What to Know About Boykin Spaniels

Medically Reviewed by Vanesa Farmer, DVM on June 01, 2024
6 min read

Boykin spaniels are friendly, energetic, mid-sized dogs who were discovered and developed in South Carolina for hunting wild ducks and turkeys. They're easily identified by their beautiful brown coats. These happy dogs make wonderful pets and get along well with children and other animals. 

Bred to flush out and retrieve wild birds, Boykin spaniels are known for their endurance and enthusiasm. They're agile, intelligent, and eager to please, which makes them easy to train. Boykin spaniels are built to swim and easily cover all types of terrain. Their brown color is one of their most striking features, ranging from reddish-brown to dark chocolate. Some Boykin spaniels have a small white mark on their chest, but otherwise, they're solid brown.  

Boykin spaniels are playful and readily adapt to changing environments and circumstances. Their easy-going nature makes them an ideal pet for families with young children since they aren't likely to become aggressive or hostile. They're open to strangers under the right circumstances while still being vigilant about protecting their families.  

As moderate-to-high energy dogs, Boykin spaniels need a lot of exercise. They do best with people who are active and engage in outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, and running. They also need plenty of mental stimulation and respond well to obedience training, field events, and agility activities.   

As medium-sized dogs, male Boykin spaniels range in height from 15 1/2 to 18 inches while females are 14 to 16 1/2 inches. Males weigh between 30 and 40 pounds, and females weigh between 25 and 35 pounds. Boykin spaniels are proportionate in size, with their height at their shoulders being approximately equal to their length from their shoulders to the base of their tails.  

Boykin spaniels were bred to be ideal hunting partners. They're athletic without being too compact. Their body structure is strong, lean, and well-developed. Their feathery ears are set right above their eye line and reach their nose when pulled forward. It's easy to see their intelligence and alertness in their yellow to brown eyes. Their coats are straight to moderately curly, and most have 2 1/2 to 3-inch tails that were docked shortly after birth.   

When you're considering adding a dog to your family, do some research to make sure a Boykin spaniel is the right dog for you. Some questions to consider include:

  • Why do you want a dog? 
  • Are all of the members of your family on board with getting a dog? 
  • Is your home dog-proof?
  • Are you willing to change your lifestyle to accommodate a dog? 
  • Are you prepared for the financial costs of owning a dog?
  • Are you willing to make a commitment to the dog for the next 10 to 15 years? 

Before you bring home a Boykin spaniel, make sure your family and your home are ready for a dog. Although Boykin spaniels are good with children, your children will still need to be responsible enough to be gentle with them. If you don't have a fenced yard, you'll need to consider how elimination will be handled and how your dog will get the exercise they need. Because of their high energy level and intelligence, Boykin spaniel puppies can get into mischief quickly. You should plan on crate training your puppy for their own safety. 

Boykin spaniels should have the following health tests: 

  • Patella evaluation
  • Hip evaluation
  • Ophthalmologist evaluation
  • DNA test for exercise-induced collapse (EIC), an inherited nervous system disorder 
  • Collie eye anomaly (CEA) DNA test 

The Boykin spaniel's medium-length coat doesn't require a lot of care. You should brush them about once a week and give them an occasional bath to keep them clean and fresh-smelling. Check their ears for infection when you're grooming them. Clean their ears with gauze and an ear cleaning solution. You can ask your vet which one they recommend. Brush their teeth daily with a toothpaste designed for dog teeth. Finally, keep their nails trimmed to avoid discomfort with walking or running. 

Boykin spaniels make excellent family pets. Consider giving your puppy obedience and socialization classes to help them grow up well-adjusted and well-mannered. They are normally easy to train due to their intelligence and eagerness to please. 

Your pet will maintain their weight best on high-quality dog food, either homemade or commercially prepared. If you're making your dog's food, check with your vet to ensure you are including all of the needed nutrients. You can give your dog treats to help with training, but keep them to less than 10% of their caloric intake. If your Boykin spaniel is putting on weight, you may need to cut back. 

You have several options if you want to add a Boykin spaniel to your family. They are highly in demand and can be expensive. If you're buying from a breeder, make sure they're reputable and willing to provide a complete family history. 

The Boykin Spaniel Rescue rehabilitates and rehomes at-risk purebred Boykin spaniels. Unfortunately, many people aren't prepared to provide the care that these dogs need. Owners surrender their dogs because they can't meet their physical needs or because they cost too much to maintain. You can contact Boykin Spaniel Rescue to find out more about adopting rescue dogs. 

Although Boykin spaniels are generally healthy dogs, they are prone to the following inherited diseases: 

  • Exercise-induced collapse, which interferes with their ability to make a chemical needed for brain-to-muscle nerve transmission
  • Collie eye anomaly, which may lead to partial or full blindness
  • Degenerative myelopathy, which is a fatal spinal cord disease
  • Juvenile cataracts and other eye diseases
  • Hip dysplasia, which is improper development of the hip joint
  • Patellar luxation, which is sideways movement of the kneecap
  • Pulmonic stenosis, which can affect heart function

Your veterinarian can test for all of these conditions and offer guidance about how they can be treated. 

Like many exuberant, intelligent dogs, Boykin spaniels can become destructive if they're bored or confined too much. You'll need to make sure your pet gets plenty of exercise and mental stimulation. If you have the time and energy to devote to them, Boykin spaniels can be wonderful family pets. They're highly affectionate and will become very attached to you. 

Boykin spaniels don't do well when left alone for extended periods, so they're not the ideal dog if you work long hours and are frequently out of the house. They tend to develop separation anxiety if they're isolated for long periods. They may start chewing household items and barking excessively. 

Skin conditions can occur in some Boykin spaniels. If you notice your pet scratching a lot, try changing their diet. If that doesn't help, talk to your veterinarian. They may be able to prescribe a medication that can help.

The Boykin spaniel's curly brown coat is prone to shedding. Weekly grooming sessions will help minimize this problem. Their floppy ears can develop infections if not cleaned properly. Other than that, a Boykin spaniel's grooming needs are fairly minimal. 

Boykin spaniels have a very interesting and specific history that can be traced back to a humble stray dog. In 1900, outside of a small church near Spartanburg, South Carolina, a man named Alexander White found a little brown dog wandering alone. He took him home and named him Dumpy. He noticed that Dumpy was as enthusiastic about hunting as his other retrievers. 

White sent Dumpy to train with Whit Boykin, a local dog trainer and the town's founder. Boykin was impressed with Dumpy and started breeding him with different types of spaniels. For many years, Boykin spaniels thrived in the tiny town of Boykin, where hunters valued them for their ability to flush and retrieve wild ducks and turkeys on the Wateree River Swamp. 

During the early 1900s, hunters in the Wateree River Swamp primarily used boats for hunting. Traditional retrievers were too heavy to travel in boats that were already packed with hunters, gear, and game. The playful, fun-loving Boykin spaniels were just the right size to travel in boats without adding much weight, and their docile personalities kept them quiet during the hunt. 

For many years, Boykin spaniels were a well-kept secret and largely confined to the little town of Boykin. Gradually, word started to spread about their hunting ability and sweet nature. In the 1980s, the Boykin spaniel was named the official dog of South Carolina and in 2009, the breed was named one of the American Kennel Club’s, "All American Dogs."