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Cavalier King Charles Spaniel

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 Click on the cover above to go to this book at Amazon.co.uk

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are delightful little dogs, lively, affectionate and versatile. They are happy to be companion dogs, and are favourites with children and older people, because they don't pull your arm off when you take them out, or try to pick fights with all the local dogs. Small children may need to learn how to handle them gently, since Cavvies tend not to defend themselves when they are roughly handled. They are one of the safest breeds with children, and adore attention from young humans.

They are also happy to be the companions of older people, and make good lap warmers in cold weather. They don't hog the bed if they are allowed to sleep on it, and they also travel well, and are one of the few breeds that you could happily take into a hotel. They don't need a lot of grooming, nor are they prone to excessive barking. Some Cavvies may seem a little shy, and this is often because they are so cute it is tempting to handle them a lot, and not all dogs like being picked up and cooed over all the time! It's best to ignore any Cavvie which appears fearful of guests, and let the dog hide in a safe hidey-hole like a crate, and come out in his own time. A titbit half-way between the crate and the guests can help encourage boldness.

Perhaps the very success of Cavvies as companion dogs has led to some problems for the breed. All too often they don't get enough exercise, are pampered and overfed, and end up getting obese at a young age. Like any dog, they benefit from with a daily walk, and they can also excel in obedience and agility events. Many clubs have special agility classes for smaller breeds, and if not, you can just lower the jumps for your Cavvies. They can be a bit nervous of the bigger dogs, but big dogs tend to treat them well, perhaps because they look so puppyish.

Cavvies are spaniels, and as such do like to chase small creatures. They have sometimes been used as hunting dogs, and like to follow smells. You can channel their chase drive into retrieve games - they make very good retrieving dogs once trained. Training should be carried out with care, since they can shut off and become anxious if treated too roughly. If your Cavvie is for a child, it's a good idea for the child to go to training classes with the dog, to learn how to train properly. This is one of the best breeds for a child to take to training classes, since even quite small children can easily handle a Cavalier King Charles, and these dogs tend to get on well with other dogs in the class. The dog and child get a lot more enjoyment out of their relationship, and understand each other better if they go to training classes together.

Owners also often report problems with housetraining some cavvies, which take longer than usual to become reliable. You may need to be especially patient with them, confining them to an area with a washable floor until they are housetrained. They can be a little barky, though Cavalier King Charles dogs which have enough exercise are not usually problem barkers.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are, sadly, prone to a number of health problems, which has a lot to do with the small number of animals used to start off the breed, as well as later careless breeding due to their popularity, so check with the breeder about the health of ancestors. Mitral Valve Heart Disease is a particular problem, as are allergies and anal gland trouble. Roughage helps with anal gland problems, and it also helps with a problem that seems to afflict some Cavvies, which is swallowing their fine, silky hairs when they groom themselves. Regular grooming helps to prevent this. The health problems of Cavvies are the biggest downside to the breed, but careful selection can help to find a pup which lives to a reasonable age. The breed was recreated from just a few individuals, a practice that tends not to encourage robust dogs. Cavvies can also suffer from eye trouble, due to their having prominent eyes, and ear trouble, common to long-eared breeds. Their ears should be dried after baths and walks in the wet, and kept clean. Some individuals may also have trouble with their kneecaps.

The best time to buy Juliette Cunliffe's guide to Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is before you select a pup, since selection is important to avoid health problems. There is help with all aspects of selection, general care and training, and this book is informative enough to be useful to experienced owners as well as novices.