Defining the Cavalier

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a breed rich in history, allied with the royals in England as they were championed by King Charles I and Charles II.  He is pictured in the paintings of many an old master—Titian, Gainsborough, Van Dyck, among others.  Known familiarly as a toy “Comforter” spaniel, the cavalier was never bred to be anything other than a small, beloved gentle pet, a lap dog to be sure, but also sporting in nature in that he could run behind a horse and enjoy a day’s activities outside the palace walls.  Those breed characteristics endure to this day, and indeed are essential to a sound and happy cavalier.

Bred in all 4 colors—Blenheim (rich chestnut and white), Ruby, Black & Tan, and Tricolor (black & white with tan points)-- the cavalier suits most esthetic tastes. One of the physical hallmarks of the breed is his ‘royal’ appearance, with large dark soulful eyes and glamorous feathering and coat. In the show ring, NO trimming is allowed, as it is considered essential that the breed be left in its natural state without artifice.  Easy to groom, he requires only bathing and regular brushing. According to the breed Standard (the ‘blueprint’ for the breed, describing the ideal dog), the cavalier should be between 12-13” at the shoulder and weigh between 13-18 pounds. Some leeway is permissible

The cavalier is a happy, gentle dog—not at all aggressive with either dogs or man. Indeed, many owners assert that “you cannot have just one!”  He is biddable and very trainable—not only as a household pet, but also as a Therapy, Obedience, and Agility dog. Remember, though, that he cannot always be relied upon to come when he is called if he is chasing a butterfly or following the flight of a bird. For most owners, a fenced yard and/or a leash is a ‘must have.’

As with all breeds of dogs, the cavalier does have some breed-specific health considerations. Owners should be vigilant for mitral valve disease of the heart, eye conditions including retinal problems & cataracts, slipping patellas, hip dysplasia, and SM (syringomyelia, a neurological condition).  Cavaliers can be screened for all these health concerns, and the majority live comfortably into double digits.  Responsible breeders health test their breeding animals and will supply the puppy buyer with veterinary specialist certifications when possible. Cavaliers are most commonly screened for heart problems, slipping patellas, and inherited eye conditions. Other testing may be more problematic due to inherent costs or what a breeder might regard as risk to the dog (general anesthesia, for example).

The prospective cavalier buyer needs to search diligently for such breeders. Unfortunately, the cavalier’s notoriety on some popular TV shows and as a celebrity pet has spawned some less reliable individuals only bent on making a profit, who may not health test or take proper care. To that end, buyers are referred to the Breeder Referral lists on this web site  and that of ACKCSC member clubs.  While there are no guarantees in nature, these breeders have demonstrated a sincere desire to promote the welfare of the breed.  In general, it is unwise to answer ads in newspapers or on internet sites listing puppies for sale.

The best ally available to the cavalier lover is the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, the AKC parent club for the breed that was formed in 1993 by a group of dedicated fanciers that favored AKC breed recognition (occurring in 1996). All members of the Club subscribe to  Ethical Guidelines, and all those listed in the Breeder Referral pages of this web site have signed the Ethical Guidelines.  The ACKCSC is solely dedicated to the well being of the cavalier, and promotes conformation and performance events where owners can compete, learn, and enjoy the company of like-minded cavalier owners.  It is the sincere hope of the ACKCSC that you will consult the pages of this web site to be introduced to the many dimensions of the cavalier in the USA and throughout the world.