Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed information

Key facts and characteristics

Energy levels
 
Grooming
 
Easy to train
 
Exercise needed
 
Barking/likely to be vocal
 
Size Small
Average height 30-33 cm
Average weight 5.4-8.2kg
Average lifespan Over 12 years
Minimum exercise (per day) 1 hour
Coat length Medium
Minimum cost (per month) £70

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are popular family dogs due to their small size and love of people. They were originally bred as companion dogs and so enjoy the company of their families as much as possible.

Cavaliers are kind, gentle and loyal dogs which is why they are so popular, but will need constant company as they get very upset at being left alone. They’re very adaptable and are happy with city or country living as long as they get plenty of exercise and mental stimulation.

 

Common health problems in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are incredibly sweet-natured dogs but unfortunately, like many purebred dogs, they are prone to certain health issues associated with their breed. There is currently testing and screening for some of the problems Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can have.

If you’re thinking of buying a Cavalier puppy, we’d recommend getting one from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, as they meet extra requirements including health screening. Parents having the relevant screening reduces the chances of your puppy being affected by these upsetting conditions. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above in the family line.

Some of the health conditions Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can develop include:

  • Heart conditions (most often caused by mitral valve disease) – this is a big problem for this breed. It is where the heart’s mitral valve weakens and doesn’t work as effectively, this is often first noticed as a heart murmur. There is a Kennel Club scheme for this.
  • Eye problems – this includes inherited problems such as cataracts. There is currently KC testing available for inherited eye conditions.
  • Curly Coat/Dry Eye (CC/DE) – a condition that affects skin, coat, nails and eyes and can cause a severe form of dry eye syndrome.
  • Luxating patellas – where the kneecaps slip temporarily out of place.
  • Ear problems – Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be prone to ear problems. We’d recommend checking them regularly.
  • Bad teeth – this is a common problem in all breeds, but potentially more so in Cavaliers as they have a shorter muzzle.
  • Chiari malformation and Syringomyelia (CM/SM) – a very painful condition where fluid-filled areas develop within the spinal cord near the brain. There is currently a BVA/KC scheme for this.
  • Episodic Falling (EF) – this seems to be a condition unique to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Although often described as a ‘fit’ it’s actually caused by stiffening of the muscles leaving the body rigid. Often this has been reported to happen when the cavalier has been exercising, excited or stressed!

If you want to minimise the risk of your dog getting problems due to exaggerated features, you can read our advice on choosing a pedigree dog.

 

Caring for your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavaliers are great little dogs that suit family environments. They’re known to be good around children because they’re so keen to please their owners and love the company of people.

Cavaliers are a playful breed and will love spending time with their owners playing in the house or garden. As spaniels, they do have some prey drive so will enjoy hunting and chasing games especially. Like all dogs, Cavaliers prefer company and don’t cope very well when left on their own.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and barking

As with any dog, Cavaliers are likely to make noise and it’s down to the individual dog how much they bark or vocalise. Cavaliers are known to be fairly easy-going dogs by nature and most owners will agree that they don’t tend to bark excessively. They usually bark if they’re excited or if someone new is at the door. If you’re having problems with excessive noise or barking, we recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.

Training and socialisation

Cavaliers are incredibly eager to please, which makes them fairly easy to train. We would recommend starting positive, reward-based training from a young age to prevent your Cavalier picking up any bad habits and remember to be consistent with their training. Given the right guidance, your Cavalier can grow to be an obedient, confident dog.

Remember to socialise your Cavalier as a puppy with lots of other dogs, different people and types of experiences to help them gain confidence. Cavaliers can develop separation anxiety if their owners leave them at all, so you’ll need to train them to be left alone if you need to and remember to never leave your dog alone for more than four hours.

Exercise

Despite their small size, Cavaliers are quite energetic dogs and will still need plenty of exercise every day to keep them happy and healthy. Being spaniels, they love to play and chase and due to their keen minds tend to do really well at agility. You may be able to find a local club to join where you can train your Cavalier to do agility – this will help keep them active physically and mentally

Your Cavalier will need at least one hour of exercise a day, which we would recommend splitting into at least two walks with some time off-lead if there is a secure place you can do this. On top of this, remember to play with your Cavalier as much as possible, have regular training sessions to keep them sharp and they’ll enjoy some free time in a secure garden.

Grooming

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have fairly high maintenance coats and you may find they need to be brushed daily to make sure their fur doesn’t get matted. Like most dogs, they shed and you’ll find they need extra brushing in autumn and spring when they shed even more.

You may find you need to take your Cavalier to be groomed professionally a few times a year to keep their coat in the best condition.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and children

Cavaliers are known for making really great family pets and as long as they are well socialised from a young age they’ll enjoy the company of people of all ages. They suit households where there is someone around all the time to spend time with, so if you tend to do a lot of things that aren’t dog friendly they may not be the dog for you.

Although Cavaliers are adaptable and will get along well with all members of your family, we would always recommend supervising your dog around children just in case playtime gets too rough. It’s important that your dog has somewhere they can go to relax when they want time away from any children or other pets.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels and other pets

As long as your Cavalier is well socialised, they should have no problems with other dogs. Usually, they would rather say hello to all the passing people instead of passing dogs!

If you have your Cavalier with other pets from a young age they should get along with them fine. They are known for being tolerant and should get along with cats OK (although whether your cat likes your Cavalier is another thing!). Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can have a prey drive, so be careful of other small pets with your Cavalier and always supervise your dog with other pets.

Food

Your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s diet will vary depending on their age, lifestyle and any medical conditions it may have. You’ll need to feed them a complete, commercial dog food to keep them slim and healthy.

Your vet or vet nurse will be able to tell you how much your dog should be eating if you’re not sure. You should feed them a good quality, commercially available and complete dog food and it’s usually recommended to split their daily allowance into two meals.

If you give your dog an occasional treat or use treats for training, remember to take this into account and reduce their daily meal allowance to avoid them gaining weight. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their recommended daily calorie intake or they can unbalance their diet.

You can try to feed your dog at the same time every day to get them into a routine. Remember to leave a gap after eating and before exercising.

 

The cost of owning a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

You can expect a Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel to cost you a minimum of £70 per month after purchase and set-up costs and up to £12,000 across their lifetime.

Costs you’ll need to think about include:

Purchase costs

Adopting an adult dog from a rescue centre may be a more cost-effective option, as well as having the added advantage of offering a home to a pet without one – check if the rehoming centre you’re looking at asks for a donation for rehoming.

If instead you’re buying a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel puppy from a breeder, you’ll need to factor in this cost. Beware unusually cheap puppies as they could come from a puppy farm. If you want to buy a pedigree puppy, we recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they have to do extra health tests and meet higher standards.

Set-up costs

  • Puppy vaccines – if you rescue a dog, reputable centres will often vaccinate them for you. Remember that ongoing booster vaccinations will be needed to continue their immunity.
  • Neutering – you should usually arrange for your dog to be neutered at around six months old, though your vet will be able to advise you exactly when is best. Check prices at your local practice as these will depend on your vet and where you live. Some rescue centres will neuter any dogs they rehome, saving you this cost.
  • Equipment – including a collar and tags, lead, harness, dog beds, dog bowls, pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrushes, grooming brushes and toys. Keep in mind that all these will need to be replaced with wear or damage or if your dog outgrows or damages them!

Ongoing costs

  • Food.
  • Preventive healthcare – budget for routine vet visits to help stop your dog getting ill and catch any problems early. They need annual check-ups, vaccinations and regular flea and worming treatments. Check if your vet offers a health care plan as this can help spread the cost throughout the year.
  • Vet bills* or pet insurance – if you don’t have pet insurance and your dog needs veterinary treatment for an injury or illness, costs can rapidly mount up. Check what’s covered and what isn’t when comparing policies.
  • Grooming costs – for professional grooming sessions to keep coats in tip-top condition.
  • Accessories – including lots of poo bags, replacing worn toys and grooming accessories, buying doggy toothpaste and any other extras they might need.

Other costs

  • Training – basic training is very important and dogs can benefit from formal classes. Some dogs may have, or develop, behavioural problems which might need professional management.
  • Boarding – you may also need to budget for boarding or dog sitting costs if you are planning to go away from home on holiday.
  • Dog walkers/day-care – you might consider a professional dog walker to keep your dog happy and healthy if you’re unable to get out with your dog enough yourself, or to look after them during the day if you need to be out for more than four hours.

* It’s always better to plan ahead and budget or get pet insurance in case your pet gets injured or unwell. If you are having difficulty with veterinary costs, you can check if you are eligible for treatment at PDSA here.

If you’re considering pet insurance, our PDSA Pet Insurance could be a great option for you and it’s quick and easy to get a quote online.

Fun facts

  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels got their name from King Charles II who was a big fan of the breed.
  • They’re real lapdogs and love nothing more than spending as much time as possible with their owner. They’ve even been nicknamed “the comfort spaniel”.
  • Apparently, a team of scientists found that the breed is the furthest removed physically and characteristically from wolves. They’re a tame breed!
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the most popular breeds in the UK and US – probably because of their lapdog reputation.

 

Getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Do plenty of research before you think about getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Make sure you have plenty of time to spend with these lap-loving dogs. Like any dog, owning a Cavalier is a lot of work but well worth the time you put into them. Despite their small size, remember that Cavaliers still love to play and will take any opportunity to spend time with you.

Rehoming centres

There are plenty of rescue centres across the country where you may find a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Breed-specific rescues that specialise in Cavaliers are out there too. You’ll need to ask any rescue centre about the dog’s history to make sure they will be comfortable in your home. Good rescue centres should let you know of any health and behaviour problems.

Breeders

If you buy a Cavalier puppy from a breeder, make sure your puppy will be well socialised and have all necessary health checks and vaccinations. We recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they meet higher standards. We’ve put together some advice to help you find a good breeder.

Not sure if the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the right pet for you?