How to Train an English Toy Spaniel

The merry English Toy Spaniel was bred to be the companion of kings. But ETS are spaniels first and pampered lapdogs second, and beneath the patrician exterior beats the heart of a real doggy dog-bright, loving, and willing to please.

The ETS is a square, snub-nosed toy weighing no more than 14 pounds. The large domed head-with its long and lush ears, dark melting eyes, and chubby cheeks-is a famous breed trait. The profuse coat comes in four varieties, each with its own proper name: red and white (Blenheim); black and tan (King Charles); white, black, and tan (Prince Charles); and a solid red (Ruby). Blenheims often have a red mark, the ‘Blenheim Spot,’ on top of the head. The ETS, like many toy breeds kept by royals, came to assume the personalities of their aristocratic owners. They can be proud and willful, and extremely discriminating in their choice of friends. With their favored humans, they are affectionate at home and exuberant and curious at play.


Toy spaniels are famously associated with Britain’s Charles I and II, the ‘Merry Monarchs’ of the 1600s, whose sporty little dogs became symbols of the House of Stuart. In the time of Charles II, perhaps Britain’s most dog-happy monarch before the reign of Victoria, it was decreed that toy spaniels be the only dogs allowed in the House of Parliament.

The origins of Europe and Britain’s toy spaniels are a matter of conjecture. Some authorities maintain that miniature spaniels were brought to Europe from Japan or China in ancient times. Others say that toy spaniels were imported to Asia from Spain, thought to be the birthplace of the spaniel breeds, and that Asian breeders refined the dogs and exported their handiwork to England, Italy, and France.

The fad dogs among the nobles of Renaissance England were toy-sized versions of their favorite sporting-spaniel types. In Shakespeare’s time, toy spaniels were known as ‘the ‘Spaniel Gentle,’ or ‘the Comforter.’ A toy spaniel accompanied Mary Queen of Scots to her beheading in 1587. By the time Charles II assumed the throne in 1665, toy spaniels were the mascots of several aristocratic houses of Britain.

During the Victorian Era, British toy spaniels were crossed with Asian toys, probably Pugs and Japanese Chin, and became what is known in America as the English Toy Spaniel (or, in the United Kingdom, the King Charles Spaniel). This new-style toy spaniel had a domed skull and a flatter face than those of Charles’s time. Before long, the new type, the EST, came to dominate, and the traditional toy spaniel of the Restoration times was rendered nearly extinct. The old-style toy was revived in the 1920s and is today known by U.S. fanciers as the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.


English Toy Spaniels are generally healthy dogs, but there are several health and genetic screening considerations specific to the breed, including eye conditions, cardiac disease, and luxating patellas. Dedicated breeders test their breeding stock and communicate with each other regularly to work together for breed health and preservation of the breed’s unique qualities. The English Toy Spaniel’s ears should be checked regularly for signs of infection, and the teeth should be brushed often, using a toothpaste designed for dogs. Regular visits to the vet for checkups and parasite control help to ensure the dog a long, healthy life.


The English Toy Spaniel’s long, wavy, silky, and profuse coat should be brushed at least twice a week with a pin brush or soft bristle brush. A long-toothed metal dog comb can also come in handy for gently working through areas where tangles may be beginning to form. Left unattended, tangles and mats are uncomfortable for your dog and can cause skin problems to develop. Regular trimming around the face, feet, and other areas can keep your English Toy Spaniel looking neat. The nails should be trimmed once a month, and a bath every four to six weeks with a gentle shampoo meant for dogs will help to keep the English Toy’s coat and skin clean and healthy. Grooming sessions are a good time to check the dog all over for any new lumps or skin problems, and to check that the eyes and ears are healthy and trouble free.


English Toy Spaniels are moderately active’when outdoors exercising they are alert, playful, and energetic, while at home they are sedate and dignified. They are easygoing dogs who make excellent companions for city dwellers in small apartments who can provide the dogs with daily walks on lead. As a short-faced breed, the ETS is not tolerant of hot weather and should not be left outdoors on warm or humid days.


The ‘Charlie,’ as the breed is sometimes known, is quiet, happy, and devoted to his owners. He is forgiving in nature and physically fastidious. Although primarily a companion to owners desiring a merry, affectionate pet, the breed has retained traits of his sporting ancestors and is said to be a fine small hunting spaniel. They are smart but can be stubborn during training; patience, consistency, and a positive, gentle approach are keys to success. Harsh methods are never appropriate for this sensitive, trusting breed. Early socialization and puppy training classes are recommended and help to ensure that the Charlie grows into a well-adjusted, well-mannered companion.


The English Toy Spaniel should be fed a high-quality dog food appropriate to the dog’s age (puppy, adult, or senior) and ideally formulated for small or toy breeds. Some dogs are prone to getting overweight, so watch your dog’s calorie consumption and weight level. Treats can be an important aid in training, but giving too many can cause obesity. Give table scraps sparingly, if at all, especially avoiding cooked bones and foods with overly high fat content. Learn about which human foods are safe for dogs, and which are not. Check with your vet if you have any concerns about your dog’s weight or diet.



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