English Toy Spaniel

English Toy Spaniel
Written by The Best of Breeds

English Toy Spaniels, often known as King Charles Spaniels, embody all of the friendly and affectionate personality of other spaniel breeds but in a small, neat body.  Though a toy breed, they are solid and robust and make a very devoted companion.  This is an ideal breed of choice for a novice dog owner, single people or senior citizens, due to their inherently docile nature.  English Toy Spaniels are the ultimate, affectionate lap dog, being happiest when snuggling up to their owner on the couch and require a small degree of daily exercise and grooming.

The breed is renowned for their short, pushed in face and snub nose; while the round, domed head is also an important characteristic.  They have a turned down, black-lined, mouth and grumpy frown look to them; however, they are actually an incredibly merry little breed.  Their large, dark eyes will have you swooning in seconds.  The English Toy Spaniel has long, fringed ears and a silky coat which can be straight or slightly wavy.  Their legs and feet have regal feathering as does their traditionally docked tail.

English Toy Spaniels come in four different colours:
– Black and Tan (known as King Charles);
– Black, White and Tan (known as Prince Charles);
– Black and Red (known as Ruby) and;
– White and Red (known as Blenheim named after Blenheim Palace)

English Toy Spaniels are often mistaken for Cavalier Charles Spaniels, which have a slightly larger size, higher set ears, a flatter skull structure and a distinctively longer muzzle length.

English Toy Spaniel

English Toy Spaniels Key Information

Height: 10-11 inches 
Weight: 8-14 pounds 
Life span: 10-12 years 
Breed family: Toy

Exercise requirements: Low
Good with children: Mostly
Area of origin: England
Also Known As:King Charles Spaniel (UK), Charlies,


A favourite of the royal court; English Toy Spaniels have been around for centuries, carrying a royal bloodline which can be recorded back to Charles I and Charles the II – hence their nickname of Charlies.  Lore has it that Mary, Queen of Scots, was even accompanied to her tragic end by her faithful English Toy Spaniel.  Moreover, there is an urban legend that English Toy Spaniels, privileged so much by King Charles, were issued a decree in an Act of Parliament to be the only dog allowed anywhere within the Palace of Westminster.  This breed has a history to back up their regal nature!

Though deemed to be an English breed, this spaniel is argued to be originally from East Asia, notably Japan or China, and only brought over to the British Isles in the 13th century.  Originally the breed had a more pointed snout; however, with selective breeding, likely involving Pugs and Japanese Chins, the shorter muzzle came to be, as was the preference of the time.  Numerous artworks of the Renaissance era depict aristocracy with a similar spaniel type breed with the sought-after characteristics of a short muzzle, domed head and feathered coat.


Interaction with Children

English Toy Spaniels are loyal, cuddly, and lovable and considered to be a great companion therapy dog for these reasons.  They are however, a toy breed, and due to their small size, cannot handle rough treatment, so are better suited to a family with older children who can interact appropriately with the dog.  This breed has been known to get snappy if being mistreated or feeling anxious.  English Toy Spaniels are considered a gentle breed, but are shy by nature and can be easily overwhelmed by rowdy behaviour.  Like always, you should monitor young children closely when interacting with any dog to avoid issue.    

Interaction with other pets

In general, English Toy Spaniels get along well with other pets within the household, including cats.  However, this breed does tend to be shy and reserved and as such, socialization should be on-going and consistent. 


It is recommended to split their daily rations into two meals per day of about ½ cup each. As always, the exact amount depends on the size, age and metabolism of your dog and should be monitored for any changes throughout the lifespan of your pet. A high-quality dog food, which is formulated for a toy or small breed, should always be used.

English Toy Spaniels are known for being picky eaters; nevertheless, you should avoid feeding from the table, especially fatty scraps, unless you fancy dealing with the ramifications afterwards in the likely form of diarrhoea.



The medium length hair and noble disposition of an English Toy Spaniel may look daunting to uphold; however, they are only an average shedder and require quite basic maintenance.  Though they do not take much effort in the way of grooming, if left untamed, their hair can tangle and matts can form, which can cause further problems with their skin.  A quick brush daily will remove dust and debris and get out any tangles.  A wire pet comb should work to get out any stubborn dreads.  Their face should be washed daily to remove any eye discharge and leftover food that might have decided to linger on their facial fur.

Cutting their hair is not essential but may provide for easier maintenance, particularly in the Spring and Summer months when grass seeds and other fragments can travel in their fur. A quick trim around their feet and face can save you a lot of time later on.  As with most breeds, a bath is only needed once, or at most twice, per month.  Any more frequently and you dog can lose oils which are essential for keeping their skin and coat in good condition.  The ears and teeth should be checked and cleaned routinely every week.


Nails should be trimmed on average once a month.  An English Toy Spaniel is a fairly docile canine, so their nails are unlikely to wear down on the pavement and thus must be kept in check.  Since this breed is most likely be found curled up on your lap, or scratching at your feet for attention, long nails are unlikely to pass you by.


English Toy Spaniels are the epitome of a couch potato; they need a lot of sleep and take frequent naps throughout the day.  Their low energy level does not require much exercise at all and they are generally able to exercise themselves, especially if given toys and such to chase around.

Daily walks are encouraged, for both exercise and socialization; however, this breed is prone to wander and chase insects, birds and other flying creatures.  English Toy Spaniels are best always kept on a lead unless in a very secure, fenced yard.  Alternatively, this laid-back dog will happily explore a close radius as you enjoy a rest on a park bench.

Due to being a short muzzle breed, known as brachycephalic, it is important not to cause over exertion as they are prone to heat exhaustion.  It is best to avoid the heat of the day, and they will happily languish in the air conditioning of your home.


English Toy Spaniels are an amiable breed but can be stubborn to train and ignore basic commands.  They may be independent minded, erring on pig-headed; however, consistent, positive reinforcement with small food rewards, should combat this instinct.  They are a small and sensitive canine and will not take well to harsh training techniques.

The breed is often timid and shy with new people and animals so consistent socialization is very important from a young age.  Though they do not have strong guarding tendencies, they have been known to snap or bark when frightened.

It is important to lead train your English Toy Spaniel and take them for short walks.  They do tend to wander, escape and bolt so best to always keep them on a lead.

Growing up

We found this great video showing the first ten weeks of some Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. Which is absolutely adorable!


Before taking home your English Toy Spaniel, please take note of your current home situation.  This breed can be very happy in an apartment; but, if you are in a house then a fully fenced yard is a requirement as they are prone to escape and wander.  This breed loves comfort and spending time with their family; do not consider this breed if you will not be with your pet most each day.  This dog is a companion dog, and will not be happy entertaining themselves for long periods of time. 

Purchase a brush, wire comb and nail clippers before bringing your pup home and ensure that they get used to using each of these routinely.  This dog will be best as an almost completely indoor dog, enjoying the comfort of your home and your attention.


Known as a relatively quiet breed, with a low degree of exercise needed, English Toy Spaniels make excellent apartment dogs.  They have even known to be trained to use their own bathroom in the apartment if set up with paper in an appropriate spot.

Dog Houses / Kennels

English Toy Spaniels were bred to live in royal palaces and are not candidates for life as an outside dog.  It is certainly possible to train them to sleep in a kennel crate inside, but this is best to be done consistently from a very early age.  This breed is happiest when they are snuggling up to their owner and this may involve acquiring a sleeping companion.  Do keep in mind that this is a small dog, known for issues with their joints, and therefore should not be jumping up or down from a raised bed.  If you intend to sleep with your dog then it is best to provide a step for them to get up and down safely without injury.  In addition, remember that due to their short snout, English Toy Spaniels are inclined towards wheezing and snoring.

Leaving them alone

English Toy Spaniels may not need a lot of excitement and exercise; however, they hate being left alone for a long time.  They are a companion dog and need a lot of attention; your presence alone is very reassuring.  This breed will not bode well with being left outside and can easily develop separation anxiety from their owner which can lead to destructive behaviour in the form of chewing and barking.  Providing a safe space for them to sleep, whether this be their own kennel crate or a favourite blanket or warm spot on the couch, will likely alleviate some of the stress of being away from their owner.


English Toy Spaniels are known for a range of health issues.  When purchasing this, or any breed, it is best to speak to a reputable breeder.  They should be able to alleviate concerns about any genetic conditions and provide a genetic guarantee.  Remember though, that once you get attached to your pet, it is difficult to consider giving it back due to a genetic fault and surgeries can be expensive. 

Along with your veterinarian, monitor your dog’s health, keeping the following conditions in mind.  Health issues include a variety of eye and respiratory problems which are evident in many brachycephalic dogs.  Heart disease, particularly Patent Ductus Arteriosus and Mitral Valve Insufficiency, can cause difficulty breathing, coughing, heart murmurs, fainting and in the worst cases, heart failure though can be repaired with surgery.  The short muzzle of an English Toy Spaniel can also cause an allergy to anesthesia.

Patellar Luxation is common in many smaller dog breeds.  This condition is when the knee cap, thigh, and calf bones are not appropriately lined up and can lead to lameness, abnormal gait, and later arthritis and may require surgery. Other conditions to look out for are cleft palate, fused toes, open fontanel, umbilical hernia, and ‘lazy’ or protruding tongue.  However, most of these would be identified at a very early age by a reputable breeder.

It is important to consider the weather where you live before purchasing one of these types of dogs as they do not handle hot or excessively cold climates well.

Older age

English Toy Spaniels are inherently lazy dogs and therefore are prone to gaining weight in older age.  They likely might need persuasion to get out of the house for a walk but their desire to be with their owner should not make this too difficult.  Early-onset tooth decay is common in this breed but can be alleviated with a good oral hygiene routine and a regular vet check-up.


English Toy Spaniels are not commonly affected by allergies though rarely may have itching due to food intolerances or environmental factors.  Ideally always use high-quality dog food, specifically formulated for a small or toy breed.  Shampoos should always be specific for your pet.  Allergies in your pet can result in itchiness, bald spots, and digestive problems.  If any of these occur, it is always best to speak to your veterinarian so that you can discuss the best course of action.

Wrapping up

English Toy Spaniels are often described as merry, shy, loyal and lovable.  This small breed can make an excellent pet and delightful companion.  They are best suited to a quiet and sedate household and only require a low degree of daily exercise and grooming.  They enjoy long periods of time with their owner and will happily snuggle up for hours while you binge watch series or tuck into a good book.

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