Bred as luxury items for the royals and named to honor King Charles II of Britain, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, with its soulful eyes and elegant, silky coat easily succeeded in its role as favored pet. Professional breeders strive to keep these pups true to standards set by kings, in the process ensuring these affectionate dogs might be the right choice for active families or sedate seniors.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA, notes that Cavaliers were famous long before the American Kennel Club recognized the breed. Never intended as more than companions, they frequently appeared with their families in portraits during the 16th and 17th centuries. King Charles II allowed his namesake access to all public places, even the Houses of Parliament. This decree stands today, according to the CKCSC. The small spaniels made their way to the U.S. in the 1940s. The AKC gave Cavaliers "miscellaneous" status in 1962 and then full acceptance as a toy breed in 1995.
According to the AKC, these spaniels should be 12 to 13 inches tall and weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. Colors include deep chestnut markings on a white background, tricolor (black, white and tan), ruby (rich red) or black and tan. Silky, long coats with feathering on the ears, chest, legs and tail mark the breed. No haircuts are allowed per AKC standards. The sweet, "melting" expression of a Cavalier is a breed standard characterized by "lustrous" rounded eyes. The original Cavaliers had very pointed noses that breeders developed into the gently tapered muzzles required currently.
Care and Temperament
The AKC notes that Cavaliers train easily. They are energetic but not aggressive, making them trustworthy companions for all family members. Their small size, however, puts them at risk for injury and children under 5 may present an unintentional threat to Cavaliers. Interestingly, the AKC notes the breed adapts its exercise habits to fit its family. They are happy with long walks or snoozing on the couch, making them a good choice for less active seniors. Their coats require regular brushing.
According to the CKCSC, Cavaliers are "20 times more prone to heart disease than other breeds," especially mitral valve disease. Responsible breeders attempt to rid the breed of this congenital disorder by spaying or neutering dogs with known heart disease. Treatment for heart disorders are advancing, but the CKCSC encourages perspective owners to seek documented health histories of the sire and dam before purchasing a pup.
Cavaliers train easily, making them a treat to work with in obedience and agility trials. Their loving natures and sweet temperament also win them a spot high on the list as excellent "therapy dogs" who bring comfort and affection to terminally ill patients or nursing home residents (see Resource below).