English Toy Spaniel: Dog Breed Profile

Nicknamed the "Charlie," this toy spaniel will steal your heart

english toy spaniel

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The English Toy Spaniel, nicknamed the “Charlie” by breed lovers, is a small toy spaniel known for its merry personality and cuddly nature. Although rare English Toy Spaniel looks similar to the more common Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, two type breeds are distinct.

English Toy Spaniels have one priority: you. Everywhere you go, your sweet Charlie will quietly follow. If you stand still for more than a moment, your English Toy Spaniel will usually attempt to lie down right on top of your feet. Wonderful house pets and companions, English Toy Spaniels are extraordinary cuddlers, happy to warm your lap and be adored. 

In return for all their endless adoration and snuggles, an English Toy Spaniel asks you for lots of companionship. This personable breed does not do well when left alone at home for many hours a day. Luckily, their small size makes them very portable and they are happy to go wherever you do. Although they are energetic and love to play, English Toy Spaniels require only moderate exercise—a daily walk or two will usually suffice. They can get along well with older children who can be gentle with them, but any roughhousing from kids is a big no-no. The amiable English Toy Spaniel generally gets along other family pets as long as they are not too big and boisterous. 

Breed Overview

Group: Toy

Weight: 8 to 14 pounds 

Height: 9 to 10 inches tall at the shoulder

Coat: Straight to slightly wavy; silken and glossy 

Color: Blenheim (white with deep red or chestnut markings), Prince Charles (tricolor), King Charles (black and tan) or ruby (rich mahogany red)

Life Expectancy: 10 to 12 years

Characteristics of the English Toy Spaniel

Affection Level High
Friendliness Medium
Kid-Friendly Medium
Pet-Friendly High
Exercise Needs Low
Playfulness Medium
Energy Level Medium
Trainability Medium
Intelligence Medium
Tendency to Bark Low
Amount of Shedding High

History of the English Toy Spaniel

The English Toy Spaniel dates back to at least 15th century England. Little toy spaniels known as King Charles Spaniels popular with British kings and queens, most famously Charles II, which is why the breed has earned the nickname, the Charlie. The breed was originally used as a small sporting spaniel, but over time developed into more of a companion rather than a hunting dog. King Charles Spaniels were also known as “comforter spaniels,” owing to their innate desire to cuddle with and comfort their owners. 

In the 1800s, some breeders revamped the King Charles Spaniel by crossing it with Asian toy breeds like the Japanese Chin. These changes led to the King Charles Spaniel of today—what is called the English Toy Spaniel in the United States—a short, cobby-bodied toy spaniel with a short muzzle and domed head. The new spaniels were extremely popular and quickly outnumbered the “old style” King Charles Spaniels, which were slightly taller and more balanced, with longer muzzles and flatter skulls. Those old-style spaniels were almost lost to history, but breed fanciers stepped in and resurrected them in the 1920s, creating today’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

The English Toy Spaniel remained popular for centuries, but leading up to World War II, numbers of King Charles Spaniels declined worldwide (a phenomenon that affected many other breeds as well). After the war, the breed was saved from near extinction by breed lovers. Outside of the United States, the English Toy Spaniel is known as the King Charles Spaniel. In the United Kingdom, the King Charles Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are known as the two “royal Spaniels.” 

Difference Between the English Toy Spaniel and the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

At first glance, you might mistake an English Toy Spaniel for a related breed, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. This is not surprising since the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is far more common than the English Toy Spaniel. It’s highly likely that you’ve met a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whether in your own neighborhood or while traveling, but most people have never even seen an English Toy Spaniel. 

Today’s English Toy Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel were once one in the same: a small toy spaniel known as the King Charles Spaniel, but today, they are entirely separate breeds. Let’s take a look at the differences between the English Toy Spaniel and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  

The English Toy Spaniel is compact, cobby and essentially square, while the Cavalier is well-balanced and slightly longer than tall. At 8 to 14 pounds and 9 to 10 inches tall, the English Toy Spaniel is slightly smaller than the Cavalier, which is 13 to 18 pounds and 12 to 13 inches tall. 

The English Toy Spaniel’s muzzle is very short, with a slightly undershot bite; the Cavalier’s muzzle is slightly longer, with a scissors bite. The English Toy’s head is large in comparison to the size of the dog, with a high and well-domed skull and low-set ears. The Cavalier’s head is proportionate to the size of the dog; the skull is almost flat between the ears and the ears are set high on the head.

In temperament, the toy breeds are similar. Both are loyal and affectionate, with cheerful and friendly personalities. They also come in the same four color options: white and red (called Blenheim), black, white and tan (called Prince Charles in the English Toy breed standard and tricolor in the Cavalier breed standard), black and tan (called King Charles in the English Toy standard), and ruby (a rich, mahogany red).

English Toy Spaniel Dog Care

The English Toy Spaniel’s coat requires frequent brushing few times a week to keep it from becoming matted, but little to no trimming is needed (some pet owners favor sanitary trims around the rear end and cleaning up the hair slightly around the feet and face). Bathe your English Toy Spaniel every month or two, and trim the nails weekly. Check the ears frequently and clean them with a pet-safe ear cleaner if they appear dirty. If you notice odor and redness in the ears, contact your veterinarian for an exam. 

English Toy Spaniel can be a little stubborn when it comes to training, but they do want to please you, so if you start early in puppyhood your Charlie will learn the basics. Good manners in the house come somewhat naturally to the breed, so it’s more a matter of communicating your expectations clearly. The breed is sensitive, so always use gentle and positive training methods. 

Common Health Problems

Although the English Toy Spaniel is generally healthy, like most purebred dogs, the breed is prone to developing certain inherited heath conditions. Health problems identified in the English Toy Spaniel include Certain eye conditions, heart disease and luxating patellas (slipping kneecaps) have been. The English Toy Spaniel Club of America, the parent club for the breed in the United States, has designated certain health tests as required or recommended for English Toy Spaniels. These tests are an eye examination (Canine Eye Registration Foundation or Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), cardiac evaluation, OFA evaluation for luxating patellas and participation in the OFA/CHIC DNA Repository.

Diet and Nutrition

English Toy Spaniels are short and compact, and not exceptionally active dogs, so it’s especially important to avoid overfeeding them. Carrying too much weight can contribute to health issues like diabetes and exacerbate joint problems like luxating patellas, which the English Toy Spaniel is prone to developing. Feed your English Toy Spaniel scheduled meals, using a measuring cup or scale to weigh the food. If you’re not sure what food to feed your English Toy Spaniel, ask your breeder or veterinarian for a recommendation.

Pros
  • Exceptionally cuddly

  • Affectionate and devoted

  • Quiet, calm and clean 

Cons
  • Doesn’t do well when left alone 

  • Some may have separation anxiety 

  • May be shy or reserved with strangers

Where to Adopt or Buy an English Toy Spaniel

The English Toy Spaniel is exceedingly rare. If you’re interested in the breed, try to find a breeder who lives close to you. One way to do this is to reach out to the English Toy Spaniel Club of America, which is the national parent club for the breed in the United States. With limited breeders, it could be a years-long wait for a puppy. Be prepared get on a long waiting list. 

More Dog Breeds and Further Research

If you like the English Toy Spaniel, you might also like these breeds: 

Otherwise, check out all of our other dog breed articles to help you find the perfect dog for you and your family.