English Toy Spaniel

Tiny, Affectionate, Shadow "Babies"

English Toy Spaniel

A Gentle Lapdog That Must Have Companionship as well as Clear Guidelines for Proper Behavior

Also often known as the King Charles Spaniel, the English Toy Spaniel did not originate in England, despite its name. Instead, it came from the Far East, specifically Japan, and probably shares ancestry with the Japanese Chin and the Pekingese. These Spaniels were given to European royalty as gifts, and ultimately made their way to England as a breed. The first Toy Spaniel to have an appearance on record in England was as part of a painting of Mary I of England and King Philip II of Spain. Mary Queen of Scots was also fond of toy dogs including Spaniels, and in fact was enamored of them before King Charles II, for whom the breed is actually named. King Henry III, of France, also owned Damarets, a type of small Spaniel.

King Charles II, a Major Influence

Because King Charles II of England was very fond of toy Spaniel dogs, they ultimately were called King Charles Spaniels, in addition to their more commonly-used name of English Toy Spaniels. There's no evidence that the modern King Charles Spaniel is actually descended from his dogs, but he greatly contributed to this dog’s popularity.

A "Royal" Dog

Toy Spaniels of the King Charles type were in demand during the reign of James II through to that of Queen Anne. In the late 1600s, the Pug was introduced and began to make significant changes to the toy Spaniel breeds. By 1830, the King Charles dogs had larger eyes and shorter noses. The forehead was also more prominent. However, English Toy Spaniels remained trendy throughout the 18th century, even with the introduction of the purebred Pug, and were considered ladies' dogs, weighing as little as five pounds.

Their Role as "Comforters"

The English Toy Spaniel had a significant role beginning in the 16th century as a lady's "comforter." Ladies carried these dogs with them as they traveled, but by the 1830s, this practice had begun to fall out of favor. Nonetheless, English Spaniels continued to be "comforters" and lapdogs to ladies, to the point that they were considered to have special healing powers. One writer, Edward Topsell, noted in 1607 that "these little dogs are good to assuage the sickness of stomach, being oftentimes thereunto applied as a plaster preservative, or bourn in the bosom of the diseased and weak person, which effect is performed by their moderate heat."

They continued to be preferred by royalty like Queen Victoria, whose first dog was a King Charles Spaniel she named Dash. Today, these gentle, happy, playful companions are naturally well-behaved and very smart. Because they are so docile, they have proven to be wonderful companions for just about anyone, including children. Today, the AKC recognizes this dog as a member of the Toy Group.


The English Toy Spaniel is a small dog, weighing roughly 9 to 12 pounds in adulthood and standing about 10 inches at the shoulder. The dog has a square shape, with a round, large head and a very short "pushed in" nose. The eyes are very large in proportion to the face, usually dark brown or black with black eye rims. Long, low-hanging ears are set close to the head with heavy feathering. Colors are specific to the type of English Toy Spaniel. King Charles Spaniels are usually black and tan; Ruby Spaniels are mahogany or red and may have a small white patch on the chest; the Prince Charles is tricolor, white with black-and-tan markings; and the Blenheim is white with red markings. In the past, various color varieties were often bred out to produce a specific color, but today, all of the colorings mentioned above are considered English Toy Spaniels, or alternatively, King Charles Spaniels.

In 1903, the Kennel Club tried to combine all color types (King Charles, Ruby, Prince Charles, Blenheim) into a single breed called the Toy Spaniel. King Edward VII intervened and settled the issue, saying that he preferred the dogs be called King Charles Spaniels. In 1904, the American Kennel Club concurred, yet the breed is still also known as the English Toy Spaniel.


These little dogs are tiny, affectionate, shadow "babies" who simply want to be near you. Indeed, their history as lapdogs certainly manifests itself in today's modern English Toy Spaniel's behavior. Perhaps the most accurate word for the English Toy Spaniel's temperament is "sweet." Your little pet is also very intelligent and innately well-behaved, meaning it won't need much intervention from you in regard to discipline. That said, it's imperative that you provide your pet with consistent boundaries, firm but gentle guidance, and a calmly authoritative approach. While other small breeds are more prone to a detested behavior called "Small Dog Syndrome,” even the exceedingly patient, gentle, and sweet English Toy Spaniel can also develop this syndrome if you encourage such an outcome.

Beware Of Small Dog Syndrome!

Small Dog Syndrome develops when human owners spoil their small dogs and treat them like children instead of the dogs they are. The result is that they become spoiled, tiny terrors who think they rule the roost. Dogs who develop Small Dog Syndrome may become demanding or willful, may bark excessively, and may even become aggressive, by snarling, growling and biting. (Lest you think being bitten by a tiny dog is simply "adorable" and not much to worry about, think again.) Even small dogs' bites can be serious, especially if the victim is a small child.) Provide your pet with just enough discipline, gently, and it will be much happier – and so will you.

A True Companion Dog!

Above all, the English Toy Spaniel is a companion dog. It must have human contact at all times. This breed will develop a very strong attachment to you and selected others in the family and will not be able to endure the agony of isolation! If you must be away a lot and cannot take your little dog with you, it's best that you get another breed.

Proper Environment

The English Toy Spaniel can live successfully in just about any environment, whether apartment or house. These little dogs establish strong ties to both large families or single companions, and are especially well-behaved with children, as long as the conscientious owner provides clear guidelines and avoids the development of Small Dog Syndrome. Because of the breed’s small size, it is important that you teach children to treat your little pet gently. Although quite sturdy, such small dogs can be prone to injury if handled too roughly. Ample vigorous exercise is highly recommended, especially a daily walk. Indoors, these dogs are relatively inactive.


English Toy Spaniels can have respiratory problems (common to brachycephalic or short-muzzled breeds), as well as eye problems. They can also have metabolic difficulties common to small breeds, and may be picky eaters. Other than that, though, they are quite healthy and will live an average of 10 or 12 years.


Your little pet is an average shedder and only needs to be brushed on a regular basis to stay well groomed. Bathe only if necessary.

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