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Welcome to Toy Spaniels

English toy spaniel head photo


Welcome to Toy Spaniels, sweet, charming, a bit bull headed and super smart. Charlies, our nickname, in honor of King Charles II, have been constant companions of royalty for centuries. They can be a little aloof, but have always felt that they came by that naturally.

Many breeds say that they are a head breed, but we truly are. Our standard says “The important characteristics of the breed are exemplified by the head”. Without this very distinct head we could just be another small spaniel. The Charlie head is one of soft curves, not angles. There is a straight line from the corner of the eye across the nose and onto the corner of the other eye, but that is it!! All else is curves.

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Left: Ch. Dreamridge Dear Jeffery – bred and owned by Tom O’Neal, and shown by Ron Fabis. ETSCA National (first broken color to do so) and BIS awards. – Right: Ch. Dreamridger Dear Charles – bred by Sue Jackson, owned by Tom O’Neal and shown by Ron Fabis. Charlie was the first all-breed BIS dog in the Breed; two of the shows being Santa Barbara and the Chicago International.

The dome or top skull is a curve. Ann Clark used to say that it should have the shape of the dome of St. Paul’s Cathedral. This dome should extend slightly out over the eyes. You don’t want the top skull to go straight back or be flat, it must be curved. An old standard said “absolutely semi globular, sometimes even extending beyond the half circle, and projecting over the eyes so as to nearly meet the upturned nose”.

The ears are set low, about half-way down toward the corner of the eye. They should be long and heavily feathered framing the face.

The eyes should be large but never bulging and very dark. Black is better. With black this helps denote a melting softness. The late Charlie breeder, Chris Thaxton, always described them as being “kissy faced”, one of my favorite descriptions. You can never get that with light eyes or with to much white showing.

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Ch. Dreamridge Daphne of Kings Court – bred by Chris Thaxton, owned by Tom O’Neal, and shown by Ron Fabis. First bitch to go BISS at the National.

The nose leather should always be large, wide open and black. The last thing any short faced dog needs is pinched nostrils. The nose sits back at an angle, the top back into the skull more so then the bottom. We call this lay back. When a Charlie person talks about lay back, they are usually describing nose placement, not shoulders (see Figure 1).

The head is made up of intertwining circles, the top making up the skull and the other the muzzle. The muzzle is fleshy, thick and well cushioned. The jaw itself curves up and slightly back toward the nose and should never be straight. A straight jaw usually denotes to much nose and/or a lower jaw that doesn’t have enough curve or both. The head is large compared to the size of the dog and always larger in mature dogs than in bitches. When comparing photos of the same dog, it is always interesting to see the change in size over the years.

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Figure 1. English Toy Spaniel Breed Standard – Ideal Head. Head study from the Judge’s Seminar booklet.

In young dogs, you want to see lots of dome and many times it will be more narrow, from side to side. The bitch’s head will usually fill out with age, the dog’s a lot more so, and it will also take them 2 or 3 years to show this maturity.

The body of the Charlie has most of the same characteristics of the other small spaniels. When looking at the outline, it should be compact, cobby and square, and I might add, deep. This is a dog of substance, and the old standard went so far as to say “Pug like”. In puppies, it is always nice to see “thick” puppies, puppies with plenty of bone and substance. Charlies are a toy breed but there should always be a lot to them. Never weedy, when the body is gone over you should feel bulk under that hair. They really are big dogs in small packages. In Pekes they use the term, “they pick up heavy.” If picked up, Charlies would feel the same. It’s surprising how heavy they are.

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Ch. Debonaire Double Jeopardy – bred and owned by Deb Bowman and shown by Ron Fabis. Multi BIS winner and BISS winner at the ETSCA specialty, winning twice. He, along with Curtis, won the National BOV three times, always against each other. Alex won BIS twice and Curtis once. Two lovely dogs battling it out three years in a row is pretty special to see.

Many years ago Ron Fabis and I played around with weights and heights. In most cases, in mature dogs, they always weighted around 1 to 2 pounds heavier then they were tall. A dog that measured around 13 inches at the shoulder, usually weighted around 14 to 15 pounds. These were all successful show dogs in good weight. Several had won BOB at the National and also BIS’s and Toy Groups. We did this for several years and always came up with the same result. The more we did this the more fascinating it became. It wasn’t so much the size of the dog but the combination of the weight to size.

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Left: Ch. Harco’s Towncrier – (sire of the Dear Charles) bred by Harvey Cookman and owned by Sue Jackson. 1971 ETSCA BOB winner from the Veteran Class. Multi-Group winner, including a Group placement at Westminter KC. – Right: Ch. Surucas Shadow in the Night ROM – bred and owned by Sue Jackson. Multi Group winner and BIS specialty winner. A top solid color stud dog.

Back to body, the topline should be level with a tail that comes off the back at a slight angle. You shouldn’t see a peg tail. Our standard asks for a docked tail, 2 to 4 inches long. It also asks for a marked flag in a square shape. There seems to be a group of tail hair cutters out there now and it is incorrect. Our standard has always called for a flag. Some Charlies are born with a shorter tail and this is not to be penalized.

In the forequarters, you hope for well laid back shoulders and legs that are well boned and again, thick, and straight. The feet are compact and many times have fused toes on all feet or a few. This is acceptable. The hindquarters are nicely angulated and strong.

Movement is typically spaniel, with good reach in front and good drive in the rear.

Charlies are a profusely coated spaniel, with long hair on the ears, chest, and legs. Over trimming isto be penalized.

They come in 4 color combinations, Black and tan (King Charles), Ruby, Black, white and tan (Prince Charles), and red and white (Blenheim). We also call the black/tan and ruby solid colors and the tri color and red and white broken colors. Most exhibitors use these terms interchangeably.

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Ch. Backroads Another Adventure – bred by Karen Miller & Sue Plance & owned by Karen Miller & Jamie Ward. A Top-winning ETS all varieties all-time. Multi BIS and BISS, including the ETSCA National and the French National, and Crufts.



Welcome to Toy Spaniels, by Sue Jackson.
Originally published in Showsight Magazine, September 2012.

Sue Jackson passed away in 2020. Top Notch Toys is reprinting this article on “Charlies” in honor of Sue’s devotion to the breed.


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