The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is small, loving and playful. The typical Cavalier is always happy, trusting and easygoing, a friend to everyone he meets. True to their heritage as “comforter dogs,” Cavaliers love to be in a lap.
Cavalier temperament ranges from sweet and placid to hard-charging and even stubborn. The sweet, placid Cavaliers sometimes have a reputation for being dumb, and the stubborn ones for being untrainable, but in general, these dogs are smart and learn quickly. They respond well to positive reinforcement techniques, especially when food rewards are offered, but harsh words will cause them to stop trying or even to hide. A Cavalier should usually never be shy or aggressive to people or other dogs.
Cavaliers live to be with their people. The ideal home is one with a stay-at-home parent, work-at-home spouse or retired couple. The dogs generally love kids and do well in families with older children who will throw a ball for them, teach them tricks or just hang out with them. Because of their small size, though, Cavaliers must be protected from clumsy toddlers who might fall on them or “pet” them with too much force.
A few things to know about Cavaliers: they love to lick, they love to chase moving objects (especially feathered ones) and they can be manipulative when they want food (those eyes!). It’s difficult or impossible to curb these behaviors so you need to find a way to work around them, such as always keeping the dog on leash in areas with traffic and hardening your heart when your Cavalier wants to share your French fries.
The Cavalier is not perfect. Any dog, no matter how nice, can develop obnoxious levels of barking, digging and other undesirable behaviors if he is bored, untrained or unsupervised.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know something about your lifestyle and personality.
The perfect Cavalier doesn’t spring fully formed from the whelping box. He’s a product of his background and breeding. Whatever you want from a Cavalier, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood…