline just in case they do. If a dog starts to put on weight it's important to adjust their daily calorie intake and to up the amount of exercise they are given. Older dogs too are more prone to gaining weight and again it's essential they be fed and exercised accordingly because obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years. The reason being that it puts a lot of extra strain on a dog's internal organs including the heart which could prove fatal.
King Charles Spaniels are prone to suffering from allergies and skin complaints so it's important for a dog to see a vet sooner rather than later if they have a flare up. Allergies can be notoriously hard to resolve and finding the triggers can be challenging. With this said a vet would be able to make a dog with an allergy more comfortable while they try to find out the triggers which could include the following:
All responsible King Charles Spaniel breeders would ensure that their stud dogs are tested for known hereditary and congenital health issues known to affect the breed by using the following schemes:
Apart from the standard breeding restrictions for all Kennel Club registered breeds there are no other breed specific breeding restrictions for the King Charles Spaniel.
Currently there are no Kennel Club Assured Breeder requirements for the breed.
As with any other breed King Charles Spaniels need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to ensure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this they need to be fed good quality food that meets all their nutritional needs throughout their lives.
King Charles Spaniel puppies are boisterous and full of life which means it's essential for homes and gardens to be puppy-proofed well in advance of their arrival. A responsible breeder would have well socialised their puppies which always leads to more outgoing confident and friendly dogs right from the word go. With this said any puppy is going to feel vulnerable when they leave their mother and littermates which must be taken into account. The longer a puppy can remain with their mother the better although it should never be for too long either.
It's best to pick a puppy up when people are going to be around for the first week or so which is the time needed for a puppy to settle in. Puppy-proofing the home and garden means putting away any tools and other implements that a boisterous puppy might injure themselves on. Electric wires and cables must be put out of their reach because puppies love chewing on things. Toxic plants should be removed from flowerbeds and the home too.
Puppies need to sleep a lot to grow and develop as they should which means setting up a quiet area that's not too out of the way means they can retreat to it when they want to nap and it's important not to disturb them when they are sleeping. It's also a good idea to keep "playtime" nice and calm inside the house and to have a more active "playtime" outside in the garden which means puppies quickly learn to be less boisterous when they are inside.
The documentation a breeder provides for a puppy must have all the details of their worming date and the product used as well as the information relating to their microchip. It is essential for puppies to be wormed again keeping to a schedule which is as follows:
There are certain items that new owners need to already have in the home prior to bringing a new puppy home. It's often a good idea to restrict how much space a puppy plays in more especially when you can't keep an eye on what they get up to bearing in mind that puppies are often quite boisterous which means investing in puppy gates or a large enough playpen that allows a puppy the room to express themselves while keeping them safe too. The items needed are therefore as follows:
All puppies are sensitive to noise including King Charles Spaniel puppies. It's important to keep the noise levels down when a new puppy arrives in the home. TVs and music should not be played too loud which could end up stressing a small puppy out.
As previously mentioned King Charles Spaniel puppies would have been given their first vaccinations by the breeders but they must have their follow up shots which is up to their new owners to organise. The vaccination schedule for puppies is as follows:
When it comes to boosters it's best to discuss these with a vet because there is a lot of debate about whether a dog really needs them after a certain time. However if a dog ever needed to go into kennels their vaccinations would need to be up to date.
Older King Charles Spaniels need lots of special care because as they reach their golden years they are more at risk of developing certain health concerns. Physically a dog's muzzle may start to go grey but there will be other noticeable changes too which includes the following:
Older dogs change mentally too which means their response time tends to be slower as such they develop the following:
Living with a King Charles Spaniel in their golden years means taking on a few more responsibilities but these are easily managed and should include taking a look at their diet the amount of exercise they are given how often their dog beds need changing and keeping an eye on the condition of their teeth.
Older King Charles Spaniels need to be fed a good quality diet that meets their needs at this stage of their lives all the while keeping a close eye on a dog's weight. A rough feeding guide for older dogs is as follows bearing in mind they should be fed highly digestible food that does not contain any additives:
Older King Charles Spaniels don't need to be given the same amount of daily exercise as a younger dog but they still need the right amount of physical activity to maintain muscle tone and to prevent a dog from putting on too much weight. All dogs need access to fresh clean water and this is especially true of older dogs when they reach their golden years because they are more at risk of developing kidney disorders.
King Charles Spaniels have fine silky hair which means they need to be regularly groomed to prevent any tangles and knots forming in their coats. They tend to shed quite a bit especially more so during the Spring and then again in the Autumn when more frequent brushing would be necessary to keep on top of things. It's also a good idea to have a King Charles professionally groomed on a regular basis which makes keeping their coats and skin in good condition a lot easier and less time consuming for their owners in between visits to a grooming parlour.
It's also important to keep a close eye on their ears because if moisture builds up in a dog's ear canal it can lead to a yeast infection taking hold. This type of infection can be notoriously hard to clear up once it takes hold and causes a lot of discomfort and irritation for the dog.
The King Charles is not a high-energy dog and therefore they don't need to be given an excessive amount of exercise. However these dogs need to be taken out for daily walks and ideally this needs to be anything from 20 to 30 minutes twice daily once in the morning and then again in the afternoon. If they are not given enough daily exercise the King Charles tends to plough on the pounds which could lead to them becoming obese. Carrying too much weight can seriously impact a dog's overall health and it could shorten their life spans considerably.
They are intelligent dogs and therefore need to be given a reasonable amount of mental stimulation for them to be truly happy well-rounded characters. The King Charles enjoys and excels at taking part in many canine sports and this includes obedience training. It's a good idea to enrol a young dog into classes and then to continue taking them along on a regular basis which will keep their minds well occupied and naturally dogs will be fitter too.
If you get a King Charles Spaniel puppy from a breeder they would give you a feeding schedule and it's important to stick to the same routine feeding the same puppy food to avoid any tummy upsets. You can change a puppy's diet but this needs to be done very gradually always making sure they don't develop any digestive upsets and if they do it's best to put them back on their original diet and to discuss things with the vet before attempting to change it again.
Older dogs are not known to be fussy or finicky eaters but this does not mean you can feed them a lower quality diet. It's best to feed a mature King Charles Spaniel twice a day once in the morning and then again in the evening making sure it's good quality food that meets all their nutritional requirements. It's also important that dogs be given the right amount of exercise so they burn off any excess calories or they might gain too much weight which can lead to all sorts of health issues. As previously mentioned obesity can shorten a dog's life by several years so it's important to keep an eye on their waistline from the word go.
Puppies need to be fed a highly nutritious good quality diet for them to develop and grow as they should. As a rough guide a King Charles Spaniel puppy can be fed the following amounts every day making sure their meals are evenly spread out throughout the day and it's best to feed them 3 or 4 times a day:
Once a puppy is 11 months old they can be fed adult dog food.
Once fully mature an adult King Charles Spaniel must be fed a good quality diet to ensure their continued good health. As a rough guide an adult King Charles Spaniel can be fed the following amounts every day:
If you are looking to buy a King Charles Spaniel you would need to pay anything from £400 to over £650 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. The cost of insuring a male 3-year-old King Charles Spaniel in northern England would be £23.54 a month for basic cover but for a lifetime policy this would set you back £43.62 a month (quote as of December 2017). When insurance companies calculate a pet's premium they factor in several things which includes where you live in the UK a dog's age and whether they have been neutered or spayed.
When it comes to food costs you need to buy the best quality food whether wet or dry to feed your dog throughout their lives making sure it suits the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40 - £50 a month. On top of this you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a King Charles Spaniel and this includes their initial vaccinations their annual boosters the cost of neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and their yearly health checks all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
As a rough guide the average cost to keep and care for a King Charles Spaniel would be between £80 to £110 a month depending on the level of insurance cover you opt to buy for your dog but this does not include the initial cost of buying a well-bred healthy Kennel Club registered pedigree King Charles Spaniel puppy.
When visiting and buying any puppy or dog there are many important things to consider and questions to ask of the breeder/seller. You can read our generic puppy/dog advice here which includes making sure you see the puppy with its mother and to verify that the dog has been wormed and microchipped.
King Charles Spaniels are among some of the more popular dogs in the UK which means that well-bred healthy puppies can often command a lot of money. As such with King Charles Spaniels there is specific advice questions and protocols to follow when buying a puppy which are as follows: