Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel has been depicted in many paintings through the centuries. They were pets that lived a life of luxury; they were owned by the wealthy who wanted lap dogs for pets and didn’t need a farm or watch dog. The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was also cast in the show Sex and the City, bringing them recent fame and making them a sought after breed by many viewers.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is classified as a toy dog breed and is the largest of the toy breeds. They are between 12 and 13 inches tall and weigh between 13 and 18 pounds. As an adult the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are only as big as the average adolescent dog of larger breeds. They come in four color patterns: tricolor (black, white and tan), a ruby, the classic Blenhiem (white and red) and a bicolor (black and tan). They have a silky coat that is sometimes wavy but never curly.
Due to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed originating from only six dogs almost all of them have a genetic defect of mitral valve disease (MVD) that causes the breed to develop heart murmurs. Just under fifty percent of the breed develops MVD, this eventually leads to heart failure.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels also suffer from Syringomyelia or “Neck Scratchers Disease”. This condition is where the brain is too small for the skull. The brain pushes down into the neck area and forces the spinal fluid to fill the cavities in the spine. This condition is painful for the dog; they have an uncontrollable urge to scratch their neck. When they do scratch it overstimulates the hypersensitive region and sends shooting pains through their neck and shoulders. The only way to confirm Syringomyelia is with an MRI. MRI scans are expensive, so a veterinarian will try to rule out other conditions first. There is little to no treatment for this painful disease.
The King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are very similar to each other. Both breeds were bred to be lap dogs, with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels being a little larger and able to perform the added responsibility of hunting. About 100 years ago these two breeds began to take separate paths spilt into two distinct breeds.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels that are red and white are sometimes called by their nickname Blenheim after the estate of Blenheim owned by John Churchill the 1st Duke of Marlborough. John Churchill kept and bred the red and white variety of the King Charles Spaniels (later termed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel). The Blenheim Estate received its name from the victory that John Churchill achieved at the Battle of Blenheim in the 18th century. Many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels descending from the Blenheim Estate also have a chestnut spot on the middle of their forehead. The folktale is that Sarah Churchill, John Churchill’s wife and the Duchess of Marlborough, was pressing the forehead of an expectant female King Charles Spaniel with her thumb while fretting about the outcome of the Battle of Blenheim. The litter of this expectant female all had a chestnut spot in the shape of a thumbprint on their forehead.
In 1926 Roswell Elridge offered prize money at a dog show for the best male and female Blenheim version of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. By doing this he was able to find the best of both sexes and started bringing back old look that the breed held during the era of Charles the II. Roswell Elridge provided the start to the Cavalier type King Charles Spaniel.
World War II was very hard on this breed. Economic hardships made it hard for people to own pets, and the breed was not bred to be a working dog of any type. During this time luxuries were forgone and a lap dog or a gentlemant’s hunting dog was considered a luxury. It was also during this era that only military working dogs were being actively preserved.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel did not make its appearance in the United States until 1956 when W. Lyon Brown and Elizabeth Spalding brought them into the country. These two, along with a few other lovers of this breed worked to establish a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel club. The breed was not recognized by the American Kennel Club for another 41 years.
This breed was a favorite among the wealthy and was bred to be a lap and companion dog. This selective breeding also brought about their patient and sweet personality. They are very social dogs and love to meet new people or other dogs. They are very playful and they love to chase moving objects, they will chase a laser dot for hours. This makes the breed an excellent therapy dog.
This breed is excellent with children and they love to share their affection. They are a family dog that wants to go everywhere and be included in everything their family does. Their gentle nature and love of humans means they should not be relied on as a guard or watch dog. Their small size makes them a fantastic pet for apartment living. Nearly all Cavalier King Charles Dogs will develop MVD and a person looking to make one a family pet needs to take their health risks into consideration.
The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel needs to be happy, affectionate and social. Their coat should be silky and straight. Trimming the coat is not permitted. Their gate should elegant and un-inhibited with the hind legs powering their movement. The breed receives penalties for having a wavy coat or a coat hat has been clipped or trimmed.