Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Breed Standard
Breed Standards can be interpreted differently due to the way standards are written. I will attempt to clarify the breed standard, but realize my interpretation can still differ from another person's opinion.
AKC Standard: The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is an active, graceful, well-balanced toy spaniel, very gay and free in action; fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate. It is this typical gay temperament, combined with true elegance and royal appearance which are of paramount importance in the breed. Natural appearance with no trimming, sculpting or artificial alteration is essential to breed type.
CKCSC, USA Standard: An active, graceful, well-balanced dog, very gay and free in action. Appearance: fearless and sporting in character, yet at the same time gentle and affectionate.
My interpretation: The first impression should be that of a graceful, well-balanced toy spaniel which has the fearless sporting character of its larger cousins, yet with a royal appearance. "Fearless" is not meant to suggest the fearlessness of a warrier, but that of an innocent nature who cannot imagine any harm coming to it.
Size, Proportion, Substance
AKC Standard: Size - Height 12 to 13 inches at the withers; weight proportionate to height, between 13 and 18 pounds. A small, well balanced dog within these weights is desirable, but these are ideal heights and weights and slight variations are permissible. Proportion - The body approaches squareness, yet if measured from point of shoulder to point of buttock, is slightly longer than the height at the withers. The height from the withers to the elbow is approximately equal to the height from the elbow to the ground. Substance - Bone moderate in proportion to size. Weedy and coarse specimens are to be equally penalized.
CKCSC, USA Standard: Height 12 to 13 inches at the withers; weight, proportionate to height, between 13 and 18 pounds. These are ideal heights and weights; slight variations are permissible and a dog should not be penalized only in comparison with one of equal general appearance, type and quality. The weedy specimen is as much to be penalized as the oversized one.
My interpretation: The height measurement from the withers to the elbow is approximately the same as from the elbow to the ground. Some might appear short legged or long legged if the measurements are not close to the same. In proportion a well balanced dog is slightly longer than tall. Square is incorrect and too long generally looks short legged which is also incorrect. Substance should never appear delicate and a Cavalier should lift heavier than it looks.
AKC Standard: Size - Proportionate to size of dog, appearing neither too large nor too small for the body. Expression - The sweet, gentle, melting expression is an important breed characteristic. Eyes - Large, round, but not prominent and set well apart; color a warm, very dark brown; giving a lustrous, limpid look. Rims dark. There should be cushioning under the eyes which contributes to the soft expression. Faults - small, almond-shaped, prominent, or light eyes; white surrounding ring. Ears - Set high, but not close, on top of the head. Leather long with plenty of feathering and wide enough so that when the dog is alert, the ears fan slightly forward to frame the face. Skull - Slightly rounded, but without dome or peak; it should appear flat because of the high placement of the ears. Stop is moderate, neither filled nor deep. Muzzle - Full muzzle slightly tapered. Length from base of stop to tip of nose about 1½ inches. Face well filled below eyes. Any tendency towards snipiness undesirable. Nose pigment uniformly black without flesh marks and nostrils well developed. Lips well developed but not pendulous giving a clean finish. Faults - Sharp or pointed muzzles. Bite - A perfect, regular and complete scissors bite is preferred, i.e. the upper teeth closely overlapping the lower teeth and set square into the jaws. Faults - undershot bite, weak or crooked teeth, crooked jaws.
CKCSC, USA Standard: Head - The skull is lightly rounded, but without a dome or peak, it should appear flat because of the high placement of the ears. Eyes - Large, round and set well apart, color a warm, very dark brown, giving a lustrous, limpid look. There should be slight cushioning under the eyes, which contributes muct to the sweet, gentle expression characteristic of the breed. Faults: Small, almond shaped, prominent, or light eyes, white surrounding ring. Nose - There should be a shallow stop, and the length from the base of the stop to tip of nose should be at least 1 1/2 inches. Nostrils should be well developed and the pigment uniformly black. Putty, or "dudley" noses, and white patches on the nose are serious faults, as are small, pinched nostrils. Muzzle - Well tapered, mouth level, lips well covering. Faults: Sharp, pointed or snipey muzzle. Full or pendulous lips. Flesh marks, i.e. patches of pink pigment showing through hair on muzzle. Teeth - Strong and even, preferably meeting in a scissor bite, although a level bite is permitted. Undershot mouths are greatly to be discouraged; it should be emphasized, however, that a slightly undershot bite in an otherwise well-balanced head with the correct sweet expression should not be penalized in favor of a level mouth with plain or hard expression. Faults: Weak or crooked teeth; crooked jaw. Ears - Set high, but not close, on top of the head. Leather long, with plenty of silky feathering, and wide enough so that when the dog is alert, the ears fan slightly forward to frame the face.
My interpretation: No head is correct without the soft melting expression. Expression is a result of a flat appearing skull and large round eyes with slight padding underneath and framed perfectly by the high-set ears.
AKC Standard: Neck - Fairly long, without throatiness, well enough muscled to form a slight arch at the crest. Set smoothly into nicely sloping shoulders to give an elegant look. Topline - Level both when moving and standing. Body - Short-coupled with ribs well spring but not barrelled. Chest moderately deep, extending to elbows allowing ample heart room. Slightly less body at the flank than at the last rib, but with no tucked-up appearance. Tail - Well set on, carried happily but never much above the level of the back, and in constant characteristic motion when the dog is in action. Docking is optional. If docked, no more than one third to be removed.
CKCSC, USA Standard: Neck - Fairly long, without throatiness, well enough muscled to form a slight arch at the crest. Set smoothly into nicely sloping shoulders. Shoulders - Sloping back gently with moderate angulation, to give the characteristic look of top class and presence. Body - Short-coupled with ribs well sprung but not barrelled. Chest moderately deep, leaving ample heart room. Back level, leading into strong, muscular hind quarters. Slightly less body at the flank than at the last rib, but with no tucked-up appearance. Tail - Set so as to carried level with the back. Tail should be in constant, characteristic motion when dog is in action. Docking: Docking is optional, but whether or not the tail is docked, it must balance the body. If docked, the tail must not be cut too short; two-thirds is the absolute minimum to be left on the body, and the tails of broken -colored dogs should always be docked to leave a white tip.
My interpretation: Neck has a slight muscular arch at the crest and has sufficient length to allow the head to be carried proudly. Shoulders need to be well laid-back and neck is needed to aid in correct shoulder assembly. Toplines can go off during the growing periods of puppy development so this is one area that you just have to wait out until your Cavalier is fully mature sometimes to know if you have a level topline. There should be a slight forechest that adds about a half inch, excluding coat, to the outline. The rib cage is comparatively long for a toy dog with the forechest to the last rib being about two-thirds of the dog and the remainder is comprised of the loin and hindquarters. Looking down upon the dog there should be a slight waist between the last rib and the flank. Cavaliers are short coupled which refers to the length between the last rib and the hip. Correct tail carriage is between two o'clock and four o'clock with three o'clock being the ideal. Males, in particular will posture at one another, flagging their tails up, but once settled and on the move they generally drop them back to their natural carriage.
AKC Standard: Forequarters - Shoulders well laid back. Forelegs straight and well under the dog with elbows close to the sides. Pasterns strong and feet compact with well-cushioned pads. Dewclaws may be removed. Hindquarters - The hindquarters construction should come down from a good broad pelvis, moderately muscled; stifles well turned and hocks well let down. The hindlegs when viewed from the rear should parallel each other from hock to heel. Faults - Cow or sickle hocks
CKCSC, USA Standard: Forelegs straight and well under the dog, bone moderate, elbows close the the sides. Hind legs moderately muscled; stifles well turned; hocks well let down. The hind legs viewed from the rear should parallel each other from the hock to the heel. Pastern strong and feet compact with well cushioned pads. The dog stands level on all four feet. Faults: Loose elbow, crooked legs, stifles turned in or out, cow hocks, stiltedaction, weak pasterns, open feet.
AKC Standard: Of moderate length, silky, free from curl. Slight wave permissible. Feathering on ears, chest, legs and tail should be long, and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed. No trimming of the dog is permitted. Specimens where the coat has been altered by trimming, clipping, or by artificial means shall be so severly penalized as to be effectively eliminated from competition. Hair growing between the pads on the underside of the feet may be trimmed.
CKCSC, USA Standard: Long and silky and very soft to the touch; free from curl, though slight wave is permissible. Feathering on the ears, legs and tail should be long, and the feathering on the feet is a feature of the breed. Trimming: NO trimming of the dog is permitted. However, it is permissible, often desirable, to remove the hair growing between the pads and the underside of the foot.
My interpretation: I prefer the natural look without any trimming except between the pads like the standard calls for. In the show ring I do see specimens that are trimmed and they do win sometimes.
AKC Standard: Blenheim - Rich chestnut markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be chestnut and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes and ears, in the center of which may be the lozenge or "Blenheim spot." The lozenge is a unique and desirable, though not essential, characteristic of the Blenheim. Tricolor - Jet black markings well broken up on a clear, pearly white ground. The ears must be black and the color evenly spaced on the head and surrounding both eyes, with a white blaze between the eyes. Rich tan markings over the eyes, on cheeks, inside ears and on underside of tail. Ruby - Whole-colored rich red. Black and Tan - Jet black with rich, bright tan markings over eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest, legs, and on underside of tail. Faults - Heavy ticking on Blenheims or Tricolors, white marks on Rubies or Black and Tans.
CKCSC, USA Standard: The following colors are the only ones acceptable: Blenheim - Rich chestnut markings well broken up on a pearly white ground. The ears must be red and the color evenly spaced on the head, with a wide white blaze between the ears. In the center of which is the much desired lozenge (diamond), or "Blenheim Spot". The lozenge is a unique and highly desirable though not essential, characteristic of the Blenheim. Tri Color - Jet black markings broken up on a pearly white ground, with rich tan markings over the eyes, on the cheeks and on underside of tail. Black & Tan - Jet black with rich tan markings over the eyes, on cheeks, inside ears, on chest, legs, and underside of tail. Ruby- Whole-colored rich red.
AKC Standard: Free moving and elegant in action, with good reach in front and sound, driving rear action. When viewed from the side, the movement exhibits a good length of stride, and viewed from front and rear it is straight and true, resulting from straight-boned fronts and properly made and muscled hindquarters.
My interpretation: When a dog moves gracefully with little effort showing good reach in the front even with the tip of the nose and drive from the rear is breath-taking in my opinion. This is an area of the standard that means just as much to me as the melting expression of a beautiful head. The appropriate gait for the show ring is on a loose lead and not too fast. The tail should be in constant motion during movement. A proper gait yields triangles so watch for the triangles.
AKC GCH Cruisin Minnie Mouse (9 months)
AKC Standard: Gay, friendly, non-aggressive with no tendency towards nervousness or shyness. Bad temper, shyness, and meanness are not to be tolerated and are to be severely penalized as to effectively remove the specimen from competition.
My interpretation: In the show ring an approaching judge is likely to find little front feet dancing up his pant leg or have a hand licked or sniffed if offered. This should not be dismissed as amateur handling; it is a trait that breeders treasure and encourage. Puppies and novice dogs who have yet to get their bearings might vear towards shyness, but obvious mistrust or fearfulness is not to be tollerated. Often amateur handlers can cause a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to become nervous or shy due to their own nervousness in the show ring and judges need to be aware of the learning process for both a novice dog and an amateur handler.
This is not part of the standard, but additional information taken from the Breed Guide presented by the ACKCSC, Inc.
In the ring, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is to be handled naturally and with a minimum of fuss. They are normally shown on loose or semi-loose leads and are allowed to self-stack while free-baiting with their handlers standing. As the breed has become more popular and more people are new to the breed, we see handlers on their knees hand stacking their dogs. This is totally unacceptable and judges should instruct exhibitors who make this mistake to stand while showing their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Nothing equals the picture of a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel standing on its own, slowly wagging its tail. This is also the best time for judges to check expression.
Do not expect a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to stand like a statue in the ring. It is not in their nature to do so. They are alert, curious and interested in what is going on around them and should not be penalized for fidgeting.
Tail holding is never practiced in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ring, not even for pictures. The outline is quickly spoiled if the tail is held out setter-style as it gives a rather alien look to the breed.
Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are not to be raced around the ring. They are to be shown at a moderate walk. Faster is not better in the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel ring.
A Cavalier King Charles Spaniel should be impeccably turned out for the ring; clean, brushed and shining. This is a naturally presented breed totally free from any trimming, sculpting or cosmetic alteration of any kind. This means NO trimming of whiskers or feet, NO thinning out the neck or cleaning out the throat area, NO sculpting of shoulders and hindquarters. This is part of breed type and the ACKCSC implores all judges to respect and enforce this part of the standard.
As a rule, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel exhibitors know all of these things and will respect a judge who has taken the time to learn and to enforce these correct procedures in the ring.
Meet The Breed Seminars
If you are interested in learning more about the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel breed standard in depth I highly recommend attending a "Meet The Breeds" seminar, which are held at many shows across the United States. These seminars are required by individuals wanting to become a judge in a particular breed.