First time owning a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are a very popular dog breed, and they can make great pets. However, it’s important that you know what to expect when bringing one into your home, and what you must do around the home in preparation for their arrival.

As a general rule, you must make your home a fun, exciting, but safe place for your Cavalier to come to. If you are taking in an older rescue Cavalier, then you need to consider a quieter environment, whereas, with a puppy, safety is of the utmost importance.

The first time you bring a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel into your home it can be chaotic and challenging, especially if there are children involved. There are several things that must be prepared in advance before the arrival of your new precious pooch.

Preparing Your Home

When you bring your new puppy home, it’s important to make sure they have the space they need. In addition to providing a place for sleep, eating, and playing, you’ll also want to ensure that the rest of your house doesn’t pose any danger. As with any animal, there are certain things that will be harmful (or at least annoying) if left lying around:

  • Nail clippers or scissors
  • Sticky tape (like masking or duct)
  • Sharp pens/pencils
  • Cleaning products
  • Small items (choking hazard)

In addition to these objects themselves being dangerous when chewed on by a curious Cavalier pup, they can also cause trips and falls if they’re left on the floor. Make sure all sharp objects are safely stored away so no one gets hurt.

While it’s a good idea to keep your space free from clutter, you also want to make sure that the puppy has their own area where they can feel safe and comfortable. If you have children, this may be in a separate room from where kids play. The best place for your new dog will depend on how many people live in your household and the number of rooms you have.

In an open plan area, choose a ‘doggie zone’ that can be their special place. You might want to consider setting up an indoor kennel or a crate with bedding so that they have their own special place to go to when they get tired, or just need a bit of ‘me’ time.

If possible, it’s important for your Cavvy to have access to an outdoor space where they can run around and get some exercise as well. However, this isn’t essential, Cavaliers are also adaptable to apartment living, just ensure they are given regular outdoor bathroom breaks, on top of their daily exercise, to avoid accidents.

Involving The Children

If you have children, then involve them in the process of Cavalier adoption, as it’s a great way to ensure that they are fully involved with caring for their new pet. This will also show them the importance of how to behave around their new best friend. They need to understand that he or she has feelings, and must be treated with love and respect.

I know what you’re thinking. What happens when my children are too young to care for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel? Well, I think that it is important for children to grow up around animals, as watching you care for them will build a lasting impression on them.

I have had many different types of animals in my life from birth to this very moment, and I feel blessed to have cared for each and every one of them. If you give them daily tasks, such as grooming, then this will create an unbreakable bond between them. As they get older, they can be entrusted with further tasks such as feeding and taking them for walks, which will further strengthen that bond.

Leash and Collar or Leash and Harness?

Now that you’ve decided it’s time for a Cavalier to be your forever fur friend, we need to talk about the leash, collar, or harness that you’ll need to purchase, but you don’t want to waste money on an incorrect fit. The best way to be confident that you have the right fit is to try them on at the pet store, and if you are unsure, ask one of the assistants to help you.

When selecting a collar is that it should be snug enough so that it won’t slip over your Cavvy’s head if he or she tugs on it, but not so tight that your pet feels uncomfortable wearing it. A good rule of thumb is, no more than one finger between the collar and the neck when its on.

As, like humans, Cavaliers come in a range of shapes and sizes, and so we have collated some general measurements in the table below to assist you:

Neck Size 6-11 inches (15-28 cm)
Girth 12.5-18 inches (32-46 cm)
Weight 7 – 17 lbs
Neck Size 11-13 inches (28-33 cm)
Girth 16-23 inches (40.5-58.5 cm)
Weight 15 – 27 lbs
Neck Size 13-19 inches (33-48 cm)
Girth 20-29 inches (50.5-73.5 cm)
Weight 25 – 42 lbs
*Measurements in centimeters are estimated

Leashes don’t really need sizing and are generally a personal preference. However, there are general leash lengths that should be used in specific environments. 6 feet long is recommended in less busy, open areas where your Cavvy won’t be a nuisance to others, and 4 feet long is recommended in very busy, built up areas with lots of pedestrians. The shorter length will assist you to keep control of your Cavalier.


Cavaliers are small dogs with big appetites, and so he or she will need to be fed a diet that will keep them fit and healthy for their whole life. Dogs that are overweight can have health problems such as heart disease and diabetes so it’s important to keep them at an ideal weight.

There are many blog posts all with differing values regarding how to feed your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but the best advice you can take is from your veterinarian. We did exactly that, as Lady had started to gain a bit of weight, so, on the vet’s advice, we enrolled her into a health clinic, where they advised her to eat Royal Canin for Cavaliers.

However, she wasn’t overly keen on eating it at first, so with the assistance of the vets in the health clinic, they agreed to break her meals down into 3 smaller portions, and now she has a mixture of Royal Canin kibble, wet dog food, and homemade meals. All strictly measured of course, so that she doesn’t gain any more weight.

She is still a bit overweight (let’s face it, who isn’t in this day and age), but only because she is getting older and doesn’t exercise as much as she should, but as we are keeping her on a strict diet, her weight isn’t increasing, which is very important.

Another important thing that you need to remember is to make sure your dog has access to plenty of fresh water at all times, preferably from their own bowl or container. This is especially so when they are eating kibble as it is very dry. Not only that, when kibble gets wet it expands, so after they have eaten what looks like a very small bowl of food, the water expands the kibble in their stomach making them feel fuller, and therefore satisfying their hunger.

A kibble piece soaked in water on the left compared to a dry one on the right

Toys Required

As a brand new Cavalier owner, you will want to play with your new friend as much as possible, but unfortunately, even though we would love to play all day long, this isn’t always possible as we have other things that need to be done. So we need to purchase some toys to fill the gap between playtime.

There are many different types of toys you can buy for Cavaliers, too many to list, so I like to sort them into 3 distinct categories. These are ‘Play Toys’, ‘Puzzle Toys’, and ‘Prey Toys’.

Play Toys

These types of toys are the ‘go-to’ toys for general play when they are bored or just need something to chew on. Generally, I would select a hard rubber bone, ball, or ring for them to chew on and play with. Ensure you get a hard-wearing toy or a selection of toys, as Cavaliers have very strong jaws. A cheap toy will be destroyed in minutes, so spending slightly more on a toy that will last them their entire lives is worth it.

Puzzle Toys

Puzzle toys are exactly that, a puzzle for them to work out. It keeps their minds occupied as they usually hold a small treat inside that your Cavvy will be determined to get to. These puzzles can vary from very simple to quite complex, and do keep them occupied for hours as they want to get to the tasty treat that is hidden away.

However, for these types of toys, you can’t use them every day as Cavaliers are very intelligent. As soon as they have figured out how to get to the treat, they will be able to do it very quickly the next time. So you either need to restrict their access to these types of toys to once per week or maybe purchase a few different puzzles and alternate them to keep their brains active.

There are a multitude of dog puzzle toys you can choose from on Amazon, and also at your local pet store. I prefer to look at them in the store to see what is required of them before purchasing and if they will be suitable for you Cavalier. Once I have found the perfect toy, I will shop around, as it may be cheaper in another store or online.

Prey Toys

These types of toys bring out their natural instincts. As you are probably aware Cavaliers were used as hunting dogs in the past, and their natural instincts can still be seen to this day.

Prey toys are usually only associated with cats, as they simulate prey movement and encourage your pet to chase after, and pounce on them. For a cat, this could be anything from a feather on a stick, to a remote-controlled mouse. Cavaliers, however, would be more partial to a frisbee, or a squeaky bone. I will warn you though, that a squeaky bone gets annoying very quickly, so avoid them if you can.

That being said, all Cavaliers are different, and what some would love, others may detest. We have 2 stuffed animals called Bunny and Dog (not very inventive I know) that Lady likes to hold in her mouth and thrash from side to side and also play tug-o-war with us, with Bunny or Dog being the rope.

Although she is growling and snarling whilst playing with them, she is not being aggressive in any way, she is just full of excitement. Then when she has had enough play time, she will settle down with either Bunny or Dog (whichever one has been selected for that day) and have a well-deserved nap.

Dog and Bunny have seen better days

Toys to Avoid

Remember that Cavaliers are like children, they will play with anything, so it is important that you select the correct toys for them to play with. Ensure that you only purchase toys from a reputable retailer and ones that are specifically designed for dogs, as they will be biting these toys, so if they are not designed for dogs, then accidents could happen.

Here is a short list of possible dangers to look out for when selecting your Cavaliers toys:

  • Soft Rubbers
  • Sharp or brittle plastic
  • Small parts that can be bitten off
  • Possible harmful chemicals
  • Paints
  • Toxic glues
  • Anything with sharp edges or corners

As previously stated, if you are buying from a reputable retailer, and the products are specifically designed for dogs, you should be okay. However, please watch over your Cavalier whilst playing, as accidents can and do happen, so monitor them as you would a young child.

General Upkeep

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are relatively low-maintenance dogs, and are very happy to just be around you, have a full tummy, and go for a walk each day. But there are some additional steps that are required to keep your Cavvy healthy, which some people may overlook.


To keep your Cavalier’s coat shiny and free of matted fur you will need to brush them quite regularly. Daily brushing is of course recommended, but if you can give your Cavvy a lengthy weekly brush, and just a quick daily brush to remove any dead hairs, or whenever you notice any tangles or knots in their coat, this will suffice. Lengthy daily brushing is usually performed by those owners that have ‘show’ Cavaliers, and I have got to say that they look amazing.


Bathing is also required from time to time, but you must avoid frequent baths as this can strip oils from their skin which can lead to it drying out, so it is important to check for signs of irritation after bathing, such as scratching or nibbling excessively. This could mean that they have sensitive skin and therefore you may need to use gentle bathing products that are designed for sensitive skin if necessary.

Brushing Teeth

Clean teeth are obviously a very important part of caring for your Cavvy’s overall health. You should brush your dog’s teeth at least once a week, but daily if possible, using an enzymatic toothpaste made especially for dogs. Lady has liver-flavored toothpaste – gross.

Cleaning a dog’s teeth is the same as your own, simply put some paste on the brush, then gently massage it over each tooth surface until they’re clean. Sounds easy until you try to brush a dog’s teeth, all they are interested in is eating the paste, so you may have to work with an assistant when doing this task, one to hold them steady and lift up their lip, and the other to get the brushing done.

If you introduce their teeth to being brushed at an early stage in their lives, it is a lot easier, but that being said, it is still a struggle to stop them from licking the paste right off the brush before you’ve even started.


With any breed of dog, training is a vital part of their daily lives, as it gives them the building blocks to be kind and loving pets both now and in the future.

Training can be for anything, such as playing fetch, sitting before crossing the road, or simply not begging whilst you are eating dinner. But you must ensure that the training is fun and that you do not scold your Cavvy for doing things wrong, if training is not fun for both you and your doggie, then you will achieve nothing from it.

I have written a previous article about teaching your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to fetch which I hope you may find interesting and helpful in some way. You can read this article here.

First Day Home

You are going to want to introduce your Cavalier to the house as soon as he or she arrives, this will mean letting them roam around the entire house, apartment, RV, or wherever you live, to get the general feel of the place and to discover all the new scents that they will encounter. During this time, make sure you keep a close eye on them, as this is a perfect ‘peeing’ opportunity. This is not naughty behavior, they are simply accepting this as their new home and giving it their scent to ward other dogs away.

Introducing the Family

You should introduce your new Cavvy to each family member, and the best way to do this is to all sit at ground level, to prevent any intimidation, and make sure each person is evenly spaced apart. Then allow her or him to come to each of you individually and allow them to spend as much time as they want with each person.

Never overcrowd them, or try to grab them, this could cause fear and on many occasions irreversible mental trauma that would tarnish their future relationship with you. This is especially true in young children, as they are unaware of how to behave around animals. Some dogs may just shrug it off and think nothing of it, but until you are 100% certain, then you must play it safe.

Introducing Other Pets

Other pets that already have an established presence in the household could be tricky, as they may see the ‘new addition’ as a threat to them. This is not only true for other dogs but also for different species of animals too, such as a cat.

Always introduce them with caution, and in a room that has the door open, never make them feel trapped in an uncomfortable situation. Stay in the room with them, but don’t interfere with their interactions unless they show signs of a possible fight breaking out, but at the same time don’t put yourself in any danger.

You must never favor one animal over the other, or give belongings such as toys, blankets, or beds from one to the other, as this will cause arguments between the two of them.

Over time they will become firm friends and will grow to depend on each other, creating an unbreakable bond.


When you get your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, whether it is a puppy, or in fact a rescue Cavvy, it will be a joyous occasion. You’ll have fun bonding with them and showing them off to your family and friends, and I know for certain that it will be one of the most fulfilling experiences of your life.

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