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The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A Complete Dog Breed Information - PawSafe

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel: A Complete Dog Breed Information

Photo of Tamsin De La Harpe

Written by Tamsin De La Harpe

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

If you’re captivated by the charm and elegance of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and are considering bringing a puppy into your life, you’re in for a delightful journey. Known for their expressive eyes and beautiful, silky coats, Cavaliers have a way of stealing hearts in just one glance. These dogs are not only a joy to behold but also make loving, affectionate companions that fit perfectly into various lifestyles, whether you live in a bustling city apartment or a quiet suburban home.

In this comprehensive guide, I’ll take you through everything you need to know about owning a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, from their unique personality traits and care needs to the important health considerations to keep in mind. For those of you looking to find a Cavalier puppy for sale, we’ll discuss how to find a responsible breeder and what to expect when you bring your new puppy home.

To ensure you get the most accurate and detailed information, we will refer to expert sources, including an insightful book on the history and nuances of the breed. This guide is designed to equip you with all the knowledge you need to decide if a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is the right dog for you, ensuring you’re well-prepared for the rewarding experience of Cavalier ownership. Let’s get started on this exciting journey together!

King Charles Spaniels Key Points

  • These Spaniels are known for their sweet and loving personalities,
  • Just as happy in an apartment as a house, Cavaliers are known for being easygoing and adjusting well to their living situation.
  • While they enjoy playtime, Cavaliers don’t require extensive exercise, making them a good fit for moderate activity levels.
  • Their signature long, silky ears and big, expressive eyes contribute to their irresistible charm.
  • Like many brachycephalic breeds, Cavaliers can have health issues like syringomyelia and mitral valve disease. Responsible breeding practices can help reduce these risks.
  • Their long, flowing fur requires regular brushing to maintain its beauty and prevent matting.

The Cavalier Profile: Physical and Personality Traits

blenheim red and white King Charles Spaniel sitting showing physical and personality traits

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel embodies an air of royalty with its elegant appearance and loving demeanor, making it a favorite among dog lovers worldwide. Standing at about 12 to 13 inches (approximately 30 to 33 centimeters) at the withers and typically weighing between 13 and 18 pounds (about 5.9 to 8.2 kilograms,  the Cavalier is the perfect size for a lap dog, yet sturdy enough for an active family lifestyle.

 According to the AKC Breed Standard, the ideal Cavalier is well-balanced and slightly longer than tall, with moderate bone proportionate to size. The breed’s expressive, large, dark brown eyes and high-set ears with abundant feathering contribute to its distinctive, sweet expression that is known to melt hearts.

Coat and Colors

Cavaliers boast a silky, moderately long coat that can have a slight wave. They require regular grooming to maintain their beautiful appearance and prevent mats, especially in the feathering on their ears, chest, legs, and tail. The breed standard recognizes four elegant colors:

  • Blenheim: Rich chestnut markings on a pearly white background.
  • Tricolor: Black markings on a white background with tan accents.
  • Ruby: A uniform rich red.
  • Black and Tan: Black with bright tan markings.

Cavaliers are sometimes used to create designer dog breeds like the Cavachon (a cross between the Cavalier and the Bichon Frise) and the Aussalier (a cross between the Cavalier and the Miniature Australian Shepherd), which inherit the Cavalier’s friendly nature and manageable size.


Cavaliers are famed for their merry, friendly, and non-aggressive temperament. They show no tendency towards nervousness or shyness, making them excellent companions for families with children or other pets. 

Owners often describe Cavaliers as adaptable and affectionate; one owner shared, “Our Cavalier, Lucy, is truly a joy in our household. She’s gentle with the kids and loves to be part of whatever we’re doing, whether it’s a quiet evening at home or a trip to the park.” Another owner remarked, “What I love most is their adaptability; they’re just as happy snuggling on the couch as they are joining you for a walk.”

This combination of regal appearance, gentle temperament, and adaptability makes the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel an ideal companion for many, embodying a balance of playful activity and calm, affectionate companionship. Whether nestled in a city apartment or a country house, Cavaliers thrive in the love and company of their human families.

Is Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Right For Me? Pros and Cons

Black, tan and white King Charles Spaniel pros and cons of breed

Here’s an extensive table that outlines the pros and cons of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ownership, capturing the key aspects you might consider before bringing one into your home.

Pros of Cavalier OwnershipCons of Cavalier Ownership
Adaptable to Various EnvironmentsProne to Genetic Health Issues
Cavaliers easily adjust to different living situations, from apartments to houses with yards, thanks to their adaptable and easygoing nature.Cavaliers are prone to conditions like mitral valve disease and syringomyelia, which require vigilant care and can lead to significant veterinary expenses.
Excellent with Children and Other PetsHigh Grooming Needs
Known for their gentle demeanor, Cavaliers make great companions for children and generally get along well with other household pets.Their long, silky coats require regular brushing and professional grooming to prevent mats and maintain skin health.
Affectionate and CompanionableRegular Veterinary Visits Required
Cavaliers thrive on companionship, often forming strong bonds with their family members, which makes them excellent lap dogs and companions.Due to their health susceptibilities, regular check-ups are necessary to catch any signs of heart disease, eye problems, or other breed-specific issues early.
Good for Novice OwnersSensitive to Extreme Temperatures
Their friendly and forgiving nature makes Cavaliers an excellent choice for first-time dog owners.Cavaliers can be sensitive to extreme heat and cold due to their short noses, requiring careful management of their environment.
Moderate Exercise NeedsCan Suffer from Separation Anxiety
They require moderate exercise, which can be easily met with daily walks and playtime, making them suitable for owners who are not overly active.Cavaliers can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long, which means they are best suited to households where someone is home most of the time.

This table provides a comprehensive overview of the pros and cons of owning a Cavalier King Charles 

King Charles Health And Longevity

active healthy Cavalier King Charles Spaniel dog running

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are cherished for their friendly and affectionate nature, but they come with a predisposition to several genetic health issues. Understanding these conditions can help you provide the best care for your Cavalier.

Cardiovascular Conditions

One of the most significant concerns in Cavaliers is Mitral Valve Disease (MVD). This condition is particularly prevalent in the breed and can lead to heart failure if not managed properly. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential to monitor heart health, especially as the dog ages.

Neurological Conditions

Syringomyelia (SM) is another serious health issue common among Cavaliers. This condition involves the formation of cavities within the spinal cord near the brain. It can cause severe pain and discomfort, manifesting in symptoms like persistent scratching and sensitivity along the neck and back. Advanced imaging like MRI is used for diagnosis, and treatment can vary from medications to manage symptoms to surgery in severe cases.

Ocular Conditions

Cavaliers are prone to various eye problems, including cataracts and keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye). Regular eye examinations can help catch these conditions early, and treatments can range from eye drops to surgery.

Dermatological Conditions 

Skin issues such as ichthyosis, which often presents with dry, flaky skin, can also affect Cavaliers. Good skin care routines and regular vet visits are important for managing this condition.

Musculoskeletal Conditions

 Problems like patellar luxation, where the kneecap dislocates out of its normal position, are also seen in Cavaliers. Maintaining a healthy weight and appropriate exercise can help manage and prevent musculoskeletal issues.

Lifespan and Quality of Life

The lifespan of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels averages around 8.4 years, but with proper care, some can live longer. 

Best Dog Foods for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

The dietary needs of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels vary with their age, health conditions, and lifestyle. Given their predisposition to certain health issues like heart disease and obesity, it’s crucial to choose dog food that supports their overall health and specific requirements. Below, we’ve outlined some of the best food options tailored to the different life stages and needs of Cavaliers:

Royal Canin Cavalier King Charles Puppy

This breed-specific formula is designed to meet the nutritional needs of Cavalier puppies up to 10 months old. It supports their cardiac health with appropriate levels of EPA and DHA, and the kibble size is tailored for their smaller jaws, making it easier for puppies to pick up and chew.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Sensitive Stomach & Skin Small Breed

Ideal for adult Cavaliers, this food offers a balanced diet that’s gentle on the stomach and supports skin health. The high-quality ingredients ensure optimal nutrient absorption, which is essential for maintaining energy levels and overall health.

Royal Canin Adult Cavalier King Charles

Specifically formulated for adult Cavaliers, this food includes nutrients that support heart function, such as taurine, EPA, and DHA. It also helps maintain the Cavalier’s coat health and weight management, which are vital for heart health.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Senior Small Breed Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe

Specially formulated for older dogs, this food offers a careful balance of proteins and carbohydrates to help maintain muscle mass and manage weight in senior years. It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health, which is important for aging Cavaliers.

Orijen Senior Dog Food

While targeted at seniors, this high-protein, low-carbohydrate formula is excellent for Cavaliers at all stages who require stringent weight control to reduce stress on the heart. It’s loaded with naturally sourced glucosamine and chondroitin, which also support joint health—a boon for Cavaliers prone to musculoskeletal issues.

When choosing food for your Cavalier, consider their specific health needs, life stage, and any advice given by your veterinarian. For Cavaliers with heart conditions, diets enriched with omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, L-carnitine, and antioxidants are often recommended to support cardiac function. Always ensure that any diet change is gradual to avoid digestive upset

Routine Care and Management

King Charles Spaniel with hair curlers in for routine management and grooming

Proper daily care is essential to maintaining the health and happiness of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Their unique physical characteristics, including their beautiful but maintenance-intensive coat, require consistent attention.

Coat Care

Cavaliers have a long, silky coat that requires regular grooming to prevent matting and to keep it looking its best.

Brushing –  Daily brushing is recommended to remove tangles and prevent mats, particularly in the feathering on their ears, chest, legs, and tail.

Bathing – Bathe your Cavalier about once a month or as needed. Use a gentle dog shampoo to protect their skin and enhance the natural sheen of their coat.

Hair Trimming – Trim the hair around their paws and anal area to maintain hygiene and prevent debris from clinging. Cavaliers do not require extensive trimming, but keeping these areas neat can prevent health issues.

Dental Care

Regular dental care is crucial to prevent gum disease and maintain overall health.

Brushing Teeth –  Brush your Cavalier’s teeth several times a week with a toothpaste formulated for dogs. Daily brushing is ideal.

Ear and Eye Care

Cavaliers are prone to ear and eye issues, so regular checks are important.

Ears – Check their ears weekly for signs of infection or irritation. Clean them using a vet-recommended ear cleaner. The long ears of Cavaliers can trap moisture and debris, leading to infections if not cleaned regularly.

Eyes –  Wipe around your Cavalier’s eyes daily with a soft, damp cloth to remove any discharge and prevent tear staining.

Nail Clipping

Regularly clip your Cavalier’s nails to prevent discomfort while walking. If you can hear the nails clicking on the floor, they’re too long.

Exercise Needs

Cavaliers have moderate energy levels and do not require extensive exercise, but regular activity is important to keep them healthy and prevent obesity, which can exacerbate health issues.

Daily Walks –  Aim for at least one or two walks per day. These don’t need to be overly long or strenuous — about 20 to 30 minutes each should suffice.

Play Sessions – Engage in play sessions that stimulate both their mind and body. Cavaliers enjoy fetching games and gentle tug-of-war. Ensure playtime is supervised, especially outdoors, to avoid overexertion.

Mental Stimulation – Use puzzle toys and training games to keep their minds active. Cavaliers are intelligent dogs and appreciate challenges that keep them mentally engaged.

Combining these grooming and exercise routines will help ensure that your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel remains a healthy, happy, and integral part of your family for many years to come. Always tailor the intensity and duration of exercise to your dog’s age, health status, and energy level, and consult your vet if you have any concerns about their health or care regimen.

King Charles Spaniel Training and Behavior

Training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel effectively takes a gentle hand and an understanding of their specific behavioral tendencies. While Cavaliers are ranked 44th in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, suggesting “average” trainability, their high emotional intelligence makes them sensitive and responsive companions. Here’s how to leverage their characteristics for successful training and manage some of the breed-specific behavioral issues.

Training Techniques

  • Cavaliers respond exceptionally well to positive reinforcement. Due to their desire to please and sensitive nature, harsh corrections should be avoided. Use treats, praise, and petting to reward good behavior, which will encourage them to repeat those actions.
  • Like any dog, Cavaliers benefit from consistent commands and routines. Regular short training sessions will help them learn and retain new behaviors and commands.

Managing Behavioral Issues

Separation Anxiety

Cavaliers often form strong bonds with their owners, making them prone to separation anxiety. To manage this:

  • Gradually acclimate them to being alone by starting with short periods of separation and slowly increasing the duration.
  • Create a safe, comforting space for them when you’re not home, such as a crate with familiar blankets and toys.
  • Consider leaving a piece of clothing that smells like you with your dog when you leave the house.

Timidness and Fear

Some Cavaliers may show a lot of fear or timidness, particularly as puppies.

  • Socialize them early by exposing them to a variety of people, sounds, and experiences in a controlled, positive manner.
  • Encourage and reward bravery with treats and affection.
  • Avoid forcing them into situations where they feel overwhelmed, as this can exacerbate fearful behaviors.

Importance of Early Socialization:

  • Cavaliers are naturally sociable but can develop fearfulness if not properly socialized. Introduce your Cavalier to a range of environments, animals, and people from a young age to build confidence and reduce anxiety.
  • Enroll them in puppy classes where they can interact with other dogs and people in a structured setting.

Ongoing Engagement

  • Keep their minds engaged with interactive toys, puzzles, and games that challenge their intelligence. Cavaliers enjoy activities that allow them to solve problems, especially those that end with a reward.
  • Tailor activities to their energy levels. Regular walks, play sessions with toys, and light agility training can keep them physically active without risking exhaustion.

By understanding and addressing the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s specific needs and tendencies, you can foster a nurturing environment that enhances their natural qualities. This approach not only helps in managing potential issues like anxiety and fear but also enriches the training experience, making it enjoyable and rewarding for both you and your dog.

Purchasing and Adoption

Cute red and white King Charles Spaniel puppy for sale or adoption

Bringing a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into your home is a significant decision. Whether you decide to buy from a breeder or adopt from a rescue, it’s crucial to go through reputable channels to ensure the health and well-being of your future pet.

Finding Reputable Breeders:

  • When looking to purchase a Cavalier puppy, selecting a reputable breeder is paramount. A responsible breeder will prioritize the health and temperament of their puppies and will be transparent about their breeding practices.
  • Breeders should conduct comprehensive health screenings on all breeding stock to check for common genetic conditions in Cavaliers, such as heart issues and syringomyelia.
  • The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA is an excellent resource for finding reputable breeders committed to the highest breeding standards.

Adoption and Rescue Options

  • Adopting a Cavalier can be a rewarding way to give a dog a second chance at a loving home. Here are some reputable Cavalier rescue organizations where you can find Cavaliers looking for new homes:
  • These organizations often have dogs from various backgrounds, including those who have been surrendered by owners unable to care for them or rescued from less ideal situations.

Cost Overview

The cost of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel can vary widely depending on whether you choose to adopt or buy from a breeder. Purchasing a Cavalier from a reputable breeder might cost anywhere from $1,000 to over $3,000, whereas adoption fees generally range from $150 to $600.

Initial costs also include expenditures for vaccinations, initial veterinary visits, spaying or neutering, and necessary supplies like a bed, crate, and grooming tools.

Ongoing Costs

Regular check-ups are vital given the breed’s health predispositions. Budget for annual health screenings and potential treatments for common conditions.

High-quality dog food tailored to the Cavalier’s nutritional needs will typically cost between $20 and $60 per month.

Professional grooming sessions are recommended every 6 to 8 weeks, depending on the dog’s coat condition, and can cost approximately $60 to $80 per visit.

Pet insurance is highly recommended to help mitigate the costs of unforeseen health issues and can range from $30 to $50 per month, depending on the coverage.


Bringing a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into your life is a decision filled with the promise of joy, companionship, and affection. These charming dogs are well-known for their friendly and gentle nature, making them an excellent choice for families, individuals, and seniors alike. While Cavaliers do require diligent care, particularly regarding their health and grooming needs, the rewards of owning one are immense.

Whether you choose to purchase a Cavalier from a reputable breeder or adopt from a rescue, it’s important to prepare for the responsibility of dog ownership. Understanding the breed’s specific needs and potential costs will help ensure that you can provide a loving and stable environment for your new pet.


Meet Your Experts

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Tamsin De La Harpe


Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.

Tamsin de la Harpe has nearly two decades of experience with dogs in rescue, training, and behavior modification with fearful and aggressive dogs. She has worked closely with veterinarians and various kennels, building up extensive medical knowledge and an understanding of canine health and physiology. She also spent two years in the animal sciences as a canine nutrition researcher, focusing on longevity and holistic healthcare for our four-legged companions. Tamsin currently keeps a busy homestead with an assortment of rescue dogs and three Bullmastiffs.