Boykin Spaniel – Everything You Need To Know

Boykin Spaniel is one of the few breeds to be developed entirely after the turn of the 20th century within the United States. He is an energetic, brilliant, all-American dog with an eye for water retrieval and hunting. These friendly, medium-sized sporting dogs are growing in popularity nationwide as a breed that’s as lovable, loyal, intelligent, and trainable. 

Delightfully spirited pets, Boykins have a highly adaptable nature making them great companions in almost any environment as long as they get sufficient exercise. These new kids are adept at agility and obedience and can be easily identified by their luscious brown locks and honey-gold eyes. However, their webbed toes make them outstanding swimming partners. Boykins has recently discovered themselves out of the swamp and in suburban yards, edging ever closer to the ubiquity of their Springer Spaniels and Cocker Spaniel peers. 

Boykin Spaniel Overview

Developed by South Carolinians for tracking turkeys and waterfowl in the state’s swamps, Boykin encompasses the best of the spaniel’s talents and personality. They can flush and retrieve, are willing to work, have attractive hanging ears, and have a friendly wagging tail. Due to their hunting instincts, these breeds are best suited for owners who can spend plenty of time with their pet and bring it along for outdoor activities. A devoted companion with a caring temperament, Boykins are an ideal choice for active families with children. They naturally do well with other canines and pets like cats (mainly when socialized from a young age). 

Like any sporting dog, Boykins require daily exercise. If you’re not a hunter, a long hike and any possibility to swim will do, but you can also channel energy into dog sports such as flyball. Unfortunately, some Boykins may have extreme energy levels or an inclination toward aggression. So, begin early training and socialization to prevent aggression toward other dogs. 

Boykin Spaniel Pros and Cons

Easy to trainCan become destructive when bored
Great family dogRequires regular brushing to maintain coat
An ideal companion for hunters and active familiesNeeds excessive physical and mental stimulation

Boykin Spaniel Basic Information

  • Name: Boykin Spaniel
  • Origin: South Carolina 
  • Group: Sporting, Gundog, Hunting
  • Size: Medium 
  • Height: Male: 15.5-18 inches, Female: 14-16.5 inches 
  • Weight: Male: 30- 40 pounds, Female: 25-35 pounds
  • Coat: Double coat with wavy topcoat
  • Color: Solid liver, brown, and dark chocolate
  • Energy: High
  • Activities: Walking, hiking, playing fetch, agility, companion dogs, guard dogs, conformation, obedience, herding.
  • Barking Level: Occasional
  • Shedding Level: Occasional
  • Hypoallergenic: No
  • Litter Size: 1-8 puppies
  • Other Names: Boykin, Little Brown Dog, South Carolinian dog
  • Life Span: 10 – 15 years

History of Boykin Spaniel

The Boykin Spaniel is one of the few dog breeds created entirely within the 20th century in the U.S. During the 1900s, on South Carolina’s Wateree River, the hunters used small boats to access games along the river corridors. Those boats were loaded with guns, men, and provisions, so the standard large retriever was too oversized to fit. As a result, the Boykin was developed as the perfect dog for hunting wild turkeys and waterfowl during this time. In addition, they were perfect for traveling in one-person boats because of their compact size.

The first predecessor to the breed was a small, stray spaniel-type puppy who took a liking to a man in Spartanburg, Alexander White while walking near his church in the early 1900s. After the dog began to show an aptitude for hunting, the man sent his pet, named “Dumpy,” to his hunting companion Whit Boykin. Under his proper guidance, Dumpy became an excellent turkey dog and waterfowl retriever. Hence, Boykin became so well known as an ideal hunting companion that South Carolina made him their official state hound. Eventually, “Dumpy” became the foundation stock for the breed. Other ancestors are the Chesapeake Bay retriever, the Cocker Spaniel, and the American Water Spaniel.

  • The American Kennel Club recognized the Boykin Spaniel in 2009.
  • The state celebrates Boykins day each year on September 1.

Boykin Spaniel Highlights

  • Boykins can be barkers, so reacting to the “Quiet” command should always be part of their repertoire.
  • Boykins were bred to be hunting hounds. So, don’t be stunned when they chase squirrels, birds, or small animals when you’re hiking. It’s better to keep them on a leash whenever you are out.
  • Boykins have a “soft” temperament. Hence, harsh training techniques make them nervous, so use gentle and consistent training to get the best results.
  • Avoid buying a Boykin puppy from a puppy mill, backyard breeder, or pet store for a healthy pet. Instead, get from a reputed breeder who tests breeding puppies for genetic health disorders and good dispositions.

Boykin Spaniel Personality

The Boykin Spaniels are known for the following personalities: 

  • Loyal and confident 
  • Affectionate and lively 
  • Smartness and playful 
  • Friendly and outgoing 
  • Intelligent and people-pleasing 
  • Independent and charming 

Boykin is a medium-sized brown dog with a spaniel’s floppy ears and a deep liver-brown coat. They have medium-length and moderately curly coats. Their coats can be in solid liver, brown, or dark chocolate. Additionally, they have unique webbed feet that make them ideal water retrievers.

Boykins are gentle, easy-going, affectionate, and lively. They get along well with children — as long as they are raised with them at a very young age; children are kind and respectful to dogs. However, as Boykins are sensitive dogs, all interactions between Boykin and kids should be supervised by adults. These breeds are intelligent and learn quickly with positive reinforcement methods. However, if you plan to hunt or compete in field trials with them, you must seek the assistance of a professional trainer familiar with the breed.

Friendliness Overview

Affection levelHigh
Dog-friendlyMedium to high

Adaptability Overview

Good for apartment livingLow
Good for new ownersMedium
Sensitivity levelMedium to high
Tolerates being aloneMedium 
Cold toleranceMedium
Heat toleranceMedium to high

Boykin Spaniel Physical Features

Head: The head is proportional to Boykin’s size, neither too large nor too short for the body. They are eager, alert, intelligent, soft, self-confident, and appealing. They have medium-sized, almond, or oval-shaped eyes, hanging ears, broad skulls, moderate muzzles, well-opened nostrils, tight lips, and scissor or level bites.

Neck, Topline, Body: Long, muscular, medium-sized neck with a straight topline, short loins, sloping shoulders, and a well-developed brisket.

Tail: Docked, lively, and moderate in length

Forequarters: Clean, muscular, sloping shoulders with medium-sized, straight legs, strong pasterns, and round, compact, well-arched feet with thick pads. 

Hindquarters: Boykins has well-developed hips and thighs with slightly rounded, moderately angulated hock joints. 

Coat: Coat ranges from flat to slightly wavy to curly, with medium length. 

Color: Solid liver, a deep reddish-brown color or dark chocolate. Likewise, a little white on the chest is permissible.

Gait: Elegant and effortless in action and moves with well-balanced reach and drive. 

Boykin Spaniel Temperament

The Boykin Spaniels are known for the following temperaments: 

  • Loving and loyal 
  • Energetic and smart 
  • Affectionate and intelligent 
  • Calm and eager to please 
  • Excitable and quick learner 
  • Caring and playful 
  • Confident and adaptable 

Boykin Spaniels are happy, energetic dogs perceived as amiable and hyperactive. They are sportive and excel in any canine game, mainly in agility, field trials, and conformation shows. However, they are good-natured pets and get along with cats and other puppies. They are devoted, always prefer to be around their human family, and make perfect companion dogs. They will quickly get along with children, provided they are socialized as puppies and were raised with them. 

As Boykins have herding instincts, they might attempt to herd smaller animals. Hence, sharing a home with a pet bird is not typically an ideal option.

Boykin Spaniel Training

Boykin Spaniels are intelligent, lively, and respond quickly, making training sessions more accessible. Like any other dog, they require early socialization and puppy training, classes. The activity requires patience and consistency during the period. They are sensitive to any unfavorable reactions and need positive reinforcement while training. They adore being around people and treats, and cuddling does wonders while training. 

Boykins are active and look forward to the training sessions, which help in conditioning regarding behavioral modification. They do not respond to offensive commands, and lots of praise works wonders during the session. Obedience training and early socialization help with behavioral correction and bring out the best in any canine. They can be easily trained in field trials, agility, obedience, and flyball.

Here are a few dog interactive toys and products that you can use while training

Dog Extendable Teaser Wand
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Tug Dog Toy
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Dog Puzzle Toys
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Health Bars
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Trainability Overview

Easy to trainMedium to high
IntelligenceMedium to high
Prey driveLow to medium
Mouthiness tendenciesMedium to high
Barking and Howling tendenciesMedium
Wanderlust tendenciesMedium to high

Boykin Spaniel Exercise Needs

Boykins will need around 15 – 20 minutes of everyday exercise or interactive play sessions, depending on their age and energy levels. Also, take them on short brisk walks as this is an ideal way to fight their tendency to become obese. They may become restless or detrimental without proper exercise. You can meet your Boykin’s daily exercise requirements by: 

  • Teaching new tricks 
  • Walking 
  • Fetching 
  • Chasing 
  • Playing with puzzle toys 
  • Frisbee 
  • Herding trials 
  • Agility training 
  • Hiking 
  • Dog park 

Here are a few puzzles and dog toys to keep your pet engaged:

XiaZ Dog Agility Equipments
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Classic Ball Launcher
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Dog Disc Toy
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Dog Treat Ball
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Exercise Needs Overview

Energy levelHigh
Exercise needsHigh
PlayfulnessMedium to high

Boykin Spaniel Grooming

Grooming is an integral part of the Boykin Spaniel’s life as it is an extreme and potentially expensive proposition. Unfortunately, they have a reputation with groomers as needing to be more cooperative. This temperamental attitude usually arises from a lack of training to accept handling. Hence, positive lessons on how to act on the grooming table are required. 

Boykins require regular, thorough grooming. Daily brushing at home is also essential to keep their coats free of mats and tangles. Boykin’s grooming requirements are as follows:  

Here are a few products and equipment to meet your Boykin Spaniel grooming needs:

Itch Relief Shampoo
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Wipes for Dogs
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Dog Toothpaste
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Tartar Control Kit
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Ear Cleanser
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Dog Eye Wipes
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Nail Clippers & Trimmers
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Pet Grooming Kit
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Grooming Overview

Easy to groomLow
Drooling tendenciesLow
Amount of sheddingMedium to high

Boykin Spaniel Health

Boykin Spaniels are relatively healthy puppies with shallow instances of many ailments common to other canines. There are, however, some health disorders to be aware of.

Health Overview

General HealthLow to medium 
Weight gain tendenciesMedium to high

Hip dysplasia: A hereditary condition in which the thigh bone fails to fit into the hip joint. One or both legs of your dog may become lame or ache. X-ray is the best way to analyze the situation. It is not advisable to breed dogs with hip dysplasia.


  • Wrong exercises  
  • Excessive weight gain  
  • Injuries  


  • Reluctance to rise, jump, run, or climb  
  • Enlarging shoulders  
  • Pain  
  • Stiffness  
  • Reduced activity and movements  
  • Reducing thigh muscle mass  
  • Grating in the joint during movement  
  • Lameness in the hind limbs  

Obesity: Boykins are prone to obesity and worsening hip and elbow dysplasia. This disease negatively hits a dog’s fitness and durability. Obese dogs exhibit an increased risk of heart disease, digestive conditions, diabetes, joint problems, and hypertension. 

Patellar Luxation: When the dog patella (kneecap), which commonly lies in the cleft of the femur, slips out of position, it is termed patella luxation. Your puppy may feel periodic hind limb “skipping,” lameness, or locking up the leg at a particular angle if the patella luxates. 

Cataract: A disorder seen as cloudy spots on the eye lens that grow gradually. This condition can develop at any age and often doesn’t affect vision; however, rare cases cause vision loss. Fortunately, you can remove cataracts surgically with good results.

Collie Eye Anomaly: CEA is an inherited developmental disorder usually seen in breeds like Boykins. This can lead a dog to blindness. 

Degenerative Myelopathy: A disorder commonly known as chronic degenerative radiculomyelopathy (CDRM) is a spinal cord condition that causes paralysis and weakening in the hind limbs.

Pulmonic Stenosis: One of dogs’ most frequent inherited cardiac disorders is pulmonic stenosis. A distortion of the Pulmonic valve causes it and obstructs the blood flow from the heart to the lungs.

Exercise-Induced Collapse (EIC): A hereditary trait found mainly in Labradors and other breeds of retrievers and the Boykin Spaniel.

Recommended Health Tests

  • Patella Evaluation
  • Hip Evaluation
  • EIC DNA Test
  • Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) DNA Test
  • Ophthalmologist Evaluation

Boykin Spaniel Diet and Nutrition

A Boykin will consume 1.5 to 2.5 cups of high-quality canine food daily, split into two meals, depending on their build, age, size, activity level, and metabolism. They have a strong appetite and might overeat if given a chance. However, as they are inclined to obesity, overfeeding must be avoided. You can seek advice from their veterinarian regarding Boykin’s sensitivities or needs.

Boykin Spaniel Living Condition

Boykins are serene pups well-suited in houses and apartments with fenced backyards. Living indoors with the family makes them comfortable and engaging. However, they are not suited for extreme heat or cold conditions. Bored, lonely Boykins may find an undesirable medium to keep themselves active, like barking or chewing.

Did You Know?

  • Boykin, along with Plott Hound, is one of the two American-born breeds named after the family liable for their creation.
  • Not only an American invention, but the Boykin is also a uniquely South Carolinian hound. 
  • Boykin’s origin was commemorated by being designated the South Carolina state dog in the 1980s.
  • Boykin is the AKC’s 163rd breed.

Boykin Spaniel Rescue Groups

Boykin Spaniel Society

Boykin Spaniel Club

Adding A Boykin Spaniel to Your Family

Things to Remember Before Adding a Boykin Spaniel

Getting a Boykin Spaniel puppy from a reputable breeder is best to prevent inevitable circumstances like health diseases and provide you with vaccination certificates. In addition, it is best to check with the puppy’s parents to ensure their health and happiness.

Cost of a Boykin Spaniel

A Boykin puppy’s cost ranges from $800 to $1,500, not including miscellaneous expenses.

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