English Toy Spaniels

Life is full of surprises when you live with an English Toy Spaniel. On the surface, he appears proud and dignified, with his pushed-in nose and little round skull, 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, but they are beloved by people who appreciate their small size and calm, devoted nature. Here’s what you need to know if you are considering acquiring an ET.

Is the English Toy Spaniel the Right Dog for You?

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 pick up and carry much more than a quail. But if you prefer, he’s happy to occupy your lap and sleep on your pillow at night, his exercise needs satisfied by a short walk or a play session indoors or outdoors.

To some, he may appear aloof, at least until he gets to know them. 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 and this tendency disappears. He expects to be included in everything you do and hurt feelings will ensue if he is ignored.

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 regularly. The latter is especially important with toy breeds, which are often prone to dental disease. By the way, Charlies often have fused toes, which are a normal characteristic of the breed and not something to be concerned about. Just be sure to trim them as you would any other toenails.

The Charlie is bred strictly as 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.

An ET will match your footsteps throughout the day, from kitchen to bathroom to home office and back again and prefers not to be left alone for hours on end. The ideal home is one with a stay-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.

Charlies take well to training, as long as you can persuade them that doing what you want is their idea or in their best interest. 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 for you.

6 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy English Toy Spaniel Puppy

  1. Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site that offers all breeds and popular mixes, shipped with no questions asked. If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills
  2. Find a good breeder who will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a good breeder with the English Toy Spaniel Club of America, and choose one who has agreed to abide by the club’s Code of Ethics.
  3. Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
  4. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in English Toy Spaniels aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out.
  5. Puppy or adult, take your English Toy Spaniel to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues, particularly knee problems and dental disease.
  6. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Health Issues Common to English Toy Spaniels

All purebred dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are 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 in her lines.

English Toy Spaniels have some health conditions that can be a concern, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include heart problems such as patent ductus arteriosus or mitral valve disease, eye problems such as glaucoma or cataracts, and luxating patellas, a mild to severe dislocation of one or both knees.

Ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have OFA patella and cardiac certifications and are certified free of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Patent Ductus Arteriosus Medium $2,500-$5,000
Mitral Valve Disease Medium $500-$2,000
Patellar Luxation Medium $1,500-$3,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance


Pet Insurance for English Toy Spaniels

Pet insurance for English Toy Spaniels costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because English Toy Spaniels are much more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which English Toy Spaniels are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your English Toy Spaniel is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.