Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

By helloBARK!
Updated on 14 July 2021
Fact Checked

As the name suggests, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was a popular dog with royalty.

While helloBARK! readers will know all about Queen Elizabeth II’s favourite breed, the Corgi, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was also a hit with the royals.

These striking little four-legged pooches get their name from King Charles II, who loved these lap dogs.

It’s a reputation they’ve managed to maintain down the centuries as Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is still viewed as the quintessential lap dog.

While they’ve always been a hit in England, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is now the 19th most popular dog breed in the United States.

So what makes these dogs so popular? Let’s find out in helloBARK’s in-depth look at these popular pure breed.

A brief introduction to Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The descendants of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were thought to have been brought to Scotland from continental Europe in 1500s.

The 1st Duke of Marlborough, John Churchill, had a number of red and white King Charles type spaniels for hunting. Churchill named his estate Blenheim in honour of his victory at the Battle of Blenheim, which in turn led to the red and white members of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel getting the name Blenheim.

The dog breed was in vogue with the royals and noble as a lap dog and some claim that they were allowed to sleep with their masters in the bed to attract fleas and prevent the monarchs catching diseases.

King Charles II was particularly fond of these affectionate dogs, especially the black and tan variety, which have gone on to be named after him. It is believed that King Charles II usually had two or three of these pooches by his side.

Indeed, Samuel Pepys, who was Chief Secretary to King Charles II, remarked that the monarch seemed more concerned about breeding his spaniels rather than ruling the country. Pepys went on to describe how King Charles II allowed his spaniels to roam around Whitehall Palace even during state occasions.

When King Charles II died in 1685, their popularity suffered. The breed was mixed with Asian toy breeds from the reign of Queen Victoria onwards to slightly alter the appearance of these dogs that King Charles II was so fond of.

However, American Roswell Eldridge helped to rekindle the old features of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel when the wealthy businessman offered a cash prize to British breeders who could revive the breed’s old style. It was at this juncture a distinction between the King Charles Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was made.

While Eldridge died before seeing the return of the old style, he inspired a group to set up the first Cavalier club which led to the Kennel Club outlining the breed’s standard. World War II hampered the breed’s development and they nearly went extinct but a few survived and are believed to be the descendants of modern day Cavalier King Charles Spaniels.

Remarkably, the first Cavalier King Charles Spaniel didn’t make it to the United States until 1956. W. Lyon Brown was the first American to own a member of the breed in USA and she was one of the founding members of the Cavalier King Charles Club USA. The breed received recognition by the United Kennel Club in 1995.

What breeds make Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniels descend from the King Charles Spaniel. The breed are thought to have been mixed with Japanese toy breeds such as Pugs and Japanese Chin in the 19th century.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel colours

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have four different colours patterns.

The Prince Charles, otherwise known as tri colour, has black markings on a white back ground with tan markings on cheeks, inside ears, on eyebrows, inside legs, and on underside of tail.

The King Charles also goes by the name black and tan and these were the favourite variety of King Charles II. They usually have some tan markings on their face set against a black background.

Ruby or rich mahogany Cavalier King Charles Spaniels should have ruby or red coats in their entiriety. Some may have splashes of white but the AKC views this as a fault in the breed.

The final variation is the Blenheim Cavalier or Chestnut and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They’re so named after Churchill who lived at Blenheim Cavalier Palace with this variety of these gorgeous lap dogs.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel size

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is one of the largest toy breeds in the world.

The American Kennel Club outline the ideal size of these royal dogs as height 12 to 13 inches at the withers. The AKC’s website adds that weight should be proportionate to height, which amounts to between 13 and 18 pounds.

In essence, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be a small, well balanced dog within these weights is desirable, the AKC state. However, they do allow for some variation in size and weight.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel physical traits

Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are easily recognisable thanks to their large brown expressive eyes and kind face. The AKC outlines that their sweet, gentle, melting expression as an important breed

Another standout feature is their feathery ears, which should be soft and silky. Their coats are moderately long and free from curls but can have a slight wave. They should also have feathering on the chest, legs, tail and even their feet.

What is the difference between a King Charles Spaniel and a Cavalier?

One of the key differences between these two breeds is the muzzle. The King Charles Spaniel has a flat face, while the Cavalier King Charles Spanish has a muzzle.

The Cavalier should have a full muzzle that is slightly tapered, while the AKC outline that a pointed or sharp muzzle is considered a fault for competition purposes.

It should also be noted that a Cavalier is bigger than a King Charles Spaniel.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniel good family pets?

Zoey the Cavalier (Photo: @zoeymycav / Instagram)

Zoey the Cavalier (Photo: @zoeymycav / Instagram)

The breed have a glowing reputation for being great family pets. They have a gentle, kind and sweet temperament that makes them ideal lap dogs. These royal dogs love to give and receive affection, and the breed will lick your face or plant a kiss if allowed to.

Described as the “love sponge of dogs”, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel relish companionship and like to be around people as often as possible. Families with young children will need to be educated that gentle handling is key given the breed’s delicate build.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels do well with other people and other dogs, which makes them perfect for big families.

Some owners of these dogs describe Cavalier King Charles Spaniels as fluffy shadows because they will follow you everywhere you go.

Given the breed’s popularity with King Charles I and II as well as Queen Victoria, it should be no surprise they like the royal treatment.

Zoey the Cav (@zoeymycav – pictured above) explained in her interview with why she always recommends the breed to dog lovers.

When I am asked about the breed, I always recommend Cavaliers as being the best breed. Not only are they super cute to look at, but they are so expressive, understanding, adaptable, quiet, sweet, soft, loving, easy to train, and love to sit on your lap or by you to cuddle. I take Zoey with me almost everywhere I go, she is just the best companion. And best listener.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel off leash

While these dogs are affectionate and sweet dogs, they are prey driven. As a result, it is recommended that you don’t allow these dogs to roam off the leash in unsecured areas. If they see a small animal, their hunting traits could come to the fore and you may have difficulty getting your dog back!

Can a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel be left alone?

Herky and Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

Herky and Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

Given this toy breed like companionship, they do best in homes where there is regular human contact available. If you have to leave your dog for more than four hours a day, this may not be the breed for you.

Alternatively, you could avail of the services of a dog sitter or a dog walker to fill any extended periods of separation. For dogs with separation anxiety, a dog camera could help to alleviate some symptoms.

It is recommended that you take a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for daily walks, although they need a cool pace to relax during warmer temperatures.

For instance, Herky and Milton (@herkythecavalier – pictured above) don’t bark a lot, a trait which they discussed in their interview with

Generally, no they do not bark a lot. When strangers walk in, they are welcomed with tail wags and licks. There are the rare occasions where they will bark. It will usually be when they are startled or afraid of something. But in general, Cavaliers do not bark much.

Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels bark a lot?

Continuing the theme, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel generally don’t bark more than any other dog. However, if they’re left alone for extended periods, they may make quite a bit of noise.

Given this toy breed are companion dogs, they don’t like to be home alone for large spells of the days. Therefore, if you work a nine hour job, these dogs may not be for you.

They can suffer from separation anxiety, which manifests itself as persistent barking, destructive chewing and defecting inside the home.

There are some tools that can help tackle some symptoms of separation anxiety, such as a dog camera which allows you to treat and to talk to your dog.

However, you should think long and hard about whether you have the sufficient time to devote to these dogs and the right lifestyle before bringing one home.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniel smart?

Louie the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: heylittlelouie / Instagram)

Louie the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: heylittlelouie / Instagram)

Unsurprisingly given their loving nature, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are eager to please and as a result, easy to train. They’re known to retain information very well, so they should do well from a young age when it comes to learning basic commands.

Expert say it is vital to lay down the ground rules at an early age to get the best out of these dogs. You may want to consider puppy manners or puppy training classes to help the process along.

Louie (@heylittlelouie – pictured above) is an example of a Cavalier who is easy to train.

Consistency has been key with Louie, but overall he is not a difficult to dog to train. And, as long as there are treats around, Louie is a star little poser!

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniel hypoallergenic?

Pixel the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: @cavalierpixel / Instagram)

Pixel the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel (Photo: @cavalierpixel / Instagram)

A hypoallergenic dog breed is one that is unlikely to cause an allergic reaction. The AKC states that there is no dog breed that is 100 per cent hypoallergenic.

However, some dog breeds are better for allergy sufferers than others (around 10 per cent of the United States is allergic to dogs.

The AKC list 19 breeds that they recommend for potential dog owners looking for a hypoallergenic dog breed. Unfortunately for Cavalier King Charles Spaniel lovers who are allergic to dogs, they’re not one.

While the AKC have published this guide, it may be worth checking with your local doctor and vet to learn more.

Do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels smell?

This royal breed do have a reputation for being quite smelly. Is this fair? Well it depends on whether you regularly groom your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Their fluffy coat can easily become quite dirty given their low centre of gravity and tendency to chase small animals.

Oil that is secreted by your dog’s skin can retain bacteria and dirt, while a bad odor could be the result of ear, skin and toe infections.

Another consideration could be bad breath, that can be the result of something your dog ate or an owner needs to improve their pooch’s dental hygiene.

If you have any concerns about your dog becoming smelly, helloBARK! recommends a visit to your local vet.

When do Cavalier King Charles Spaniel shed?

Herky and Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

Herky and Milton the Cavalier (Photo: @herkythecavalier / Instagram)

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel does require a little more grooming and semi-regular baths to maintain their lush, silky coat. By brushing your dog on a daily or weekly basis, it can help to maintain its shine and keep it tangle free.

The AKC suggest checking their ears and toes for signs of infection given these feathery parts of their body could be a haven for accumulating bacteria.

Experts recommend Cavalier King Charles Spaniel owners regularly clean their eyes and ears to prevent infection, while the occasional bath is a good idea too.

Herky and Milton’s mum (pictured above) provided an insight into how much Cavalier King Charles Spaniels shed.

YES! I would say this is the “worst trait” of Cavaliers. They shed so much that regular (daily) vacuuming and brushing is absolutely needed. I would not recommend this breed for people with allergies!

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog food

Just like any breed of dog, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels require a balanced and complete diet. Based upon our experience, we really believe in dog food delivery companies who provide freshly prepared meals delivered direct to your doorstep. You can check out our top dog food delivery recommendations.

RELATED: The eight best dog food delivery companies

What problems do Cavalier King Charles Spaniel have?

The breed are known to suffer from a number of health problems. The big one is mitral valve heart disease, which the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is 20 times more likely to get this disease than any other dog breed.

Mitral valve heart disease is caused by the deterioration of one of their four heart valves. When it occurs, the mitral valve doesn’t fully close after reach pump. This can leave to the valve collapses and eventually heart failure. Experts suggest that most Cavalier King Charles Spaniels will show some signs of the disease by 10 years of age. The symptoms can include breathlessness and coughing.

The breed can also suffer from syringomyelia, which is a condition that affects the brain and spine, causing symptoms ranging from mild discomfort to severe pain and partial paralysis.

Other issues include hip dysplasia, which develops with age, and a luxating patella, which is when the knee cap becomes displaced and usually occurs during puppyhood.

What is the lifespan of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

The average lifespan of a Cavalier King Charles Spanish is 9 to 14 years, Wikipedia states.

According to, the expected lifespan of a CKCS can be quite short – as young as seven years to an average of 9.75 years.

How much is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel?

Boris the Cavalier (Photo: boris.king.charles / Instagram)

Boris the Cavalier (Photo: boris.king.charles / Instagram)

The Cavalier King Charles Club USA states that the average price of puppy is between $1800 and $3500. The cost can fluctate depending on each individual breeder, where they’re based and whether the puppy has conformed to the breed standard.

It is recommended that you enquire with the breeder whether a puppy’s parents had heart problems before your purchase. The AKC suggest hip evaluation, patella evaluation, cardiac exam and ophthalmologist evaluation.

Other potential costs include dog food, pet insurance, grooming, vet trips and much more. You can check out the best pet insurance options in the USA and the UK.

Where is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescue

Of course, you may prefer to rescue a member of this breed that is in need of a loving home.

There is a dedicated Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescue in both USA and United Kingdom.

For more information if you’re a US reader:

Or, if you’re a UK reader:

Famous Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

There have been a number of famous King Charles Cavalier Spaniels since King Charles II made these dogs popular centuries ago.

Former US president (and Hollywood actor) Ronald Reagan and his wife Nancy had a Blenheim Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex.

His British counterpart Margaret Thatcher, who was a famous Conservative leader, had a CKCS.

While Queen Elizabeth II was a known fan of Corgis, her sister Margaret had a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel called Rowley.

Friends actress Courtney Cox was so enamoured with the breed that she had two of these dogs called Harley and Hooper.

Speaking about her Cavalier King Charles Spaniels in the US media, Cox said: “They bring me so much joy… It makes me so happy when I’m lying in bed and look over and see my husband, two little dogs… I don’t think I can be happier than this.”

Cox’s fellow actresses Jessica Love Hewitt, Amanda Bynes and Liv Tyler have also owned members of this breed.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels to follow on Instagram

You can check out the best Cavalier accounts to follow on Instagram by clicking this link here.

What do Cavalier King Charles Spaniels owners have to say

Herky and Milton: Be ready to get showered with love! This breed is so incredibly sweet and loving. They will love you more than anything in the world. As for actual tips, please refer back to our YouTube channel! We have so many videos about how to prepare for a puppy, what toys and treats we love etc.

Zoey (pictured below): Zoey is as independent as she is attached. She is never not cute. She is always happy. Watching her sleep, or prance, play, train, pose for our shoots, always brings me joy and happiness in my heart.

In conclusion

Zoey the Cavalier (Photo: @zoeymycav / Instagram)

Zoey the Cavalier (Photo: @zoeymycav / Instagram)

If you’re looking for a companion that will give you unconditional love, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel could be the dog for you.

They make great family pets and do well in a number of different environments, whether it is a house or apartment.

These dogs do require a moderate amount of exercise and regular grooming to maintain the good condition of their gorgeous coats.

With four different varieties of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, these dogs have proven a hit with royalty, celebrities and politicians.

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