English Toy Spaniel

Breed At A Glance


Playful, gentle and quiet, but sometimes timid with strangers

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
10 inches

Average Weight
9-12 lbs

Coat Color
Black and tan (King Charles), solid red (Ruby), white with red markings (Blenheim), and white with black and tan markings (Prince Charles)

Coat Length/Texture
Medium length, soft, silky and well feathered

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year-round

Also known as King Charles Spaniel, Charlie, E.T.

General Temperament

The English Toy Spaniel is a gentle and loving breed that is perfectly happy to lavish in the affection of it’s human family. They are deeply devoted and loyal, and usually quiet and not very demanding. English Toy Spaniels are sociable, happy and mischievous, and often very entertaining.

English Toy Spaniels are good with considerate children and make easy-going family pets. They are good companion pets for the sedentary owner or the elderly. They will get along with other household pets, including dogs and cats. How a stranger approaches an English Toy Spaniel will determine how it reacts. If approached with gentleness and affection, the dog will respond positively, but they may be timid if approached with aggression or overwhelming energy. They are not generally biters, but may bite out of fear or mistreatment.

English Toy Spaniels are considered to be intelligent and eager to please, although they can be somewhat willful. Consistent and firm obedience training are recommended.

Like many other brachycephalic (snub-nosed) breeds, the English Toy Spaniel will be happiest living indoors in a moderate or cool climate. They can do well in an apartment as long as they are given sufficient walks and exercise/play times. They may wheeze and snore, another characteristic they share with other snub-nosed breeds.

Breed History

The English Toy Spaniel, also known as the King Charles Spaniel (not to be confused with the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel) was derived from the favorite Spaniels of King Charles II of England. Small Spaniel breeds had been popular in the United Kingdom for centuries, and eventually toy Spaniels became the favorite pets of royalty. As time went on, the toy Spaniels were replaced by various small dogs imported from Asian, such as the Pug and the Japanese Chin. The King Charles Spaniels were bred with these dogs, and took one some of their characteristics, primarily the shorter muzzle and rounded head. This gave way to the modern version of the breed, which is known as the English Toy Spaniel in the United States.

(In the 1920’s, an American breeder named Roswell Eldrige traveled to England and inspired a breeding program to bring back the original long-snouted version of the breed, which was eventually termed the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel).

The English Toy Spaniel was granted breed recognition with The American Kennel Club since it’s inception in 1884.

Body Structure and Composition

The English Toy Spaniel is a compact and squarely-proportioned dog. The head is domed and the long, pendulous, feathery ears are set low on the skull. It’s large, round eyes are set level with the nose, which rests on an almost nonexistent muzzle. The English Toy Spaniel has an undershot jaw, or “underbite.” The proportionate neck leads down to a level topline, ending in a feathery tail that, in the U.S., is typically docked to between two and four inches in length. (Tail docking has been outlawed in England and many European countries.) The toes are often fused, which is an acceptable and harmless breed trait.

Medical Information

The most prevalent problem that occurs with the English Toy Spaniel is Patellar Luxation (also known as “slipped stifle”), which occurs when the kneecap dislocates and may require surgery. Certification of breeding stock is available from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) to help prevent the spread of both of this, as well as several other skeletal conditions. Vertebrae disc problems are sometimes seen in both the neck and back of the English Toy Spaniel, but these can usually be treated with crate rest and/or cortisone.

English Toy Spaniels are particularly prone to cardiac problems, including Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA) and Mitral Valve Disease (MVD). PDA occurs when the ductus arteriosis – a valve which allows blood to bypass the non-functional lungs while a puppy is still in utero – fails to close properly once a puppy is born. This causes blood to be continually shunted into the pulmonary circulatory system, resulting in left atrial and ventricular dilatation, and may result in cardiac arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythm). Similarly, MVD causes abnormal leaking of blood through the mitral valve, from the left ventricle into the left atrium of the heart. But unlike PDA, which occurs from the time the puppy is born, MVD tends to present itself as the dog ages and can result in heart failure.

Hereditary eye abnormalities, such as glaucoma and cataracts, occur with relatively high frequency in the English Toy Spaniel. Their protruding eyes are also highly susceptible to lacerations and eyeball prolapse (when they eyeball pops out of the socket). Be sure to regularly check the eyes, along with the ears, to prevent infections.

Like many brachycephalic (short-headed or “snub-nosed”) breeds, the English Toy Spaniel is particularly susceptible to breathing problems and heatstroke, as they are unable to cool themselves quickly enough in hot temperatures. Be sure to moderate the temperature in your home, and do not require this breed to spend extended time outside in hot & humid temperatures, or in highly polluted areas.

English Toy Spaniels encounter some other minor skeletal abnormalities that are not a reason for concern, such as fused toes, or open fontanelles (a soft spot on the top of the skull) in dogs under one year. A condition called “hanging tongue” can also sometimes occur in this breed, and although it is not a cause of euthanasia, English Toy Spaniels with this condition should not be bred.

The long feathery coat of the English Toy Spaniel is relatively easy to care for: occasional brushing and monthly baths will do the trick to help prevent matting and keep the coat shiny and beautiful.

Anecdotal Information

The English Toy Spaniel (or King Charles Spaniel) was the favorite breed of British Royalty for centuries, including King Charles II and Mary Queen of Scots.

The English Toy Spaniel is a relatively unpopular breed in the United States, not breaking the top 100 breeds from 1997 to 2007 (according to American Kennel Club registration statistics).

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