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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breed Information | Doggie Matchmaker

Updated on February 4, 2013
Cavaliers are sweet and friendly by nature.
Cavaliers are sweet and friendly by nature. | Source

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (a.k.a. the Cavalier, Cav, or Cavie) is an elegant little dog with a history as regal as his name. Along with other small spaniel breeds, the Cavalier has been pictured with aristocratic families in paintings and tapestries centuries old. His namesake is King Charles II of Britain, who was rarely without his small spaniel companions. American fancier John Eldridge is credited with motivating the breeding of today’s Cavalier offering prizes to those with the best “old type” looks exhibited at Crufts in the 1920’s. Due to small numbers of this breed in America, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was surprisingly not recognized by the American Kennel Club until 1995. Rising in popularity since then, the Cavie was ranked 21st most popular breed in 2011 according to AKC Registration Statistics.

Standing approximately 12-13 inches at the shoulder and weighing between 13 and 18 pounds, the Cavalier King Charles is considered a toy breed. His long, wavy coat comes in four color types: Blenheim (chestnut and white), Tricolor (black, white, and tan), Ruby (solid red), and Black and Tan. Regular brushing is needed to keep his silky coat from matting, especially around the ears. Trimming is unnecessary except for the hair between the pads on the feet.

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a sweetheart, consistently happy and eager to please. He is comfortable in both small and large living environments. Typically outgoing and well behaved, the Cavie can adapt to both energetic activities and quiet sofa warming. With proper socialization, the Cavalier gets along well with other family pets and is friendly with strangers. Because of his size he should be supervised around young children who may inadvertently hurt him, but the Cavalier is affectionate and patient. Cavaliers can be chasers, so a fence or a leash should be used at all times to prevent unhappy squirrel chase endings.

Tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy.
Tricolor Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy. | Source
Praise is a powerful motivator for the eager to please Cavalier.
Praise is a powerful motivator for the eager to please Cavalier. | Source

Training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is said to be naturally polite, but as with all breeds he will still need appropriate training and socialization to make him a pleasant companion. Because the Cavalier desires to please, praise and encouragement are powerful motivators (as are treats). Here is what you will want to focus on in training:

Housebreaking – No one wants their house to smell like a giant dog bathroom, so focus on housetraining your puppy right away. Combining crate training with a structured feeding and potty break schedule will give you the best results. Remember, consistency is key!

Separation Anxiety – Because this breed has a strong need for companionship, the Cavalier may develop separation anxiety that leads to destructive behavior (barking, chewing, whining) if left alone for long lengths of time. Discourage destructive behaviors when you are home, but also develop a plan for ensuring your Cav gets the companionship he needs when you cannot give it (a long walk before you leave, a neighbor who can stop in when you’re gone long hours, a second dog, or a puppy sitter).

Basic Obedience – Even the most good-natured dog can be a nuisance if not taught respectful behavior. The sweet Cavalier can have a mildly independent spirit, so it is important to show him that you are the boss. Teach your pup basic commands like sit, stay, come, heel, and leave it to make him a well-rounded, agreeable companion.

Socialization – While naturally friendly, the Cavalier may become timid if not enough socialization is received. Ensure that your pup retains his outgoing, adventurous personality by letting him experience as many new sights, sounds, pets, and people as possible.

The affectionate Cavalier King Charles Spaniel makes an excellent snuggler.
The affectionate Cavalier King Charles Spaniel makes an excellent snuggler. | Source

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Health Problems

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel typically lives between 9 and 14 years, but there are some serious health issues prevalent within the breed. Mitral Valve Disease (MVD), a genetic problem causing heart murmurs that can progressively lead to heart failure, is the leading cause of death in Cavaliers. Over 50% of Cavies develop MVD by the age of 5 and it is rare for a 10 year old not to have a heart murmur. Syringomyelia (SM), a sometimes severely painful genetic condition affecting the brain and the spine, is also a serious health concern for Cavies. Owners who notice their Cavalier acting sensitive around the shoulders and neck (frequently whimpering or scratching) should seek veterinary care immediately to rule out this condition. Hip and knee disorders, eye problems, and ear issues are also frequently seen in Cavaliers. Prospective owners need to seriously consider the potentially high vet bills associated with this breed.

Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.
Ruby Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. | Source

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in Fashion

A dog is a long-term commitment and should never be picked based on trend, popularity, or appearance alone. With that in mind, let’s take a look at this darling breed in fashion.

The royal association the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel carries gives him an air of nobility, and his old time looks give him a classic feel. He is posh in the city and gallant on the farm, as ready to be photographed today as he was to be painted in centuries past.

President Ronald Reagan and crooner Frank Sinatra both had Blenheim Cavies. Charlotte famously adopted a Cavalier on the hit TV series Sex in the City. Courtney Cox, Liv Tyler, and Teri Hatcher are fashionable women who own this lovely breed in real life. Country cuties Brad Paisley and Kimberly Williams-Paisley chose to name their Cavie Holler.

Now consider this compatibility questionnaire:

Do you want...
Are you ok with...
An absolute sweetheart who loves to be with you?
Separation anxiety issues?
An affectionate snuggler who fits on your lap?
A high risk for health problems and potentially short life span?
A classic look with long, wavy hair?
Brushing out matting and tangles?
A friendly companion who is naturally peaceful?
Possible timidity if not socialized?
A small friend who is happy to join you on active adventures?
Taking safety precautions for a dog with chasing instincts?
These questions must be carefully considered before committing to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Perfect Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Names

If you have come to the conclusion that the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is your perfect match – congratulations! It is an adorably sweet little breed. I offer you these suggestions as inspiration in your search for the perfect name:

If you want something that matches this breed’s old time feel, Stella, Vivian, or Charlotte (Lottie) would be perfect for a girl, Archie, Sam, or Charlie for a boy.

If you prefer something that plays with the color of your pup, try Scarlet, Flynn (red-headed) or Ruby for a girl, Clancy (red), Rowan (little red head), or Radley (red wood) for a boy.

The lighthearted Cavie is happy and eager to play.
The lighthearted Cavie is happy and eager to play. | Source


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      Ktrap22, most of the well bred cavaliers live 12+ years. So don't let random statistics scare you away from this wonderful breed. Just find a good breeder and you'll be great.

    • Thelma Alberts profile image

      Thelma Alberts 

      4 years ago from Germany and Philippines

      I love Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and I have one. Mine is always sad when I´m away for a while. Sometimes for months but he can still remember me when I come back. Thanks for the info.

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, ktrapp! I can definitely imagine a Cav feeling feather light in comparison with a sturdy beagle.

    • ktrapp profile image

      Kristin Trapp 

      6 years ago from Illinois

      There's a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel down the street from me; she's an absolutely adorable puppy. She's seems like a feather compared to my more sturdy beagle. To me, having to brush out mattes and tangles would be a big drawback, but the snuggling would probably outweigh that con. I wasn't aware of their short lifespan. That's a real shame.

    • Faith A Mullen profile imageAUTHOR

      Faith A Mullen 

      6 years ago

      Thanks for the comment, AliciaC! I agree, the Cavalier is lovely. It is a shame that they suffer from so many health problems.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

      Thanks for pointing out both the benefits and the drawbacks of this dog breed, Faith. The dogs in the photos are adorable! The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a beautiful dog.


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