The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a delightfully affectionate, playful, intelligent little dog that repays his owner's care and attention with an endearing devotion.
A toy breed, they have a natural coat which needs no trimming, long silky ears, and large soulful eyes. More than one person has described them as looking like a Cocker Spaniel puppy all their lives. The tail is often left natural. The standard makes tail docking optional, but two thirds of the tail must be left intact. Dew claws are removed as they are thought to be a hazard to the prominent eyes.
They come in four color combinations: Blenheim (Red and White, with a red mask and ears, and red patches on a white body); Tricolor (Black and White with Tan Points), Ruby (Solid Red), and Black and Tan (without white).
In addition to being a fine companion, one of the jobs the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was originally bred to do was to warm laps in drafty castles and on chilly carriage rides (the other job was to attract fleas & thereby spare their masters in the days of the Plague). While so many other breeds of dog no longer perform the tasks for which they were bred (pulling milk carts, herding sheep, hunting lions, for example), Cavaliers still take their responsibility quite seriously. A prescription written in Olde English for the Queen of England directs her to keep a "comforte dog" (now known as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) on her lap to treat a cold. It is almost as if the breed's motto is "so many laps, so little time." Cavaliers take cuddling so seriously that "If you want your pillow you must get there first" is often heard when Cavalier owners gather.
Is this the breed called "the ultimate snob dog"?
Yes, an article appeared in Town and Country Magazine a few years ago. The title referred to the attitude of owners, not the Cavaliers. It was mentioned that Monarchs, Presidents, Captains of Industry and Movie Stars own Cavaliers. Further the fact that the CKCSC-USA shunned AKC recognition for many years, keeping its own registry, and that puppies are sometimes hard to find contributed to the title. Further, prospective puppy buyers are often surprised by the "third-degree" administered by breeders trying to determine their suitability to owning a Cavalier.
What people do well with a Cavalier?
The Cavalier has been the companion of choice to high stress people for 400 years. Every crowned head of England had one as a companion as a child, as did many in the Dutch court. More recent celebrities who own or have owned Cavaliers are Ronald and Nancy Reagan, William F. Buckley, Ms. Frank Sinatra, Candice Bergen, Robert Wagner & Natalie Wood and many others. The Cavalier has a calming effect on many people. Stress reduction/relaxation can be noticeably felt when a Cavalier curls up peacefully on a lap.
Are they good with kids?
The Cavalier is excellent with children. Their tendency to interact with their owners makes them an especially close friend and confidant for a child. They enjoy playtime and activity. Children, of course, need supervision to be certain that the child does not hurt the dog.
Are they good with seniors?
Retirees, or "empty nesters," find the companionship, temperament, small size and easy maintenance ideal. More than one woman has mentioned that a Cavalier resting on her lap or in the crook of her arm is almost as peaceful as holding a (human) sleeping infant. More than one active senior with a Cavalier has experienced the receipt of two invitations for a Cocktail Party/Get Together-one addressed to the Senior and one to the Cavalier.
Are they good guard dogs?
No. While the Cavalier will alert his owner to an arrival of someone new, they seem to regard all strangers as friends they haven't met yet. Although a noisy greeting may be enough to ward off a prowler, it would be difficult picturing anyone being scared off by a Cavalier.
Do they travel well?
People who travel often find it easy and pleasant to take the Cavalier along. Their strong desire to be with their owners makes them willing travelers. Their size and personality contribute to their welcome at "dogs allowed" hotels, marinas & campgrounds.
Are they an AKC breed?
As of January 1996, the Cavaliers have full recognition by the AKC. This has resulted in two national breed clubs, the original CKCSC-USA and the AKC-recognized ACKCSC. It remains to be seen what the long-term results will be.
They have full recognition by the British Kennel Club and the CanadianKC does not recognize Cavaliers registered with the CKCSC-USA, but does recognize those registered with the AKC.
Can I find one in a pet store?
Hopefully, NEVER! Every attempt has been made by the CKCSC-USA to prevent Cavaliers from falling into the hands of puppy mills or anyone who would resell the dog. The Cavalier breeders adhere to the Code of Ethics (see that section of this FAQ) which specifically excludes providing any puppies for resale. Responsible Cavalier breeders do their best to screen any prospective puppy buyer and often refuse to sell to a less than "ideal" home.
What medical problems do Cavaliers have?
For the most part Cavaliers are quite healthy dogs. There are a few problems which are known to appear in the breed: heart murmurs, cataracts, and Subluxating Patellas. Mitral Valve Heart Disease is something to ask the breeder about, as well.
What kind of grooming is necessary for Cavaliers?
The Cavalier does require regular grooming. A great deal of time and effort is not necessary if the dog is brushed and combed thoroughly at least once a week. Cavaliers do shed, particularly in spring and fall, but a little all the time. Nails should be clipped and the hair between the pads trimmed once a month. No other trimming is necessary (or allowed) in the show ring. The ideal brushes to use are the softer slicker brushes or a pin brush (not nylon or plastic) and a metal comb. Knots and tangles are kept to a minimum if the Cavalier is free of parasites and is combed regularly. Brush out all knots and tangles before bathing.
Cavaliers are naturally clean dogs. Too much bathing dries out the skin and haircoat so certainly do not bathe more than once a week. Don't use human shampoo on dogs. Rinse thoroughly. A human blow dryer (not on hot) and brushing at the same time works well for drying. Keep blower moving so any one spot does not get overheated.
Commercial preparations are made that will help remove tear stains under the eyes. Keep eyes clean and dry. Vaseline applied to the dog's nose occasionally will keep it from getting dry and rough. A vet should be consulted if the condition becomes severe.