A Typical Cavalier Expression
A typical Cavalier expression


It has been interesting watching how our breed has fared in its first full year of AKC competition. Some great Cavaliers, correct in temperament and type, have been acknowledged and rewarded in the ring. Some very mediocre dogs have also been rewarded in the ring to the dismay of astute Cavalier fanciers and judges. Cavaliers have been shown in the typical natural state called for in the standard of the breed, and Cavaliers have been shown trimmed so as to take away from the natural beauty of our dogs. As with any breed, the fate of the Cavalier spaniel in the AKC show ring is largely dependent on the decisions of breeders, exhibitors, and professional handlers in choosing which dogs to present and, more importantly, on the decisions of judges in choosing which dogs to put up. Serious breeders hope that judges adhere to the wishes of the breeders and select only dogs who exhibit the temperament and type which is stressed in the standard of our breed. We also hope that fanciers new to our breed will adhere to the standard when embarking on a breeding program and will ask for guidance from successful, established breeders in order to preserve the temperament and type that is so essential to our breed. The welfare and advancement of the Cavalier (please never call them Cavs or Cavvies) depends on all of us .

Essentials of Breed Type: 

The essentials of our breed are outlined in General Appearance in our standard. The standard calls for: ...an active, graceful, well balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action; fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate. It is this typical temperament, combined with true elegance and royal appearance, which is of paramount importance in the breed. Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting, or artificial alteration is essential to breed type.

The typical Cavalier is always wagging his tail. Characterized by sweet, yet fearless, temperament, the Cavalier looks at the world through large, round, dark brown eyes which gives a melting, soft expression The beautiful large eyes mirror the loving temperament of the Cavalier and are absolutely essential to type.

Temperament and Presentation: 

Our breed should be shown on a loose lead in a natural stance both standing and gaiting. We do not kneel to stack our dogs, but rather let them stand naturally, wagging their tails, and fidgeting with enthusiasm. A Cavalier trained to stand perfectly stacked and wooden in appearance is not typical of the breed. Cavaliers are filled with zest for life and an affection for all humans. Specialty judges often talk to dogs while coming down the line to see expressions and to check temperament, as Cavaliers should willingly acknowledge or go toward the judge in their typical friendly manner. The Cavalier who is shy, fearful, or timid, should never be considered for placement by a judge. It is also hoped that exhibitors and handlers would not even consider showing dogs of questionable temperament for the gay, fearless, gentle and affectionate nature of the Cavalier is truly the quintessence of the breed. Nervousness, aggressiveness, and timidity are never to be tolerated.

Type and Structure: 

The standard calls for a well balanced toy spaniel, within the height range of 12-13 inches and weight range of 13-18 pounds - weedy specimens and coarse, over-sized specimens are to be as equally penalized. The wide range in weight allows for a real variance in size. Cavaliers are toy spaniels and should be within the size limits given. The Cavalier spaniel exhibits well laid back shoulders, well constructed rear, level topline standing and moving, and free movement with good reach in front and driving rear action. The Cavalier should be capable of cross country hikes, so soundness and good movement are very important. The Cavalier Spaniel needs to be orthopedically sound. This breed has come a long way in soundness: breeders, for the most part have done a good job in improving soundness in this country. Front legs should be straight boned, and rears sound and well muscled and moving true, even though a Cavalier, in its usual state of zealous readiness for action, might stand a tad cowhocked, but should not ever move cowhocked in the rear.

The Cavalier Spaniel approaches squareness in body proportions, usually being a bit longer than tall, but always appearing balanced. The tailset of the Cavalier Spaniel is well set on, coming right off the back with only slight slope to the croup. The tail wags constantly and should be carried happily. but never much above the level of the back. However, Cavaliers are very macho little dogs and will posture in the ring to impress other dogs. Tail carriage can be affected by the mood and attitude of the dog. The dog with a good tail set will sometimes carry the tail high, but it never should go over the back. The soft melting expression of the Cavalier has already been mentioned and is a hallmark of the breed. The limpid, dark eyes of the Cavalier show little or no white, certainly never ringed by white imparting a nontypical expression. The eyes of a Cavalier Spaniel are enhanced by the head shape. The well cushioned muzzle should be about one and one half inches long from the moderate stop to the tip of the nose and should be clean in finish, not houndy with excess dewlap. The bite should be scissors, with undershot or wry mouths being faults. While a level mouth is not a fault in our standard. the correct, complete scissors bite is preferred and the undershot mouth is not to be rewarded. We do not count teeth. The cushioning under the eyes lends to the soft sweet expression. The ears frame the face, also enhancing expression. The earset is high. causing the slightly rounded skull to appear flat. The nose and eyelid pigment should be black, but blenheim and ruby noses can go off a bit, depending on the season - but never should be pink or putty colored.

Coat and Grooming

 The coat length is moderate, not to the ground, with ample feathering with the untrimmed hair on the feet giving the appearance, as my good friend Hazel Arnold terms "little puddles of hair." The Cavalier is a wash and wear dog; it is to be shown in a natural state, with no trimming or sculpting to give it a manufactured appearance. The coat is silky, straight with a slight wave permissible. Under no circumstances should a judge consider a dog whose coat has been trimmed or sculpted. Breeders and exhibitors should insist, should they use a handler, that the handler abide by our standard which states: 'Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severely penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition. Leave our breed alone! Do Not change its natural outline and beauty as so many other breeds have been changed We count on judges to adhere to our standard. Please hear our plea: keep our breed natural and untrimmed!

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel comes in four colors: the parti-colors, blenheim and tricolor. and the whole colors, ruby, and black and tan While the blenheim is certainly the most common color. no preference should be given to color. The coloration and markings of the tricolors and the whole colors (ruby. and black and tan) often make the typical sweet expression a little more difficult to see so judges must take a close look so as not to miss the melting expression in the large, beautiful round eyes of a good Cavalier of any color The blenheim and tricolors should be well broken with the white a pearly, clear white free from heavy ticking. Blenheims should have white blazes between the eyes running up between the ears. The white blaze may be interrupted by the legendary blenheim spot or by a bar of blenheim color. The blenheim spot is desirable because of the lore of the breed. but should never be prized over the overall quality of the dog. Blenheim spots seem to be pure luck in a breeding program. Tricolors should have a blaze between the eyes. no matter how narrow that blaze may be. Symmetrical head markings are desired, with the eyes being surrounded by the blenheim color in blenheims and the black in tricolors. Tricolors must have rich tan over the eyes, on the cheeks, on the underside of the black ears, and on the underside of the tail. The whole colors, ruby and black and tan, should have rich color and be free from white. However, a few white hairs on the chest, the toes, or under the chin should not be heavily penalized in an otherwise good specimen. Some of the best whole colors result from parti-color to whole color breedings, with breeders risking mismarks in order to get correct type and structure.

The Royal Toy Spaniel 

The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is a very loving, affectionate toy spaniel with fearless, gay temperament - a good companion both in body and mind, capable of sitting on laps and jaunting cross country with its owner. Elegant in appearance, untouched by artificial grooming, and absolutely radiating its soul from its wonderful, loving eyes, the Cavalier is the epitome of the royal toy spaniel and a most glamorous addition to the toy group where it has fared very well in its first year of AKC competition.

By Meredith Johnson-Snyder, Rattlebridge Cavaliers

reprinted : TNT, November, 1995