- Height: 10 inches at the shoulder
- Weight: 8 to 14 pounds
Life is full of surprises when you live with an English Toy Spaniel. With his pushed-in nose and little round skull, he appears proud and dignified, but at any moment he may morph from noble spaniel to goofy clown. This is a dog with a sense of humor.
English Toy Spaniels (nicknamed Charlies or ETs) are not as well known as their Cavalier King Charles Spaniel cousins, and that’s too bad. People who know them appreciate their small size and calm, devoted nature. Even though his ancestors lived in palaces, the ET is the perfect roommate for an apartment dweller. If you're allowed to bring a dog to work, he’s a good cubicle pal, too. And if you like to travel? Well, he fits perfectly in a carrier beneath your seat.
An ET will dog your footsteps throughout the day, from kitchen to bathroom to home office and back again. He prefers not to be left alone for hours on end. The ideal home is one with an at-home parent, work-at-home spouse, or retired couple. He can do well with older children who understand how to handle a dog, but he may bite younger children if they treat him roughly. Luckily, his tiny teeth don’t do much damage.
The Charlie is strictly a companion dog and should always live indoors. His flat face makes him sensitive to heat, so never leave him outdoors for any length of time.
Charlies take well to training… as long as you can persuade them that doing what you want is their idea. Use positive reinforcement techniques. The ET will wilt at a harsh word or jerk of the leash. But when he loves you, he’ll do anything.
Other Quick Facts
- The most recognizable feature of the English Toy Spaniel is his head, with its domed skull, large eyes, black nose, and soft, intelligent expression.
- The English Toy Spaniel comes in four colors or patterns: Blenheim (red and white), Ruby (solid red), Prince Charles (tricolor), and King Charles (black and tan). In dog shows, the Blenheim and the Prince Charles compete in one class and the King Charles and the Ruby in another.
More on Vetstreet.com:
The History of the English Toy Spaniel
Little spaniels probably descend from dogs that were popular in Chinese and Japanese imperial courts. They may share an ancient ancestor with the Pekingese and the Japanese Chin. At some point, they made their way to Europe and became prized as companion dogs. Johannes Caius mentioned toy spaniels in his book, Of English Dogges, which was published in 1574. Mary, Queen of Scots had at least one toy spaniel, and it’s said that her son, King James I, received a litter in 1613 as a gift from the Emperor of Japan.
In England, this breed is known as the King Charles Spaniel, because both Charles I and Charles II were very fond of the little dog. Because they were popular with royalty, they were also popular with everyone else, and it wasn’t unusual to see one pictured with the family in a portrait painted by Gainsborough, Rubens, Rembrandt, or Van Dyck. After the death of Charles II and the ouster of his brother, James II, Charles’ niece Mary and her husband William ascended to England’s throne. They brought their own favorite dogs with them: Pugs. Some people bred the toy spaniels and the Pugs together, eventually changing the look of the breed. The body became wider, the face flatter, and the skull more domed.
The American Kennel Club recognized the English Toy Spaniel as a member of the Toy Group in 1886. Today, the ET ranks 126th among the breeds registered by the AKC.
English Toy Spaniel Temperament and Personality
The ET, also nicknamed the Charlie, is quiet and gentle on the surface, but inside lurks a merry and affectionate soul. He loves his family with all his heart, although he may be reserved toward everyone else. Charlies like to play, but they are equally happy to sit at your side and bask in the pleasure of your presence. They often choose a single favorite, but they will love and respect everyone in the family.
Whether he is reserved or outgoing, the Charlie is a restful breed. He’s a true lap dog, content to live with a quiet owner but versatile enough to enjoy participating in obedience, rally, or agility. He can even learn to retrieve, although at 8 to 14 pounds he can’t carry much more than a quail. If you prefer, he’s happy to occupy your lap and sleep on your pillow at night. His exercise needs are satisfied by a short walk or a play session indoors. Never let him play off leash near the street, or he may chase a bird or butterfly into traffic.
To some, he may appear aloof. He doesn’t make friends easily. Socialize him early and often to prevent him from becoming shy. Young ETs may be fearful in new situations and will tremble or grab onto you with their paws, but as they mature they usually gain confidence. He expects to be included in everything you do and hurt feelings will ensue if he is ignored. When he is happy, though, his silly and mischievous side will always make an appearance.
Most ETs are smart, and even when they’re not, they still usually have manners. They aren’t known to bark excessively, although they will alert you to visitors or other people approaching the house. They get along well with other dogs and cats, especially when they are brought up with them.
Never treat ETs harshly. A stern tone of voice is all that’s needed to let them know that a particular behavior is undesirable. Sometimes they can be stubborn, especially about walking nicely on a leash, but patience and food rewards will usually win the day.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from an English Toy Spaniel, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
What You Need To Know About English Toy Spaniel Health
All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit disease. Run from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed has no known problems, or who keeps puppies isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the breed and the incidence with which they occur.
English Toy Spaniels have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious with your breeder selection. They include eye problems such as entropion an glaucoma; and luxating patellas, a condition in which one or both kneecaps slip out of place. Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA patella certifications and are certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you tests aren't necessary because they've never had problems in her lines, the dogs have been "vet checked," or offers any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping an ET at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to improve his health and extend his life. Make the most of your preventive abilities to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
The Basics of Grooming the English Toy Spaniel
The English Toy Spaniel has a long, silky coat that is usually straight but can be slightly wavy. Despite his long coat, this is a wash-and-go dog. Comb him out weekly to prevent mats and tangles, especially those that form behind the ears, elbows, and back legs. A bath every two to four weeks will keep him smelling good, and it doesn’t hurt to wash his face daily — mainly to prevent him from doing it himself by rubbing it on your furniture.
Otherwise, simply clean the ears, trim the toenails, and brush the teeth frequently. The latter is especially important with toy breeds, which are often prone to dental disease. Charlies often have fused toes, which are a normal characteristic of the breed and not something to be concerned about.
Finding an English Toy Spaniel
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Choosing a English Toy Spaniel Breeder
Finding a quality breeder is the key to finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks. Be wary of breeders who only tell you the good things about the breed or who promote the dogs as being “good with kids.”
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the breed, explain why one puppy is considered pet quality while another is not, and discuss what health problems affect the breed and the steps were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Look for more information about the English Toy Spaniel and start your search for a good breeder at the website of the English Toy Spaniel Club of America. Choose a breeder who has agreed to abide by the ETSCA’s code of ethics, which prohibits the sale of puppies to or through pet stores.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. Breeders who offer puppies at one price “with papers” and at a lower price “without papers” are unethical. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
The cost of an English Toy Spaniel puppy varies depending on the breeder’s locale, whether the pup is male or female, what titles his parents have, and whether he is best suited for the show ring or a pet home. The puppy you buy should have been raised in a clean home environment, from parents with health clearances and conformation (show) and, ideally, working titles to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies should be temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult English Toy Spaniel might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy. With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
Adopting a Dog from English Toy Spaniel Rescue or a Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for an English Toy Spaniel in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the English Toy Spaniels available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for an English Toy Spaniel. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Breed Rescue
Most people who love English Toy Spaniels love all English Toy Spaniels. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The English Toy Spaniel Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other English Toy Spaniel rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring an English Toy Spaniel home with you to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your English Toy Spaniel , make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your English Toy Spaniel to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.