Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Hunting Dogs? A Clear Answer

If you are considering getting a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, you may be wondering if they are good hunting dogs.

While Cavaliers were originally bred as companion dogs, they do have some hunting traits that make them suitable for certain types of hunting. However, it is important to note that Cavaliers King Charles Spaniels are not typically used as hunting dogs today and are primarily kept as companion animals. 

If you are interested in training your Cavalier for hunting, it is important to do so with caution and under the guidance of an experienced trainer. 

Key Takeaways

  • Originating from Spaniels, Cavaliers have inherited hunting instincts like scenting abilities and prey drive.
  • Despite their hunting heritage, Cavaliers are rarely used for hunting today, mainly due to their small stature, lack of stamina, speed, and strength.
  • With proper training, Cavaliers can be suitable for hunting (smaller game) thanks to their eagerness to learn and ability to learn quickly.

Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels Hunting Dogs?

While Cavalier King Charles Spaniels were originally bred as lap dogs, they do possess natural hunting instincts. The breed was developed from Spaniels, which were used for hunting small game birds, rabbits, rats, and waterfowl.

As a result, don’t be surprised if your Cavalier exhibits hunting behaviors, such as chasing a squirrel or chipmunk. However, despite having this in their DNA, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are not typically used as hunting companions.

Cavaliers have an excellent sense of smell and a fairly strong prey drive (important characteristics in hunting dogs) but they lack stamina, speed, and strength, and are sensitive to temperature extremes. Additionally, their small size makes them unsuitable for hunting larger game.

Hunting Traits in Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

While they may not be as popular for hunting as other breeds like Beagles or Retrievers, CKCS possess certain hunting traits that make them suitable for this activity.

Scenting Abilities

One of the primary hunting traits of Cavalier King Charles Spaniels is their excellent scenting abilities. They have a keen sense of smell that allows them to track down prey with great precision. 

This trait is a result of their breeding history, where their ancestors were used as hunting dogs. It’s like a family heirloom passed down through generations – a unique skill that’s embedded in their DNA.

Prey Drive

Another hunting trait Cavaliers possess is a relatively strong prey drive instinct. They have a natural tendency to chase after small animals, which is another behavior that stems from their hunting heritage. 

So even though Cavaliers are not as commonly used for hunting as other breeds, they do possess certain traits that make them suitable for this activity. 

Eagerness to Learn

Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are also known for being relatively easy to train. Their eagerness to learn and desire to please their owners make them particularly receptive to learning new commands and skills, including those related to hunting.

At first, they might need guidance and support, but their desire to learn and natural ability quickly take over. Before you know it, they’re riding on their own, mastering new skills with enthusiasm.

This breed’s willingness to learn is not limited to basic commands like sit or stay. They can also be trained in more complex tasks, such as retrieving items or following scent trails, along with other hunting commands. 

Social Hunting Partners

Cavaliers are like the ultimate team players on a sports team, always ready to work in tandem with their human counterparts, regardless of what the action is about. 

They can also be trained to work alongside other dogs in hunting scenarios, making them valuable members of the team, much like a versatile midfielder in soccer who can both defend and attack.

If you are genuinely interested in hunting with your Cavalier, it is important to train them properly and ensure that they are comfortable with the activity.

Training Cavalier King Charles Spaniels for Hunting

With the right training and guidance, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can be decent in the field. Here are some tips for training your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for hunting:

Start with Basic Obedience Training

Before you can train your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for hunting, you must first lay the groundwork with basic obedience training. Think of this as building the foundation of a house; without a strong base, the more complex structures won’t stand.

This foundational training includes commands like sit, stay, come, and heel. Your dog should master these commands reliably before you move on to more advanced hunting training.

Next, you’ll want to train your dog to retrieve the caught game. The best way to go about this is to use decoys and have your dog retrieve them both on land and on water. 

Practicing with decoys in a controlled environment, like your backyard or a local pond, can simulate the hunting experience and prepare your dog for the real thing.

Familiarize Your Cavalier With Gunshots

Before taking your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel hunting, it’s absolutely necessary to familiarize him with the sound of gunshots. Failing to acclimate your dog to this sound could lead to fear and panic, possibly causing him to run away. 

Begin by playing recorded gunshots at a low volume. This can be done at home, where your dog feels safe. Gradually increase the volume over several days or weeks as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Once your dog is comfortable with the sounds at home, you might take him to a controlled environment where firearms are used, such as a shooting range or a hunting training facility. Keep a safe distance initially, and gradually move closer as your dog becomes more comfortable.

Use Positive Reinforcement

When training your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for hunting, it’s important to use positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement means rewarding your dog for good behavior rather than punishing them for bad behavior.

For example, if your dog successfully retrieves a decoy, you might reward them with their favorite treat or an enthusiastic “Good job!” This method fosters a positive association with the task, making your dog more eager to learn and comply.

Start with Simple Tasks

When you first start training your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for hunting, think of it as teaching a child to read by starting with the alphabet. Begin with simple tasks like retrieving a toy or finding a treat hidden in the grass. 

For instance, you might hide a treat under a small cup in your yard and encourage your dog to find it. As your dog gets more comfortable with these tasks, you can move on to more advanced training. 

This gradual progression ensures a solid foundation, making the transition to complex hunting skills smoother and more effective.

Consider Working with a Professional Trainer

If you’re serious about training your Cavalier King Charles Spaniel for hunting, in addition to reading the AKC article about training your dog to hunt, consider working with a professional trainer who has experience with hunting dogs. 

They can provide guidance and support as you train your dog and help you develop a training plan that is tailored to your dog’s individual needs. 

Remember, not all Cavalier King Charles Spaniels are suited for hunting, and it’s important to assess your dog’s temperament and abilities before embarking on this type of training. With patience, consistency, and positive reinforcement, however, many Cavalier King Charles Spaniels can become decent hunting companions.


In conclusion, even though Cavalier King Charles Spaniels have hunting instincts in their blood, they are not commonly used for hunting today. While they may enjoy going for walks and exploring the outdoors, they are more likely to be content snuggling up with their owners on the couch than chasing after prey in the woods.

However, if you are considering training a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to be a hunting dog, it is important to provide proper training and socialization to ensure that your dog is well-behaved and safe in the field. If you haven’t had such an experience, I’d recommend you contact professionals for assistance.

Thank you for reading. If you’ve enjoyed this exploration, don’t miss out on our next adventure. Dive into this popular article: Are Cavalier King Charles Spaniels intelligent?

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