by Kathy Dannel Vitcak 5 min read


Have you ever seen an English Toy Spaniel in person? They look like the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's littler, kinda big-eyed cousin. Smaller than the Cavalier, the English Toy also has a domed top skull (rounded head) with low set ears, more prominent eyes and a docked tail (in the USA). The Cavalier has a flatter top skull, with higher set ears and a long always wagging tail. Though, as you must have guessed, they ARE related.

English Toys are a relatively unusual breed, ranking 134th out of 189 dog breeds with the American Kennel Club. In this case, less popular may just be a blessing; as loving as they are, an English Toy Spaniel's temperament is not for everyone. I do admit to being very prejudiced toward this breed, as we share our lives with a black and tan English Toy named Gio. 

As a rule, English Toy Spaniels are loving, somewhat clingy little dogs. They are can have a bit of a tendency toward being timid or reserved with strangers. An English Toy Spaniel's temperament is very sensitive and a stern word can send them into a sulking mood that will require treats and extra cuddles to regain their favor. Voice of experience here.

I know many a dog show person who fell in love with the IDEA of an English Toy, but were disappointed by the lack of sparkle in the show ring. An English Toy is NOT going to act all giddy for a piece of soggy liver that has been in a pocket for hours or the squeak of a plastic duck. Oh, no, this is a royal spaniel, with centuries of being tucked by the side of kings and queens.

english toy spaniel history


In the early 1200s, Knight Fitz Ralph returned from the Crusades with an Italian black and tan spaniel which started the British fascination with these small spaniels. 

The Stuarts anointed their adored spaniels with the name King Charles Spaniels during the reign of King Charles I in the early 1600s. But it was King Charles II (pictured above left)who was totally besotted with the breed. During his reign, from 1660-1685 he had quite the mini-herd of toy spaniels following him every step of every day. Of course, everyone who was anyone wanted one of the little dogs like King Charles II had! 

He even decreed that the King Charles Spaniel should be welcomed in any public place, even in the House of Parliament.  In 1660 Samuel Pepys admonished the king for spending all of his time playing with his sons when he should have been going about royal business. Henrietta Maria brought a black and tan toy spaniel back from her time at the French court. This little dog had fused toes which are still seen in many black and tan English Toy Spaniels today. Note: Gio must be royal, as he has some fused toes! James II, who succeeded his brother Charles II, was almost as enamored of the toy spaniels as his brother and also had many as companions.

TO THE BITTER END It is said that Mary, Queen of Scots and Charles I were both accompanied to their executions by their little spaniels. Since I found that Spaniel history tidbit on the internet, it MUST be true!

english toy spaniels facts


Starting with the reign of Queen Mary I and William the Orange in 1689 the falter the faced dogs were greatly preferred. Pugs, Japanese Chin and possibly other oriental breeds were bred to the toy spaniels of the court and resulted in dogs that looked quite like today's modern English Toy Spaniel. The domed top skull, with the shortened muzzle and virtually no length of nose became the favored look. They were called the King Charles Spaniel (now English Toy Spaniel in the USA). The Victorian era solidified the penchant for all things baby-faced and thus the breed type was set.

The original type of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel with a longer nose fell from favor and was almost lost. That tale will be told in another post! 


As if there were not enough royal references in this dog breed's history, even the coat colors have royal beginnings.

Coat colors come in:

  • Blenheim (white with red markings) after the Blenheim Palace of the Dukes of Marlborough (pictured above right)
  • Prince Charles (tricolor, white with black and tan markings) after, yep, King Charles when he was a Prince
  • King Charles (black and tan) and then he became King
  • Ruby (rich mahogany red, sometimes with a few white hairs or small white patch on the chest) What the heck did the red dogs do to NOT get a royal name. Such a travesty against the lovely Gingers!

english toy spaniels


If you would love to have a small dog with a lovely coat that requires minimal grooming (more than a Pug, less than a Poodle), that will adore you and sit by your side touching you all day, the ETS may be for you. Note: Gio MUST be touching me at all times. If I shift a millimeter away from him as we Netflix, he will give me an exasperated look and move so he is touching me again. I can also he standing two feet from him and he may squeak to be picked up. He will not stop until picked up. His royal highness indeed! Truly a velcro dog. Yep, that's him above. He does no look like a very brave boy in that last image, does he?

If you have a rowdy household with constant activity and are an active family, probably not the best dog for you. 

While they do love a bit of a trot around the yard and to pretend they are hunting dogs, they are perfect for small quarters or apartments. My best advice is to accept your English Toy Spaniel's gentle temperament and love them for their sweet kindness.

One time Steve and I heard the strangest noise, it sounded like a cat purring, but different. It took a few minutes until we realized Pagel (Steve's dog) was annoying Gio and he had enough of it and was growling! In six years we had never heard him growl. Pagel was undeterred and refused to listen to Gio's warning "fierce" growl, and he got the boot into the other room.

Gio got his way yet again.


Yes, the Black & Tan on the label is GIO!


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