Breed Description of a Cavalier King Charles

Breed Description of a Cavalier King Charles

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Cavalier King Charles Spaniels make a great companion because of their high spirited and upbeat personality. Learn more about this breed and their needs here.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are graceful dogs with an elegant, royal appearance. Often called "the king-sized toy," the Cavalier is the largest breed in the toy group. Mature dogs average 12 to 13 inches in height and weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. Cavaliers have soulful brown eyes and silky, straight coats with feathering on the ears, tail, chest, legs and feet. Although Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were originally bred for hunting, the sweet nature of these dogs makes them wonderful companion animals.


Originally bred to hunt small game, the Cavalier breed has a great love of the outdoors and a fearless sense of adventure. Despite this little wild streak, Cavaliers also have a strong desire to please their human partners. Most Cavaliers possess a gentle, friendly temperament and love to curl up on a family member's lap. Cavaliers don't make very good guard dogs. Although they will bark to let you know someone has arrived at the front door, they seem to believe all strangers are their new friends. Only the most timid of intruders might be scared off by one of these little dogs.


The American Kennel Club notes that Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are intelligent and easily trained, frequently doing well in obedience and agility trials. Their calm temperaments, low energy levels, and loving natures combine to make them excellent candidates for therapy dog training as well. Even the best-trained Cavalier should never be allowed to roam around off-leash, however. They often tangle with traffic, because they will chase nearly anything that moves. Because these dogs never develop any "street sense," many breeders require that you have a fenced yard before you adopt a Cavalier puppy.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels thrive in a family setting and enjoy all types of companionship. Cavaliers are happy whether dozing on the lap of an elderly person for several hours or having an energetic romp with the kids. These dogs really don't enjoy being left alone. Their calm temperament means they usually are happy to share their space with other family dogs and cats. They still have their original hunting instincts, however, so watch your dog closely if you also have birds, hamsters, rabbits or gerbils.

Cavaliers and Children

Their playfulness, patience and loving natures make Cavalier King Charles Spaniels good family dogs. However, because Cavalier puppies are tiny, many breeders won't sell them to families with young children because of the risk of unintentional injury to the puppy. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club USA suggests adopting a 9- to 12-month old puppy if you have children under 5 years of age. Cavaliers enjoy a lengthy puppyhood, so you won't miss out on their youthful antics.


According to the American Kennel Club, Cavaliers tend to adapt their exercise needs to fit the needs of their families. Although Cavalier King Charles Spaniels enjoy plenty of lap time, their sporting heritage means that they need to go outside for a good walk or be allowed to run off some of their excess energy in the backyard at least once a day to ensure good health.

Grooming a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a toy breed with a medium-length, wavy coat. For show purposes, no clipping of the coat, except on the feet, is allowed, so daily brushing helps keep the soft, silky fur from becoming a tangled mess. The breed has trademark feathering of the fur on the chest, ears, legs, feet, and tail that needs regular bathing to keep it and the rest of the dense coat looking its best.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels need daily brushing with a medium-bristle brush to stimulate and spread the skin's natural oils throughout the coat. Use a slicker brush to remove and prevent any knots and tangles in the coat. Concentrate the brushing on the feathered, longer parts of the coat, especially the ears, back of the legs and under the tail, which can easily become tangled.

The Cavalier's feet also require brushing to keep them looking fluffy. This is one of the few breeds where the hair on top of the feet is left without trimming; brushing prevents this hair from becoming tangled. Knotted hair on your dog's feet and between the toes makes it hard for the Cavalier to walk, especially on slick surfaces. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has both an undercoat and outer coat, so make sure you lift the outer coat to get to the hair beneath, when you brush.Before a bath, you must brush through the coat to remove tangles, which can become worse when wet.


Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a water-resistant coat because of the oils in their undercoats. To completely cleanse your dog's skin and hair, you will need to shampoo the coat twice to first break down the oils and then remove them. Because bathing removes the oils, washing your dog more than once a month isn't recommended, because it can dry out your Cavalier's skin.

You can lather up your dog's coat in a kitchen sink: These small dogs range in size from 13 to 18 pounds. Use lukewarm water to wet the coat, then lather it with dog shampoo. Rinse the coat thoroughly and repeat. After the second wash, apply dog conditioner to the coat according to directions, rinsing the coat well afterward. Be thorough: Any shampoo or conditioner not rinsed out completely can irritate your dog's skin. Using the sink sprayer to rinse your dog can improve soap removal.

Avoid getting soap or conditioner in your Cavalier's face when giving them a bath. Instead, wipe these areas with a damp washcloth. Clean the corners of your dog's eyes with the cloth, and remove stains left by tearing with moistened eye wipes, found in pet supply stores.


Wipe your Cavalier's coat with a towel to begin the drying process and to prevent your dog from shaking excess water all over your home. Don't rub the coat too much, because this can cause tangles to form. Dry the coat on the lowest hairdryer setting, feathering out the fur of your dog with a medium-bristle brush. This drying process fluffs the coat, especially feathered areas such as the ears, and helps prevent skin issues that might be initiated by residual dampness.

Ear Care

The hanging, floppy ear leather of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel creates excellent places for infections to form in the warm, moist environment inside the ears. Use dog ear-cleaning solution and cotton balls to wipe out the insides of the ears once a week, removing any waxy buildup. Check inside the ears for fungal or bacterial infections that give off an unpleasant odor. Consult with your veterinarian if you notice that your Cavalier has signs of an ear infection. If you don't plan to show your dog, the hair inside the ears under the ear flaps can be trimmed short to improve the air flow to this area.

Trimming the Feet

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have fluffy, feathered fur on their feet, which is longer than on other parts of the coat. To prevent problems walking, the American Kennel Club allows for trimming of the hair between the pads of the underside of the feet, but nowhere else. Use electric clippers to shave away this fur, or have a professional groomer perform this service. Check the feet daily for any debris or tangles stuck in the fur on the top of the feet; brush these out with a slicker brush. If the nails need trimming, have a professional do it who knows how to avoid the risk of accidentally cutting the quick, causing bleeding and pain.


Clipping of the fur is not allowed for show purposes on the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. If you don't plan on showing your dog, you can have the coat clipped to a puppy cut, which shortens the fur all over the body to about an inch in length. This makes grooming easier for this breed, but may also cause the fur to grow back thicker and more curly, requiring continued clipping of the coat in the future to keep it in check, according to the book, "Getting to Know Cavaliers: A Guide to Choosing and Owning a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel."

Grooming Sessions

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are avid lap dogs, a helpful fact you can use when you are brushing your pet. Wait until your Cavalier gets settled on your lap, then brush the coat thoroughly. Positively reinforce the grooming session with treats and praise.

If you take your Cavalier to a professional groomer, first inquire whether the groomer has worked with the breed before. This is especially important if you are going to show your dog, because there are strict rules regarding the trimming of the breed's coat. Incorrect work done by an inexperienced groomer could disqualify your dog in the show ring. Find a groomer in your area who works with this breed through the regional chapters of organizations such as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA.

More on The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Grooming A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Serving Size For A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
Training For A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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