Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Smart?

September 3, 2022

With their cute long ears and playful disposition, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are brilliant canine companions.

If you are considering adding one to your family you may wonder how much effort it will take to take care of basic obedience training and turn your Cavalier into a well-trained family pet. Which leads us to the real question, how smart are King Charles Spaniels?

Overall, King Charles Spaniels are considered to be of average intelligence as a dog breed. There is a lot more to this though and that is what we will be looking at in this article.

If this sounds interesting to you read on to learn everything you could want to know about Cavalier King Charles Spaniel intelligence.

How Smart are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels?

We've already mentioned that the King Charles Spaniel is regarded to be of average intelligence, but what do I mean by that?

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are ranked 44th out of all dog breeds for intelligence. This is a pretty respectable position seeing it is out of 138 breeds in the study by canine psychologist Stanely Coren.

While 44th doesn't sound that great it still makes King Charles Spaniels pretty smart dogs. On average it will take between 25 and 40 repetitions to teach your Cavalier a new command. This means it would be possible to teach your dog something new within only a few hours.

How Obedient Are King Charles Spaniels?

Stanley Coren also tried to work out the likelihood of a dog obeying a command on the first attempt. The study the smartest dogs do it on the first time 95% of the time while on the other side it is 25% or lower the first time asked.

Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will obey the first time you ask around 50% of the time. This tracks with the 'average' label. It may even be a little higher as the Cavalier can be a little stubborn from time to time!

This does mean that a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel is nowhere near the smartest dog breed but also that they are a good distance away from the least intelligent.

This level of intellect means you won't have any problem getting your Cavalier Spaniel house trained and teaching them a few tricks or participating in dog sports such as agility training.

Are King Charles Spaniels Smart Enough to Work?

Yes, but not for all jobs.

As they do have a smaller stature and classification as toy dogs they were not used in the same way Springer or Cocker Spaniels were as hunting dogs.

That isn't to say Cavaliers are not smart enough to work in some regard, they have been known to work as service dogs in the past or be trained as emotional support animals.

How was a King Charles Spaniels Intelligence Measured?

The study from Stanley Coren broke dog intelligence into three components. This includes:

  • Instinctive: Natural prey drives or natural instincts
  • Adaptive: Problem-solving
  • Working intelligence: Trainability or obedience

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels performed quite well across these categories, mostly in the adaptive category as they have pretty good problem-solving skills. They ranked as average in all regards in this study.

What About Emotional Intelligent?

One aspect that was not considered in Coren's study is emotional intelligence. Basically your Cavalier's ability to recognise human emotions and respond accordingly.

This is a category where Cavalier King Charles Spaniels excel, they are likely one of the top dog breeds for this type of intelligence. One of the biggest reasons they are seen as brilliant companion dogs.

If that is what you are looking for then a King Charles Spaniel is the perfect dog.

Is it Possible to Make my King Charles Spaniel Smarter?

Yes, you can help your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel become a little smarter. This all comes down to how much time you spend training your dog and whether you offer enough mental stimulation.

Even a dog that is regarded as average intelligence needs training and brain games to remain satisfied mentally. If you spend time with your dog and teach new commands and skills you will quickly see you have a very smart dog capable of learning anything you like, especially if you start from an early age.

While they are never going to be as intelligent as a Border Collie, your Cavalier is still a pretty smart dog.


The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel are wonderful companion dogs that make a brilliant addition to any family. They are bright, affectionate, and very curious.

Cavaliers are intelligent dogs and you won't have much trouble teaching recall commands or any other basic training. Even a venture into dog sports is possible!

If you are looking for a loving companion dog a King Charles Spaniel is a great fit.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
Spaniel Advisor aims to be the top online resource for sharing information about all Spaniel breeds. 
Copyright 2022 - All Rights Reserved.