Breed facts: Toy group
In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly provides you with all you need to know about Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Discover if this gentle and happy breed could be the canine companion you’ve always dreamed of!
Descended from the Toy Spaniels of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, and depicted in paintings by Gainsborough, Landseer and Stubbs, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has long been prized as an affectionate lap dog and devoted companion by kings, queens and commoners alike. During the 18th and 19th centuries there was a special strain of red and white Toy Spaniels bred at Blenheim Palace by the Dukes of Marlborough, which were famous for their sporting abilities as well as suitability as ladies’ companions.
Today, the ‘Blenheim’ colour is now one of the four recognised colours of the breed. It wasn’t until 1944, however, that the breed gained Kennel Club status, having been secured as a breed in its own right, separate from the flat-faced and smaller King Charles Spaniel. Other breeds, such as Papillons and Cocker Spaniels, were used way back in efforts to produce the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel you see today.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club says: “As a breed, their temperament is gentle and never aggressive in any way. They are also fun-loving dogs that adore nothing more than to go out for a good walk and then go indoors and curl up on a comfortable lap or armchair. They love their comforts and will go to great lengths to manipulate you to be allowed to sit on the best furniture! “Remember that a dog must fit into your lifestyle. They need to be part of the family and you should not have one if you haven’t sufficient time to give it. A lot of thought must be given to the matter before you go ahead. Have you the time? The money? The patience? The lifestyle? Think long and hard, as a dog is a big commitment. “If you do decide that a Cavalier would fit into your household, you will be rewarded with the most wonderful companion!” Basically, Cavaliers hate being on their own for any length of time and will become withdrawn and miserable without company. Two Cavaliers, on the other hand, will keep each other company when you are out and are not likely to be any more work than one.
Cavaliers are extremely intelligent and learn quickly, and many are quite proficient at obedience and agility classes; but, says the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, ‘the majority seem to go so far and then stop!’ House-training and general obedience about the house is something Cavaliers pick up quickly, if trained correctly. They respond best to quiet, kind and firm commands and handling, but (like most dogs) will withdraw miserably if spoken to harshly for they are extremely sensitive. Taking your Cavalier to puppy socialisation and then training classes is something he’ll adore, since Cavaliers are such sociable little dogs who love meeting new canine and human friends. Take care, though, that he is not over-faced by larger dogs in the class – try to choose a class geared to small breeds of similar temperament. ?
Kennel Club breed standard. Thinking of getting a Cavalier? Here’s what to look out for:
Active, graceful and wellbalanced, with a gentle expression.
Recognised colours are: Black and tan: raven black with tan markings above the eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest and legs and underside of tail. Tan should be bright. White marks are undesirable. Ruby: whole-coloured rich red. White markings are undesirable. Blenheim: rich chestnut markings well broken up, on pearly white ground. Markings evenly divided on head, leaving room between the ears for much-valued lozenge mark or spot (a unique characteristic of the breed). Tricolour: black and white well-spaced, broken up, with tan markings over eyes, cheeks, inside ears, inside legs, and on underside of tail. Any other colour or combination of colours highly undesirable.
Sporting, affectionate and absolutely fearless.
Gay, friendly, non-aggressive; no tendency to nervousness.
Head & skull
Skull almost flat between ears. Shallow stop. Length from base of stop to tip of nose is about 3.8 cm (1½ins). Nostrils black and welldeveloped without flesh marks; muzzle well-tapered. Lips welldeveloped but not pendulous.
well-filled below eyes. Any tendency to snipiness (narrowness) is undesirable. eyes Large, dark, round but not prominent; spaced well apart.
Long, set high, with plenty of feather.
Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite (upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws).
Moderate length; slightly arched.
Chest moderate; shoulders well laid back; straight legs, moderately boned.
Short-coupled with good spring of rib. Level back. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
Legs with moderate bone; wellturned stifle and no tendency to cow hocks or sickle hocks.
Compact, cushioned and wellfeathered.
Length of tail in balance with body, well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back. Docking was previously optional when no more than one-third of the tail was to be removed.
Gait & movement
Free-moving and elegant in action with plenty of drive from behind. Forelegs and hindlegs move parallel when viewed from in front and behind.
Long, silky, free from curl. A slight wave is permissible. Plenty of feathering. Totally free from trimming.
Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
5 Cavalier facts
Cavaliers tend to moult twice a year, when you’ll have to groom more often to keep on top of shedding hair and prevent it matting in the coat. Says champion breeder Brian Rix: “Cavaliers do need regular brushing to keep their coats in good condition displaying that soft and lustrous gleam – every couple of days should be fine. They are relatively easy to groom, but bear in mind that neutered Cavaliers’ coats seem to have a tendency to become woolly, ‘stary’ and dry.” Taking your Cavalier to a professional groomer every eight weeks or so for a pamper session will help keep his coat sweet- -smelling and in tip-top order and condition.
Generally robust dogs, who are a lot tougher than they look, some Cavalier lines do, however, have a history of heart problems (mitral valve disease; MVD), syringomyelia (SM: a disorder of the brain and spinal cord, causing pain and potential paralysis), hip dysplasia, hereditary eye disease, or dislocating kneecaps (patella). This being the case, it is essential that you buy from a reputable breeder who screens for such problems. Ideally, teeth need cleaning on a regular basis to keep them free from plaque build-up and gum disease, which can be a problem in Cavaliers.
Said to be ‘the ideal family pet’, this remark is well-deserved by Cavaliers, since they usually have wonderful temperaments with people of all ages. Non-aggressive, the breed is lauded for its loyalty, affectionate nature and sociability with other animals (including cats and other small pets). Always happy and interested in what you are doing, a Cavalier’s tail almost never stops wagging!
Height & weight
Cavaliers weigh 5.4-8.2kg (12-18lb). According to the KC, ‘a small, well-balanced dog well within these weights is desirable’, particularly for the show ring. Height-wise, at the shoulders, Cavaliers measure 30-33cm (12-13in) – although you will often see heights above and below this average, both in and out of the show ring.
The average lifespan for healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is 11+ years.
Where to get a pup from
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, and other mentioned clubs and societies (see ‘Useful contacts & books’), has details of members who have pups available. You can also speak to people who own a Cavalier to find out more about the breed’s characteristics and whether or not a Cavalier would be the right choice for you.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club advises: “Look under ‘Puppy Register’ on the Club website to find a list of the Club’s co-ordinators, contact your nearest and they’ll point you in the right direction. Never buy a pup that is not with its mother – a pup from such a source may not have been screened for heart problems.” You can also download a free ‘CKCS Puppy Pack’ from the site. Adds the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club: “The Club actively encourages its members to test their Cavaliers for heart and eye problems by organising health check clinics around the country and at the Club Championship Show.
The Club also actively supports research into MVD and SM, and raises funds to support research into these problems. “These are problems within the breed, however the impression should not be given that all Cavaliers have these conditions: they do not. These are conditions which reputable breeders are aware of, and those intending to purchase a puppy are recommended to buy from breeders who are prepared to discuss and advise on these concerns. “Unfortunately, this cannot guarantee that dogs will be free from problems, but you will be buying from someone who is doing their best to produce healthy stock.”
Useful contacts & books
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mrs A Jones (secretary), tel. 01490 430554; www.thecavalierclub.co.uk
Eastern Counties Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Society Ms M Hogan (secretary), tel. 01462 670774. Humberside Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mrs L Flynn (secretary), tel. 01205 760374.
Midland Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mrs M Rees (secretary), tel. 02476 403583.
Northern Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Society Mr I Sidgwick (secretary), tel. 01228 561209.
Northern Ireland Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Miss K Finlay (secretary), tel. 028 9085 1333.
Scottish Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mrs G Baillie (secretary), tel. 01620 880218.
South & West Wales Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mr S Watts (secretary), tel. 01495 245847. Southern Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mr G Ford (secretary), tel. 01264 860376.
West of England Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Mrs D Searle (secretary), tel. 01455 846087.
Rescue co-ordinators Contact the above breed clubs and societies for their rescue co-ordinators’ details
Pet Owner’s Guide to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels by Ken Town (Ringpress Books, 1997. 1 86054 011 2).
Special thanks to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club for the breed information provided for this feature.