Everything you need to know about King Charles Spaniels

Written by Napo HQ
Reviewed by Dr Sarah Elliott
23rd Feb 2024
7 mins read
Throughout history, the King Charles Spaniels have been loving and charming companion dog.

Key Stats

Small (Toy)
10-12 years
Medium, silky
1 hour daily
daily or weekly
Gentle, loving, loyal

Breed history

The King Charles Spaniel is closely related to the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. But despite the similar look and name, they are different breeds! But their history is pretty linked.
The King Charles Spaniel, also known as the English Toy Spaniel in America, has a long history as a companion dog. They became recognisable in England in the 17th century. They’re named after King Charles II who loved the breed. In fact, most portraits of the king will also feature one of his furry friends. He owned them throughout his life and kept them around so often, many facts (and fables) exist about what he let them get up to. Like going into Parliament!
Then in the Victorian era, there was a trend towards dogs with flatter faces and shorter noses. This then led to the King Charles Spaniel being bred to have a more rounded head and shorter muzzle. In 1945, The Kennel Club in the UK officially recognised the King Charles Spaniel. So short snout = King Charles Spaniel!
In the early 20th century, people wanted to bring back the original look of the spaniels from the time of King Charles II, with a longer snout. This led to the creation of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. They’re now their own recognised breed.


The King Charles Spaniel is a cute and elegant small breed, with an equally sweet personality. They have large, round, dark eyes that give them their adorable puppy-like expression. Their curly ears are set high and hang close to the skull, framing their faces and giving them a regal look. They have a medium-length, silky coat and like many spaniels, they have feathers on their chest and legs, and a long plumed tail.

King Charles Spaniel colours

There isn’t a huge range of colours for this breed, and are mostly shades of white, red, or black. The King Charles Spaniel colours recognised by the Kennel Club breed standard are:
  • Black
  • Tan
  • Red
  • Chestnut
  • Black & tan
  • Black, tan & white
  • Red & white

King Charles Spaniel temperament

The King Charles Spaniel temperament is that of a gentle and loving dog. This breed thrives with a lot of attention and spending time with their owners. They were bred to be companions and pets, so they love human company. But it does mean they can struggle with separation anxiety.
These Spaniels can be shy around new people. But if they’re well-socialised when they're young, it helps them be more confident. But once they know you, they're super playful and affectionate. One thing for sure is they're very loyal and loving, making them great pals for anyone who wants a small, friendly dog with a regal appearance.

How much exercise does a King Charles Spaniel need?

King Charles Spaniels need at least one hour of exercise a day. They might be small, but they’re still smart and active! Besides walks, mentally stimulating games will help keep their intelligent brains working, and prevent boredom. These dogs love being around people, especially their human family, and need a lot of human interaction.

How to groom a King Charles Spaniel

King Charles Spaniels have a silky, medium-length coat with feathers on the ears, chest, legs, and tail. They need regular grooming to stop their feathers from getting tangles and prevent matting. You should brush them a few times a week to help get rid of any dirt and dead hair in their coat, and prevent matting and tangles.
As well as brushing, they’ll need the occasional bath every 6 weeks or so, or whenever they get visibly dirty or smelly. King Charles Spaniels, like other Toy breeds, can have tear stains. You can help prevent the rusty stains from developing by gently wiping around their eyes daily with a damp cloth.
Like all spaniels, their droopy, hairy ears make them prone to ear infections. So you should check their ears regularly, and clean them whenever you need to prevent dirt or wax buildup. And like any other dog, you should trim their nails every month. And brush their teeth regularly, ideally once a day, to help prevent dental disease.

Common King Charles Spaniel health problems

Heart disease

Heart disease is the most common health issue in King Charles Spaniels. It’s caused by degeneration of one of the heart valves. Sadly it can’t be prevented or cured, but it can be managed. Regular vet check-ups can catch any issues early, which is vital because starting medication before the heart starts to fail has been proven to help dogs with heart disease live longer.

Dental disease

Dental disease is common in all dogs, but it’s a particularly common health problem for King Charles Spaniels because of their short muzzle. This can lead to their teeth overcrowding which increases their risk of dental disease. Tartar builds up on their teeth, which makes gums inflamed and recede, and leads to infection and loose teeth. Bacteria can enter the bloodstream through diseased gums leading to kidney damage. Regularly brushing their teeth helps prevent tartar build up. Your vet can give you more advice on keeping their mouths healthy.

Eye problems

Eye problems are relatively common in King Charles Spaniel health problems. Dry eye happens when there aren’t enough tears produced to keep the surface of the eye lubricated. This can lead to inflammation, infection, scarring, and ulceration of the surface of the eye. Corneal ulcers can also happen from eye trauma or infections. Another prblem to look out for it cherry eye. This is when the tear gland protrudes from under the eyelid and becomes dramatically visible.

Luxating patella

Luxating patella is a common issue in most toy breeds, including the King Charles. It’s where the kneecap slips out of place. In severe cases surgery may be needed to treat this.

Anal gland issues

Anal glands hold liquid that usually empties when dogs poop. In some dogs, they don’t and get full and uncomfortable. It can also lead to abscesses and infections. Chewing around the tail or scooting on the floor can be a sign of blocked anal glands. Emptying of the anal glands can be improved with diet and supplements, which your vet can advise you on. Sometimes anal glands need to be surgically removed if they’re causing frequent issues.


Syringomyelia is a neurological disorder related to the dome-shaped skull of the King Carles Spaniel. Bones can deform and press on the spinal cord causing pressure and fluid to build up in the spinal cord at the neck. Symptoms might seem odd, like ‘fly catching’ and air scratching.

Frequently asked questions about King Charles Spaniels

Do King Charles Spaniels shed?

Yes, King Charles Spaniels shed, but not as much as some other longer haired breeds. They’ll shed a little throughout the year, but regular brushing helps to reduce this.

Are King Charles Spaniels hypoallergenic?

King Charles Spaniels are not hypoallergenic. They shed some fur and dander. Although many allergies vary by breed, so some people may find they tolerate King Charles Spaniels better than other breeds. Plus, no dog, no matter their breed, is completely hypoallergenic!

How long do King Charles Spaniels live?

King Charles Spaniels normally live from 10 to 12 years. With good care and a healthy lifestyle, some can live longer.

How big do King Charles Spaniels get?

An adult King Charles Spaniel will be about 23 to 28 cm tall, and weigh between 3.5 to 6.3kg. Boy dogs tend to be bigger and heavier than girls dogs.

Do King Charles Spaniels bark a lot?

King Charles Spaniels will bark occassionally. Remember barking is a normal behaviour for dogs, and every dog is different. Training and their environment affect how much a dog barks more than their breed.
Your King Charles Spaniel might bark when they think there could be danger, or when they're excited. They might also bark when they’re left alone if they haven’t been trained to be alone. Training as puppies not to bark and getting them used to different situations will help them learn when it's appropriate to bark.

What were King Charles Spaniels bred for?

King Charles Spaniels were originally bred as companion dogs. They were specifically bred to be lap dogs and companions to royalty and aristocracy during the Renaissance period in England.

What’s a teacup King Charles Spaniel?

A teacup dog is one that’s deliberately bred to be dramatically small, supposedly small enough to fit in a teacup. Often they’re 2kg or smaller. So a teacup King Charles Spaniel is not a different breed, it’s just a dog that’s been bred to be very small.
But, breeding for looks or size alone can lead to unscrupulous breeding practices. Sadly, breeding dogs for such small size can negatively impact their health. Plus, breeding dogs just to get a certain look means they’re more likely to inherit health conditions or poor temperaments.

King Charles Spaniels vs Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

These dogs are often confused for each other, but they are two different breeds! But, they have very similar names, looks, and history.
The King Charles Spaniel is an older breed. They also look a bit different, with a more domed head, a shorter nose, and a more compact build.
Meanwhile, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have a flatter head and a longer snout. They're usually bigger too, with longer legs in proportion to their body compared to a King Charles Spaniel. Cavaliers also tend to be a little more energetic and outgoing.

Jump to

Can dogs eat pineapple
Can dogs eat pineapple
Pineapple's packed with essential nutrients and can be a tasty, tropical treat for your dog. Be careful with younger pupswho might struggle to digest it. Not all forms of pineapple are healthy either, like juice, which is high in sugar. Always remove the skin and core before giving it to your dog.
Everything you need to know about Border Collies
Everything you need to know about Border Collies
Smart, loyal and agile. The Border Collie is well known for its herding skills, which also makes them amazing pets for active people!
Breed guide
Why do dogs scratch the carpet?
Why do dogs scratch the carpet?
There’s a few reasons why your dog might be scratching the carpet. From boredom, to enjoyment. Find out why they do it and how to stop it.